Case Studies - Brand Design

A Bold Design Approach to Breast Cancer

The brand identity for Shell win, a cancer foundation, uses a powerful graphic language based on breasts, to normalise conversations about the disease

A stone wall with posters of Shell Win

Breast cancer accounted for 13.5% of all cancer cases and 10.6% of all cancer-related deaths in India in 2020. Even though the incidence of breast cancer has risen sharply, there are not enough support groups for women and caregivers, making this a traumatic and often lonely journey for them.

Shell win is a cancer foundation set up by the Shah family in Agra, in memory of their daughter Shelly, who lost the battle to the disease. The foundation provides support to families through outreach programmes, mammogram centres and financial aid.

Shell win wanted to create an online community, aimed principally at women between 24 to 45. The objective was to build a safe and nurturing space, where patients and caregivers could interact, share and learn.

Shell Wins 

The House of Two, a Mumbai-based studio, was entrusted with the job of developing a new brand and identity for the foundation.

Siddharth Khandelwal, the Principal Designer/Co-founder at House of Two, tells me that Shelly was a graphic designer and her approach and sensibilities have influenced many of the branding decisions. The driving principle for the name, for instance, was the idea – We shall win – which was re-crafted as ‘Shell win.’

Shell win has created a space where patients and caregivers can interact and get support

Using Design to Break Taboos

Shell win wanted the discussions amongst the community to be relevant, practical and purposeful, but the team was aware that conversations around breast cancer often tiptoe around the topic.

While Shell win wanted the communication to be uplifting, they did not want it to shy away from painful, but necessary truths.To accomplish this, the hesitancy around discussing breasts needed to be addressed. House of Two’s solution was to integrate breasts into the brand identity, putting them front and centre in the conversation.

Could these illustrations of bells, pens and clocks with nipples be mis-read? Eamonn Ennis, Copywriter, The House of Two, points out that you will always see this communication within the context of the foundation and its messaging around breast cancer. The illustrations themselves are so subtle and well-conceived, that they put a smile on your face, while banishing any taboos associated with the topic.

The playful illustrations incorporate breasts and nipples to normalise conversations

The Typeface

The design team created a bespoke typeface and an illustration style that uses multiple, organic forms derived from breasts. I feel their approach has injected difficult conversations with a side of light-heartedness and cheer, while keeping the attention on the disease.

The Shell win Display font –‘We Shell Win’ – also balances craft with sensitivity. Each letterform has a breast-like form with visible scars. The attempt again, is to normalise conversations around the breast, acknowledge what surgery will do to it and honour the patients who face this challenge.

To honour survivors, the custom typeface is based on the form of breasts and post-surgery scars
Custom typeface based on breasts for cancer foundation

The Colour Palette

Shelly’s work had colour and vibrancy and the design team has reflected this in their atypical colour palette. They started with pink – the colour associated with the breast cancer ribbon – and constructed the dynamic palette around it.

The palette complements the primary pink colour which was drawn from the breast cancer ribbon

A Conversational Visual System

Shell win now has a visual system that easily integrates with text, allowing messages and images to work together seamlessly. 

Since this identity is primarily for the digital medium, the organic forms also lend themselves well to interesting templates for social media.

Shell win’s conversational identity system seamlessly integrates text and visuals

The end effect, says Khandelwal, is to communicate a space filled with optimism and empathy, and free from prejudice or discrimination. The overall response to the brand identity and mission has been very positive, he says. The target audience has appreciated that the wit and playfulness of the identity encourages frank conversations and brings hitherto taboo topics out of the shadows.

Today, Shell win has a purpose-led, intimate online community through Whatsapp groups and curated Webinar sessions, where members can share their hopes and fears, seek support and “celebrate every small win.”

2 Comments

  1. I am a cancer survivor and I loved this. I cannot tell you how defeating it gets to be inundated with do-gooding messages – this brought a smile to my face. Celebrate my breasts, scars and all I say

  2. Cool visuals and probably well intentioned, but seems tone-deaf in the broader Indian cultural milieu. Olive garnishes in cocktail glasses to to normalise conversations about breasts and nipples feels very far removed from the lives of most people. For a serious problem like breast cancer that needs large society wide awareness, I feel this creative execution is quite exclusionary and self-defeating. Just some feedback, that’s all. All the best.

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