Forward slash: The story of how Massimo Guzmán turned our simple logo into a brand of possibility.
On the surface, this is a story of how the letter ‘e’ got rotated counter-clockwise 15 degrees. But below the surface, it’s a tale about a logo of humble beginnings who defied all odds and transcended time and/or space to become the cornerstone of our brand identity.
It all started a few months ago when I needed a logo for our newly renamed startup, localweb.is. I whipped up a quick logo using Gotham, a geometric typeface from Tobias Frere-Jones.
The color palette was chosen to invoke the soil and grass beneath you. The local web is a platform for place. Where you are standing is important. The forward slash is a critical element since we are using the URL as a major component of the interface. Examples might be localweb.is/thestory which will get abstracted to “/thestory” or “slash the story”. We think the slash will be the next hashtag. That’s pretty much where my thought process ended and it seemed like it was good enough. I was wrong.
To celebrate our pre-seed funding and upcoming launch this winter, I knew we needed to have a logo that truly conveyed our essence directly into the eyeballs, hearts, and wallets of our users. I spared no expense and hired up-and-coming design firm Harper & Wülf who’s breathtaking office lies behind a nondescript metal door in an undisclosed location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Soon I started working with logo legend Massimo Guzmán and he changed everything I thought I knew about logo design.
Massimo believes in a philosophy called Radical Brandsparency™. He immediately began absorbing our brand and everything ‘local web’. He talked to users on our beta list, played Settlers of Catan with all the founders, resharded our Redis cluster and added Guzmán.js in our frontend. He even “temporarily” moved into my apartment.
The mans’ dedication to understanding the local web was truly inspiring. He literally ate and breathed localweb.is for six weeks.
Massimo and I also applied the Harper & Wülf Tri-Venn Diabrand™ framework to the local web. He assured me this was just a formality however, as his previous absorption would be sufficient, but this framework helped me to understand his process.
To my surprise Massimo was quite enamored with our simple slash logo, and after he “ran the geometry” there was mathematically no improvements that could be made so we decided to leave it alone. I don’t quite understand the particulars of logo geometry but Massimo assured me this part was more science than art.
Fortunately, the slash also seemed to be geometrically congruent to the text element in our full logo. Perhaps it was because I used the same font to create both, but Massimo’s theorems concluded that this was indeed, a rare event and we had just lucked out.
From many of his sketches, it was clear that trust was going to be central to our relationship.
Still, Massimo was unsatisfied. Our slash “had no heart, no story to tell, no essence.” I told him that I thought a great logo was more about what people put into it than what people got out of it, but he disagreed. He had a plan and a stack of small paper notebooks.
I will torture the dormant soul from this monument to mediocrity. I will burn it down to nothing, let the ashes whisper a name, and call forth a phoenix of form and function from the flames of a thousand iterations. I am. Massimo Guzmán.
I didn’t see him for the next two days but I knew he was still in the apartment. He would leave these Field Notes all over the place, filled with incoherent scratching and semi-formed designs. Occasionally I would see a shadow move into another room but when I followed it there was no one there. One night I was awoken to violent screaming but it stopped as suddenly as it had started.
On the third day he had arisen from his futon and started absorbing parallelogram-shaped grilled cheeses, which is when I noticed something was different about him. I knew he was close.
“Massimo, what the fuck man, did you use all the bread — ” I asked, but he interrupted me.
Horizontal plane, why dost thou spurn me! Betrayer of the senses! Go back to the lesser dimension from whence you came!
He explained that the answer had thus far eluded him because he was only writing in his notebook; the horizontal plane. He could see the answer but it had no form. He could not touch it. He needed to ask the question in the vertical plane as well. He quickly began drawing on little notes and sticking them to the wall.
The genius of his process was becoming obvious to me now. By putting the designs on the wall, we could point to them, and stand in front of them with our arms folded. We could blankly gaze into this mosaic of inspiration and listen as if a tiny paper symphony was playing a discordant masterwork.
But most importantly, we could clearly let other people know that a great deal of effort had been expended. It was almost like this whole project didn’t exist until it was on the wall.
It was right then, that I, as the client, understood the scope and scale of what we were trying to do here. And it was then that Massimo Guzmán understood the answer to it all.
He told me that the slash lacked soul. It lacked an identity. And what’s the best way to give something an identity?
Give it a name.
I was dumbfounded.
It was so brilliant!
As he told me this I could see him visibly shaking. When I asked him about possible names he was now vibrating. That’s when I knew…
He’s already chosen it. He just has to call it out.
Holy shit. It was a masterstroke. Massimo explained that the slash stood for invention and creation. It was the root tool for quite literally a 1,000 different applications. When the slash is present, anything is possible. Pósi.
There is also the double meaning of Pósi being the tech-chic spelling of posse, which is a group of friends, like... your crew, your homies… Trust me, it will play well with the millennial set on social media. Hashtag brand on fleek.
He had a plan for social media too.
Just as Massimo had predicted, once the slash had a name… it came alive. Other startups had a logo, we had an identity. We had the Pósi. It was exactly the type of messenger I had wanted to convey our essence. While I had simply created a design, Massimo had created a symbol that we could give to the world. A symbol for hope, for peace, and for possibilities.
For weeks afterwards it was all I could think about. The Pósi. I would see the Pósi everywhere and in everything. I was surrounded by possibilities. The universe was speaking to me, through Massimo.
As delighted as I was with the new identity, Massimo explained that it simply wasn’t enough to have something special, it needed to be shared.
The brand should engage with its community and give them ownership. The Pósi belongs to everyone. We are all the Pósi. The Pósi is love. We need a way for people to express their love for the Pósi.
“You mean the local web.” I stated.
Well… yes, the local web. But the Pósi too. That’s why my team and I have developed a universal hand gesture that any one aged 14 to 47 can perform to show their love. It’s called the Pósi Pose. We will leverage the selfie generation through social media to bring the Pósi to every corner of the globe.
“You mean the local web.” I stated again.
Yes of course.
I was skeptical. But I shouldn’t have been, because it worked. Everyone was doing the Pósi Pose. They were sharing on instagram, facebook, and twitter with #PósiPose. All over the world young people were showing their love for the local web. To see all these faces interacting with our brand brought tears to my eyes. This wasn’t a logo, it was a movement.
It was validation for the wild journey that Massimo had taken us on. Despite the thousands of Pósi Poses we never actually received any new signups, but this to be expected. As Massimo says:
Social media is about building a brand, not getting visitors. You need to jab jab jab. Bob and weave. Float like a social butterfly. Pull a rope-a-dope. In Latin America, you need to go south paw. The last thing you ever want to do on social media is ask for something. No, I mean literally the last thing. Like, you do all that other dancing bullshit first, then you ask for something.
I was cool with that. I was prepared to go the full twelve rounds on social media. Massimo and Harper & Wülf had already delivered so much value already and I knew that spending most of our pre-seed money on their services was well worth it. My co-founder, Marcos, an engineer, disagreed.
“Ummm… you know he only re-branded us in theory right. The actual logo is the same as before”
Despite his lack of vision, Marcos was right. I brought this up with Massimo and he agreed to take a second pass.
Here you go. This rotated ‘e’ will be a reminder that you’ll always be a bit unconventional.
I loved it. Our new logo was just perfect. His ability to infuse even single letters with meaning was powerful to behold. This whole process has taught me a new-found respect for brand designers.
We hope you enjoy our new brand as much as we do and invite you to sign up for the local web and see what’s trending on your block. You never know what you could find.
Anything is possible.
Author note: The above re-branding process is (mostly) fiction. But the local web is quite real. You can signup at localweb.is
Also, big ups to Adam, Romy, Tania, Marcos, Dave, Nils, Nir, Mark, Paul, Matt, Addie, Forest and everyone else who was kind enough to do the Pósi Pose.