Finding Clarity: Build’s Rebrand

Brief intro

In case you don’t know Build, here it is in a nutshell: Build aims to be the definitive resource for enterprise design innovation to help an underserved enterprise IT market learn, adopt, and scale design thinking and user experience for the digital transformation. Check us out here.

Let’s take it back a step.

Build wasn’t always Build. Way back in the ancient year of 2014 Build was called Drive. Then it became Norman, then Build, then Spark briefly, then Splash for a good while… and finally back to Build again. The truth is, Build has experienced a bit of an identity crisis for about 3 years now, and we knew it was time to solve it once and for all.

In mid summer of 2016, we decided to change the name of our product to Build permanently. In our eyes, we had a new chance to clarify what Build was, look into how it was perceived, and develop a bulletproof action plan for creating a new brand and identity that we’d want to stick around. It was clear to us that there was confusion about Build’s brand both internally and externally. At first, our conversations centered around topics about what our new logo should look like, but quickly changed to more fundamental questions about who Build was, who it was for, and other core identity traits.

The truth was that like a lost, angsty high schooler, Build’s true identity was there, it was just hidden behind a lot of eyeliner and a bad haircut — so we set out to give it a liberal dose of poise, refinement, and polish.

A few things to note about branding.

A quick review before we get to the good stuff.

Image from The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier
  1. A brand is not a tagline or a logo. Rather, it is an expectation. It is about what we think and feel — good or bad — when we hear the name of our company, products and service. It is the mental real estate we occupy whenever a customer or user thinks of Build.
  2. A brand is a promise not only made, but kept. Did that car deliver on its brand promise of reliability? Did the carmaker continue to uphold the quality standards that made them what they are? Did the sales guy or the service center mechanic know what they were talking about? Customers trust your brand when the experience they have meets or exceeds your promise.
  3. No brand is going to appeal to all customers. Branding is based on targeting individuals in a personal manner. A powerful brand culminates from coordinated, consistent activities and communications that support a unique, compelling and credible promise. Each of us conveys the Build brand in every message we send and every activity we perform.
  4. Branding is not push, but pull. Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not. A brand will help encourage someone to buy a product, and it directly supports whatever sales or marketing activities are in play, but the brand does not explicitly say “buy me.” Instead, it says “This is what I am. This is why I exist. If you agree, if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.”
“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.” — Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap

The project scope.

To get the ball rolling, we needed to define a cohesive brand story and personality for Build that leverages the existing ‘outer space’ motif. The challenge was to craft the brand story that communicated what and who Build is in a clear and understandable way, where the utility of each tool and how they work together to shape the whole are clear and meaningful. Easy stuff, right?

Next, we needed to redesign the Build logo to mirror the essence of our brand and brand story. Afterwards, we extended the brand visual design to various online and offline communication media (website, navigation, email, signage, business cards, misc collateral, presentations, etc.) Finally, when that was all said and done we needed to create guidelines: brand, messaging and product style guidelines to support the overall brand.

So, how did we do it?

Step 1: Uncover the core of our brand

In order to get a sense of where our own team stood in terms of their knowledge of and emotions towards our brand, we started off with internal research. We chose a two-pronged approach for this: 7 one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders representing all of the Build team, and an online survey sent to the rest of the team. During the one-on-one interviews, we asked our stakeholders how they would describe Build, what adjectives they associated with Build, and about their dreams for Build’s future. In the survey, we asked our colleagues to define Build, tell us what they felt made Build valuable to users, and tell us their favorite things about Build, etc. Unsurprisingly, the responses were quite diverse!

To kick off this rebrand with the larger team we held a brand experience workshop, modeled after those conducted at Cooper. During this workshop we pulled over a hundred images from different categories such as cars, celebrities, shoes, etc. and posted them up on a wall. Then gave our team red and green stickers and told them to put the green stickers on the images they felt had some of the same attributes that Build has and the red stickers on images that were the opposite of what Build is.

Branding workshop held in Palo Alto, CA.

This workshop was especially important in getting support and participation from the local team in Palo Alto and our global teams. It was good to see the way our team talked about Build and gathered first hand how they perceived the brand. In order to include our international colleagues we created a Redpen where we posted the images and asked for their input.

After we received all feedback, our design team locked themselves up in a room and identified all the words that were mentioned.

All the words surfaced in the workshop. Tallies represent how many times it was mentioned.

We then took the words that had the most tallies and posted them on a wall with negative words at one end, and positive words on the other. Finally, we saw a brand personality forming right in front of our eyes!

The words in red were negative, attributes we wanted to stay away from. The words in green were positive, attributes that represented our brand. (Guess people didn’t want Justin Bieber as our new mascot!)

But wait, we weren’t done yet! We created a word cloud based on the distilled list of attributes. We then used this list as a starting point from which we began sketching designs.

Brand personality: emotional benefits; Brand principles: functional benefits.

Overall design style and takeaway

  • Modern
  • Clean
  • Forward thinking
  • Smart
  • Imaginative
  • Fun
  • Fresh

In conjunction to the word cloud we did some secondary research where we looked at Build’s competitors and dissected their brand systems: logo, color, theme, illustrations, photography, and messaging. This was to see where we can break away from the pack to leverage what is unique about Build. We also researched the best of the best in design and branding — companies who have successfully branded themselves and took inspiration from areas where we thought they excelled. This helped us to envision a brand that was our own and not a copy of what’s already out there.

Step 2: Develop a visual identity

A few things to note before getting into the visual side. We didn’t want to completely do away with our colors, illustrations, space theme, typefaces — like we said, Build was just a moody teenager that needed a swift kick in the butt. In the past, we actually had positive responses to our illustrations style and outer space theme so we decided that we would keep that moving forward. What we needed was a new logo that reflected the new insights we had into our brand and to make any other changes in our current visual design that did not.

So what did we do next? Sketch, sketch, and sketch! One of the first exercises we did was one that I had learned in college. It’s a fun and quirky exercise that involves a matrix and gets those creative juices flowing. One side of the matrix we wrote down our new brand attributes, or words related to them, and the other side we wrote down objects that relate to build. Then we created visuals out of the combined words. A lot of what we drew was complete nonsense but this exercise sparked creativity and began to generate ideas quickly.

Matrix exercise

The visual designers also set some time aside on a Friday to include the larger design team to help generate some early ideas for the new logo mark. Some even brought in some Play-Doh and other crafty objects to get outside of their pencils and sketch books for some explorations.

Mike being playful and using Play-Doh to generate logo ideas.

After these first couple of exercises it was time to crank out some serious designs. Each of the visual designers on our team were involved in this first round of conceptualizing this new mark. Taking what we learned from the branding workshop, matrix exercise, and team sketching, we each went into our own corners with our sketchbooks and Adobe Illustrator and put the pedal to the metal!

Explorations from the first round of sketching

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the first sketches revolved around the letter ‘B’ and the word ‘Build’. As soon as we saw this pattern we immediately steered clear and tried other directions, but for some reason we always circled back to the ‘B’. Below are some of the many many iterations we created.

Iterate, iterate, iterate

Once we had a large quantity of explorations we began to narrow them down and pick the concepts we felt aligned with Build’s brand principles and attributes. The two main concepts we liked were ‘connect the dots’ and ‘modular’. In the end this was the concept we landed on:

Dynamic Modular: An identity that is both flexible and playful, derived from simple shapes which form the letter “b”. Its modular structure is created by overlapping and connecting these shapes, allowing for limitless variations. The mark is a simple yet effective graphic expression that is easily adaptable to environments, projects, and communication touch points.

After hundreds of sketches, many meetings, a handful of presentations, and countless hours of debate we present to you Build’s new logo!

Final Build logo in all it’s glory!

…wonderful huh?! We think so too :)

Step 3: Create the system and extend throughout the product

Now that we had our logo it was time to extend the visual style to the rest of the product. The first place we started was to create individual icons representing each tool for the four tools inside Build: Gallery, Learn, Prototype, and Feedback. To stay in harmony with our new logo that was designed by using simple shapes we decided to create the tool icons using two simple overlapping shapes that conveyed the idea of what each tool was.

Icons for each of Build’s tools: Gallery, Learning, Prototype, and Feedback.

At this point things were starting to come together. We had our brand attributes and personality, designed a logo for Build with icons for each of the different tools, so now what?

In addition to implementing the logo and icons into the product itself, we had to design the supporting elements for it, such as email templates, error pages, transitional pages and subtle animations. Now things were really cooking.

Finding our true colors
One thing that proved to be a large challenge to tackle was finding CMYK and Pantone colors that matched our bright fluorescent on-screen colors. We thought it would be a quick, “Yep that color looks like that color, let’s choose that.” When in fact it took a few weeks of research, some test prints, and a few calls to print shops to nail down. For those who are unfamiliar, printers use CMYK and/or Pantone colors to print on things like posters, notebooks, t-shirts, etc. And we needed to find colors that when printed were a close match to the colors that we saw on our computer screens. It wasn’t easy but boy do those stickers look good!

CMYK test prints (top). Digging through Pantone swatches (bottom)

Step 4: Now that we have the look, how do we sound?

At this point in the process it was pretty obvious that we could walk the walk, but now it was time to talk the talk.

We wanted to take our new, bright, and shiny brand attributes and turn them into something that was enjoyable, meaningful, and most importantly, uncomplicated. What we needed was simple — a few deliverables that could shape the way we talked about Build for the future. These included a brand mission, vision, and positioning statement (just to name a few), but what really tripped us up was the elevator pitch. How could we craft something that explains Build in the time it takes to get from the first floor to the second? The tricky thing about words though is that even when everybody uses them, they all mean different things to different people. This became pretty obvious over many afternoons spent debating the best way to talk about our target user or the easiest way to explain a prototype. Was it a real-life model or an interactive visualization? (That one is still up for debate). We spent hours upon hours developing a critical eye that proposed and challenged, trying to find the best way to tell our story. After ideating and ideating, we had it, and it went a little like this:

Your job is easier when end-users get value out of the business apps you create. Getting end-users to love your app can be tough without capturing their needs early on, but all it takes are the right tools and resources to practice user-centered design.

With Build you can:

  • Create an interactive visualization of the app to bring your ideas to life
  • Get early feedback from end-users to make edits that mirror their needs
  • Generate real UI code automatically to jumpstart development

Know the user. Be the hero. Create apps users love with the only set of design tools created by and for SAP.

We landed on the idea that an elevator pitch should be like talking with a best friend — easy and direct. And similar to talking with a best friend, we knew we wouldn’t get anywhere by flexing our tech jargon muscles or using buzzwords that didn’t mean anything to anyone, not even us. What we came up with was representative of what we wanted Build to actually be — simple. After such a long writing process, we knew we’d be able to achieve internal and external alignment on our new brand.

All in all

We did it. Well we’re doing it! Although we’ve reached this point and have all that work under our belts we’re never done designing. It was a process with a lot more work than we originally anticipated but much needed and so worth it. Our team is excited to see this new brand in action and even more excited to be apart of its impact for SAP and it’s customers.

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