“This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world & we are not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us…so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”
-Steve Jobs, 1997
As an architecture firm, we have the pleasure of building the framework for our client’s lives. This process involves a deep understanding of their operations, their people, and their brand. After more than 100 years of understanding clients in a variety of industries, we’ve been entrusted by many to give their brand a proper home.
Giving a new face to our own brand, however, posed a new challenge.
A brand is much more than a logo. A brand is how people feel about you. A brand evokes feelings that are part rational but mostly emotional. Visual design is a large part of a brand identity. It helps communicate who you are and influences how others feel about you.
While preparing for our move to a new office this February, we decided to ask ourselves what we wanted the world to know and feel about us with the goal of redesigning our visual identity. After months of soul-searching, we captured that identity in the design of the new IKM logo.
Since our launch, we’ve received many questions.
My favorite is, “Who did you hire to complete your rebrand?”
We are very proud to answer “No one.”
The rebrand was completely internal, initiated by myself (our Marketing Specialist), our associates, and principals. From there, more people volunteered to form a complete branding team who helped strategize, design and implement our brand launch. Our team put a lot of time, hard work, and maybe even some tears into constructing the new IKM.
Getting asked what agency we hired to complete it is one of the biggest compliments we have received.
Since so many people have asked, we wanted to share a little more about the process of our rebrand and specifically our logo redesign. You wouldn’t believe how much research went into the design of our new red dot! (Or how many times I was asked to design the dot one pixel larger just to compare.) When you work in an office filled with designers, you never find yourself short of opinions!
I started working at IKM in February 2016 as their Marketing Specialist. Before I started, IKM had already begun some heavy self-reflection (cue the yoga om’s). During that time, they had decided to move and design a new, open office environment that would achieve greater collaboration and transparency. The move set forth a clear message: IKM is committed to invoking positive change for both our clients and employees.
Without specifically identifying it, the new office was shaping a new brand image for IKM. This idea opened the doors for continued self-evaluation. As an outsider who came from a larger, national architecture firm, I was able to bring a unique perspective and begin to fill in the gaps.
We began to ask ourselves some tough questions:
“How do we want people to feel about the reenvisioned IKM?”
“Does our current visual identity match that messaging?”
“Do we need to refresh our logo?”
These questions sparked an open and honest discussion with ourselves and our future goals at IKM. We searched both inwardly and outwardly: conducting marketing research, identifying trends in logo design, and surveying staff.
Research Informs Design
When we began our journey, we found ourselves following the same process as we do with our clients: creating understanding of the big picture, exploring each factor in detail, and deciding how to proceed. The image below by Damien Newman sophisticatedly titled “The Process of Design Squiggle”, offers a great illustration to how this process of chaos to refinement unfolds. It is also a very accurate depiction of what my brain looked like during our rebrand.
I determined the three primary research areas that together would inform our new logo:
Architectural Logo Design
In a discussion with IKM’s Principals and Associates, we identified 30 firms to study. I closely looked at each firm’s past and present visual identity, including their logo, website, social media, and marketing materials. Consistent trends emerged across the board.
Corporate Logo Design
Additionally, we researched corporate logo trends of recognizable brands to see how their logos have evolved over the years. Rather than calling out for attention, brands are now seeking to blend seamlessly into customer’s lives, emphasizing brand as a community.
IKM’s Current Visual Identity: Insights
With the baseline understanding of logo trends established, I started to conduct research on our own visual identity including:
Existing visual properties: our logo, social media, marketing materials and the website
Capturing our clients’ perspectives of IKM through surveys and interviews
Surveying employees interally to gain an understanding of both our current messaging and our future goals as a firm
Red Square, Meet Red Dot
With the architectural trends, corporate trends, and our goals in mind, I designed our new logo. We wanted it to be friendly, approachable and to display our creative and outgoing professional personalities.
Key design considerations included:
Transparency: Literally “thinking outside the red box.” We traded in the upper case letters, rigid lines, and red square box for lowercase letters, a circle, and a gray font to create a more approachable, flowing design that stands alone yet compliments its surroundings.
Versatility: Create a logo that is suitable for all digital and print platforms. The font can be both gray or white for all background.
Character: The red accent serves the dual purpose of paying homage to our 100+ year past while embodying our future goals of leaving a lasting impact on our clients and in the community.
Brand recognition: Create a branding element with the custom design of the “i”. Adding a curved edge under the dot leaves it supported, rather than suspended above the “i.” The red circle and balances the curves of the “m” making it more complete.
With our new identity out for the world to see, it feels good to take a step back and appreciate the positive feedback we’ve received on our business cards, email signatures, and construction documents. Much like our client projects, it’s a reward that renews itself as its story and purpose develops with time.
Perhaps what our new logo captures best is not just how we hope our audience will feel about us, but how we feel about ourselves. 11 Stanwix is humming with a new energy and state of mind that finds itself in our process at work, our involvement in the community, and the next wave of clients and employees who walk through our doors.
We’re grateful for the positive feedback we’ve received and anxious to find out where the red dot will take us next!
Guest author: Kelly Barca, Marketing Specialist
Design guru, half-marathoner, craft beer aficionado
Mantra: “It’s the willingness to keep pushing through new challenges, not shrink from them back into your comfort zone, that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.”
– Jen Sincero, You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life