History of the Meu Rio Brand

Last Sunday I published my first blog post in Portuguese for the Meu Rio blog, in which I tell the story of how we developed our brand identity. Here is an English translation of that post.


Hi, I’m Lee-Sean, and this is my first post. I’m going to tell you the story of the how we developed the Meu Rio logo and identity, but first I would like to confess something. Maybe it’s obvious, but I’m not from here. I’m neither a Carioca (native of Rio) nor a Brazilian. I was born in Taiwan, grew up in Arizona, and lived in various other places since: Boston, Barcelona, Nakatsu (Japan), New York. I consider myself a citizen of the world, and now an honorary Carioca.

I arrived in Rio for the first time in 2010 along with Alessandra, co-founder of Meu Rio, and our Purpose colleague Emmy. We came to do, among other things, the preliminary research for the development of the brand identity. Before coming here, I had already made an effort to better understand Brazilian and Carioca culture: I studied Portuguese, I read books and watched movies about Rio, I listen to Brazilian music, I play capoeira.

Beach Boardwalk, Rio

But as a gringo, I also had many stereotypical and touristic images of Rio in my head: the big Jesus statue, the Sugarloaf, the wave-patterned pavement designed by Burle Marx, the beach, Carnaval, Carmen Miranda, etc. I knew I had to avoid clichés and create an identity worthy of the Marvelous City. The challenge was to create a brand that respected and celebrated Rio’s cultural heritage.


The first phase of our research involved total immersion. We travelled all over the city. We interviewed many Cariocas. We conducted observations and took hundreds of photos. All of this might sound like sightseeing, but really it was tiring work. Rio is full of visual delights and a city of stark contrasts between mountains and ocean, urban grey and rainforest green, modern and old, “asphalt” and favela.


We found abundant sources of inspiration: the colors of tropical fruit and plants; urban street art with its rough aesthetic and perceptive social critique; the sensual curves of nature, modern architecture and the bodies of Cariocas at the beach; and the first meeting of Donald Duck and Zé Carioca.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

After finishing the first phase of research, we began drawing. I made several sketches. See some examples below. I tried to capture the “ginga” (swing) of the Carioca lifestyle and express the popular spirit of DIY.



After deliberating, we ended up picking the current logo.

Our logo subtly evokes the form of a coconut. Coconuts hydrate and nourish Cariocas and serve as an icon of Meu Rio. The irregular shape and imperfection help encourage popular participation.

The “Folk” font we used for the logo was created by the Brazilian type designer Marcelo Magalhães and is licensed for reuse under Creative Commons..

By definition, a brand identity is a system of visual and stylistic rule, but at Meu Rio we aim to be more than just that. Our intention is to create a “living system” brand identity that is open to participation and remix, a brand that will grow and evolve over time, and that can easily live in online and offline contexts, in two and three dimensions. This post is about the history of the Meu Rio brand, but the story is not yet finished. We continue moving forward along with your participation.

What do you think of the Meu Rio brand?

Meu Rio Lazer Printing

Meu Rio Stationery

Protesto da Roleta


4 Lessons From The Social Innovation Hotbed Of Brazil

Here is my new article about Social Innovation in Brazil, part of the Purpose content series on Fast Co.Exist.

Brazil is known for its supermodels, but what about its social innovation models? Besides the economic boom, the country is finding a new groove in the field of digital collaboration and activism.

Last year, I moved from New York to Rio de Janeiro, where Purpose has opened its first overseas office. I have met with local innovators and interacted with all kinds of people on the streets, at the beach, and in botequins (informal bars). These experiences have all enriched my work in social innovation. Besides stimulating my creativity, immersion in a different culture and working in a foreign language have heightened my sense of mindfulness and empathy, reminded me of the virtue of humility, and taught me a few things about what it means to innovate.

Read the rest of the article at Fast Co.Exist.

Caio’s site nominated for Catalan design contest


My friend Caio in Barcelona has been nominated for a Catalan design contest for his web design work.  From his email:

Amigos, torçam por mim.  Um projeto de multimidia que eu fiz e apresentei pra um concurso de Design super importante aqui na Espanha foi selecionado como finalista.
Estou mandando o link assim podem dar uma olhada e opinar…

Chicos, mi web ha sido selecionada para los Laus. El vinculo sigue a continuación así pegais un vistazo.

Hi everyone. A project in web design I´d been doing recently has been selected as finalist to this important contest in Spain. Check out the link below.


Abraços a todos.

Tschau, Graziela!


Last weekend was my friend and fellow ‘AVAAZer‘, Graziela’s (pictured above on the right), last weekend in New York before heading back to her post in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The picture was taken at the AVAAZ.org training retreat at The Retreat at Art Omi in upstate New York.

On Saturday, we met up in SoHo, wandered around and did some shopping.  Then we met up with Graziela’s friend, Priscilla, and made our way down to Chinatown for a Malaysian lunch at Jaya.  Then we wandered around some more and met up with some Catalan documentary filmmakers in the East Village.

After that, we made our way back down to Nolita with Graziela’s friend Shoshanna for a Chinese massage.  The massage itself was ok, but the Chinese ladies kept on gabbing away in Chinese, making it hard for me to relax.  Gossip about a new co-worker.  Making fun of a fat blonde girl getting a massage.  Commenting about the weird tattoos that “Westerners” have.  They were also blabbing about how I had such a long neck!  I secretly pretended to not understand Mandarin.   I wish I could just turn off that ability sometimes, but I do love my multilingual eavesdropping abilities!

Fast forward to Saturday night evening and Graziela’s going away party at 40C in Alphabet City.  Sunday afternoon brunch at Moonstruck.  Getting into a heated conversation about Second Life, and being told to shut up by other customers.  Fitting 10 people into Graziela’s tiny East Village sublet, Studio Paradiso.  Hanging out in Tompkins square park.  And then hugs and goodbyes.  Tschau Graziela!  Boa viagem e até pronto!  

Brazilian Government Invests in Culture of Hip-Hop

Brazilian Government Invests in Culture of Hip-Hop
Published: March 14, 2007 (New York Times)
Through small grants, Culture Points, the fruit of an official government program, is helping to spread hip-hop culture across a vast nation while tapping the creativity of the poor.

<Click here to read the complete article>