case study | Homefront
Partners for a
better Billings
Housing agency rebrand, positioning and website

The Housing Authority of Billings had a challenge: its name, logo and brand positioning did not accurately reflect who it was as an agency.

More than just housing

Operating as the Housing Authority of Billings since 1973, the agency’s name was increasingly clouding the understanding of its mission and vision. The name suggested housing is all it does, and the word Authority felt institutional.

Toolbox conducted an extensive brand assessment and naming exploration, taking into account the unique environmental, political and social landscapes in Billings, Montana.

We generated dozens of options, weighed pros and cons and vetted top choices. HomeFront rose up as the most fitting name.

Putting home at the forefront

HomeFront puts home first and positions the agency on the front line of efforts to address the affordable housing crisis. The name evokes feelings of patriotism and inclusion, framing a mission that is broad in scope and clear in focus: go beyond housing as partners for a better Billings.

HomeFront brings to mind a place worth fighting for — a unified community made up of a diverse patchwork of people, cultures and beliefs stronger than the sum of its parts. HomeFront helps neighbors in need find safe, decent places to live — making Billings a better place to live for all.

A solid foundation

Rebranding a housing agency is about so much more than designing a new logo. Still, a logo serves a critical role as the foundation of visual identity — creating an all-important first impression and helping foster community recognition of an agency and its mission.

We started with an extensive audit of existing housing authority logo marks. Then our graphic designers got to work, drawing inspiration from our research, art and design history, and the people, culture and places of Billings.

We filled our sketchbooks with visual exploration and curated typography that could powerfully convey the brand’s emotion. Over several rounds, we reviewed, refined and strengthened our ideas, presenting the strongest options to the marketing team at HomeFront.

A clear mission

HomeFront means different things to different people. HomeFront is a new beginning. HomeFront is an ancestral place. HomeFront is something worth fighting for. HomeFront is a safe haven. HomeFront is where we all have the opportunity to be productive citizens and live our best lives.

The agency changed its name to clarify its mission, better serve the community and rally broad support for HomeFront’s efforts as partners for a better Billings.

The new HomeFront website
The old Housing Authority of Billings website
Living, elevated

Once the housing authority rebrand was complete, our next and most pressing challenge was to build a web presence worthy of HomeFront’s mission.

A two-day, on-site discovery workshop revealed that many in need of housing help in Billings have reasons not to trust authority, based on past personal experience. So the site could not look institutional — it needed to be a visually compelling, intuitively navigable site that breaks down barriers to engagement for those seeking affordable housing.

HomeFront’s housing agency website design improves access to housing help with:

  • User-friendly online applications and maintenance request forms
  • Clear eligibility information paired with an online qualifying calculator
  • One-click access to partner agencies
  • Easy access to applicant and resident forms
  • ADA-compliant accessibility
In Their Words
“Toolbox went far beyond developing a new brand and website for our housing agency. They partnered with us to institute a full-on cultural shift.”
— Kyle Trafton,Operations Director, Homefront
A qualified tool to improve housing access

Being poor can be really expensive. Here’s an example: If a potential resident can’t fill out a housing agency form online, they might need to walk to the library to print it out, fill it out by hand, take the bus across town, arrive after the agency closes, and tape it to the front door. In doing so, they might miss a day’s work, need to pay for childcare or risk incurring late fees.

Nearly 50% of all web traffic comes from mobile phones. For those in need of housing help, phones are often the only connection to the internet. Accordingly, we took a mobile-first design approach, building an ADA-compliant site that looks great and works elegantly on any screen.

The new puts the tools to find safe, affordable, decent homes right in the hands of those who most need it, including an interactive qualifying calculator. Now that’s partnering for a better Billings.

Mobile web design for housing agencies
Positioning | Strategy | Logo design | Website Design & Development
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