Brand Refresh Using the Design Thinking Process

Mel Perry
5 min readApr 1, 2020


The moment I learned about and understood the design thinking process, I ran back to work to share with my co-workers and superiors. I was so excited about how a process could help solve problems no matter who your customers were and could be used across many industries, departments, and roles.

The Problem

At the time, our branding was not matching who we were. Internally, we knew where we were headed and how we wanted to be perceived, but did our customers feel this way about us? There seemed to be a disconnect.

The Solution

We dug deep using the design thinking process to discover what our customers thought about us, what we felt about ourselves, and how we could reflect those perceptions in our branding. I brought the entire marketing team (all 5 of us at the time) through this process to help them learn about design thinking and how we could apply it to our work everyday.


Employee Drawing — The Incredibles Family

We interviewed three customers to understand their experiences with SPS. We asked them the same questions and noted the responses, allowing them ample amount of time to share success stories or vent. (Hey, no brand is perfect!)

Next, we held an internal focus group to learn how our own employees felt about our brand. The focus group consisted of five to six employees from different departments. Some worked directly with customers and some did not. This was important for us to see if our values were understood across the company.

We had employees draw characters that best represented SPS, select adjectives that described our personality, and even create their own mini mood boards. It was so fun to involve our employees in this process and I know they got a kick out of it too.


Affinity Diagram

We analyzed our notes and built an affinity diagram, keeping our customer and internal notes separate. We needed to be able to compare them later.

We grouped our notes into common themes to find overlap in thoughts and ideas.

Defining our notes

We then created our own method (at least I think) to summarize our findings in short sentences and even bigger themes. This helped us discover what it all meant.


During our brand brainstorm session, we looked at all our findings and pulled overlap between our customer and employee thoughts. We brainstormed ways that our brand should behave, look, feel to match those ideas. We also brainstormed popular brands that fit into those same categories. For instance, a brand that is also “warm” could be Publix or Zappos. This allowed us to start thinking about the visual aspects as well as understand which brands are already strong and successful in displaying their mission and personality.


The team developed individual digital mood boards. We held a meeting allowing each of us to present our unique interpretation of the findings and paired that with the visual — colors, personality, images, textures, shapes, adjectives.

Afterward, we combined our individual mood boards into two final physical mood boards.

Mood board A — Modern, Passion, Growth
Mood board B — Bold, Geometrical, Convenient


We set up our boards in the break room and had our employees vote (with sticky dots!) on the board that best represented our company. Mood board A was the winner which came as a surprise. Visually, Board B was more exciting, but they really thought about the meaning behind the photos and colors. Board A encompasses who we are as company and where we want to go.

What’s Next?

With all the information we’ve collected and our mood board, we’ll build an updated brand book. Although this wasn’t a complete rebranding, we’re refreshing our brand and adding new elements like brand personality and social media guidelines that will help us improve communication both internally and externally.

What We Learned

  1. Because the entire team was involved in the process, we are more aligned than ever. The team learned that we have to remove ourselves and our biases to fully understand the customer and how to move forward.
  2. We should have included an additional test allowing our customers to vote or give their input on the boards, but to push the project forward, we did not. We can still test as we being using our updated brand guidelines to communicate and market to customers. We can always adjust and iterate!
  3. It’s very important that your employees, whether they are customer-facing or not, understand your company values. One way I have worked to imprint this message is through our internal company newsletter. Yep, our brand project helped me to think about how I communicate internally as well.
  4. The design thinking process can not only be used in user experience cases to build better products, but branding and marketing as well.



Mel Perry

Writer, designer, dog and cat mom, West Virginian, mountain lover