Branding Tails

Creating Brand Strategy That Sits and Stays

If you’ve ever been to our studio, you’ve likely been greeted by Fritz, Colby, Gordon or Willow. Pups in the house are the best thing ever. From helping Science Diet brand the very first dog treat to the invention of the Three Dog Bakery brand, the ground-breaking bakery for dogs that spread from Kansas City all the way to Hong Kong, we have a long history of working with companies that care for our furry friends. The tradition continues with pet products, pet media, conventions and the Raise the Woof campaign that we are thrilled to report helped bring a new animal shelter to our hometown.

How about a walk (walk!) through a few of our latest projects.


dvm360 Logo Before
dvm360 Logo After

As a company of animal lovers, we are always thrilled to work with pet product retailers and animal advocates. UBM, the largest events company in North America, recently acquired dvm360, one of the industry’s most influential veterinary media companies. Willoughby was engaged to help refresh and align the veterinary group, UBM Veterinary, and its associated brands to better reflect the needs of its audiences and the mission of the UBM parent brand. The project included the flagship publication, dvm360 magazine, website, as well as their national veterinary conference, The CVC, held three times each year.

dvm360 Logo

The CVC, a gathering place for vets, vet techs and their families, is produced by the dvm360 media brand but no one associated the two. To add to the confusion, CVC stood for Central Veterinary Conference but the conference had expanded to the east and west coasts.

On our quest for a more engaging name, we went back to why vets become vets in the first place. They all love pets. And we quickly learned they need more play in their lives. What the oldest game? Fetch! So we extended the dvm360 look to Fetch, locked them up together, and a new brand with shared equity was born.

fetch dvm360 conference logo

The vibrant and inviting evolution works across the entire brand family and was enthusiastically received by attendees and vendors alike as a natural extension of the positive and encouraging experience audiences already know and love from dvm360 and The CVC.

Read the full tail here.


Vet + Pet Logo

Following the launch of the rejuvenated dvm360 brands, an opportunity arose for a strategic alliance between UBM and the North American Veterinarian Community (NAVC) to create a new conference experience. This new event, Vet & Pet West, unites veterinarians, pet retailers and pet parents in a three-tiered, inclusive conference experience that has never been done before. To complement the dvm360 event, FETCH, we christened the two new events, Pounce and Wag. Naturally.

Fetch Logo
Pounce Logo
Wag Logo

The foundation event is the Fetch dvm360 conference which equips veterinarians with everything they need to succeed in practice and life. Pounce is a retail pet expo that goes beyond beds and collars to present new technologies and innovative pet products. Wag is a consumer pet conference for engaged pet parents who want to build the best relationships possible with their pets.

Graphics are bright and vibrant with energetic type and irresistible pet imagery. The brand personality is high tech with a communal, informative and inspirational vibe.

Read the full tail here.

Vet + Pet Signage
fetch dvm360 Signage
fetch dvm360 Banners


Petlinks Logo Before
Petlinks Logo After

Petlinks developed one of the first dedicated pet care “systems,” created to enhance the people/pet relationship with a foundation of love, sustainability, good health and fun.

But over time, the brand had been overtaken by competitors who had also created their own systems. The previous identity was also generic, corporate and very difficult to find in the highly populated, often overcrowded, pet needs aisle. It had become a brand in need of a good grooming and our job was to update the brand with a more emotional look and voice that would make consumers want to sit and stay.

Petlinks Packaging
Petlinks Stamp

Parent company, Worldwise develops environmentally conscious products that are safe for pets, people and planet. This benefit is still a key differentiator for Petlinks.

Dozens of prototyped packaging solutions were tested with consumers in focus groups and online testing. We vetted every aspect of the package design including existing brand equity, color systems, photography, logos and language.

The Petlinks System package strategy took a drastic departure with more emotional photography and logotype. The new language focuses on educating Pet Parents to encourage the creation of a lifelong bond and a rewarding relationship with their pet. The choice of script typography also supports the premium retailer positioning.

Our consumer research also confirmed the opportunity for messaging to come from a place of authority at specialty retailers that is not as critical at more mass merchandisers. To fulfill this, we launched the Petlinks Panel and added pet care advice to the packaging story. This encourages interaction, curiosity and brand favoritism.

Petlinks Tradeshow

Standing out in the chaos meant assuming authority in meeting the needs of pets but also in refining the packaging for a more upscale, even sophisticated, look that made choosing a pet brand for consumers more like choosing products for their own children.

The line which includes over 300 SKUs is rolling out across channels. Preliminary sales are showing that the new package design is selling better than previous packaging.

Read the full tail here.

Pets make our lives better so anytime we find a chance to help make their lives better we’re all in. Plus, we love the kind of research that sits on our lap.

Petlinks Featured Image

Getting Punchy for the Holidays

For the past few years we’ve created Holiday cards with shareable gift tags ready to punch out and pop on a present. It’s a tradition that our friends and clients look forward to as much as we do. This year, we’ve created classic ornaments, changed up the colors and added some foil accents for a fun, festive and vintage feel.

Willoughby Design 2017 Holiday Card - Tags
Willoughby Design 2017 Holiday Card - Closeup
Willoughby Design 2017 Holiday Card - Overhead
Willoughby Design 2017 Holiday Card - Closeup

Of course, one Holiday Punch deserves another, so pair your celebration with a colorful libation!

Happy Holidays from your friends at Willoughby.

Bee Merry Holiday Bubble Punch

  • 5 cups 100% cranberry juice
  • 2 (750 ml) bottles very dry sparkling wine, such as champagne, cava, or Prosecco
  • 2 cups sparkling apple cider
  • 1 ½  cups (12 ounces) ginger ale
  • 1 ½  cups (12 ounces) dark rum or brandy
  • 2 oranges, thinly sliced into rounds or just peel the skin into strips
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries for garnish (we like to freeze them into tiny red ice cubes)
Willoughby Design 2017 Holiday Card - Drink Recipe

Chill all of the ingredients. Fill a large punch bowl with ice or create an ice ring to bob merrily on top. Add the cranberry juice, sparkling wine, cider, ginger ale, and rum (or brandy). Stir gently. Fill cocktail glasses and top with an orange slice (or peel) and frozen cranberries.


Pets, Paper, Parks and Punch at A13

We were recently honored by the Kansas City Chapter of AIGA with four awards at their 13th Annual Design Awards, otherwise known as A13. Many thanks to the jurors and to our peers. This year we were recognized for work that is very close to our hearts and confirms our joy in what we do every day.

Raise the Woof

In anticipation of an upcoming vote to fund a new animal shelter for KC Pet Project, we created Raise The Woof to encourage a Vote Yes. We’re very happy to report that the bond issue passed by a huge margin and the new shelter is well on its way to completion.

Raise The WoofNeenah Paper

Paper is, and always will be, a designer’s friend and we were delighted to be asked to help design the materials for Neenah Paper’s CLASSIC® line. Working with some of our type heroes we demonstrated the many ways that type loves paper.


If you’re hired to create a brand for a zip line park in the midwest you must work a tree-dwelling, fun-loving flying squirrel into the identity. You just must. And then they will name him Zippy and love him and adopt them as their own.

ZipKC IdentityHoliday Card 2016

For the past few years Willoughby has created a Holiday card that includes punch-out gift tags, because punch-out gift tags are fun and you can pay the greeting forward. 2016’s edition was a group effort with an agency-wide painting party to create abstract art for our tags.

Holiday Card 2016

Meet the Bee.

Willoughby Design

We love bees at Willoughby. They’re industrious, collaborative and dedicated to making the world a better place. Bee references, inspired by our name, have become a natural part of our world — from our newsletter, the Beeswax, to @willobuzz on Twitter.

We fondly refer to our founder as the Queen Bee (if you’ve ever met her, you would agree) and ourselves as the Willobees. And while the Willoughby Design Barn remains our restorative retreat and an important part of our identity, the honey is made in our studios, the KC and SF Hives. It might all be a little too adorable if it hadn’t happened over many years.

With all that said, recently it occurred to us design geniuses that there was all this bee language but no actual BEE. So, heading into our 40th year of business, we decided the time was right to evolve our brand into a better representation of our new ownership and the team we are today.

Meet the BeeWe’re proud to announce what we call in the biz, our brand evolution. Our logo is a little tighter and our design elements and type a little bolder. We reenergized our colors and finally, we found our inner bee.

Welcome to the hive.

Ann’s Thumbnail Sketch of TED 2017

Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 1

TED 2017 conference “The Future You”

I have attended over 20 TED conferences that have spanned 4 decades starting in 1984. I have captured countless ideas in my sketchbooks over the years.

Because of Chris Anderson’s vision, TED has become a richer, more vibrant experience as the topics and audiences have evolved from a white male perspective into a tapestry of diversity and an interconnected global community. This year, as a thank you to Chris and to the TED community, I am sharing my sketchbook from TED2017.

This year’s conference started with an enlightening and slightly frightening (to me) session on Artificial Intelligence. For example, if AI were to automate all work, what is the future of humanity? Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov warned us about the need to program human passion and purpose into AI. Robin Hanson introduced the idea of “ems” (emulations), a future where uploaded human minds run the world. Yikes!


Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 2

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks warned about the worship of self and challenged us to replace the word ‘self’ with the word ‘other’ and see what happens. Pope Francis, via live stream from Rome, was this year’s surprise guest speaker.  Jim Yong Kim, appointed as President of the World Bank by President Obama was a big hit. He talked about how to care for the world’s children from a policy perspective.


Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 3

Elon Musk gave a heady vision of the future with high-speed tunnel network under Los Angeles and a solar roof that will last for infinity. And we saw an agile robotic dog that danced and pranced around the stage.


Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 4

Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 5

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, created an allegorical scenario of our current political reality by showing us an image of Lorenzetti’s room-scale fresco, The Allegory of Good Government and Bad Government, completed in 1339.

One of my favorite speakers was Anne Lamott who gave a funny and very tender 12-point presentation titled, Every Single True Thing I Know.

Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 5

Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 6Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 7Ann's sketches from TED 2017 - 8


Ann Willoughby is a leading voice in graphic design in the U.S. She has taught, written and lectured about the importance of women as design leaders in both business and as a social force. Ann began her design career in 1968 during the second wave of feminism and her life and early design practice were fueled by the social, political and design movements that transformed American during the last decades of the 20th century. She founded Willoughby Design in 1978, creating a thriving design firm while also addressing gender and family issues in the workplace. Since its founding, Willoughby has become nationally known both for its award winning design and for the stimulating and creative environment. The firm has worked with local, national and international clients including the Kauffman Foundation, Omidyar Group, United Nations, Hallmark Cards, Panera Bread, RideKC Transit, Hershey’s and Weight Watchers. In 2014, Ann was awarded the prestigious AIGA Medal, one of the first women in the midwest to receive this honor, awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements in the field of design and visual communication. Willoughby has offices in Kansas City and San Francisco as well as the Willoughby Design Barn, a 100 acre creative retreat in Weston, Missouri.

Vote Yes To Pets on April 4

“Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test… consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.” –Milan Kundera

We love our pets here at Willoughby. On any given day you can find KC, Gordon, Colby, Fritzi, Annabelle, Wiggie, Beck, Buddy or some other pooch roaming around the office.