How I created the brand identity for our startup, p. 1. Background and challenges

This story comprises three parts — the background (with almost no illustrations), the research (with some illustrations), and the very demo of the final result (with a lot of illustrations).

You can read all parts one by one — next is the second one — or skip to the final part. i.e, the demo.

Cover image for the story. Light text on dusty purple background with an orange blurred circle

This story comprises three parts — the background (with almost no illustrations), the making-of (with some illustrations), and the very demo of the final result (with a lot of illustrations).

You can read all parts one by one or skip to the final part.

Background

Who am I and what the product is

I’m Valeriia, a product designer and the co-founder of SharpShark — a startup that helps to protect intellectual property.

Last year, we started from a mere idea, then enrolled in the Startup Chile acceleration program, got two government investments, and raised a seed-stage investment from a private VC. Now we’re doing pilots on the LatAm market and preparing for the next stage of our soft launch.

And for a year we had been pulling it off without snazzy design — all the visuals were generic. Only now is when we decided to create its visual image.

Why so late?

Why we decided to start without visual design

We started off in a tandem with my partner (a business developer by profession), and the first 6 months of our work were spent in Google docs and spreadsheets, in talks with future clients and investors. The rest of the efforts we decided to dedicate to the development.

And only my remaining focus and time were left to visual design. On purpose.

It was rather a counter-intuitive decision — especially when you’re a designer yourself, especially when there are tons of beautiful startups everywhere — but we are glad that we did so. It saved our focus and let us proceed to the next stage of our product development.

When we decided to go with the brand identity

When we built the underlying logic of the product and its alpha version, got funded, expanded our team to four people, and became able to hire outsource specialists, I decided it was time for the brand identity.

Simultaneously, I found out that Svyat Vishnyakov (Electric Red, NY) — the art director who had a great impact on me earlier this year in the design field when I completed his course in typography — will be accessible for brand identity mentorship during his next programe. It looked like a real godsend; besides, nothing inspires more than a real deadline. So I decided to dive into Identityville.

Let me describe the process and challenges specific to our project.

Challenges

After “bringing up” the product for almost a year, we had some context. So we had certain constraints but knew what outcome we wanted.

Briefly, the design should be functional and meaningful. And, of course, esthetical.

Let’s start with functionality.

Compactness and accessibility

I wanted to keep the color palette restricted: it makes it easier to work with outsource talent or to make quick amendments in presentations, etc. for our non-design team members — the fewer colors you have, the lower the chance of mistake is.

Also, I wanted to use as few fonts and font families as possible. On one hand, because of license costs. On the other hand, to retain clarity.

Last but not least, I have a certification in UI accessibility and I just can’t afford to go with a classy but non-contrast color palette — so all the fonts, colors, and elements should be clear and sharp.

Existing platforms

We could roughly divide our assets into two big groups: official materials (a one pager, a certificate, business cards) and eye-catching materials (presentation covers, banners, etc.)

Needless to say, I wanted to have a visual language that incorporates it all.

Below I’m listing what assets we already had on our plate.

Presentations

It’s probably the richest asset in terms of objectives and constraints.

First, I needed both bright eye-catching slides to capture the attention, and moderate informational slides to deliver messages.

Second, I wanted the option of having either very light or very dark slides. Depending on the projector screen, light design sometimes isn’t visible and vice versa. So I wanted some flexibility.

Web app

The first round of UX tests of our interface showed that we should make the UI as generic as possible: the product was rather new and uncommon which might cause stress, so its appearance should be rather conventional to mitigate the unease.

Still, the app should look authentic and translate the product message.

And remember what I mentioned about a restricted color palette? So, (at least one of) my brand colors should go well with an accessible UI.

Website

Besides the reasonable ratio between clarity and vividness, the website should be really “lego-like” — we’re a young company, and we’re going to add/remove/swap blocks, based on feedback. Seamlessly.

Existing context

Since the product will exist within a certain context, it was important to do the design with regard to it.

What context?

Our investor’s ecosystem

We’re members of the Symbol by NEM ecosystem — it’s our main strategic partner and investor. I wanted to refer to it somehow, to show that we sprang out of there.

Mutual context with other projects

In its turn, there are other projects that we want to stand out from. Say, while different startup logos are placed in a row on an event page.

Practically speaking, to meet these criteria, our logo should take the most of the useful area of square and rectangular formats, have a light and a dark version, and have different size variations.

My skills

As a startup, we wanted to be as independent of outsource talent as possible. Thus, the core kit of the brand identity should be built around those techniques I’m familiar with.

My skill set included:

  • colors,
  • typography,
  • composition,
  • semantics.

And I haven’t mastered yet:

  • illustrations,
  • motion,
  • 3D art,
  • AR/VR, etc.

But I assume that the visuals can evolve into something more compound. For this, I wanted the system to have some flexibility for future metamorphoses.

Last but not least, the ability to expand

Today we’re a one-product company. But what if we decide to organize an industry conference? What if we make a partnership with somebody and create a joint venture? Or expand our product line? Or pivot, making the most of the existing brand?

So the system should be easy-to-alter.

***

Pretty many restrictions, isn’t it? Let’s see how I dealt with it →

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Product-minded designer with expertise in content. Keen on tech & arts. Co-building a startup

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Valeriia Panina

Valeriia Panina

Product-minded designer with expertise in content. Keen on tech & arts. Co-building a startup

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