A brand new branding, logo, and marketing strategy for an influencer marketing platform startup.
I was tasked to develop a logo and branding for ‘nfluence’ which would be appealing for influencers and advertisers alike. The logo would have to be spelled ‘nfluence’ when fully expanded and would have been able to be a standalone IOS icon and social media profile icon.
My official title for Nfluence is “Brand Director” but I was brought on primarily as a product designer. I developed the brand from logo to styleguide, but I also designed and prototyped all the UI UX for all their products.
I was working remotely for this project while balancing university work and a part-time job, so it was and was a great learning experience on how to stay up to date, conduct activities, and presentations with a client remotely. The 3 hour time difference also took some getting used to as it led to a lot of late night meetings dragging as far as midnight, but it had it’s advantages as well because I had a three hour upper hand on morning deadlines. .
Overall this was a fantastic working experience which gave me a good primer for the next part of the project, which included the product design and prototyping for the mobile app and later the web app.
On the branding I collaborated mostly with the marketing specialists and another creative (a fantastically skilled photographer and videographer we were lucky to have on the team). I also presented my work to the founders multiple times for feedback that helped steer the branding somewhere they ended up being very happy with.
Good branding requires research to understand your audience. So I started the design process by identifying the goal, my questions, my assumptions, and where I could find answers to my questions.
Who are influencers?
Luckily, I was working in the social media influencer (SMI) space which meant that much of the information I wanted to learn about my users were naturally online.
A striking majority of influencers are based on Instagram as their main platform. I spent the majority of my research there, although I dabbled a little in Youtube as well. I made a dummy instagram account and followed as many big-name and small-name influencers as I could find. And then subsequently spend several hours scrolling through the news feed to identify similarities in personality, voice, style, and etc.
Although there were many niches of influencers, I began to notice similarities among them. Namely their honesty and positivity. Overall they could be considered highly motivated individuals. The achievement of maintaining a high follower count is a testament to their dedication and drive.
Additionally one of the founding members of Influence, Ryan Smith, was a fitness influencer so I was able to ask him questions about his experience as an influencer. He shared his experiences interacting with other influencers as well as advertisers for brand collaborations.
What does the public think of them?
I also spent many hours reading articles on influencers to gauge public opinion on them. I discovered that despite my assessment being that influencers are honest and dedicated individuals, the public held a negative connotation attached to them.
This presented itself as a challenge to the branding as it meant we would need to carefully promote the positive aspects of influence culture and the industry of influencer marketing.
To build an external face to the company (brand identity) I first needed to understand the internal culture (company values).
I formulated through several activities with the founders to discover these. My notes read with strong beliefs they mentioned during these activities such as “anyone can be an influencer” and “influencers should get paid for their work” (as opposed to compensated with free products). There was an idea that we wanted to make influencing a livable occupation available to more and more people, while also helping more and more brands have access to the most impactful form of marketing. The most universally agreed upon statement in the company was “Influencer marketing is the future of advertising.”
From these activities and subtle behavior I noticed in the company I was able to formulate an early list of brand values. Passion, hard work, and high quality output was valued at the top of the list; apparent by the dedication of the team to stay sharp on deadlines despite balancing ridiculous schedules.
A brand should reflect the ideal self of the customer, which is why, after ample user research, I eventually chose authenticity, positivity, and approachability as the top three identifiers for Nfluence’s brand identity and voice.
Early ideas & Moodboards
From the brand identity (authentic, positive, approachable), I knew I wanted strong colors, ample, white space, and san serif font. Together with the marketing team, I mood-boarded on Pinterest to collect together images which captured the personality of the brand identity.
Early on, under the influence of fashion influencers I had been researching, I experimented with thin linework and black/white communications to express sophistication and exclusivity. This meant that we were experimenting with a high contrast sophisticated balck/white color theme that you see often in high fashion.
We later moved away from grayscale to high saturated colors because we realized we wanted our company values to reflect inclusivity and approachability, and while the grayscale theme was classy, if did not carry the youth and energy of the influencer community.
We started introducing color gradually. I started by choosing a Canary yellow to pair with the black/white. The team liked this direction and urged me to add more color.
As a result I took a step back from the black/white/yellow color scheme and took a new approach to choosing colors. This time I started with associated words/concepts with influencer marketing from our two customer groups and I began ideating from there.
The result was a combination of purple, indigo and green. This was around the time I realized that since the product was going to be instagram-exclusive, I realized we may advertise with instagram’s logo and gradient paired with our brand inside our advertisements. I needed to limit my color selection to something that would work well with Instagram’s aesthetic and colorful gradient.
The idea was that Influence would be the compliment to Instagram. The metaphorical other half of the rainbow. The team loved this idea! I finalized the blue/teal/yellow color scheme to become our official colors.
Though repeatedly presenting to the team of my progress I learned a valuable lesson. Different color profiles can appear different depending on the display and screen sharing software can further alter how color displays.
In hindsight it should have been obvious before, but I never ran into this problem presenting brand color in-person. Since we were working entirely remotely, I was slow to catch on to the difference. When I once presented a coral and midnight blue color scheme over screen share, the team saw it as bright red and royal blue on the meeting room TV. Their negative response surprised me, and we later realized we were viewing the colors incorrectly.
Since then I have been careful to send them colors in PDF formats, correct color profile, and accompanied with HEX color codes so they may check for accuracy if necessary.
My brainstorming for developing logos usually involves immersing in research for several hours, and then jotting down words and phrases I found associated with the business space my client resides in.
Properly primed by the association map (and sometimes a moodboard) I then move onto hand sketches.
Although I began drawing on the computer at a young age, I'm still a strong believer in sketching by hand before moving to digital interfaces. I feel that it helps me get my thoughts across much faster than digital means, and gives me unconscious permission to experiment, sometimes ridiculous concepts, in the privacy of my notebook.
I explored several concepts through sketching, then transferred to illustrator to experiment further. I prefer for the logos I design to have multiple layers of meaning embedded within, which is where I got the idea to turn the “n” in “nfluence” into a magnet, which was strongly associated as a symbol for influencers. Influencers are seen by brands as individuals who attract likes, comments, engagement, and therefore buzz about their product.
Additionally there were minor aspects of anthropomorphism in the logo. When flipped upside down the symbol represents a smiley face or two abstract individuals connected, which is an indictment of what Nfluence is trying to accomplish by connecting influencers with brands with advertising needs.
I experimented with a variety of san serif ‘modern’ fonts, but ultimately chose Avenir Next for the logo as the monowidth letters provided the best structure to build a cohesive magnet icon from my concepts.
Although I presented several variations of the logo, the founders were the most receptive to the magnet logo.
I further polished the logo until it fit inside the full logotype, using grids to ensure it was symmetrical. Once satisfied with the logo I moved on to developing the app icon.
When designing the app logo I ran into some problems. The logo was TOO SIMPLE. Putting it in Apple's IOS squircle shape was too boring. Additionally the IOS app store took a variety of sizes for their IOS apps, so I had liberty to add more detail.
I explored over fifty variations of the logo, finally settling on a unique and complex variation of shadows that gave the logo a 3D illusion I like to call the “Smarties Effect '' for its resemblance to the curvature on Smarties candy.
After making the app icon, the team loved it so much that I went back and modified the original logotype with the Smarties Effect, and even designed inverse versions of it.
Logo Pattern Potential
I also explored the potential for using the logo in various repeated arrangements to create patterns. Having a simple shape for a logo is advantageous because it opens the door for fun patterning in future merchandising.
Once the design was finalized I had some fun presenting to the team some ridiculous variations of the logo which earned me a laugh and round of jokes.
In order to show the team how the secondary and tertiary colors could potentially be used within the brand, I recolored an existing illustration I found on the internet (no available author) and later hand-sketched an illustration of an influencer character in the brand colors on Adobe Draw.
I was careful to select illustration styles that I felt went along with the brand so that we would think to use similar illustration styles in future marketing materials. This was also to give guidance to any potential illustrators we might hire in the future for what kind of style we were looking for.
6. BRAND SYSTEM
My final task with the branding was to build a documentation of the brand system to help guide the rest of the team (in particular our marketing guys) on how to utilize the branding properly. I intended to make it so intuitive that anyone could pick it up and use it.
This was put to the test when we outsourced another designer to build us business cards. I was happy to hear that they navigated the brand system successfully and felt it was very organized. Ultimately they built beautiful and creative cards for the team using the brand assets I made available in that document.
7. MARKETING STRATEGY
Due to my marketing background, the team also consulted me on the marketing and advertising strategies with Nfluence. We built out our instagram page for Nfluence, as well as several mock advertisements for Nfluence.
I like to think of building logos as a complex puzzles that can be frustrating to solve until you’re daydreaming one day and suddenly IT HITS YOU. That eureka moment is why I love this job.
There were definitely moments while I was working on this when I felt stuck, like no solution would ever present itself no matter how much I researched or sketched. But each time I go through the brand building process and come out with a fantastic solution to a design, I learn to have little more faith in myself and the process.
My biggest takeaway from this experience was the importance of leaning on the design process in moments of frustration and stress.
The brand was officially trademarked after completion! It was an absolute pleasure working on this project. I hope you enjoyed reading about it!