Building a brand

Amy Devereux
Envoy Design
Published in
10 min readApr 23, 2020

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Two months ago, Envoy unveiled the foundation of their new brand. This was timed with the launch of the workplace platform and they’ve since continued to roll out this refresh. Here’s why there was a need to evolve and what that process looked like from a design perspective.

The need for a repositioning

Most people recognize Envoy for visitor registration. While this was the sole identity from its founding, in late 2017 Envoy released the second product, Deliveries. Despite its success, they were still known as “that iPad sign-in company.” Not only was that particular nomenclature vague, but the Visitors product was just a starting point. With Envoy’s vision to transform the office as a whole, it was crucial to shift the way they were perceived. Even internally, there was a feeling of uncertainty in how to refer to the company’s mission. This ultimately led to a brand that felt disjointed both verbally and visually.

With Envoy’s vision to transform the office as a whole, it was crucial to shift the way they were perceived.

In August of 2019, with the launch of the third product, Rooms, on the horizon and even bigger dreams for the future, the time had come for something to change.

Crafting the strategy

Envoy partnered with Butchershop, an agency to help develop their point-of-view and messaging framework. After workshops, interviews, and ingenuity from our partners (a process deserving of its own post) the strategic idea landed on was Bring Life to Work.

Instead of leaving all signs of life at home, it’s finding life inside the office.

At its core, this idea is about making work feel less sterile and more human. To use their description, “It’s creating an experience that someone is happy to live inside. It’s making work an experience that someone is happy to live inside. And instead of leaving all signs of life at home, it’s finding life inside the office.”

While the company’s original goal was just to release a new story and messaging, as a brand team, we knew we needed to capitalize on this moment with a widespread visual refresh. My team (Kelly Wahlstrom and Chin Lee) and I were excited to take on this challenge.

Laying the foundation for visuals

We wanted to reflect the strategic idea of “Bring Life to Work” — but what was the best way to represent it visually? Was it just a matter of adding photography of people? Did our existing brand already reflect the idea of bringing life to work? We didn’t immediately have the answer to these questions, but we knew the entire visual language needed to ladder back to this idea.

Current brand audit

In order to know what needed to change, we first needed to take stock of what was in use. We combed through all assets, compiling and analyzing how everything tied back to the strategy. Below are some examples of our findings.

As with most startups, when these assets were created — while aiming for quality — speed and agility were the primary focus. Our primary takeaway from the audit was that almost everything was heavily focused on objects. The site contained (numerous) floating clay devices and the illustrative style had no people, with the exception of hands. Even though the product may have been shown in a clean and positive way, what was missing was the humanity — the life. With clarity on what needed to change, we began the next phase: strategic thinking through a visual lens.

We were missing the humanity — the life.

Ways-in concepts

This method of visual exploration consists of building moodboards to align around concepts. It’s not yet about how will ultimately look, but rather direction-setting for what we want to visually communicate with the brand identity. In other words, we were defining the overarching concept, not the visual result. This process involves pulling scrap (an assortment of found imagery) to help conceptualize this thinking.

We started out with each designer brainstorming potential directions and finding imagery to showcase the ideas. For example, one thought was around how Envoy facilitates connections — between technology and humans, person to person, and so on.

Some of the images pulled to represent “connectivity”—symbolically represented through pieces coming together, dots that form lines, or even complicated webs of thread. Please note that images were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.

With 10 or so different categories, we spent days “locked” in a room with each other and our ideas to narrow down the concepts. The images were printed out, tacked onto the walls (and for a while even spread across the floor). We talked through each one, cut apart pieces that were resonating most strongly, and reassembled them into fewer groups.

Initial concepts from our brainstorming.

In the end, we had pared everything down to 4–5 tight concepts. But the moodboarding had only just begun. Our goal was to garner alignment around one concept from which we could start coming up with creative directions (the look and feel). To do this well, we needed the images to tell a story. Each image must not only represent a piece of the concept as a whole, but also feel cohesive with the other images on the board. After many iterations, here’s where our concepts landed:

1. Signs of life

Life manifests itself as motion, touch, and interactions — the little things indicative of humanity. You can find these things in between the busyness of the daily tasks of the office. Whether it’s collaborating with your coworkers or partnering with your customers, Envoy provides you with the tools to make your best impression. This direction captures those small moments and makes the human experience tangible.

Look for that motion, touch, and interactions within each image. Within the bottom left or top middle illustration, there is a pattern indicative of a fingerprint. The white ball on the black background looks as if it’s a slingshot about to be released. Imagery has motion. Paper is tactile. Please note that images were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.

2. Life imperfect

Offices are designed to be controlled. But despite our best efforts, humans customize them — and humans are messy. Inspired by the delight in humanity, this direction explores how Envoy embraces chaos and empowers the individual to stand out.

Find the juxtaposition of the clean and messy within every image. In the bottom right, there’s a cleanly typeset article, with large marker handwriting over the top. On the top, edges of an illustration don’t not line up perfectly. Please note that images were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.

3. Life within

Without people, an office is inanimate. But as they enter each day, the environment starts to transform — connections are made and ideas emerge. Envoy provides the framework for this cycle to unfold. This direction takes a peek into this dynamic that occurs day-in and day-out.

Notice how in each image there is a type of container that is holding the visual. On the top left, it’s a literal door frame, while on the bottom middle there an image inside a cutaway. Please note that images were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.

Ultimately the executive team selected “Life Imperfect” for its bold presence of humanity along with its strong sense of structure and cleanliness. With a concept now chosen, the second phase was complete.

Exploring creative directions

Over the course of the next two weeks, we each started exploring how the visual strategy of “Life Imperfect” could manifest for Envoy.

Some of the initial ideation across the team. Please note that images were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.

While we were pushing the conceptual nature of our brand, it was imperative we didn’t become consumed by it and bury the point of what we’re selling.

After much ideation, debate, and discussion, we pared down to three creative directions. Before we dive into the directions themselves, we also created a framework for evaluating how each one laddered back to the ways-in moodboard, “Life imperfect.” It was a fluid system to evaluate the “how much,” rather than an “is or is not.” We started by deconstructing the components of the concept, distilling the primary themes, and applying them to a scale.

The template scale built to plot the conceptual nature of each direction, using the verbiage from the moodboard concept. The large dot represents the largest weight, with the small dots as “wings,” showing range.

Since we were building a language for a look-and-feel system, we focused our explorations around the context of five deliverables — a website, a billboard, two different sized ads, and a product empty state. The purpose of this phase was to take a holistic look at the system, questioning the representation at a bird’s eye view, rather than dissecting each individual deliverable.

In other words, even if our logo was not present, would you still know that it was Envoy?

Direction 1

The gesture of touch sets in motion the physical side of Envoy’s product experience. This direction looks at “Life imperfect” by using a finger stroke as a bold, scrawled element. Fluid and rapid, it highlights moments of focus and connection that celebrate both the human and technology.

The stroke is indicative of the touch screen experience and here is used as an overlay, masked shape for a photograph, or as a drawn highlighter. Please note that copy, illustrations, and photography were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.
Direction 1 scale plotted.

Direction 2

Life within the office happens in many layers and Envoy is there to take you through each one of them. This direction looks at “Life imperfect” by varying scale around unconventional shapes. Experiences are depicted through human-centered photography, quirky illustrations, and a richly energetic color palette.

This direction showcases imperfect shapes and illustrations as abstract compositions in the tightest zoom. Please note that copy, illustrations, and photography were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.
Direction 2 scale plotted.

Direction 3

Workplaces work, but Envoy allows you to bring life into the office. This direction looks at “Life imperfect” by abstracting the human form and using those elements to layer over the top of a highly structured foundation. This juxtaposition creates a dynamic composition, emitting confidence, energy, and flexibility.

Facial features, such as noses, freckles, and eyes are used to give a nod to humanity. Please note that copy, illustrations, and photography were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.
Direction 3 scale plotted.

In reviewing the initial work, we ruled out Direction 1 fairly quickly. While conceptually it was meeting our criteria, it erred on the side of being overdone and commonplace. Additionally, it seemed there could ultimately be visual disparity with the stroke weights and that the system might fracture. That being said, we were torn between Directions 2 and 3. Direction 2 felt really elevated, like it could potentially speak to more enterprise buyers, although it teetered on feeling too corporate. On the other hand, Direction 3 felt like it would communicate in a voice that felt personable, but we needed to ensure it wasn’t erring on overly youthful.

We realized that many of these associations were driven by color. Originally we used different colors to help communicate the feeling of each direction, but in hindsight we should have used a single palette to better highlight the visual differences from the start. It was clear we needed to do two things before we could make a decision around direction — a competitive color analysis and the parallelization of palettes within the remaining directions.

Color analysis

An important part of a brand color is differentiation. In order to make a decision around a palette, we needed to first understand the landscape. With our competitors falling within the rest of the rainbow, we decided to stick with red — not only did that hue contain a lot of equity for us already, but we could also continue to claim it uniquely.

Competitive color analysis

Paralleling options

We took the two directions and stripped away the variables in the context of a website. They are paralleled — same colors, same layouts — in order to contrast the look-and-feel systems as objectively as possible. At the core, the decision came down to how we wanted to show imperfection — through shape or overlaid drawing.

Please note that copy, illustrations, and photography were found for internal use only and are purely placeholder.

The executive team chose a combination of the two. The direction on the right for the highly structured foundation with the contrasting human, along with the header from the left direction. This was coupled with the request to move away from any photography and utilize strictly a playful illustrative style.

Marching forward

Once the direction was solidified, we continued iterating on the other brand components—logo refresh, typography, full color palette, illustration style, and graphic elements — to parallel (processes and decisions that warrant separate posts). Our result is rooted in Bringing Life to Work, embracing the imperfections within humanity. Our new system not only now carries meaning, but is also more flexible and systematic.

Before and after of the homepage on envoy.com.

Biggest thanks to the collaboration and feedback from our entire Design team; Marketing partners; founder and CEO, Larry Gadea; and most of all, my team, Kelly Wahlstrom and Chin Lee.

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