Re-branding digital agency Graphite
Whenever I hear of an agency rebranding in-house, I normally also hear of the uphill struggle and heartache of all the different directions and design committee moments they’ve dealt with. I would be lying if I said I’ve never burnt out over a personal project, but this time round we wanted to learn from previous battles, and treat the internal branding job more like billable client work.
Now obviously, paid work had to come first in the day-to-day scheduling of the agency, but we gave respect to the rebrand with its own project manager, job number and tracked timesheet. We forced the routine of stand-ups several times a week to keep on top of our sprints, and as a result, saw a much more productive and passion-led journey. The momentum was encouraging most of the time, with the occasional hiccup but was overall a fruitful experience.
Setting Off: The Challenge
We started our venture by agreeing on the problem. What was it that we needed to fix? Why didn’t the current brand succeed in telling the Graphite story? Then we scheduled our route to the solution in step by step sprints.
Graphite was long overdue an update. The agency had grown in staff and studio space. The mission, values and focus had evolved and matured, so I needed to rebuild the pillars and set the tone of voice to correctly mirror who they were becoming.
Other than out-growing the previous brand, other challenges were felt within the company. Guidelines were inconsistent and materials became fragmented as they adopted online synced tools, and the team needed to be able to quickly and easily create presentations that felt consistent.
Graphite needed a look and feel that brought everything together.
Stronger travelling together
The half-way point of the journey went quite smoothly. We trekked through logo iterations, pinned up ideas on the wall, had the team vote for their favourites and narrowed down our path towards the chosen design. The aim was to communicate a strong, unifying, and long-lasting identity for the forthcoming years. I decided to look back to the fundamentals of the brand name, where it came from and what it symbolised.
Part of the meaning behind the name was to reflect the description of the material, graphite; ‘...the carbon atoms (in graphite) are strongly bonded together in sheets…’
Metaphorically, this seemed like a strong direction to take. I carried the rock structure concept through to the logo, because it mirrors the working culture at Graphite. Each team member has talents and skills of their own, but are even stronger when working together.
Everyone at Graphite has travelled from different walks of life and offer unique ideas and experience, which are treated with respect. Every voice is heard. When every limb pulls its weight, the agency body strengthens. It was this ideology I wanted to illustrate in the logo motif.
I created a brand mark formed of six horizontal lines symbolising the graphite-inspired honeycomb lattice, which portrays the formation of layers strongly bonded together. The typeface is sans serif ‘Greycliff CF’ which lends a classic but contemporary construction, with softened edges and vibrant shapes. The weight of the letterform strokes match the icon lineweight, and is spaced with an even pattern rule.
Fork in the road: The need for flexibility
The second part of the definition of graphite rock is that; ‘...the bonds between the sheets are flexible, other atoms can easily fit between them, causing graphite to be soft and smooth to the touch.’
Whether it’s being flexible about your ideas, your plan, or just your route to the finish line, we believe it’s a positive attribute. As a designer, owning your ideas and expressing them are skills that you can only develop while also learning how to work with your client and journey towards a solution together. Flexibility features in many aspects of the agency, and we wanted the identity to be adaptable to suit a variety of applications.
We developed a brand that could look formal when dealing with global corporate clients, but is also able to appeal to trend-setting retail and entertainment brands. We discovered the use of animation can steer the different emotions well, so several renders were created to suit diverse outputs.
The Graphite brand refresh is clean enough to not distract from the work, or a client’s brand that Graphite may be working with. The new website gives space to hero visuals and type, and the simplicity of the logo is balanced with a minimalist layout.
Travelled far: Looking back
For me, the fun part to this rebrand was the moment when I saw everyone’s excitement over the application of the new logo, typography, colour palette and tone of voice. To see an idea turn from sketches to tangible product is one of the many thrills of designing. For designers who come from print backgrounds it’s a feeling they’re used to. Holding that idea that grew from a moment of inspiration to its physical form in your hands, is a thing of beauty. For us this time round, it meant the creation of business cards, notebooks, pencils, studio illustrations, beer cans and more.
I believe the same joy also applies in the digital design world. When a site or product goes live successfully there is always a party going on inside. Graphite try and also celebrate as a team, going out for lunch or beers, to acknowledge the hard work of the individuals involved. The difference is that web is changing so fast, and a beautiful campaign site could be gone in a couple of weeks. It is tough when something you’re really proud of is no longer online, but I take comfort from the fact that the impact lives on in the data collected in order to help understand the audiences more.
The Next Climb
The Graphite brand has room to build on in the future. The plan is that each strand from the icon will represent individual products the company releases. It has already begun with the launch of Prize Media and Carrot, which are prize and promotion platforms for brands. The logos for these products will all be illustrated with one line from the mother mark. They’ll have the same weight, same edging and size. The main layered hexagonal mark will remain the umbrella icon of the Graphite family, with several more products planned to join them.
A great thing about rebranding is that there’s not always a definite end to the journey. You reach the desired destination, but this forms the foundation to then keep going, seeing the brand grow in multiple channels and formats. The more people use the new brand within the correct guidelines, the stronger and more stable it will become, and the more you learn about it.