Our intent was to evolve the Small Planet brand and formalize some rules that had been left unresolved. Perhaps we’d tighten up some of our language and upgrade our swag … just a simple nip and tuck … no way would this turn into a complete renovation.
However, about five minutes into this exercise we realized that our logo — the bouillon cube of our brand — no longer expressed who we were as a company.
When Small Planet started eight years ago, we designed apps and games mostly for kids. Our first app was Toy Story 2 for Disney, and Steve Jobs showed it off at the iPad unveiling. Our brand and logo reflected that origin quite well.
We still love kids and gaming, but we’ve evolved. Now we’re a well-rounded product design and development studio, partnering with Fortune 500 clients and major nonprofits. We’re consultants, project managers, hosts of industry panels and forums … we even show up on TV here and there, lending our expertise to startups.We’ve taken our gaming chops and applied them to more purpose-driven apps for client partners in real estate, healthcare, and financial services.
Here’s the thing: once you make the decision to burn the whole thing down, you need a process to build it back up. So, we designed a process.
We Looked in the Mirror
After some navel-gazing, we identified some or our defining traits: Small Planet is smart, open & transparent, friendly & approachable, confident, and playful. To give ourselves some context we identified a handful of brands we admired, brands that were doing a fantastic job defining themselves in this space.
We Committed to Collaboration … Big Time
Every design team in the world defines itself as collaborative. We’re no different. We pride ourselves on open collaboration within our design department, and between design and development.
But talk is cheap, right? So early on in the concept phase we invited every designer at Small Planet to give their take on what our new logo should look like. That’s right, we added cooks to the kitchen.
Then — Pandora’s Box — we invited non-designers to give their free-form opinions. It was beautiful anarchy, and it drew out ideas and viewpoints we hadn’t considered. Chief among these was that the very idea of collaboration had to be reflected in the new brand.
A few of the hundreds of ideas we knocked around …
We Got Real About Design Criteria
Once we decided that we were changing our logo we drew up a shortlist of criteria:
- Simplify. Our previous logo was composed of two separate words and a logomark with four overlapping colors. There was a lot going on. The new mark had to be simpler.
- One Planet, One Color. All great logos work in one color. Ours would as well.
- Must Work in Any Context. The new logo had to be like that shirt that you can wear with anything. It can go formal or casual and still look good.
- Do You Feel like I Feel? Sounds obvious, but it had to feel like us. It’s tough to define, but we knew we’d know it when we saw it.
- Collaboration Extends to Color. We asked our developers to take screenshots of their coding environments to see if there were commonalities of color we could use in our palette. Most of our developers were using a dark blue/grey background, and we pulled out a blue, magenta and yellow too.
Work environments from a few of our developers …
Inspired our new color palette …
We Couldn’t Sleep on the Wordmark
Every wordmark starts with a great typeface. We wanted something geometric with an even weight, but we didn’t want to go overboard. We wanted an ‘o’ character that would feel like a planet. That led us to Futura, but the lowercase ‘t’ in Futura is just awful. (Sorry, but it is.)
We tried Avenir Next, and loved it. The ‘o’ character is pretty close to a perfect circle, and the ‘t’ is lovely. We set the wordmark in Avenir Next Demi bold and made some modest modifications to the ‘l’ characters so they were the same length as the stem on the ‘p’ and we cropped off the left side of the ‘t’ crossbar. These modifications allowed us to track the characters in pretty closely and gave it a little more character.
We Made a Secondary Icon
We love our wordmark, but it’s long. Twelve characters long to be exact (counting the dot). Our secondary icon acts as shorthand in tight contexts like social media pages. The boldness of the icon also works well for swag like t-shirts and hats.
We Put It All Together
Gotta have some sweet tees …
We went with a variety of business card backs to liven things up …
The logo lends itself nicely to little code snippets …
And we developed a house illustration style using our new color palette …
We Set (Strict) Brand Guidelines
Finally, to ensure that we don’t screw things up as we go forward we’re in the process of developing a robust set of brand guidelines.