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Blacktrace re-brand – what’s the point?

Meet Steph and Ollie. They’re designers working in our Design and Innovation team, working across all our brands on everything from email and web for our marketing team to research and concepts for our products. The design team’s foundation is their passion for strong design that achieves what it’s meant to whether that’s reflecting a personality, communicating a desired action, or making a connection more robust.

One of their recent projects has been creating the new Blacktrace visual identity, which some of you may have noticed recently started rolling out. Although a brand is about more than the way we look, here we find out more about Steph and Ollie’s design journey and how we got to where we are visually.

A functional identity isn’t good enough

Ollie was approached by Mark (one of our founders and CEO) during 2017 as he didn’t feel the Blacktrace identity depicted the story, culture, or values of Blacktrace and felt the need to do something about it.

The first thing to consider was why, who it was for and the value derived from doing this work. After all, there’s not a lot of point doing work that isn’t going to add value. Blacktrace had a functional identity so what wasn’t working? Most of our customers engage with Blacktrace via our brands (Syrris, Dolomite, Dolomite Bio, Particle Works, Glass Solutions), rather than through Blacktrace, so what’s the point spending time on something that isn’t seen or experienced by many of our users?

However, pause for a moment and think about who it is that identifies with Blacktrace and you realise there’s a very key group of stakeholders that identify with that brand – our employees. It’s important our people feel a part of the brand, can relate to it, and buy into the Blacktrace story, its values, the personality and culture that it reflects. It became apparent that, from Mark’s view at least, our “functional identity” didn’t fulfil this need.

It’s important our people feel a part of the brand, can relate to it, and buy into the Blacktrace story, its values, the personality and culture that it reflects.

The brief

Nothing was written down; the ‘brief’ was entirely based on conversations with Mark. This meant Ollie and Steph could get a feel for what was making Mark tick; his motivations, thoughts, ideas and passion – what he really cared about. These conversations essentially boiled down to four requirements:

  1. Show we’re challenging convention
  2. Feels fun and is friendly
  3. Be different – “I don’t want to be mistaken for anyone else in our sector”
  4. Capture that we’re a technology company

Ollie and Steph then got to work looking at others in our industry and considering what we already had. How did our existing brand fall short of the above points? Where did it meet the brief and, therefore, what should be retained?

Designing begins…

Ollie, pondering conversations so far, begins sketching. Together with Steph they probably produced upwards for 50 different logos and in doing this found it important to literally break the logo out of the box. Instead of pushing the logo to the corner, they took the opportunity to have a bit more fun and started developing patterns and a flying ‘A’. This freedom saw the arrow developed early in sketches although the initial concepts were angular and didn’t fulfil the requirement of fun and friendly. So then came the question of fonts and this is when we started looking at rounded, geometric typefaces.

The font that was selected, Typo Round, is heavily inspired by the Bauhaus style and is simple in form, favouring lower-case. A Bauhaus-style font seemed to be a good fit as their aims align well with our values and what we were attempting to achieve with this project. Bauhaus embraced the future without being afraid to challenge convention and wanted to create something that was reproducible with a balance of both skill and good design at its core.

With a clearer design perspective being formed it was time to start rationalising thoughts and getting these in front of Mark. Before going too far, however, we needed to consider how, where, and when the Blacktrace identity is used which then leads to practical implications like space and sizing. Marketing were involved to guide this and it soon became clear that it needed to be scalable – something that worked digitally and often at small scale to something that could be used on building signage.

From the handful of ideas that were put in front of Mark, there came a winning design…

The result…

Did we achieve what we set out to do? It’s certainly different to anyone else in the markets we serve and the font is softened to make it more fun. The use of arrows shows one standing apart and challenging the crowd. So, from that point of view, it seems we have. Is it something our employees buy into? It’s hard to say right now – it’s still early days – but they certainly relate to the story and in time we hope it is something that will resonate strongly throughout our community.