Designing a brand for Records Sound the Same

Sally Jenkinson is a solutions architect and runs a consultancy business, Records Sound the Same. I was thrilled when she hired me in March to rebrand her business.

This is the journey we’ve been on over the last few weeks.


The beginning

Sally’s original logo

Sally designed her current logo herself but felt like she’d outgrown it and it was time for something more professional, to help her set the tone when relaunching her business. We had a lovely and productive chat over Skype and these were my main takeaways:

  • Sally wanted more than a logo; she wanted supporting colours, typefaces and patterns that she could implement herself. The additional graphic elements were key as Sally wouldn’t have much photography available to use.
  • I needed to create a brand that was professional to impress larger organisations but still personable; Sally’s business is quite like mine so being friendly and approachable is key!
  • The brand needed to be flexible, something that could be reworked in different contexts like on a website, business cards or Keynote presentations. As she doesn’t deliver the same service to every client, it was crucial the brand reflected this.
  • She was cautious of not making the brand too feminine.
  • Music. Not everyone names their business after song lyrics and music has been important to Sally all throughout her life.

Sally created an excellent Pinterest board that clearly showed she was attracted to bright, bold and geometric designs usually with sans serif typefaces.

A section of Sally’s Pinterest board

Initial concepts

I wanted music to be at the heart of Sally’s brand and Records Sound the Same is actually lyrics from a Jimmy Eat World song, Angst for Joel, on their first EP. The lyrics are from three seconds (49 to 52 seconds) from the song so I took the mp3 into Audacity to create a sound wave.

Angst for Joel in Audacity

Three seconds didn’t give me much visually so I altered the tempo and speed to create something more graphic.

Tempo change (left), speed change (right)

I wanted the colour scheme to be informed by the EP; I felt it was important to create something tied to Angst for Joel and anchored to the business name so the design was unique to Records Sound the Same. There wasn’t much colour in the EP cover so I altered the saturation to create brighter colours, matching Sally’s mood board.

Colour palettes 1 and 2
Colour palette 3

Throughout the initial experimentations, I tried to show how the concepts could work with different colours and patterns to suggest how flexible they could be. I usually either sketch out my ideas or create them in Illustrator depending on the type of brand I’m designing but the aim is always to exhaust every idea I have and put everything on a page to see what works and what doesn’t...

The first series of concepts and ideas were quite structured and masculine; although the lines were quite irregular and random, I felt they weren’t approachable enough nor met Sally’s goals.

Line concepts with additional pattern ideas

Inspired more by a sound wave, I took one of the rectangle shapes and created a spiky wave but these still felt too impersonal so I turned the spiky wave into a curve.

Line to spiky wave
Spiky ideas
Spike to curvy waves
Curvy ideas

I also wanted to experiment with ideas that were less conceptual and tied to Angst to Joel and create more typography based concepts that were more inspired by generic music ideas.

Final ideas

Developments

When I show clients the initial concepts, I’m very aware that I don’t give away my personal preferences. Luckily, Sally was immediately drawn to my favourite ideas, the curvy wave ones; I knew they were the strongest when I wished I’d designed them for myself.

Sally’s feedback highlighted how much she liked a circular mark on the left and typography on the right as it would give her flexibility to use the mark and type together or the mark or type individually in different contexts. She also preferred the curvy waves because it was inspired by the song but wasn’t a literal sound wave. Sally was also drawn to a pattern but felt it would work better as a supporting element rather than tied directly to the logo and mark.

Sally’s favourite ideas

All this feedback gave me a perfect starting point for developing further, however, I felt we needed to take a step back and remove the colours. I wanted to place emphasis and concentrate on the form and perfect that before reintroducing colour. I experimented with different typefaces based on Sally’s preferences. Not only did I test different typefaces but also different combinations of uppercase and lowercase letters and words. I aslo began to show how the logo could work within a system and alongside patterns.

Original typefaces
Type iterations
System examples
Pattern examples

The final stretch

We shortlisted the typography to either Calibre and Karla but felt the weight of Calibre, particularly the word Records, had more impact and balanced the mark better. However, it is more expensive compared to Karla, which is available freely on Google Fonts. I felt it was important to choose a typeface that had multiple weights so we could create a strong type hierarchy throughout the brand and despite the cost, Calibre was perfect for this.

Calibre (left), Karla (right)

Once the mark and typography was agreed, we began to discuss colour again. Sally felt the initial pinks and oranges weren’t quite right for her brand but she understood we needed a mix of feminine and masculine colours. She suggested more blues and teals but I felt we needed warmer colours to create a friendlier brand. I opted for a yellow and some oranges tones to balance the blues.

Three primary colours with five secondary colours in the palette

It was important when reintroducing colours to create a system and rules to follow to make the brand usable. At this stage, I decided that rotating the waves, was a step too far and altering the colours created enough of a flexible system. The rules I created were:

  • The top wave colour or background should be the same as the typography colour
  • The colours were always ordered in a gradient
  • The middle wave colour was the outline/stroke of the circle
Main logos
Flexible logo system
Flexible pattern system

Sally and I used Skype to finalise the system (live designing is sometimes useful, even if nerve-wrecking!) I learnt within the system, Sally liked the gradients best but felt the bottom colour stood out too much. I realised because only two out of the three colours were tonal, even though they were part of the colour palette, they didn’t all gel together. I made the decision to introduce an additional shade of teal and orange and we were left with a choice between blue and teal. Sally was torn but I asked her what colour she had most in her life and turns out she was wearing a teal top and drinking out of a teal cup so this became our primary brand colour.

Blue (left), teal (right)

The final brand

This has been one of my favourite branding projects to date and I love the story and concept behind the brand and how clearly you can see how we got from A to B. Every experiment or idea really has led to this final brand!

Final colour palette
Final logos
Final system
Final patterns

I’m pleased to say Sally enjoyed this process as much as I did:

I decided to approach Katherine to talk about a new brand on the strength of her previous work. I’d been impressed by not only her finished designs, but also the way that she showed work in progress elements on her Dribbble and talked about her thought process. From our first call I knew that she was the right choice, because of how well she listened, took in all of my comments, but also wasn’t afraid to explore routes that she felt would work well. I wanted an expert to guide me through the process, and was not disappointed.
The suggestion that the brand should actually be a system rather than a static mark was a huge turning point for me, as this perfectly mirrors the company value of understanding that every client and project is different, and having the flexibility to adapt. I also like to think of it as even the logo being a part of responsive web design in its own way!
I was so pleased with what we’ve ended up with. It gives the flexibility to easily apply the new brand across all sorts of contexts, and Katherine has been incredibly helpful with setting out principles for usage. Throughout the project I was always presented with options and explanations, all communicated perfectly with reasoning behind them. I now feel that I’ve got a visual brand to match the next chapter for the company, and am really excited to start rolling it out.
Working with Katherine was fantastic, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her to anyone. I’m now really hoping that we can work together again soon.

Work with me!

My portfolio is over at Dribbble http://katherinecory.com where you can see more of my work. If you’d like to see what story I can create for your brand or web project and think I’d be a good fit for your business, please get in touch by emailing me at hello@katherinecory.com.

Thanks!

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