An Interview with Caravan Brand Partners

Michele Levy is president and brand strategist at Caravan Brand Partners and a long-time collaborator and friend of OPUS. I first met Michele when she presented at a CASE conference and I was impressed with her energy and ideas. Our whole team loves working with Michele because she’s smart, creative, fun and dedicated to her clients. We admire her honesty, sense of humor, and ability to get things done!

Hey Michele, what is Caravan Brand Partners? What do you do and for what types of clients?

Caravan Brand Partners is a consulting practice that helps mission-driven organizations build clear, compelling brands. That includes messaging, visual identity, brand experience, and communications planning. Our clients are almost exclusively non-profit organizations (we do make exceptions for the occasional for-profit with compelling social impact!). We find variety energizing and believe firmly in the power of diverse perspectives, so we love working across the entire non-profit sector… everything from education to arts to health to social service… and more!

Why the name “Caravan?”

It’s a bit unconventional, but it speaks to the idea of brand update as a process (with our team as expert guide/partner), and of communications as a journey from awareness to advocacy. “We’re all in this together, heading in the same direction”. Plus it’s fun and speaks to my deep love of road trips!

How long have you been working with Opus? And what are some of you favorite collaborations? I don’t have a favorite Opus collaboration. I have loved them all…even the challenging ones! We started working together in 2016 with the Westover Magazine redesign…that’s when I had the opportunity to experience your special blend of strategy, creativity, wisdom, and understanding. One of the reasons our teams work so well together is that we know the process and work is not about us…it’s about building something that will help a client achieve their goals now, and in the future. I think the BlueHub Capital work really demonstrated the power and impact of our partnership. We took a very complex idea, with tons of stakeholders, and created a compelling brand that sets the stage for “what’s next” for an accomplished and ambitious organization.

What are some of the key challenges in working with a creative partner?

I have to confess…after three decades in this business, I am very picky about my partners. I want someone who cares about the mission and strategy driving the creative. And because my clients tend to have very limited resources, I want someone who will help them make the most of those resources. I once worked with a creative director who said to me “never forget…their interactions with us are probably the most fun many of our clients have all day.” I have really taken that to heart and only want to work with partners who bring a generous, upbeat, compassionate energy to this work.

How do you normally get started?

Most of my clients come through word of mouth…so someone has already shared the outcomes of a previous project with them. I do a lot of listening at first…both to understand what they are looking for, and to make sure that they are actually ready to do the work. Then I determine the scope of work, budget, and who else needs to come to the table with me. Then I call Lily!

We consider you a part of the Opus family so we’ll ask you to share a bit about yourself the way we do….

  1. Where are you from? Norwood MA (I have lived in MA my whole live and cannot wait to live someplace else… soon!)
  2. What is a client likely to hear you say? Apparently I have a reputation for being very high energy and positive…so I guess I’d say “Sure…we can do that!”
  3. Please tell us two truths and a lie: I used to be a cycling instructor, I can’t cook… I can only “assemble”, I am an accomplished crafter.

[I know her husband is a chef so I think “can’t cook” is a truth, I’m going to guess she doesn’t know her way around a glue gun either!]

We love you Michele, and we wish you and Caravan a bon voyage!

 

The Trustees Coast Report Design

In August 2020, The Trustees released the first of a series of research reports on the state of the Massachusetts coastline entitled “State of the Coast.” Opus created the Coast Report design which focusses on the North Shore. We worked with Tom O’Shea, Director of Coast & Natural Resources, and Christine Boynton, Manager of Coastal Communications. Our goal was to help create a communication tool that encourages dialogue and action.

Report Design

The research report contains many custom charts, maps, and infographics. They are all designed to help readers understand the main impacts on coastal towns. The risks and strategic approaches needed to protect the shoreline from storm surge, sea level rise, and climate change are also included.

The Trustees is the nation’s first and Massachusetts’ largest preservation and conservation nonprofit. They protect and care for the landscapes, farmsteads, coastlines, and cultural heritage of more than 100 special places in our state.

State of the Coast Report Design

One of the highlights of working on the coast report design was learning from Tom, Christine and the Data Mapping and Environmental Scientist from Woods Hole, Brittany Hoffnagle. In our weekly meetings, Brittany would share her screen and in real-time, show the GIS data. She would quickly isolate variables while we worked to find the right form for visualizations. We learned about shoreline features such as salt marshes, developed banks, and armored coastlines. Casey designed a beautiful infographic that makes it easy for people to understand and compare those features. We looked at 13 towns from Swampscott and Marblehead, out to Rockport and up to Salisbury, the northernmost town.

Shorelines infographic

We were honored to participate in the process of designing this report. Tom and Christine were always so open to ideas and helping us learn so that we could be super thoughtful about the design. We look forward to working with The Trustees again.

In creating the inaugural issue of an annual report about climate change on the coast, our non-profit turned to Opus for their expertise not only in design, but also for their creative strategy. Their guidance and support was invaluable, as we worked to translate technical subject matter into a beautiful document, accessible and compelling to multiple audiences. The artistry and detail-oriented attention that went into this project was greatly appreciated—Lily’s team consistently went above and beyond. I can highly recommend this team!

Christine BoyntonManager of Coastal Communication, Trustees