Girl in the Forest

Earlier this year, I was right in the middle of one of the largest (and most daunting) re-brand projects I have yet undertaken. For any designer, the following statement will strike a small amount of trepidation, even in the most hardy:

I was rebranding my employer, from the inside.

Am I crazy?

I was kind of doing the unthinkable; An in-house job, on our own brand, with all of the possible hurdles of that position being large and scary. They were hurdles I knew I would have to face in a disciplined manner for the best results:

  • I knew the company extremely well, and therefore had a natural and unavoidable bias
  • People knew me and they could approach me with any number of concerns from design to office politics at any time (and why not?! I’m a – I hope – friendly colleague and love a chat!)
  • I was very close to the project; as a designer I had had strong opinions on previous branding iterations, and I felt the pressure I put on myself to better them keenly!
  • Mostly importantly – it had to be my best work to date, because I had to live with it!

That last point was something that kept me up at night – a designer’s work is never done! I can always improve things; trends, skill levels, tools and influences change all the time, and I always feel I can make something better. How was I going to be able to finalize my work (not a problem, I do that all the time) but also look at it every day for the next however many years and not want to change it?!

I had a BIG JOB on my hands.

How did I do it?

So how did I do it all and stay sane, without bias, and with no office drama? Let me tell you – COLLABORATION.

I might have been the sole designer on the project, but I was not the only person creating this brand. I employed a process of focus groups, staff surveys, customer surveys, stakeholder groups, feedback sessions and shared moodboards to make sure I was making decisions based on the direction of the company, the sentiment of the current brand and the values the company wanted to uphold. I made sure I had influences and research that were not solely sourced by myself as my first step beyond bias.

Having a very public process which allowed people to get involved and have their say early on meant that I was not constantly approached in the office with suggestions/opinions/feedback from others at ad hoc intervals, leaving me free to get work done and have something to show – which was fed back into the collaborative workflow via company newsletter updates.

Using an open approach to in-house design worked extremely well. I gained stakeholder support for key areas of the brand from high-up levels very early on, which made the later process of refining style and approach so much easier. I work as a member of the marketing team, and my colleagues were excellent sounding boards for getting the “feeling” of the brand right. We assigned a brand archetype to the project to give a very clear persona to work towards. We spoke “our language” to get the brand right, and we created a brand we knew we could become with authenticity and belief.

So lastly – most importantly – how did I create something I still look at every day and go “yes, I’m OK with this” even when I know I maybe have a better font in my arsenal now, or refined photo editing skills to smooth the edges even sleeker in that one banner stand? Simplicity. I created something with room to evolve, and something I – or anyone else – could grow with. I created a brand that was so different from the competitors in the market that it always looks impressive. I embraced stereotypes, and simplified the recognition process. I used a four-colour palette and removed the need for complicated relationships between brand assets. I didn’t change the logo form, but I updated the colour. I championed the use of considerable white-space. The brand is clean, bold, striking and simple. And I can live with that because it’s what I aim for in all of my work. I made something simple, and simplicity is timeless.