“Make it Like Bellow!” — Derivative Design and Branding a Podcast
It’s not just that our jobs are now digital-first, it’s the extra weight that startup culture (mainly from our friends in Silicon Valley) has dumped on our desks: over the odds perks, unlimited holiday, and remote working.
How have these expectations affected digital natives entering the workplace, and what are they expecting? How have those transitioning to a digital-first workplace been coping with these new standards in work-life balance?
My brother Nathan spent most of 2018 forming and crafting his answers to these questions by kickstarting a podcast, where he explores the booming tech scene of the North of England.
He’s been interviewing some leading figures, from CEOs, to marketers, to digital award winners throughout the North and asked them how they have tackled this transition. The insights collected have provided me at least with invaluable opinions on the landscape and how millenials in particular are navigating this weird time to be working.
He had spent months tearing himself apart over an idea and finally managed to put this idea into a designed format with the help of an inordinate amount of YouTube tutorials and stealing ideas in a way only an artist would know.
He’d also spent too much time on DuckDuckGo looking at Suprematism. A beautiful artistic movement.
I was sent a PDF, and asked for my opinion.
Any designer knows that when you’re asked for an opinion on a design, it usually means, “can you fix this up for me?”
My brief was to make the logo and supporting material “look like a combo of Saul Bellow’s novels and be mustard yellow”.
The original PDF provided was a great start, but for something like a podcast that can be skipped on a list of competitors it needed to be bolder.
I enjoyed the lavender pink touch and the wholegrain mustard yellow, but the type choice felt clunky and inappropriate for something that needs to make an instant impact.
We had a good base to work with.
I decided to opt for a leading font that packed a bit more punch than the original serif. Choosing something that can be identifiable at a glance is imperative for a new brand like this.
The chosen font was Righteous, a free font listed on Google Fonts. I really enjoyed the sharp contrast between the rounded bowls and sharp stems, and the blackness of the characters was exactly what I was looking for in distinctiveness.
To pair with Righteous, we settled on the family favourite Roboto due to its cross-platform suitability and the vast diversity of its nature.
I decided to stick with the lavender pink from the original proposal as it was subtle enough to work as a background. The colour also provided enough contrast against the black type I was going to run with.
The yellow was a bit too muddy for me, so I switched it up for something sharper.
With my brother being a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway - and the yellow hinting at a sun source - I leaned into Hemingway’s book The Sun Also Rises for a design touch.
Layering this up, I introduced the yellow into permanent borders to prevent the pink from bleeding when put in context.
We’re getting somewhere.
Now it was time to add the logotype in.
Given the heavy intonation of the question in the podcast title, I pushed this further by setting it in uppercase. This also softened the flecks in the character form for when it’s used in smaller sizes.
Finally, I added an offset underline to the left of the type. Why? The podcast explores the dilemmas of career and the rapid pace of digital work. With this in mind, we need time to breath.
The underline introduces a forced pause before reading the key word in the title, something we need to do more often.
We therefore get “what am I…doing?”.
After handing over the files, his first reaction was to say thank you for understanding the literary-laden brief. It was clearly a personal project, but this actually helped me a lot to craft the final treatment.
He then quoted the final scene of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to me, but he’ll probably have to tell you why.
As the podcast was recorded and ready to launch, we were in a great place to create the collateral required for each medium and finalise the project.
Looking back on the brief, there were several disparate interests that needed to be crafted into a singular image treatment.
I’m really pleased with the template created at the end of the process and how the central theme of work is complemented by the literary, artistic and graphical influences sent over in a sprawling email by my brother back in the Spring.
What do you think? Does the final thumbnail bring everything together? How else could career anxiety, 20th century American Literature and Soviet art be brought together?
Are you interested in giving the podcast a listen? You can have a look at it below. They also send out a fortnightly newsletter with useful sources.
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