Meet the new face of Frontline: deconstructing and rebuilding a VC brand

The fund has moved past our founding moment- and now our visual identity reflects that!

Reflecting on our origins

In 2013, Frontline Ventures came to life. Partners Shay Garvey, William McQuillan, and Will Prendergast had collectively spent 25+ years in venture capital, and felt that the European early-stage venture ecosystem was in need of a new type of funding partner.

After countless interviews and dinners with entrepreneurs, it became clear to them that Europe needed a new generation of a VC fund — a model that moved faster, took bets earlier, and focused more on US expansion. Thus, Frontline Ventures was born — and our first website reflected this brash sort of disruption — through bold colours, heavy imagery, serifs for days, etc.

The website I saw in early 2014 when interviewing with the team

The one-pager site initially made a lot of sense and really helped to differentiate it from the more formal, corporate-feeling VC websites in the early 2010s. However, Frontline has moved past our founding moment — and the site no longer reflects the dynamic, platform-focused team we have been building for the past two years.

Removing the brand cobwebs

This past summer, I spearheaded a very thorough and introspective rebrand of Frontline Ventures — an intimidating task shouldered by the talented Bob Gray and Paul Hughes at the design-centric Red&Grey in Dublin.

The process kicked off with “removing the brand cobwebs” — breaking down our previous assumptions about the Frontline brand and starting from scratch. We took the entire team offline and offsite for a one-day workshop, focused on distilling our brand essence — who we are, what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.

A day spent offline in a brand essence workshop

It actually ended up being a pretty challenging day — spent pushing each other, challenging our assumptions, and checking cross-team alignment.

In the end, we arrived at some very interesting conclusions, particularly about our values. The team unanimously agreed on these six:

  1. Experimental: Frontline is the result of an experimentation within the European funding ecosystem. We want to continue that iterative approach in VC.
  2. Right over easy: We set out to to build the optimal product for founders — a task that requires attention to detail and often taking the more difficult, longer route. We focus on what is right for the companies we back — from the amount of money we invest to the feedback we give to founders.
  3. Resilience: It is really easy to get carried away by success or brought down by failures, and we hope to be a resilient partner in our founders’ journeys.
  4. People-powered: We are driven by the many people we work with: from our ambitious B2B founders to the international investors we invest alongside. It is important to us that we focus on highlighting and enabling them.
  5. Human: At the end of the day, the Frontline team is a collection of individuals — with real lives, personalities, and flaws. We hope that you feel that “humanness” in all of your interactions with us.
  6. Compounder: When you bring Frontline into your round, you also bring in a wealth of knowledge from our other portfolio founders, a large network of other European and American investors, and a pool of functional advisors who help in domain-specific ways.

These are the values that would help guide Frontline’s rebrand journey.

Uncovering the Frontline story

It was after this day of deconstructing brand essence that we realised:

The purpose of Frontline Ventures is to accelerate exceptional founders building global technology companies out of Europe.
We do this because we are passionate about helping these founders learn faster than their own speed of experience.

Eventually, this was distilled down further, into what we fondly call a “six word story.”

This six word story became, in many ways, our north star as we continued further into the rebranding process.

Taking small steps towards change

Just a couple steps in, we had already begun to uncover some insights.

First was the switch from “Frontline Ventures” to “Frontline.” Red&Grey noted that we were constantly referring to ourselves as solely Frontline — across daily conversations, both online and offline. We dropped the “Ventures” part of our name because in many ways, it feels too financial or formal — antagonising the very nature of our core “Human” value.

In terms of our colour palette, we kept hearing others refer to this “Frontline red” — a very noticeable, if not hallmark colour that pervaded our previous branding. We wanted to keep that, but update the rest of our palette to more contemporary, complementary colours. This would give us more flexibility in the colouring schemes for the many pieces of long-form content we publish throughout the year.

Ooooh, aaaah

We are also excited to present a new imagery system in our typography — little analog glyphs that reflect various words from our everyday lexicon. These symbols give us more mileage than highly visual imagery, and can be used in sequences to nearly tell a story in a graphical way.

Glyph system

Bridging the human & technical

It was through working with Red&Grey that we were able to uncover all of these elements of our brand and tie something visual to them. We very quickly realised that much of what we do as VCs is bridge the human and the technical — offering our founders both money and support, capital and experience. One of which is highly quantifiable and tangible, the other very qualitative and steeped in subjectivity.

To make that marriage visible from a brand perspective, we took a look at typography.

The typeface to be used on all branding offline and online is the gorgeous PX Grotesk: modern enough to evoke digital, but not too obvious or ham-fisted.

A new typeface for a new look

To take this technical typography a step further, we can combine the typography and the glyph system above to create a custom Frontline display typeface. It is a subtle way to reinforce our everyday work.

Examples of typography + glyph system

This combination also led to the rebirth of the Frontline logotype — which we are so very proud to own.

Swoon!

While our new typeface is a clear ode to our work in technology, Frontline is as much about the humans behind the fund as the software we invest in. At the end of the day, this is a small partnership consisting of very real humans with very real backgrounds and stories.

To contrast the clean, crisp PX Grotesk, we worked with Red&Grey to create a custom Frontline “human” typeface — made by hand using bold, swift brush strokes.

Creating the custom Frontline “human” typeface

Overlaying these two typefaces creates a new emergent quality to the Frontline typographic language system — displaying both the human and technical qualities of the work that we do and the people we invest in.

You can see all three elements of our typography system at play in the covers for the content we have created over the years. You can find all of these in our new Library.

Come peruse our shelves!

Announcing our new rebrand

We hope that, as you browse our new website (thanks to the amazing Loughlin at The Impart Lab), you will enjoy the other visual elements to our new brand identity. We are excited about this next chapter of the Frontline story, as we move past our founding moment and into Fund II.

It is exciting to finally align our visual aesthetic with our dynamic, evolving team and growing portfolio of seed-stage B2B companies.

The Frontline team in autumn 2016

Want to learn more about Frontline? Check out what we were up to in 2016!

All photos courtesy of Matthew Thompson

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