Design Process: The Bonobo Revolution

January 6, 2020
Minute Read
Image courtesy of the Bonobo Revolution and Dana Magnus

The Bonobo Revolution

If you haven’t checked out my Case Study about the Bonobo Revolution, go now! 😉

But just to do a quick recap, The Bonobo Revolution was created back in October 2018, by Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker. Inspired by our distant genetic relatives, the female bonobos were nature’s answer to the #TimesUp Movement! But how? Their social structure was based on collectively preventing males from dominating. Can you say, boss babes? Yup. BOOM. Mic drop

The Initial Research

I started the design process by consuming myself with all things bonobo. I read articles, watched videos, took notes, and stared at photos. I was a madwoman!

I immediately had this massive appreciation for them, and soon, they became my spirit animal. No joke. It was official, I was going to live my life as a bonobo - A strong female, who dominated a room, and who was not going to take “No” for an answer.  

The Mood Board

To evaluate what was working, what wasn’t, and what was missing from The Bonobo Revolution, I put together a mood board of their existing designs.

The Bonobo Revolution's existing apparel

I loved how militant they were with their rough textures, determined demeanor, and humorous personality. It was apparent the original t-shirt designs were strongly influenced by “Guerrillero Heroico.

It was fantastic to see the bonobos holding up their raised fists in support of their fellow females. But it was apparent the artwork needed to be fixed to make it look more realistic. 

Inspired by Dr. Tamsin’s outfit, I knew I had to use it somewhere and somehow within the design. Where did she even get the bandolier from? On eBay? Amazon Prime? 

As I evaluated everything, I realized there was no need to reinvent the wheel because a lot of what was already there was working! All I had to do was elevate The Bonobo Revolution to the next level. Here’s how.

Visual Research ‍

Visual Mood Board

From the beginning of this project, I knew that whatever graphic I was going to create had to be silk screened onto a t-shirt. The artwork needed to be flat, so I looked to Shepard Fairey’s work for inspiration. Fairey’s work is political, yet still human. It is soft, yet hard, and this type of juxtaposition would really work to The Bonobo Revolution’s advantage.

I noticed a logo was missing from the current design, so it was important I incorporated typography into the artwork. I researched hand-rendered fonts because let’s be real, revolutions don’t typically call for clean san serifs! 

And since we were going for the militant theme, I had one question. Why didn’t the Bonobo Revolution have badges?! They HAD to have them. It only made sense.‍

The Designs‍

My primary source of inspiration came from Dr. Tamsin’s revolutionary look.

Concept 1: The Caricature  

It was funny, but it was too cute and too kid-like. It didn’t scream “revolution” or had the tone of a social movement. There was a disconnect between the artwork and the logo, and don’t get me wrong, the logo had potential, but the art was falling flat.

Concept 1: The Caricature

Concept 2: The Badass Babe

This idea, on the other hand, had something going on! It was tangible, authentic, cohesive, and most importantly, it had a fun personality! It upheld the ethos of the original designs, and it made a statement and took a stand for something.

Concept 2: The Badass Babe

To be honest, my favorite part of Concept 2 was what I endearingly called “The 3 Ladies”. I loved how all three had their own personality. They represented women from all walks of life having their own uniqueness, but were still united and supportive of one another. You had the serious one, the cool one, and of course, (the one I related to the most) the crazy one. You can only imagine how hard I was laughing while designing them. I loved them so much.

The Three Ladies

And you know what? The client loved them too.

Bonobo Revolution logo and color palette
Badge and Sticker options
T-Shirt Designs - Front & Back
T-Shirt color options

Here is a quick time-lapse of how I created several of the badges.

The Take-Aways‍

Every project is a learning opportunity, so here are a few things to take away from The Bonobo Revolution:


You shouldn’t limit yourself to researching only on Behance or Dribbble. You should read articles and watch videos to have a better understanding of the subject. This will help ignite inspiration and help create more robust concepts and themes.

Remember, a design is excellent, but a concept paired with a design can move mountains. 

And if you get stuck and can’t figure out an idea or design, go back to the beginning and review the project goals and vision.

Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to

Re-evaluate what you currently have and see what’s working and what isn’t. This will save you time, and also be a good starting point in tandem with your research.

Figure out what’s missing from the equation

While you may not need to reinvent the wheel, there is always-ALWAYS room for improvement. Assess what is missing, ask questions, and figure out how it can be elevated to the next level.

Keep all your designs, even if they are not well-executed. 

I’m guilty of this. I delete a concept thinking it isn’t strong enough, but sadly end up wanting to use it for another idea. While one design may not work for one concept, it can probably work for another. 

The most significant thing I took away from The Bonobo Revolution was learning what a strong female looked like.

She is a rough and tough supporter of others, who can still hang with the boys, and always be her unique self. She’s brave, kind, selfless, and effin fabulous, all the while wearing red lipstick and standing up for a cause.