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Building a New Identity

Behind the Scenes of our new brand

By: Evynne Doue

It’s been a little over 2 months since the launch of the first phase of appsky’s rebrand. In this time span, we’ve seen a 50% increase in Brand Engagement, generated over 20 new project proposals, and been able to develop a consistent and unique visual language and brand message across the board.

The Beginning

Rebranding can be tricky business, especially when you decide to drop one whole word and syllable from the company’s name.

Appsky Labs turned appsky officially in April of this year. The decision was made after a number of meetings and persuasive “arguments” with Taylor, our CEO, who was apprehensive to make the name change. But me and our Business Operations & Accounts manager (formally Head of Marketing), Jade, sold our point-of-view and he eventually gave in to the idea.

Designing appsky's New Brand

Once this was settled, we were able to start with a clean slate, new stomping ground, and shiny new potential to be what I always saw appsky as—a unique and inclusive creative agency that was changing the design and tech industries for the better.

Because appsky offers such unique and diverse services (having a full-time design team in a software/dev shop is practically unheard of in the industry) we’ve been able to find a unique customer-base, tailor our offerings, and discover a niche that serves us and our team perfectly.

First Efforts

Before I even began anything, I started a running document called “This is Appsky” where I had teammates add phrases, words, adjectives—anything they could think of or come up with—they thought described appsky (what we did, and what made us unique, etc.). I then used the document as reference to come up with what I felt were our brand keywords, phrases, and descriptors, communication style, what set us apart from the competition, and what styles I felt visually represented us as a company… but before I dive in to that, let’s talk “logistics.”

When I first started with concept exploration and new logo sketches, I was faced with a real challenge:

How can I bring in elements of our old brand to keep memorability intact (especially with the name change) but still come up with something new and representative of the team and company we had grown into over our first year as an operating, multi-employee business?

After discussing this with the team, we decided we probably needed to keep the beaker as the brandmark. The issue with the first beaker was that it wasn’t representative of our service offerings anymore—being a mobile phone, it made sense a year and a half ago since appsky started as a company that solely created mobile apps. But now that we offer multiple different design, software, and consulting services, we needed something more representational and inclusive.

The first sketches I did were just exploring what the new beaker could look like. There were so many different renditions, styles, and opportunities for both very abstract or very representational versions of a beaker…and because of this, I ended up presenting multiple different concepts at first, but none of them felt 100% right, and the one beaker sketch everyone liked from the first round of sketches, didn’t look good digitalized. So it was back to the drawing board.

Designing appsky's New Brand

After a lot of (sometimes painful and frustrating) hours exploring and sketching, and exploring and sketching some more, I finally landed on the perfect solution:

Three different “layers” inside of a transparent beaker that would represent our internal skills and abilities (particularly in terms of design, software, and consulting), and three bubbles above the beaker that would represent us sharing those skills and abilities with the outside world, as well as using them to create unique design and software solutions for all of our clients.

Brainstorming & Teamwork are definitely the keys to success

After this, I put the logo on hold for a bit and held multiple 3-hour brainstorming sessions where we discussed, explored, and discovered who and what appsky truly was and how we were going to officially show that to our audience. I began the first session with filling up the whiteboard in our conference room with what I had personally come up with prior to the session.

Designing appsky's New Brand

I left empty spaces under “Services Breakdown:” and “What’s our Speciality?” so we could decide, as a team, how we were going to sell ourselves as a company. At the end of that session, we nailed down our three key offerings, our specialities, our brand keywords, and decided that our overarching style & aesthetic was going to be “Digital Hand-drawn.”

Because most of the people on our team are technical individuals, I took direct quotes from the “This is Appsky” document that everyone had contributed to, and paired them with imagery and style specifics I thought could visually represent them. I ~recreated~ how I presented these ideas in the graphic below.

Because of how I approached my presentation, and took the time to put meaning and purpose to the choices I had made without them, people were able to understand and get on board fairly quickly.

Designing appsky's New Brand

Perhaps the most fun (and effective) brainstorming session was when we keyed in on our services and how we would visually represent them. It took two sessions to finally nail down how we would do this for our three core offerings: Design, Software, and Consulting. Additionally, the most helpful aspects of the sessions were nailing down our key audience and specialties because it was something we never necessarily took the time to do prior to this whole process.

Final Steps

Once we all came to an understanding of what the “new” appsky was conceptually, I took to finishing the logo. I struggled to find a typeface that I liked / felt fit the new brand, so I did a custom logotype, then fine-tuned the new beaker and dove into finding the perfect color palette. I came up with over 90 color options initially but was able to whittle it down to 8 colors in our primary color palette, as well as 8 in our secondary one.

Designing appsky's New Brand
Designing appsky's New Brand

Primary Color Palette

Designing appsky's New Brand

Secondary Color Palette

Designing appsky's New Brand

When I finally presented the completed logo to the team, everyone was in love—there were smiles ear-to-ear and the collective energy and excitement was riveting. We all felt it was the perfect representation of who and what appsky truly was. (It’s always an amazing feeling as a designer when you land on the perfect visual solution for a “client”).

The next step was finding typefaces to use in the new brand. Since I have a love-hate relationship with handwritten style fonts, and our overall aesthetic was literally called “Digital Hand-drawn,” it took me forever to finally find one that I liked and felt fit the new brand. It was one of those “aha moments” really, because when I happened upon the one we ended up buying I was like, “Yep. This is it. Thank god…!”

Designing appsky's New Brand

Then it was time to find a “superfamily” that we could use for body copy, subheads, and headings—the handwritten one was going to used mainly for display type. And again—I spent hours and hours searching for the perfect one—I wanted one that complemented the logotype I came up with, and was also (at least) somewhat similar to it. Once I found the perfect one, it took a little convincing to spend the $300 to purchase the license(s) but our CEO eventually saw the value in it and voila! The new brand was beautiful, perfect, fleshed out, and ready to be translated into our new website.

Designing appsky's New Brand

Bringing the brand to life digitally

Designing appsky's New Brand

After we were dead set on the new brand, our CEO gave me the insane deadline of 3 weeks to finish the website, or at least have a viable “MVP” ready so we could officially launch the rebrand. Everyone was anxious to get it out there (me included) so I pushed 13-hour works days up until the official launch on April 3rd.

The night before, I was up until 3 am finishing our official launch video (see below) that showcased the new logo, brand aesthetic, and overall identity. All of the overtime hours ended up being so worth it because the engagement and response we saw was more than we could’ve ever hoped for.

As I mentioned before, within even just the first week we saw a 50% increase in our brand engagement and within the first month, we were receiving RFP’s from both local and national prospects.

After the role I took in our rebrand, my official title transitioned into Head of Marketing & Design, and ever since the rebrand, I’ve taken a step back from the client-side aspect of the business and work almost entirely internally.

I create content for and manage all of our social media accounts, and really act as our brand manager. Our Lead Designer, Jackson, works with our clients and typically has to get things “approved” by me but he’s so good I never have to worry about what he’s producing.

Besides the website, we’ve come up with our brand mascot “Space Cat,” redesigned project proposal template (both thanks to Jackson), business cards, stickers, and are currently working on t-shirts and multiple other collateral.

So what’s next?

Well, the website still needs a substantial amount of work and stuff added—like individual project pages, a community page that showcases all of the community events we sponsor and local partnerships we have, more in depth “about” pages, a quick quote generator, and so on. I love front-end dev so it’s always a pleasure when I can zone out and really dive into that type of stuff.

A lot of my time recently has been swallowed up by social media and other marketing efforts—I think anyone who works in social media management can vouch for me when I say it takes up SO much time and effort—but once we can get a more streamlined schedule and process in place, my time will free up for other things like website updates, blog posts, and the like.

Thanks so much for reading! Please post your thoughts, reactions, and questions below. I would love to hear what you guys have to say!

Designing appsky's New Brand
Designing appsky's New Brand

Evynne Doue is appsky’s Head of Marketing & Design

She acts as appsky’s Brand Manager, creates content for & manages all of appsky’s social media, handles marketing efforts, and is part of the executive team. She has degrees in both graphic design & web design and has been with appsky since May 2017.

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