Monday, 17 October 2011

The sunflower: a powerful symbol for Hospice Malta

“A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."
Mahatma Gandhi

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with various messages − from text messages to emails and from television broadcasts to products and services that are lauded for their super-efficiency and usefulness. In this increasingly instant society we are faced with choice, colour and diversity in everything, and so our time to reflect and take reasoned decisions is sometimes sidetracked, resulting in rash unqualified ones.

We are making choices all the time and whoever thinks the media or the surroundings do not affect our choices is either an idealist or a dreamer. We choose what size of TV we want to make us happier, which toothpaste makes our teeth brightest and which mode of transport suits us most.

Unfortunately status features in all we do and choose, even if, like the idealist mentioned above, we might think we always take proper, unbiased decisions in our choices of consumer and non-consumer needs.

Faced with this barrage of messages and competing brands a commercial or non- commercial enterprise has to think hard and evaluate how to position itself and how to brand itself in a market which is saturated with all these competing and varied messages and messengers.

Commercial brands which have the power of purchasing marketing and public relations space always have an advantage over the less visible, non-commercial entities which try hard to give a service and be as visible as possible.

When Hospice Malta decided to undertake a rebranding exercise these thoughts were kept firmly in mind. The task was not a simple one.

Hospice Malta, or the Malta Hospice Movement as it was known, contacted Defined Branding to help lead the way in the strategy and design of its new identity. Defined Branding, led by Jody Fiteni and a dedicated team of creative designers delved deep into what was needed both from an aesthetic and a functional perspective.
Hospice Malta was not an unknown entity. On the contrary, in the palliative care sphere, it was not only respected but known to be the only group offering the noble service of looking after the terminally ill (persons suffering from terminal cancer, motor neurone disease, end-stage respiratory and heart disease)while providing support to their families, friends and colleagues.

Those people who used this service over the years are always full of praise for the hospice and what it offers. This made the job of rebranding that much easier because the “product” was visible, innovative and highly respected. Therefore market penetration was already happening.

In this distressing scenario where the eventual death of a close family member is involved it is never easy to think of the service offered as being a marketable product. But unfortunately, while being a sad fact of life, it is also a reality that this is what has to be done as otherwise brand awareness already established by the commendable service offered risks being diluted or, if not nurtured properly, lost.

The rebranding exercisestarted off with the visual change of the brand identity. The old logo, while depicting a visually attractive sunflower, was limited in what could be done to it in the graphic manipulation needed for proper depiction of the brand identity. Defined Branding’s design team zoomed in on the effectiveness of the old logo and retained its main element, the sunflower.

The whole ethos behind the brand identity is centred around the sunflower. The sunflower depicts compassion (the sunflower seeds). The seed grid at the centre of the sunflower represents the patients and is surrounded by (palliative) care and respectful dignity as represented by the petals. Compassion presents itself as an opportunity to truly care for fellow human beings.

The sunflower petals show the dignity that is strongly recommended by all involved in palliative care. As in all flowering plants, the bright yellow petals of the flower attract pollinating insects which fertilise and help to create the seeding head. Sunflowers face and follow the sun across the sky, transferring solar energy to the seeds.

The sunflower leaves stand for human care: most plants need solar energy which they photosynthesise into energy for growth. For Hospice Malta these would be the caring hands of the people who are part of the organisation.

The name was changed to the easier to remember and simpler “Hospice Malta”. The new name keeps the most important parts of the old one but reflects more care and softness. It is shorter, more easily remembered and more striking; it also lends itself ideally to make it more modern with a simple addition of .org on the url web address for universal access on

The 3-word tagline encompasses the spirit of the brand. Again care and understanding of what the organisation stands for was used to give Hospice Malta the most meaningful words which explain in short but directly what Hospice stands for: care, compassion, dignity. These words best reflect the core values and the whole spirit of the organisation. These three words also complement the sunflower logo’s 3 components of leaves, petals and seed grid.

The main beneficiaries of the hospice work are people who are suffering and who see their close family suffer. But as the sunflower depicted in the brand identity shows, the care that is offered by Hospice Malta makes life for the sufferers a bit brighter and also sows the seeds for more care for more people.

The rebranding exercise in the evolution of Hospice Malta, which is always in need of volunteers and donations as the services offered which are all free have to be maintained and expanded.

Like the sunflower, and the miracle it perpetuates by its own re-energising, Hospice Malta gives hope and dignity where little or none exist. The need for Hospice to retain and expand its visibility and evolve core services is crucial for its future and for that of patients and their loved ones.

More information about Hospice Malta can be found at For more information about their branding please log on to

This article first appeared in The Sunday Times on October 16, 2011

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