The path from idea to a stand-out brand can be a real mystery- even to those who have worked with designers before. But it doesn’t have to be! Let’s peek behind the curtain of Defiance Exchange to see their path from big dream to big doins.
BUILDING A BRAND
Defiance Exchange is a timebank organized by a collection of community organizers in the South Sound who were interested in offering folks a place to share resources and time outside the framework of Capitalism. Since their target clients are everyone in the greater puget sound area, it was really important to them to have a visual identity that was appealing to a wide range of ages, genders, and political affiliations. They needed a brand that instilled trust, but also stood out from financial institutions with a visual style that said “we do something different”.
We began the process with a design brief interview. In a short meeting, Defiance Exchange founder Candis Fox and I identified the foundations upon which we could begin our design work together. We made a list of websites, influencers, shapes, colors and brands that they loved, and identified design colors and elements that they wanted to avoid. We also picked 5 key traits of Defiance Exchange that they wanted to shine through their brand: transformative, collaborative, natural, authentic, and trustworthy.
Just as individuals communicate their personality through their clothing and style, an organization's use of color, shape, and texture tells you important information about them. Starting with a clear understanding of what you want to say (and who you are saying it to) makes for more effective communication to your audience through visual elements.
Based on our initial conversation, I began curating a collection of images that reflect the aesthetic we want to develop. This included textures, colors, shapes, and illustrations made by others that communicated a similar message. Together, Candis and I reviewed these to see which were most resonant with their goals and vision, and which could be discarded. From this, we knew we wanted to make a logomark that played with images from nature, clocks, stones, or shells.
Now that Candis and I were clear on the aesthetic and art direction, I begin making sketches for the logomark!
Since the logo is the heart of any visual identity, with all the rest of the elements acting as supports- we need this part to be completed before we can review colors, fonts, or other design elements. My goal is to have 3 logo sketches for Candis to review at our next meeting.
Like most of us, my first idea is rarely my best one. Arriving at 3 quality ideas means making dozens of different sketches in order to test ideas.
What is the best core image to develop? What kind of art style for that image will appeal to their audience? How can I balance the text? What ideas will work for digital AND print use?
Much of that gets tested at this phase so that we don’t pour a bunch of time into a design that ultimately won’t work
I brought Candis the three sketches that I thought were the strongest match for their goals- the Blackberry, the Oyster, and the Clamshell. Candis loved the symbolism of the oyster; just as bivalves cleaned the ocean waters, Defiance Exchange hopes to cleanse some of our cultural hangups around money and value exchange. However, we both loved the pop of the clamshell and ultimately decided to combine the two.
Now I go back to my studio and get to work producing a black and white rendering of what will ultimately be the final logo. Why start with no color? It is important to evaluate the structure and shape of the image to view its effectiveness. Colors can bring up strong emotions in both clients and their audiences, and presenting a logo in color at this stage risks us discarding a strong design because of a bad color match- or worse- picking a badly-constructed design because we like the color.
I presented the final version in black and white with a couple different font options for them to choose from.
Candis was thrilled with the final design- wherein I added a pearl to the clamshell as a nod to the oyster. The circular shape “plays well with others”, meaning that it would be easy for Candis and their team to use it across platforms without worrying that it would look bad in different scenarios.
Much like the logo sketches, arriving at the correct color palette can mean trying out dozens of options and tweaking them until they are just right.
Color selection was REALLY important to Candis, so they opted to pay for seeing more than the standard 3 I would normally bring to the client, and for additional rounds of revisions so they could evaluate a multiplicity of options
Here we are! The final logo. Now that I had this anchor piece, I could build the rest of the brand collateral to support it. Using the art direction from the logo design, I added a collection of elements that Candis and the Defiance Exchange team can use to add texture, contrast and other points of visual interest.
I hope this peek behind the curtain has addressed some of the uncertainty and guess-work out of the design process! If you have other questions, I’m looking forward to answering them.