Branding for Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V.

The attempt to save the "Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V." from closure by designing a brand.


A long club history.

More than 125 years of rowing in Dessau

The “Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V.” was founded in 1990 as a fusion of two historical rowing clubs. In total, the club can look back on more than 125 years of rowing history in Dessau. Rowing is one of the most effective sports for staying fit and healthy into old age. The rowing movement uses about 80 % of all muscle groups and is very gentle on the joints compared to other sports. Healthy, family-friendly, and with team spirit in nature, on the water. Generations of rowers in Dessau have built up the club, overcome wars, and even survived a fire in the boat hall – in which all the boats were burnt. Challenges that the club was able to overcome thanks to its persistent and committed members.


The »Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V.« is currently barely or not at all perceived.

Generation gap could lead to club shutdown from an economic perspective

Today the “Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V.”  — as one of about 80 sports clubs in Dessau — faces two new challenges. The first challenge is finding suitable and committed trainers in the second oldest city in Germany (average age). The second is to attract a relatively small number of potentially committed young athletes.

Currently, rowing in Dessau is hardly noticed, if at all. The appearance and the internal structures seem outdated compared to other clubs and do not attract the younger generations. The club is not represented on the social media channels used by younger generations and does not make full use of its potential. If no new committed members are found, the club is threatened with closure from an economic point of view.


A new brand shall help to make the club more attractive for athletes and trainers.

Re-establish the “Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V.” as a lifestyle

The main problem of the “Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V.” is the lack of trainers. This is probably due to the emigration of young people, the generation gap, and the different interests. A new identity that makes rowing more attractive for the people of Dessau and the surrounding area shall work against this trend. The brand has to address the modern, young target group (0-40 years approx. 35 % of the population in Dessau) in the long term and makes the club a community that inspires people to spend their leisure time together.

The visual design is intended to make the club more competitive vis-à-vis other sports clubs in Dessau, to help it become better known and more popular, and hopefully even to evolve into a lifestyle of its own in Dessau the surrounding area. The first target group is the students of the HS-Anhalt, with the aim of revitalizing rowing as a university sport.

Design process

A radical new start: nothing should stay the way it was – except for the colours.

The new identity of “Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V.” will be more recognizable through its own visual language

In order to get a feeling for the club and its perception, I researched the history and conducted some interviews with outsiders, some members, and the board. It turned out that most outsiders didn’t even know that there was a rowing club in Dessau – or had never given it a second thought. The appearance was also not consistent and simply consisted of a flag graphic, a few colors, and a “logo”. This was a promising starting point with a lot of potential for brand development.

From discussions with the board, a basic direction for the redesign emerged. Generally, I had a pretty free hand and the board was happy that someone was taking the first step. After some target group research, I gathered keywords for the redesign of the brand identity together with the younger part of the association: modern, enjoy nature, all ages, family-friendly, outdoor, ecologically sustainable, community spirit, team spirit, country club, fun, flow, summer, warm, hearty, red-blue-yellow, health, sport and international. These terms served as the basic direction for the development of a new visual identity.

Current appearance

The new identity needs a new name that places the two sports on an equal footing

For the new Identity, I suggested structural changes and generally thinking about the name of the club, as the club has now become a home for dragon boating as well. A new name, such as »Bootsportclub Dessau« would help reduce the internal conflict between the two sports and give the dragon boat athletes the opportunity to identify with the club on an equal footing. But according to the board, it would be too expensive to change the name, as all documents would have to be changed accordingly.


The word “Rudervereinigung Dessau e. V.” is a rather unfortunate choice for a logo because of its length. That’s why I first started looking for a solution to form this name into a compact logo. I finally decided to divide the name into several lines and looked for a condensed font with a sporty and modern look. BISON by Envato elements fulfilled these criteria and was also within a low budget. I reshaped the hyphen created by the division into a scull that breaks the “R”.

Figurative mark

For the time being, I was satisfied with this result, even though I don’t think it’s a good logo yet. It is too long and too bulky for that. For other use cases, such as social media channels and others, I decided to add a modular image mark system to the brand. As a basis for the image marks, I personalized various icons to form a rowing team of man, woman, and a child, which visualizes the theme of “family friendliness”. To avoid excluding other groups, I also added a gender-neutral version to the system.

Slogan & Fonts

I chose »Entdecke die Welt im Fluss« as the slogan from several ideas. On the one hand, this slogan is meant to arouse curiosity and, with a slight double meaning, to lean towards a relaxed culture of “being in the flow” or the surf culture. This relaxed slogan was also to be reflected in the typeface. In addition to BISON, I chose Encode Sans as the headline font and Roboto Slab as the body text font. BISON is only suitable as a display and accent font and is suitable for striking, sporty statements. Encode Sans as a headline font embodies the family friendliness of the club with its warm and friendly character. Roboto Slab for continuous text contrasts the typeface with its mechanical skeleton but friendly curves and covers the very technical part of the sport without losing its friendliness and youthfulness.

The new old Colours

The colours derived from the previous clubs — red, yellow and blue — varied in gradations everywhere the club used them. However, I saw potential in them for the colour base and therefore decided to “modernise” them. Above all, the colours are also suitable for visibility at regattas as they stand out against the green nature. My aim was to match the shades in such a way that they create a warm, summery and fun-refreshing colour climate while still retaining some of the historical characters.

Design patterns

The defined colour values were now used as the basis for an eye-catching design pattern that would carry the association into people’s everyday lives and connect it with the emotions of the above-mentioned terms. My intention was to achieve brand recognition through the design patterns, which is why they are the most prominent elements of the brand. The elements are organic shapes derived from nature and water, which also makes them very flexible to use.

These organic shapes in the club colours are then contrasted by a rapport, similar to the typeface. Once again, sculls served as the basis for the rapport pattern. I also experimented with the club colours here but came to the conclusion that the rapport must always be kept in black to achieve the desired effect.

Working strongly with the design elements also has the advantage that the logo is pushed into the background. Instead, the brand is made for the people who embody the association and represent it to the outside world. It is supposed to have a casual, warm culture associated with them. Perhaps similar to a culture among surfers.


A concept for a small clothing line shall help to establish the club as a lifestyle. This can be achieved by using a print-on-demand shop which also solves the problem of pre-orders of the club’s clothing. To visualize this strategy, I used mock-ups from the service “printful”. The small collection is designed to work mainly through the combination of colors and patterns in order to promote the desired recognition effect.

For a first presentation to the board, I used all components to create a style scape and added a mock-up for the website. This allowed me to visualize my intention for the association and the impact of the design was understood. The younger part of the audience was enthusiastic and could see themselves in the design. The older part, on the other hand, was skeptical about the costs and the change. Unfortunately, none of the dragon boat athletes attended the meeting.


Brand manual for the new “Rudervereinigung Dessau e.V.”

After the first draft for a possible design direction was accepted well, the next step was further development. For sustainable use, I decided that the design guidelines should be documented in a brand manual. For this purpose, I created a checklist, which led to the following 11 basic aspects: the club as a brand, design system, logo, colors, font, design elements, visual language, brand voice, social media, club clothing, and print products. After that, I worked on presenting my design at the General Assembly and also created a first club shirt with printful to demonstrate the concept.


Implementation requires a willingness to change and openness to new ways.

The concept has been approved by the board and is now looking for someone to implement it

In summary, the younger members of the rowing community were very positive about my pitch and are also aware of its necessity. The dragon boat athletes were very impressed with the concept during the presentation as well but would like to have a little more visual consideration of their sport.

For a successful implementation of the concept, the will for change, enthusiasm, and openness for new things are needed from a large part of the club members. Only with committed members who live the new orientation and present it to the public, the concept can unfold its full potential.

The board has approved the concept and would now like to take the step and implement it. The project was developed as part of my Master’s degree in cooperation with the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences. Due to time constraints, I decided not to continue working on it on a voluntary basis.

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