Back in 2009, I worked on a Nokia research project with some wonderful people at 2CV. The lead ethnographic researcher and I (had to Google that term too) struck a wonderful relationship — mainly centred around cycling, and in 2012 he got in touch with me about a new research agency he was setting up. The brief was interesting, to say the least:
We’re called “Copasetic Research”. We want an identity for our new agency, but it’s not really an agency, and we don’t want it to be “designed”, but it has to look good. We like non-design design work, and we’re not into highly polished work, just something that represents us.
So, with that in mind, we went on a brilliant process of print design exploration, and ways in which we could build a site that reflected their more authentic values. We ended up with a beautiful identity which they could stamp anywhere, and a site that wasn’t overly designed, but had a wee bit of character in there.
Five years later, I finally remembered to ask Tom for a testimonial, and got this lovely write up…
Five years later, we remain incredibly pleased with the work Tabrez has done for us. From the beginning of the process he patiently took time to listen to us, helped us to shape a brief and subsequently effortlessly translated our half-arsed ideas and ill thought out opinions into sensitive and beautiful work. We have a brand which perfectly reflects how we see our company and how we want to be seen by others.
So what next?
Well… a few months after this glowing testimonial, Tom got in touch and briefed me on a new incarnation of Copasetic, but this time it’s called Copa (the reason for the new name is a whole other story).
So, with a super tight timeline and budget, I was briefed to create a new brand system (logo, font family, colours) and website. My first port of call was to get Tom and his partners on a Slack group dedicated to this process so we could skip the ancient process of email and keep this process as fluid as possible.
Having 4 channels made it clear what we had to discuss and involve everyone, as most of us were located in different places.
Inspiring websites was a great channel, as this was where we had our cross-pollination of ideas — sites they loved purely for aesthetic reasons, and I would share sites back that had great aesthetics and also some interesting functionality.
General was just… well general chat. Logo was where I would share all ideas and progress and website was the final channel where it would all come together.
So, with a restricted timeline and budget, I set to work.
There was only one real guideline for the logo, which was to think of the word “copa” as four circles, and go from there. Aesthetically, I’m really into the circular form, but this also felt like an opportunity to just play, and explore design ideas with no restrictions. And yes, the Copa people know they’re a dream client!
As well as designing a logo, I was simultaneously thinking about the context of it, and how it could look on their website, and also taking colour and typography into consideration.
As I mentioned in my Common Design article, it’s not a linear process by any means. For example, when I’m cooking one of my favourite dishes (let’s say a mushroom risotto for example), I’m thinking about the stock, the different types of mushrooms, how to peel shallots and stirring the rice all at the same time.
So, here’s a visual drop of the routes I went down…
To help them visualise the context of the logo, I also provided some very rough worked up InVision prototypes of a mobile website showing colour palettes, typography and site architecture. There’s no point showing a beautiful logo and then trying to shoehorn a whole identity around it once it’s signed off.
Sharing the prototypes, really helped them visualise the website they wanted, and they picked the 2nd route which they lovingly called the “MBV Loveless” route. When your client labels your own design work after one of the most important music albums of all time, you know this is going to turn out pretty good for both parties :)
One of the most important requirements for this site was comfortable readability for the many interesting articles these guys write. So, with tight deadlines in mind, my instincts pointed me immediately to Kris Sowerby’s brilliant foundry — Klim Type.
After a bit of research, I finally decided to use Calibre.
This sans serif face really worked with the new logo, and combined with the colour scheme, readability was very comfortable (confirmed by a few users I tested demo pages on). Other Klim families I considered were:
• Domaine Sans
• Founders Grotesk
Also, instead of just black text on white, I laid a slab of white on the site background gradient with 90% opacity just to soften it up slightly — black on white is just a bit too much contrast for reading. Even this very article is Black #000000 text at 84% opacity (well played Medium!)
So, we’ve got the font and bold colours, now for setting the type correctly. The Mobile and Desktop sites each had their own vertical grid systems, but both had an 8px horizontal grid system. Things were shaping up nicely!
For the homepage, we had a lot of conversations about how this could go.
What we ended up with, was simple and led by good copy, and well-designed typography (which can be quite tricky on a website when you consider ALL the browsers and screen sizes to accommodate). It sums up a bit about what Copa do, whilst still maintaining an element of curiosity — the theory being that this will draw in people to the site.
When you click MENU, you’re presented with 3 easy options and of course being in this beautiful typeface, there’s no other imagery required.
As the legendary designer Paul Rand said, design is so hard because it’s so simple!
And here is what the client said…
We have worked with Tabrez in various capacities for almost ten years, and he continues to be our to designer. His work is creative and expressive, but not so much that it gets in the way of being practical and commercial. The COPA branding is exactly what we were after: modern and differentiated but without running the risk of looking different for its own sake or pretentious. We love it.