Re-aligning our brand with Paddl vision and mission for the future.
Purpose: This post covers the why’s and how’s behind Paddl’s new look launched during Q2 of 2020.
🏔️ A rebranding journey
In 2016, Paddl embarked on a mission to help emerging talent discover experience opportunities that matched skills with their current or previous studies. 'Explorers' created profiles that would match them to projects, internships and job opportunities.
Throughout our journey we have learned more about the many layers of problems and challenges that live in the modern talent marketplace, many of which create growing hurdles between the worlds of education and work.
After three years as a live product, our mission remains but our approach has changed significantly and our identity no longer reflected our ambitious goals.
It was time to turn the page and start a new chapter, this is how it came about...
🛶 Why sink the Kayak?
The initial brand idea built on self propulsion, the idea of our users ‘paddling’ forward in their professional journey (with the help from Paddl). Coming about at the same time as Google launched its Material guidelines we saw that applying the same visual thinking to our brand was a good fit. Thus, our initial logo was born - portraying a kayak paddling upwards and forwards.
The rest of the brand fleshed out an adventurous aspect with backgrounds becoming different islands, icons based around wildlife camps and a tribal mask as a product mascot.
The material nature of our brand identity generally worked well for digital use however as we expanded our use over time, it became clear that it was using some limiting techniques.
- We felt that a kayak graphic for a company / product named Paddl was too literal in its interpretation and that the name could carry the message of 'self propulsion' on its own.
- We also felt we were missing an opportunity to embed more of the company's vision and value in our identity with too much focused on the one concept.
- The logo whilst working well in larger formats included many details, gradients, colours and shadows. As an after-thought, we created a simplified version with just a paddle when needed, such as for the favicon. Apart from it not conveying anything about the company, having two separate logos is just not ideal.
- Printing it well on anything (paper, t-shirts, posters) was a nightmare.
Our product direction became more refined and shifted to focus on capturing fragmented learning for our community.
Our primary goal became to support our users in gathering experience (or XP) and build upon their profiles by adding 'Activities.' Experience became the centre of Paddl's universe and the ideology of 'infinite learning' to support it.
Our core themes became clear and we wrote our brand statement.
Paddl | Journeys of infinite growth and experience.
🧭 Finding our Path
Initially we explored the letter P as a clever monogram, which on its own as a shape can easily be tied into the name by letting it represent a paddle.
Other ideas included showing ‘skills’ as blocks, ‘progress’ as paths leading upward and the P being a conquering flag.
As products (particularly web based) change features, pivot and evolve, building a brand upon a product feature presented too great a risk. The brand mark should instead be encompassing Paddl’s vision as a company and make as much sense outside of the product, at Paddl events, in content and beyond.
1 + 1 = 3 ?
By using ‘XP’ we saw the opportunity to combine Experience with the Paddl P into the mark and subtly use the abbreviation of the two. After many variations we realised two critical worries:
- It shouldn’t accidentally actually be read as ‘XP’, which would cause confusion when used on it’s own.
- Even if very subtle, people might still be unfamiliar with the term and not connect it whatsoever with ‘Experience.'
After some time the winning concept came to us (rather our Product Owner JC) in the middle of the night in the shape of something reminiscing an infinity symbol. We immediately agreed that it was worth working up thanks to a few conceptual highlights:
- A pathway to represent individual journeys
- The infinity symbol representing life-long pursuit
- An upward path or mountain side, working toward ‘peak ability’
- A capital ‘P’ and a lower-case ‘d’ summarising the name
- A very subtle ‘XP’ created at the intersection
- A structure that shows a paddling movement
It solves the problems we had by -
- Not being dependent on any sizing or fancy details
- Being mono colour-ready
- And most importantly, encapsulating the company’s vision, mission and values
🎨 Touch Ups
After letting it sit for a bit, our internal team felt we could use an outside perspective to help finalise what we had been grappling with. We turned to Nick Edlin, a local senior designer who was able to see what we had produced and tweak some final details to further refine our work.
Titling Gothic FB was chosen as the font for our wordmark, creating a good weight balance when set in lowercase. The ‘a’ was customised into a single-story variant for a more simpler, future-proof feel rather than a retro one, something which was favoured upon in a quick internal survey.
The stacked version was set tight and left-aligned, using the 45 degree angle of the logomark for visual balance.
🧱 Building a Brand
Initially considering to also use Tilting Gothic for our headlines we instead decided to go with Gordita all across our copy for increased readability and consistency with fallback san-serifs.
We knew beforehand that we wanted to create a modular system for our illustrations where we can easily snap together objects for any purpose, including representation of different backgrounds and personalities.
We wanted to create a ‘Paddl world’ focused around the theme of “adventure in the everyday,” where we pair outdoor elements and have applied them to themes like commuting to work, working on a laptop, attending a lecture and so forth. We’ve built our characters to have a balance of fluid and grounded geometric shapes.
By using the 45 degree angle and shapes of the logomark for our illustrations and supporting graphic assets we were able to keep a connectivity within our visual language.
This is where our secondary colours come into play. For our Activities they all represent a different category of experience (Education, Social, Personal, etc.), and are used to create a punchy contrast between artwork and main brand elements with belonging CTAs. That way we can make it easy for our users to connect what they mean across our platform, i.e. by setting artwork relating to one category in a specific artwork colour. Our main colour (Dark Plum) is also integrated throughout the Activities artwork to maintain a connection to the brand.
🔥 Putting it To the Test
Before launching we created a collection of example assets that could be used in the immediate future and applying the new brand to them to make sure that we covered all (or at least most) of our bases.
Using Figma and its Components functionality we were able to make amends to the logos and swatches and have that being automatically applied across all mockups.
Last thing to do before we actually got down and dirty starting to apply our new brand was to put together an internal brand guide for our team and present the journey leading up to the end result.
🧠 Things we Learnt
In summary, it wouldn’t be a proper journey or a blog post ending without a few lessons picked up on the way:
1. Escaping a concept
Pushing a favourite concept further we also ended up somewhat creatively cornering ourselves. Letting the project sit aside for a bit along with getting a pair of fresh designer eyes on the case allowed it to be brought home.
2. Modular brand assets
By keeping all our brand assets as components in Figma we could seamlessly make updates across guides and marketing mockups, and easily swap out different variants as we refined them.
3. Company in the loop
As soon as we reached our final stages of the brand work we wanted to make sure that the rest of the company was involved which allowed for everyone to have their say and be prepared for the new look and visual language.
So what's next?
As we continue to build out our ‘world’ through artwork and material we’ll keep exploring new ways to communicate Paddl in the most efficient way possible.
You can discover more of our design work on our Paddl Design Team Dribbble Proifle...