Creating or updating a SaaS company's brand identity may be the most challenging task a design team can take on. Yet, since software delivery moved to the cloud, many of us in the design community spend most of our time creating or refining brand systems. Often for applications that do everything from the mundane, like reminding you to feed your dog, to the highly specialized, like nurturing customers through the sales funnel.
One of the difficulties of creating a brand system for any application is how to depict the product in a way a potential customer can immediately understand. Very often, a SaaS product does something the consumer didn't know could be done, like collaborative work management (CWM).
Even if you know what CWM is, what's the shared visual language a designer can use to convey the product's usefulness? While a car manufacturer or clothing retailer can fall back on a universally understood visual and verbal lexicon, portraying a SaaS product in a concise and compelling way requires a designer to spin up a visual system that their audience will be able to comprehend. Beyond the act of conveying meaning and value, how does a designer make the brand enticing on a visual and emotional level? What kind of feeling or mood should its visual identity generate? What color best expresses collaboration?
If you’ve ever embarked on a brand refresh or a full-on rebrand, one of the first things you recognize is that such an endeavor requires more than an artistic vision; it requires you to conceptualize a new way of portraying and explaining that which has never been adequately expressed before. More succinctly, you need to think the brand into existence.
A journey to the center of the brand
The process of giving shape and a voice to the Wrike brand had begun before my arrival in 2017. When I started, we did have some of the brand architecture in place with some rules around the basics, like color and logo usage. Missing was an overarching visual system followed by the entire organization that matched the breadth and intricacies of the brand. To correct this, we embarked on a six-month thought-exercise. The result, a reimagined Wrike.
The Wrike brand refresh design work began by examining the brand in its entirety, sort of a visceral, verbal, and visual audit. What the assessment exposed was that we needed to start thinking of our brand holistically, that is, how will it operate across all channels. Then we had to determine how to align the overarching brand with our values.
Moving through the process, we decided that the brand needed to achieve specific business objectives.
It needed to be:
- Truly global
- Attractive to the enterprise and hypergrowth organization
- Applicable to inbound and outbound marketing
- Able to convert
Once our priorities were locked, we set up a collaborative, iterative, creative process. As we had tight timelines and many moving parts for this project, feedback and approvals needed to be fast. The handoff of assets needed to be seamless, and version control was essential. Fortunately, the management of these complex workflows was smooth because we use the leading collaborative work management platform for creatives.
Design is simple. That’s why it’s complicated.
The next phase of thinking focused on design principles. Whether it’s your first rebrand exercise or your tenth, clearly stated design principles are essential. Without them, it’s impossible to determine design success.
To establish our design principles, we tapped numerous sources, researchers, UX designers, engineers, customers, etc. We also tested versions of our designs. When we were done with those tests, we ran more, then more. (Actually, we’re always testing.) We then collated our experts’ accumulated wisdom and combined that with what we learned from our tests to set these standards.
The refreshed Wrike design must:
- Be scalable
- Everything we create needs to work across all channels regardless of it being a one-off or a 10,000 copy print run.
- Solve problems
- Every design element, be it color palette or typography, is in service of an objective. For example, the colors we selected are eye-catching, evoke the desired feeling, and are reproducible at scale, regardless of medium. The fonts we selected are readily available and easy to read.
- Avoid trends
- Trends come and go. Smart design is timeless.
- Speak to customers
- Anyone who comes into contact with a Wrike asset will immediately understand the item’s intent and message because of the directness and focus of the visual and written narrative.
We imagined the last part of the design principles as an equation:
Standardization + Configurability = Versatility
For Wrike, Standardization is more than the process of implementing and developing technical standards based on consensus. Our understanding of Standardization also denotes the process aspect of the people-process-technology triangle.
Configurability is woven very deeply in our platform and relates to customizability, ease of use, and the human side of work management. Configurability also denotes the people aspect of the people-process-technology triangle.
We use shapes to depict Standardization and hand-drawn patterns to denote Configurability. When we combine these elements, we bring Versatility to life.
Shapes = Standardization/the technical
Patterns = Configurability/the human world
Brand identity, the silent ambassador
With the design objectives and principles locked, next came the identity. An impactful and memorable brand identity is one that connects the customer’s mind to a particular perception.
What perception did we want to create? Here’s what we came up with. The Wrike brand look and feel is:
- Human (friendly, empathetic)
- Team-focused (versus individual-focused)
- Pragmatic (honest, to the point, no fluff)
- Expert (assertive, trusted advisor)
The Reimagined Wrike
The output of all this thinking, testing, and designing is the reimagined Wrike. Going forward, every prospect and customer will have an intuitive, efficient, and unified experience throughout their interaction with the brand and product. These changes will improve the experience for our more than two million users and better communicate our story to this growing audience of discerning, sophisticated buyers.
The journey continues
One item I’ve neglected to mention up to this point is all the work that went into the Reimagined Wrike brand refresh took roughly 26 weeks, making this, as far as I can determine, the fastest brand refresh in marketing history.
Among the many lessons the brand refresh project produced was the realization that the Wrike brand is always evolving. This is a good thing. The Reimagined Wrike we’re launching now is an organic, adapting, always learning entity. Like you. Like me. Like our customers.
To see the new brand in action, visit Wrike.com then tell us what you think.