Notchcode's principal, Alan Bucknam, was asked by a veteran friend to help found a veterans service organization (VSO) dedicated to recognizing the service and sacrifice of Colorado's deceased military service members. This friend, a former US Army Ranger, had the vision to cast a large bell that could be tolled at military funerals. He was frustrated by the lack of recognition many vets received at their services, due to budget cutbacks and personnel challenges. Alan agreed, and with another nonprofit expert, they cofounded the Honor Bell Foundation. Notchcode's charge in this mission would be to craft a unique identity that stood out in the crowded population of VSOs while speaking to the dignity, honor, and respect that the organization would embody.
Notchcode created a brand brief to use as a guide in working on design concepts for the visual and verbal elements of the brand identity. It focused on recognition of those who served, a solemn tone, and treating all veterans with dignity.
After researching other VSO and veteran-facing visuals Alan determined that flag imagery was oversaturating the brand space for vet organizations. Additionally, since the Honor Bell would be used as part of a service that already included a flag, he concluded that the logo should reference flag elements without directly mimicking them.
As part of the conceptual development for the logo, a visual vocabulary was created, creating a visual expression of the organization's stated beliefs:
This resulted in a number of visual explorations, including grids of stars, various bell-shaped patterns, and organic, circular grids. The final logo centers the main instrument of the organization, the Honor Bell, within a circle of seven stars, one of which is marked out in gold.
Alan also created the emblem on the face of the Honor Bell, which includes the seven stars and a dedication inscription. To reference the fact that military medals from deceased Colorado veterans were incorporated into the bell when it was cast, the slogan "FORGED FROM HONOR" appears on the back bell lip.
A wide array of branded collateral was created by Notchcode for use in the foundation's daily operations, from patches worn by the Bell Guard, to vehicle livery, business cards, brochures, fundraising appeal leave-behinds, storyboards, banners, table tents, and more.
Notchcode also created a website, email templates, and social media strategy for nonprofit outreach, fundraising, and volunteer recruitment.
A comprehensive brand guide was created to assist volunteers and foundation staff in the most effective use of logos, slogans, and more.
Between the founding of the organization and late 2021, when Alan left the foundation, the Honor Bell tolled at over 3,000 veteran funerals and memorial services. In that time Notchcode's marketing and outreach efforts were instrumental in raising several hundred thousand dollars to support capital costs — such as the casting of the Honor Bell — and daily operating costs, through a mix of foundational grants and individual donations. It enjoys widespread regional name recognition, has brought scores of veteran volunteers together to toll the bell, and has raised awareness of Coloradans' legacies of military service.