When we expanded our company six months ago, we weren’t sure how we would end up positioning ourselves in the market when all was said and done. The truth is, we had two companies coming together: One of them known for web design and development, the other known as a production house with a couple big web sites under its belt. One thing became clear.
Neither identity was where we saw ourselves.
So how does a company who specializes in helping other companies position themselves in their own respective markets do that for their own business? We suddenly had in-house large- and- small- format printing capabilities, full-service video production, more than one designer and administrative staff. How would we communicate this to our current clients and also let the public know about this new super-powered agency in their midst?
First of all, it’s always much harder designing for oneself than it is designing for others. One becomes too close to the project to remain objective and analytical. Add to that, we suddenly had six new people who we wanted to have a say in the direction of the new company.
Suddenly, many questions began to surface.
Do we keep one name over the other? Combine them? A new name altogether? What about the logo? The colors? The fonts? The copy? Don’t we need a web site? Let’s face it, we had our work cut out for us and then some. There were people in Camp A, who wanted to remain Workshed Media and keep the old logo and tagline. Then there was Camp B, who wanted to reinvent everything, logo and all. And then there was Camp C—who were stuck in the middle. We had, on our hands, a proverbial branding midlife crisis.
Not to fear: remember, this is what we do for a living. It’s just, um, a little different when doing it for ourselves. After calming down, stepping back, and remembering our process, we enlisted a little help from our friends and clients. We were able to get back on track doing what we do best—reinventing our brand. After a series of interviews, meetings and documents being shuffled back and forth, we were able to hone in on how we want to be perceived, how our clients perceived us and how our clients actually wanted to see us. With this information, we were on our way to the next step—putting a pretty face on it all.
Once we had the basic premise of how to position ourselves in the market, we had to start adding the face and the voice to it all. This meant getting the team together to brainstorm taglines and promotional campaigns, as well as having our designers brainstorm on logo concepts. We knew we wanted to be positioned as a full-service, small town creative agency. Making things look friendly, hand-made and giving it all a craftsman-like design that was accessible and showed creativity were all key directives.
After some great concepts from the design team and a few reviews, we finally had the logo settled. It turned out bold and strong, with a hint of vintage sign design and an instantly recognizable mark. It clearly shows how we have moved up to the next level and gave us the fuel we needed to push to the next tasks at hand.
Learning Our Voice
Next up was figuring out what we wanted to say and how we wanted to say it. It seemed as though our main selling points were our small-town hospitality, our one-stop-shop structure and our ability to listen to our clients. From this, the “What if your creative agency really listened to what you had to say?” teaser campaign was born. The copy tone was friendly, down-to-earth and helped to differentiate us from our larger, more metropolitan competition, who oftentimes don’t give their clients any credit for having great ideas. The campaign was so successful that an attendee to our First Friday open house—who happened to be a marketing exec at a ginormous local high-tech company—approached me and said, “I wish my agency would listen to what I have to say.”
While the teaser campaign has served us well, we felt that the forthcoming launch of our new web site and marketing materials warranted an updated campaingn which will be revealed with the launch of the web site.
Bringing It All Together
Now that we’ve had a few months to live with our logo and establish our brand, we are working hard to launch our new web site, which is scheduled to go live on Christmas day. We’re offering a sneak peek here, but the gist of it is that it is going to have a hand-crafted feel, invoking craftsmanship, creativity and a true sense of the quality and style of work we do every day. So, please, do come back on Christmas Day, 2007 to see what we have to reveal. We look forward to a new year full of adventure and great new work, and we welcome you to become a part of the extended Workshed family.
Being located in a small town has afforded us some great opportunities. Many of these opportunities have nothing to do with making money, but with the relationships we’ve been able to forge with the great members of the town in which we are located. While Camas is growing and changing at an astounding rate, it hasn’t always been that way. This sleepy mill town has long been dormant in many ways, surviving as a blue-collar town with the main industry being that of the Paper Mill located on the West end of the downtown area.
In recent years, partially due to the real estate boom, the area has seen its residents expand out to a wider range of households. With this change has come a change to the downtown area, as well. Many new wonderful boutique shops, restaurants and services have begun to appear on a regular basis and a renewed pride in the downtown has taken hold.
We see a lot of examples of people working together to improve the community and make it more of a destination for families. But the ones that have had the most impact are the ones that have focused on giving the downtown region a personality and a brand. We were recently given the opportunity to help with two of these projects, which involved producing a commercial for the Downtown Camas businesses, which was shown on various Comcast channels for a number of months, to redesigning the Downtown Camas Walking Map for local businesses. Throughout this process, we were able to establish a visual identity for the town that can start to imprint upon consumers’ minds.
When this branding is used in conjunction with the town’s many events and weekly First Friday Art Walks, it helps to reinforce a consistency in both experience and style that people will come to associate with Camas. The end goal is that people begin making Camas more of a destination than a place they stumble upon while driving to or from the Gorge. While we have only begun to scratch the surface of how much we can help this town increase its brand awareness, we are looking forward to more opportunities to help Camas—and other towns that may come along—increase their branding and commerce.
One of the things that really drew me to design was my love for typography. I want to share why typography is such an important part of Workshed‘s design style. While this may be mostly interesting to people who are design professionals, I think it will also give our friends and clients a glimpse into the “Workshed Aesthetic” that I’ve been following for the last 10 years.
I would really love for the world to gain an appreciation for typography and aside from embarking on a life of typographical evangelism, the best I can do is to explain what it is and all of its intricacies. It’s much more than just selecting a font or two for a project. It’s much more than picking some colors and placing those fonts — it’s about manipulating the fonts to expose their strengths, hide their weaknesses or even to completely deconstruct or manipulate the font into oblivion so it’s something entirely new.
I grew up with a big sister who is a talented artist and calligrapher. I grew up appreciating poster and album art. I spent a fair amount of time as a journalism major, designing pages that were largely comprised of type. I also grew up in the era where Generic brands were all about fascistic typefaces written in black on stark white packaging. A world without strong typography is a dull, sad, depressing world. Without typography, design would not exist in its current form — and dare I say, communication would not exist in its current form. Type can communicate so many things depending on how it is used. Using Times New Roman at 12 points, with default letter spacing communicates a completely different message than using it at 32 points with tight letter spacing. Type is emotion. Type is a grid. Type is nice, mean, sexy, angry, happy, sad or silly. It is a tool, and aside from photography, the most powerful tool in the designer’s arsenal. Type is not to be underestimated. Type is an art unto itself. And, each typeface has a distinct personality.
In recent years, exploration of typography seems to have waned in the hip design circles. Perhaps it is a kickback to the desktop publishing revolution, in which Microsoft decided to punish us all with the birth of Comic Sans. Perhaps it is the supremacy cry of professional designers promoting a “less is more” approach by proving they can MacGyver an award-winning masterpiece with the smallest selection of typefaces in their design palette. Or, perhaps it is the logical backlash of designers trying to undo the chaotic and highly-revolutionary typographical treatments Neville Brody, David Carson and the entire grunge font movement exposed us all to in the 1990s. The fact is, many designers have opted for a minimalist approach in recent years, embracing Helvetica Neue Light as the cheerleader of this movement. While elegant, sparse and airy type has its place, it can also lack that distinguishing character that a design can cry out for and fails to differentiate one euro-influenced design from the next. This is what so excites me about the new Workshed logo. It has type with personality. There is a definite character to it and the usage of the typeface (Brothers, for those of you playing along) exploits its strengths — it is a display font to the core and should be used accordingly.
With any design project, typography must be kept in mind at each step. Don’t just choose typefaces — use them, work them. Make them work for you. Play with different angles, grid patterns, size relationships, play words off one-another, make them look like they are moving, worn down, hurting, happy, sad. Give them personality. Instead of starting with a layout, start with type. Work it. Own that type, y’all!
I’m going to close this one out with some reference links. These are examples of, and educational pieces about, typography. I encourage everyone who reads this to ask questions, try some experiments with type and learn.