Minutehour: A Rebranding Case Study
What happens when a UX lead takes up a rebranding effort and invites her friends to join in.
If you have been around for a while you surely remember the surge of stock photos into the web space during the early 2000s. For a couple of years it seemed that every website was using the same cringe inducing material which does make for good memes but nothing good for business. Fast forward to the present, the stock assets market is booming in both quality and diversity, however the feeling is still somewhat the same — using stock feels a bit embarrassing to mention in the creative world. Even if you manipulate the hell out of the original, to a point of it being unrecognizable, everyone will scuff at the mention of usage of it.
Enter my friends at Minutehour, a couple of 3D artists working on a myriad of AAA games and Hollywood movies. Within the 3D models market in particular we now have platforms like Artstation, Gumroad, Unreal store etc… that offer both a plethora of ready made items as well as a connection to the artist themselves. When it comes to 3D it becomes especially complex due to the many ways in which you can create an object. If you do a good job your asset will be easy to manipulate in the same manner as good well structured code is easy to work with. Images are far less complex to manipulate in comparison.
When the client approached me they were looking to change their identity and promote the brand from a side hustle into a full time business. I had 2 mentees I was already training at the time — and just like that a design team was born. Before we have even started to discuss any details we have agreed on a fast iteration focused and “show early, show often” process. This meant that the team would spend some hours of work and every week we would present our suggestions to discuss the direction and details. We separated it into 5 phases:
- The Creative Brief
- Competition Analysis
- Ideation & Exploration
- Branding book
The Creative Brief
Now, you might be wondering why is the creative brief a phase, a brief is something a client just has right? No. This part of the process is often overlooked but it is the most crucial to spend some time in conversation with the client in order to understand them better. Their problems and challenges are the starting point to define and they might need some assistance in that. These are usually connected to the industry and the market as a whole, so the more you know about them the better solution you can make. In this particular case the industry shared the same issue, the quality of stock items was there but very hard to identify which artists had easily editable items. So differentiating from the rest would be crucial on the thumbnail for example by pointing out how the model was structured and creating a sample video showing the ease of manipulation. This was rare to see in the market and it would differentiate you immediately.
They made us realize how much they wanted to change the market and that this was their true mission. As veterans of the industry they were fully aware of its many shortcomings and decided the best way would be to lead by example.
After that we focused on gathering information on the client themselves. Some basic questions include:
- Who are they, what they do and why does that matter?
- Feeling about their current branding, what works and what does not?
- What has changed since the original branding? History of the company.
- Expectation from the new branding?
- Define the target persona for your future products with their needs, expectations and culture.
- Scope — outcomes and outputs expected from this project
Acquiring all this information made it easier to define a list of deliverables on which we estimates the work needed and provided some pricing estimations. Also a list of references or a mood board would usually be compiled and placed in the brief. In this way both you and the client have a good idea of what success looks like.
In the beginning we have only received a couple of artists names and the old logo, however since we have filled in the brief together, a lot of context was saved along with important facts regarding the direction they want to take. It is imperative you dive deep into the conversation with your clients, in this way you can easily find out what are their values, mission and vision. Defining them is a difficult process, especially in big companies, but even for a team of two, being on the same page about what exactly are you trying to achieve is equally important to define.
Based on all of the above an additional document with a roadmap and pricing was made. Cutting up a project in manageable stages makes all the estimates easier to make and make them less of a guesstimate, so pricing becomes routine regardless of how you approach it.
Looking into the competition was not that exciting as it mostly consisted of other artists that do not have a significant branding quality. It is important not to get discouraged by this, so we found some companies that have a strong presence in 3D modeling services instead and created a couple of mood boards:
- One moodboard consisted of competitors
- The other held all the inspiration pieces
We have pulled the client into another discussion while looking at the board above and tried to further define some attributes that would show the personality of it. The name was a play on words Minute hour that sounds like Minotaur when said out loud, the symbolism being pretty obvious the attributes we settled on were:
This was also enforced by the target persona of their products. We had no interest in creating fully flushed persona files as all the parties involved were a good fit for being one, which meant only a conversation around style needed to happen, this is where the most important attribute was confirmed as strength — shocker I know.
Ideation and exploration
This is easily the favorite part of the process for the team, also the one keeping us all up at night. The other steps being more pattern tracking and definition, while this one being borderline magic. We decided to all take our time with the problem and create as many solutions in isolation as possible. This was done in bursts of 1h followed by evaluation only to repeat a couple of hours later. We would meet and review what was at this point hundreds of sketches to pinpoint 6 that best corresponded to the attributes, mission and vision outline. The elimination part of the process is the hardest for me, due to the sheer number and the rough state of the ideas we had. However since I was not operating alone this time around, the discussion between the 3 of us made the front-runners obvious in the first 30minutes — I love productive meetings. We each took 2 ideas and continued to refine them further for the client meeting come end week.
After another round of evaluation, we settled the 3 solutions we wanted to show. You might wonder why not show, 6 or even the hundreds of sketches. To put it simply, that is not the best use of anyone's time. We brainstormed, and filtered best results, refined solutions and filtered yet again, making sure to showcase only what was considered best to fit the purpose of the solution defined in the brief. You put your best work forward that 100% fits the expectation and requirements set by the brief. Even with just the 3, the discussion lasted for 2 hours, until we settled on one and where it could be made better.
Refining this one solution further meant not only exploring the form and how far we can push it, but also testing the recognize-ability on small sizes, color explorations, competition differentiation etc. So first we each took a shot at refinement for a couple of days to see where we can take it aesthetically and conceptually and met to compare results. Defining a solution in black and white until a good form is set on is generally good practice, keeping it simple and taking away as many things possible in order to say more with less. There was also a playfulness that could be achieved by mixing straight, round and edgy forms that we really wanted to exploit.
After picking the best ones I met with the clients again and gotten into a long discussion on which embodies what and where they would like to go. They have settled on the middle solution as the perfect balance of strength and esoteric edgy feel that came with it. The solution on the left was too stiff while the one on the right was too round, we have tried to adjust the horns on the meeting itself but there was nowhere for it to be pushed. I usually do not do workshops when reviewing solutions, but in this case it felt pretty straightforward as we knew exactly what we were looking for. I already had some color suggestion to suggest so we tried that too, and the client was very quick to approve the entire concept. Color we have decided upon was orange, that gravitated more towards yellow than red, representing strength, energy and joy, while typography was supposed to ground the entire thing. So we chose Nevis bold in uppercase for the logotype and Montserrat as accompanying more versatile type used for everything else.
The Branding book
The branding book effort was split in 2 parts:
- The construction of the graphic mark as well as color and typography choices to align with the client first
- The details around usage with examples that would be made later
The construction of the graphic mark has to be done in a very precise manner to ensure the quality and versatility of the form. This can be tedious, but is extremely important to do right. In order to avoid double work this is done only after the solution is approved and signed off on. The color versions with and without typography and usage on dark and light surfaces are something to align with the client on before going in deeper on how to use the solution. These are the bare bones of a branding delivery that the book needs to contain:
- The concept — containing all attributes, values, mission, vision of the company and their customer promise)
- The graphic solution (everything about the logo including the construction, proper and improper use, color combinations, minimal sizes etc.)
- Stylistic Patterns (Colors in RGB for screens and CMYK for print, examples of logo usage in advertising, typography use and scale etc.)
When creating a branding book it is very easy to go too far. Depending on the business it can contain an example of every single instance of logo usage. This was not necessary, the brand is young and needs the basics to start build their business around. They also needed advertising tools, including education and advertisement templates around a specific set of websites. Treating the clients needs with care and respect is imperative in any type of work. They rely on us for guidance, so before you go to that comment section and state your client is a dummy, remember you are their teacher.
Conclusion & Takeaways
As someone who has traded in the Graphic design chair for a UX one a long time ago, I am happy to say there is much overlap between the two. Treating every project as a UX one is something I greatly recommend, no matter of the project or seniority. If you treat your client as the user and make sure you listen, and ask many questions throughout the process and verify you have taken care of their needs and set up clear expectations the chances of failure are minimal.
Also if you are operating as an individual do consider taking in additional people on the team. I have decided to take my mentees on this journey and contrary to popular opinion of spending more time to educate they helped me deliver the solution much faster and have fun along the way. It is tough enough for juniors to get real projects to work on, consider getting at least one to assist you in your next creative endeavor. And most importantly pay them a proper wage.
My favorite books on branding
The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier
Designing Brand Identity by Aliina Wheeler