A couple of months ago a company approached me about helping them design a web app. This was first project they had done as a team so in order to get started, I needed to form some visual language for the project — colours, fonts, spacing and imagery, the usual suspects.
A sensible starting point seemed to be to develop a brand — a set of rules I could fall back on.
We discussed the kind of product this was going to be, the audience, and where they saw the product in the future. I wrote down some key words from our conversation and got to work.
Research, research, research
I began by researching the current landscape of the market. None of this was actually that informative. It was obvious the client needed a product people could trust, and something that seemed personal. But these felt like generic values that every product needs.
After another couple of hours of Google-ing, I stepped back and asked myself — “what actually is a brand, and what is the best way to create one?”
I was now fully into research mode; I read articles, watched interviews and presentations with well respected brand specialists and listened to them discuss their approaches. There appeared to be two approaches.
- Engage the client in the design process straight away and hold their hand through the process.
- Have a kickoff meeting then pitch 2 or 3 ideas a bit further down the line. (This approach seemed a bit more risky because the designer was always hoping that the client would actually pick one).
Searching for a seed
Despite their differences, both approaches had one thing in common; they started with a “seed”. A core thought. It became pretty obvious to me that once this part was nailed, the rest of the visual language would slot into place. I could develop a set of micro rules based on the styling of the “seed”.
To get there, I would have to put aside all the bullshit and find out exactly why the founders started this company. Pretty tricky stuff. There are usually multiple people involved at this stage and they usually have different views.
I can’t stress how important that stage was for me, though. It suddenly focussed my work on the project, and also gave the client something they could base the success of the project on, rather than their personal taste.
Watch that seed grow
You can see the finished result below. An identity for American lenders, Greentree.
Full project available here.
Originally article published here