Asian carp renamed Copi to deal with the US environmental crisis


On behalf of the US government, studio Span created the new branding for invasive fish species.

In response to an environmental crisis affecting freshwater ecosystems in North America, Illinois-based studio Span has renamed Asian carp Copi.

Formerly known as Asian carp, Copi includes four different species of fish: grass carp, black carp, silver carp and bighead. The species was introduced to the Mississippi River in the 1970s to solve an algae problem, but managed to migrate from ponds to other water bodies following flooding.

In the 1970s, Copi had 0% bio-density in North American freshwater, i.e., it was non-existent there. Today, that figure has risen to 70%, according to Nick Adam, Span’s design director and project manager. This decimated the fishing industry as the fish was unpopular among consumers, so the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) commissioned Span to rename the fish.

This is the first time that brand consultancy Span has worked on the rebranding of an animal species. IDNR’s initial brief – which has been accepted by several other state and federal departments, such as the US Environmental Protection Agency – stated that it only wanted a fish logo that would encourage people to eat it.

After conversations with Span’s design team, the project became much more complex. Adam says: “We had to convince the customer that it didn’t need a logo but a name and then a whole story to help people understand why they should eat this fish.

Span brought in Chicago-based systems design studio Daylight, which led resident research into people’s “food shopping habits” and their perceptions of fish. This helped the design team select qualities of the fish that the studio could “emphasize through branding” to reframe the narrative, according to Adam.

In the United States, many people think of carp as a “dirty fish” because the majority of them feed on bottom-dwelling fish, making them unhealthy to eat, according to research by Span and Daylight. However, the Copi subspecies “feeds exclusively on algae” that sits at the top of the water, making them healthy.

Adam adds, “We renamed it based on the qualities of the fish and centered the branding on the story that nobody knew. Not only are the Copi “the greatest consumers of algae”, but they also spawn about a million fish each year and “reach about five feet in length”. It contains the second highest amount of protein and omega 3 and 6 for fish, with wild salmon taking the top spot, according to Adam.

“Throughout our research, the word copious kept coming up, so we shortened it to Copi,” he says. This is supposed to relate to the large scale of fish-related benefits.

The logo’s letterforms were custom drawn by Adam to be “very stencil-like”. This allows the letterform to be “its ultimate, thickest self,” he says, which aims to mirror the size of the fish.

The forward facing fish in the logo was created using the negative space in the c and the letter placeholder for the o. This is designed to demonstrate how this fish got “hidden in plain sight,” Adam says.

A new slogan – “Eat well, do good” – tries to appeal to an audience aware of “eating for health and taste” and concerned about the environment. According to Adam, it is about how it can positively affect the consumer and the wider cause – tackling an ecological crisis.

Span has also created an “identity toolkit” that can be used at different levels of the industry – from distributors to restaurants. Adam says, “The system we’ve created is open source for distributors and processors as well as marketplaces, so there’s a lot of flexibility with the identity guidelines and sample packaging we’ve created.

One of the ways the brand allows marketplaces and distributors to adapt assets is through the use of three open-source typefaces that don’t require a license.

The first is the Gelasio serif font used in the identity system to tell the story of the fish. Next, DM Sans, a geometric sans-serif, is used for more direct and advocacy-related messages. Finally, the DM Mono typeface, which is used to convey facts, data and source information about Copi.

Span also brought in strategist Donna Spiegel, who spearheaded the creation of the voice guidelines and copywriting.

The brand was deployed on Copi’s website and social platforms, food packaging, advertisements, restaurant menu guidelines and shopping bags.


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