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March 07, 2013

Re-branding Ourselves

March 07, 2013

The brand new SmallBox website is up and running, complete with a re-branding. I sat down with designer Neil Kjeldsen to discuss his role in the brand refresh and how the various design pieces changed throughout the process.

At SmallBox, we've experienced constant growth and change as an organization, and we wanted our new branding and website to reflect that. Logos are always important, but as Neil pointed out, the feelings evoked by the logo matter just as much, if not more. When branding is done right, says Neil, it "embodies the culture and personality of the company." 

SmallBox's original logo, seen above, was put together by a local freelancer way back when. Our company was so young, we had just a visionary and a great developer. Not a designer among us.

Our second brand mark was definitely adequate for the company's needs when it was created. During its tenure as our trusty logo, the company grew from just a few people to a diverse team of more than twenty.

Since we recently aligned our company focus around "culture-powered marketing," we knew that concept needed to be involved in the new design. "We wanted to have something that reflects where we are now instead of where we've come from," says Neil. He also aimed to make the logo even more simple and iconic than its predecessor. These elements (and the new tagline) are apparent in his first attempt at the new logo design.

This early design helped set the stage for the rest of the new branding. When I asked Neil about the evolution of the logo designs, he told me, "There's a lot of iteration - so lots of versioning, lots of trying different things and throwing things away." As he continued to work and bring his ideas to other team members, minor changes to the logo transformed it into something unique that still reflects the desired message and visual appeal.

As you can see, the plain blue square from round one became a box with a smaller box inside of it. Neil told me that the original logo's icon was always recognizable and that the blue square by itself presented challenges in terms of brand recognition. So he made a version with the smaller blue box outlined in white, which still references the earlier symbol. 

Here's the final version, after a few more tweaks to pull it all together:

It's a simple concept and an easy update, but that little "box inside a box" gave rise to a whole round of new designs for other branding collateral, like SmallBox's institutions. The simple box of color with a smaller icon inside of it became a running theme in Neil's other designs, and we all knew this was exactly the branding refresh we needed!

Just for fun, here are a couple of the unused, early iterations of the institution logos:

And here they are after Neil tweaked them to match the final SmallBox logo:

"We wanted to come up with this logo system that could span all the things we're doing here - all the institutions," explains Neil, "We want those to be recognizable as SmallBox right away."

Input from the team and simple collaboration were other crucial elements that helped these designs evolve. Neil would work on a logo, bring it to a small team for feedback, then make the suggested adjustments and bring it back to the team. But as a designer, he also knew when to stand his ground and stay true to his vision.

The logo and institution rebranding played a big role in designing the new SmallBox website as well. "We had a few meetings together about what we wanted our aesthetic and our look and feel to be like," Neil says. "I just got a lot of visual inspiration pieces, to talk about what we wanted, what we didn't want, what we had. So we just laid that all out on the table, and I think the website became a sort of synthesis of all those things together."

Thanks to Neil embracing Boxism #23: Iterate, Iterate, Iterate, we're happily a whole new 'Box.

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