When the design team received our new Industrial visual brand guide from Northern Army we were eager to get started and jumped right into our new identity. As part of the rebranding process, Northern Army provided our team with usage guidelines for our new identity, and from these we began an iterative design process applying our new identity across our digital and print design assets.
As part of this approach, each designer worked on developing an icon set to illustrate our service offerings: Strategy, Implementation and Support. These icons would play a huge part in our brand and our initial intention was to display them prominently throughout our digital and print assets. Having each designer develop a unique set was an integral part of the development process as each designer took a different approach, which in turn gave us new thoughts, ideas and considerations for the development of our brand. The entire process of developing these icon sets was an intense exercise in validating our design as we had to think about and rationalize each approach for the long term and for future applications online and offline. There was a lot stemming from these icon designs and was a huge focus in our department for weeks.
We spent countless hours developing these sets and tried to work them into the new website design but it became too much of a design struggle. The icons were intended for our services section, but without repetition elsewhere on the site, they stood out, seemed awkward and felt more like a mistake than a design feature. Instead, we chose to use illustrations rather than icons as we felt this would tie in better with the other elements on our website, and our overall brand. Why introduce a new element when it seems too forced? This goes against all principles in design. We also knew that we would be able to tie in the illustration style directly to our blog, so for consistency sake, this made the most sense. Not to say that we won’t go back and explore icons sets and include them as part of our brand in the future, in fact it’s something that will eventually need to be developed, just not right now, not for the website.
Illustration, one of three styles we chose to use on the blog, was used in our design to represent Industrial’s approach to projects, and the services that we offer: strategy, implementation, and support. The blog design also calls for the use of photography. Greyscale, grainy, vintage photos are used in applications of metaphor and when describing Industrial or our brand, and full-colour, modern photography is used for coverage of events or topics external to our brand.
Each style is intended to help our readers determine the type of blog post or content that they are reading, adding to the message without becoming a distraction. Repeating the illustration style from the blog in our services section has had the effect of unifying the site, blending the visual elements into one cohesive look. This obstacle with the icons highlighted that while the rebranding process would be exciting, it would not be without challenges. Ultimately, not everything that we planned for at the start would make it into the final website design. The biggest obstacle we faced, though, was the colour palette. Northern Army provided us with a colour palette for the new brand, and recommended that we use a shade of red or green as our primary colour. We really loved the energy of a neon yellow (PANTONE 809), though, and decided to use it as the primary colour in our first round of designs. During testing, we found that it was difficult to control in a digital application, since the neon displayed differently across different screens, and without consistency it wouldn’t serve to enforce our brand message.
Understanding the role that the colour palette would play in the perception of the Industrial brand, we nixed the neon yellow as our primary brand colour online, tried a darker teal (PANTONE 3252), and eventually settled on a poppy red (PANTONE WARM RED) along the lines of Northern Army’s initial recommendation. Each change forced us to rethink every other design element and how they interacted with each other. An iterative design approach is all about trial and error. It took our team several months to test and revise our applications of the Industrial brand to our new website before we found the right fit, and I know that as we move forward we will continue to iterate slightly on our designs and modify our brand as we continue the rebranding process. We wouldn’t be where we are without experimenting, though. Great design happens when you allow yourself to work things through, not being afraid to think outside of the box, and iterating on the design again and again until it’s just perfect and makes sense.