How do we celebrate the rare individual in a community of 300 million?

Authors: Louise Cowley
  • Reading time: 6 min.
  • Posted on: March 1, 2021

Rare Disease Day (RDD) is an international awareness campaign run by EURORDIS-Rare Diseases Europe, which aims to improve the lives of over 300 million people worldwide. That’s 300 million people living with a rare disease, across over 6,000 types of rare diseases — all ages, races, genders, cultures, geographies, abilities and identities. Each person unique, each lived experience singular. 

So where on earth do you start trying to build a cohesive brand that’s all about celebrating difference? 


‘Where on earth?’ was exactly the question… and the answer was everywhere. In its simplest form, our approach to the campaign identity was to honour the individual, to look for a cross-section of people from the rare disease community and highlight their stories — not as a tokenistic spokesperson for a disease, geography, race, culture or identity, but to demonstrate their variety and difference as a starting point for conversation. It was about creating a space in which sharing subjective and individual lived experiences could become a platform to understand global shared experience. The things that make us human, that are universally understood — the things that make us laugh and cry, the things that scare or inspire us, the support we all need, the connections we all cherish. 

It was finding these universal points of connection, in a wildly diverse community, which ultimately became the touchstone for the brand narrative.   

That’s not to say that getting the balance right was easy. Creating a brand that exudes the momentum of a collective movement whilst celebrating the individual presented us with multiple conceptual and practical challenges. There were inherent contradictions within the brand narrative: it needed to demonstrate both singular people and a unified community,  rarity and shared experience, and present a positive and bright attitude while also being realistic about the difficulties of living with a rare disease. EURORDIS-Rare Diseases Europe represents an alliance of over 900 patient organisations, in 72 countries. We were launching a global campaign in 36 different languages across web, socials, digital graphics, print media, motion design and animated film. The scope of the project was truly inspiring (if a little intimidating). 


It became apparent that if we could hit the mark in four key areas we could be consistent in brand expression across the board: authenticity, diversity, extensibility and unity. 

Authenticity sat at the heart of the project. We wanted to use real people, real stories and generate real responses to the content. Every piece of media created, from the portraits to the animation, representations of clothing, activities, movement and facial expressions — every tiny detail came directly from interviews, photographs and videos of the participants.

There is always an additional responsibility inherent in representing real people. The campaign assets demanded a level of authenticity above and beyond traditional artwork. Despite technical restrictions in time or space, we strived to convey personalities beyond superficial identifiers. We were also keenly aware of the diversity of representation within the group —some peoples’ rare diseases created challenges that others didn’t. We needed to be technically and clinically accurate as well as representative. Knowing that in some cases we were representing someone who could be in their last stages of life as the campaign launched could be quite emotional, and very clearly put into perspective that we had a responsibility to do this well. To deliver something beautiful and real for the families of those individuals. 

The official video for Rare Disease Day


Stylistically, we wanted to create something human, tactile and vibrant, producing assets that are completely extensible to the community. Approaching the brand expression with a ‘painted’ aesthetic meant that we could play with colour, tone and expression in more abstract forms. Using the RDD brand colours as the base for the palette, we were able to create portraits with movement and energy in different colour combinations — remaining authentically individual whilst cohesive in style. We created a huge range of extensible graphics, glyphs, badges and templates which could be disseminated between Eurordis’ 900 partner organisations, as well as the general public. These ranged from higher-level packages for graphic designers to basic .png files and social media frames which anyone could add to their own images. This gave the community the tools to specifically tailor content to their audiences for better engagement. Importantly, it also gave the assets a life beyond what we could build, opening up the brand to more languages, geographies and territories far beyond our original scope. 

When it came to the animation it was important that the soundscape be populated by languages authentic to the participants. This not only allowed the viewers to hear a diverse range of voices, helping to place the campaign in different regions and multiple continents, but also democratised the use of language. We didn’t lead with any single language, then translate that into multiple subtitle variants — the diversity of language is built into the fabric of the film, requiring all viewers to read subtitles no matter their native tongue. That’s something very rare to see on film.

Rare Disease Day launched on 28th February. To explore more and take part, you can view the campaign here: