Two months ago, we unveiled the foundation of our new brand at Envoy. This was intentionally timed with the launch of our workplace platform and we’ve since continued to roll out this refresh. Here’s why we needed 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 our sole identity from our founding, in late 2017 we released our second product, Deliveries. Despite its success, we 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 we were perceived. Even internally, we were unsure of how to talk about ourselves and lacked a clear strategy. 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 we were perceived.
In August of 2019, with the launch of our third product, Rooms, on the horizon and even bigger dreams for the future, we knew the time had come for something to change.
Crafting the strategy
Envoy partnered with Butchershop, an agency to help us develop our point-of-view and messaging framework. After workshops, interviews, and ingenuity from our partners (a process deserving of its own post) we landed on the strategic idea of 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.”
We could have stopped with a new brand story and messaging, but as a design team, we knew we needed to capitalize on this moment to do a widespread visual refresh. Since my fellow visual designers (Kelly Wahlstrom and Chin Lee) and I each have backgrounds at brand agencies, the three of us were excited to take on this challenge in-house.
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 did know that ultimately our entire visual language needed to ladder back to this idea.
In order to know what needed to change, we first needed to take stock of what we had. We combed through all our 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 we strived for quality — speed and agility were our primary focus. We have always known we wanted to be approachable and welcoming, but we didn’t really develop the approach. Our primary takeaway from the audit was that we were heavily focused on objects. Our site contained (numerous) floating clay devices and our illustrative style had no people, with the exception of hands. Even though we may have brought in the product in a clean and positive way, we were missing 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.
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 our 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.
With 10 or so different categories, we spent a day “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.
At the end of the day, 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.
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.
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.
Ultimately we, in conjunction with our 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
In reviewing the initial work with our exec team, we ruled out Direction 1 fairly quickly. While conceptually it was meeting our criteria, it erred on the side of being overdone or too 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.
In hindsight, we should have used a single palette to better highlight the visual differences from the start.
Refining the directions
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.
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.
Ultimately, we selected Direction 3 for the highly structured foundation juxtaposed with the human shapes drawn in, around, and on top of it. All art direction and illustration would be decided separately.
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.
While we’ve begun to roll out new collateral, our work is far from over. The next phase is really focused on extending and building the systems and repositories to set us up to scale. Follow us throughout the year to see where we end up.
Be sure to visit envoy.design and subscribe to get notified when we publish something new. Or check out my previous article, “How to illustrate when you can’t draw to save your life.”