Throughout my career, I’ve consulted, directed, architected, designed, developed, and managed more digital endeavors than I can seem to even count these days. I’ve grown quite comfortable with what I do day-in and day-out. Surprisingly, I have never led a design project that made me scrutinize my abilities quite like the redesign of 352. I experienced moments of excitement in which I literally had chills designing our new brand.
My experience didn’t bring only a level of excitement, of course. At times it completely knocked me down with defeat, kept my ego in check, and provided serious enlightenment — the epitome of inspiration. This article is not only about redesigning 352inc.com, but my personal journey along the way.
Over time, being so entrenched in client work, we collectively began to neglect our own brand. We realized that our image — even our name — just didn’t quite fit us anymore. Our brand did not correlate with who we actually are, what we truly value or our vision. We needed a change.
Some Context Before Getting Started
My name is Adam Davis; I’ve been an Interactive Designer at 352 for almost 6 years — I’ve worked with all kinds of exceptional brands, small and large. I had the privilege to teach interns (who have evolved into professionals I admire) in both design and front-end development. At 352, one can wear many hats, and eventually I became the User Experience (UX) Coordinator for our design department, which allowed me to learn and then instill good UX practices throughout the department. It also primed me for my current role within the company — a UX Designer.
Last year, I gave a talk at our company retreat inspired by Aaron Walter’s book, Designing for Emotion, as his book caused a major shift in my design thinking. I became sensitive to everything around me, not just design, but impactful ideas that create real human connections. With our rebrand on the horizon, I knew it was imperative to maintain this level of design ideology.
My wife, my dog, and I moved to Atlanta in December; shortly after, our company rebrand was underway.
If I could pick one thing that I love most about what I do, it’s brainstorming. Brainstorming with a group of smart minds is the best way to discover really unique solutions. We vet ideas, we deliberate on what works, what doesn’t, and share knowledge of good and bad experiences we’ve all encountered as designers, programmers, marketers,and technologists. We asked ourselves a series of questions:
“If 352 was a person, what would they be like? How would they interact with people? What would they look like? What would they sound like?”
Building a Rough Persona
As silly as it might sound, when you begin to think of a brand as an individual, you can make sense of how that individual might act, not only within a digital context, but in reality. Your brand isn’t judged by colorful pixels — it’s judged on how it interacts with humanity and its level of humanity.
I took roughly 30 minutes and drafted a list of ideal traits for our brand.
- Smart, clever, witty
- Overly kind, nice, sincere
- Humorous, funny, laughable
- Approachable, outgoing, outspoken, vocal
- Progressive, forward thinking, embraces change
- Good listener, deep thinker
- Empathetic, sympathetic, compassionate, humble
- Male aged 35-45
- Button up shirt, plaid, polo, v-neck (alternates wardrobe)
- Dress pants, khakis, jeans
- Business jacket, tie sometimes
- Dress shoes, sneakers sometimes
- Modern style watch
- Gives to charity
This isn’t a persona by any means, just something I could design against. As our brand evolves over time, we’ll continue iterating on the foundation provided by our brand traits.
Though this rough persona gave me a lot of mental images, I’m a visual guy, and I needed inspiration.
I created a 352 bucket on Dribbble. I used Evernote to clip things to a notebook and tagged them “352 inspiration.” At this point, I had to start sketching and designing in Illustrator and Fireworks before I drove myself crazy. Keeping my list in mind, I illustrated a series of logo marks and then shared with our group.
This process allowed us to not only see what we wanted to look like, but also what we did not want to look like. The logo exploration process seemed to exhaust those involved. There is much more to the story of our logo development, but on to the website.
Completely immersed in the project, I went head-down for a few months. Trying to nail down the style and tone, I created a few different design iterations that started underdeveloped and soon evolved.
Geoff had announced the decision to rebrand the company internally last year, but we presented what we were working on to everyone at our retreat in February. We talked about the future, our values, our vision and showed off some concepts that we were leaning towards. Throughout the process, we knew it was important to encourage feedback from everyone. Moving forward, we wanted everyone to be on board with our new look and direction.
We sifted through thoughts from designers (who always provide great constructive feedback). “Personality” came up quite often; people felt strongly that we keep the 352 culture consistent with who we really are. While feedback is a powerful tool that contributes to the greater good, design is so subjective: everyone has their own opinion.
Balancing these ideas against each other involves choice, and that means compromise.
“I had to balance between being a good listener, a designer, and a decision maker.”
With such knowledgeable stakeholders looking over my shoulder: leadership, client strategy, designers and development — I felt some pressure. I had to deliver. Not just for the company, for myself. This wasn’t going to be an easy task. Luckily, that pressure collided with built up motivation, and a lot of uninterrupted thinking time. I was working on something that had interested me for years.
I was up for the challenge.