Almost exactly a year ago I joined the Kloudless team. My inaugural project—as the company’s first and only Visual Designer—was to revamp the brand. The process of designing the logo took roughly a month, but the development of the brand has been an ongoing project. In the last year we’ve gone through 3 iterations of the website and at least a few dozen iterations of the Chrome extension. Since our engineering team is small, the product is constantly getting updated, which makes it a challenge to maintain a solid brand. Looking back, we did an awesome job of cultivating a name and brand for ourselves. Here’s my process.
Beginnings of the process
First I asked myself: What does a brand encompass?
Kloudless (What is the meaning behind the name?)
Chrome extension, other potential plugins/add-ons, and a webapp
Our mission, objectives, values: Kloudless offers a simple, secure way to move attachments between your email inbox and other cloud storage services.
- Our company culture: no jerks allowed, meritocracy, work hard / play hard
Research, sketch, iterate
Upon researching the above areas (sans Trademarks), I came up with lists of words to describe the name, the product, our reputation, and our atmosphere. Next I narrowed down these words with help from the team. We honed in on adjectives like ‘elegant’ and ‘efficient’ and ‘user-first,’ and I paid close attention to words that overlapped categories (i.e.: ‘playful’ could describe both the product and the company culture).
To begin translating literal language into visual language, I made tons of sketches and notes on paper, exploring various routes that combined relevant elements such as arrows (to show movement), suns (obvious, no?), envelopes and paperclips (email and attachments), and K’s (I also took a shot at refining the original K + envelope mark). The process eventually moved onto the computer, where I rendered the best sketches into real prototypes, all the while returning to the list of words I was aiming to communicate.
The process of choosing a typeface and colors was similar in that I continually asked myself, “Does this typeface or color palette look both friendly and elegant (or playful, yet professional)?” Then I paired trademarks with ‘Kloudless’ wordmarks set in a couple different typefaces. A color palette came last, so I could focus on the form and shapes first.
In the end, the sun + paperclip mark rose above the others. The sun is not only a play on words (kloud-less), but also a representation of the playful attitude and user-friendly value we wanted to convey. The paperclip alludes to our product, that we deal with email attachments.
For the wordmark, I chose Erik Spiekermann’s Meta, given its clean yet humanistic characteristics. For supporting body text, I chose Rui Abreu’s Gesta for it’s neutral, corporate qualities. I like to think Gesta also sets us apart from being a cookie-cutter startup, veering away from the trends (see: Proxima Nova and Gotham). Trends are good, but not if your product looks like a replica of something else. Use them in moderation and always remember the problem you’re trying to solve.
Similar to the purpose of the sun, the colors additionally evoke a feeling of familiarity and impart diversity. Multiple colors weren’t an issue since the product is web-based (printing = $$$!) but I designed a single-color version anyway because, why not? We can use it for black & white printing and as extra reinforcement of the brand. Dynamic logos, like Google’s changing logos, are a good example of this type of brand strengthening.
Note: Designers make very intentional decisions, but we also rely on our gut, which comes with experience. Sometimes post-rationalizing is part of the process too. It’s a good way of validating your design decisions.
Rounding out the brand experience
The logo, color palette, and typefaces formed the basis for Kloudless’ visual identity. Supporting graphic elements would be integrated into the visual language as we built and iterated on the product (things like button-style or illustration style). However, a brand isn’t wholly visual; content and copywriting are still largely a part of design. Think about the tone-of-voice for example. A brand is all about communicating.
Ten common applications of a brand:
Another question worth asking and returning to: What does a good brand seek to achieve?
Visual consistency and integrity
Internal understanding of the company
External image of the company
A good brand will both strengthen the image of the company to outsiders (customers, business partners, journalists), and motivate and foster loyalty to those internal (employees, a.k.a. the team)!
To help ensure that all company materials stay consistent with the brand, we created a ‘brand guide,’ otherwise known as a ‘design program.’ It’s a great resource for us—and any company—to have, especially as we continue to grow and attract attention. I’d attach it here to share with you now, but it was last updated 6 months ago. And as I mentioned before, branding is an ongoing process. Time to make some improvements!
Recommended resource: Per Mollerup’s Marks of Excellence