Trulia’s New Neighborly Brand Identity
When Trulia launched in 2005, we revolutionized the real estate industry, bringing a sense of transparency to homebuyers everywhere by making for-sale homes searchable online. When we first started, our logo — the map marker — represented the core functionality of plotting homes on a map. However, nearly 15 years later, online real estate has evolved to meet user needs — and it was time for us to not just stand out in a crowded space, but change with our consumers’ needs.
First, we listened and learned
To really understand what people needed in their home search, we went out and asked home buyers and renters across the country what they were searching for, and why. We found that people spoke about more than just kitchen and bathroom finishes or open floorplans, they actually began describing what they loved about their desired neighborhood: the local vibe, scenery, the people, or community they wanted to belong to.
Our research led us to a surprising gap in the market — with all the listings and property details out there, there was very little to help shoppers get a genuine feel for a neighborhood while searching for a home online. We explored how ‘neighborhood’ fits into the house hunt, and ultimately the role it plays in peoples’ lives. More often than not, we found that most people have deeply personal feelings of identity, pride, future possibilities, or sense of belonging attached to the places where they live.
Ultimately, we learned that the neighborhood is just as, if not more, important than the home itself. People search for more than just a house — they want a real sense of place, an idea of what their life would be like; we knew we needed to update our brand and product experience to match these needs.
We set out to become an online real estate destination that would give you more than the cross-streets, coordinates, or living room photos, and meet these deep-seated, emotional consumer needs around neighborhood. We crystallized these aspirations in a new belief and mission which functions as the North Star for the company, to help guide our actions at every level of the business and provide an unexpected, yet welcome, experience for our consumers.
Defining neighborly, launching our mission, and partnering-up
Building a more neighborly world is no small task — we had a lot of work to do to bring our new neighborhood insights to life. We began by defining neighborly tenets based off of an ideal neighbor, exemplifying how we want to act out in the world.
With these tenets we started launching new products that shed light on the everyday life of neighborhoods across the country to equip home shoppers with new tools: Local Legal Protections, What Locals Say, and Trulia Neighborhoods.
In addition to launching innovative products, our new mission compelled us to re-imagine how we show up in the world. We wanted to be thoughtful about how our new strategy shaped our visual identity. If we stand for neighborhoods, what should Trulia look like, sound like, feel like? We partnered with DesignStudio to not only help us modernize our brand and update our look and feel, but to help us turn our new strategy and mission into a meaningful, neighborhood-centric brand identity.
A modular system that fits together
To visually articulate this new strategy, we took a step back to think about how to graphically represent neighborhoods in a purposeful way. The Trulia brand needed to be relevant for all types of neighborhoods across the country, so we started developing a system that felt not only genuine and real, but also diverse in form, to show off the unique qualities and quirks that people love about where they live.
With our new mission, the old map marker logo was no longer relevant or representative of who we are as a brand. Our new logo embodies the idea that when diverse elements fit together in unexpected ways you create a sense of harmony and balance. We needed this logo to not just represent the sense of diversity and uniqueness that people love about their neighborhoods, but also be a modern symbol for the future of Trulia.
The wordmark is made up of different letterforms that juxtapose each other — the structural qualities of the ‘r’ the ‘l’ and the ‘i’, mixed in with the open, organic feeling of the ‘a’ and the smile of the ‘u’, are reminiscent of the old buildings, new shops, the art, the vibrancy of life, that are interspersed together in neighborhoods across the country. Our new logo ultimately represents the ideals and aspects of ‘neighborhood’ that we believe to be inherently genuine and human.
Neighborhoods aren’t black or white, or monochromatic, so our one-note color palette no longer served our new mission. We also felt like this was an opportune moment to stand out from the crowded, one-color market. When thinking about the depth and richness of the colorful places we live, we knew we needed to strategically expand our brand palette to own a multi-color approach. By mimicking colors from neighborhoods, like the blues of the skies, lakes, rivers and oceans; the greens of the parks and front lawns; the warm tones from the local flower shops or tile roofs; the neutrals of urban areas; the identity starts to embody the elements of neighborhood, allowing us to tell a wide range of stories, relevant to everyone.
As with our color strategy, the graphic elements of our brand needed to represent the many different types of neighborhoods, people, and stories of home found across the country. We explored a modular visual system, flexible enough to represent these diverse moments in life. Working closely with our partners at DesignStudio, we went through many different concepts; the first few iterations were skewing too primary and simplistic, so we pushed hard to refine and create a more sophisticated version.
At this point in the process, we had a mission that we tested and knew performed well with our users, as well as this budding identity built directly from the strategy. But something was off. We huddled as a team and went item by item, element by element to understand what wasn’t feeling right to us. Refining the designs to elevate the system from skewing too childish was the best move we made, and it was as much intuition as it was strategy.
We ultimately designed rigorous guidelines that explained how to create the icons: they are based on a 100x100 pixel grid, always using simple, geometric shapes and equal stroke weights for consistency. The rigidity in the guidelines allows us to create icons that look unique with charming quirkiness, but always uniform in shape.
The individual icons can be used in various ways to help us tell any kind of story or illustrate a concept. The icon system is composed of three categories: dwellings, landscape & weather, and places & amenities, illustrating all aspects of neighborhoods. When using the icons in a functional setting, like in the app or as a descriptor, they are used on their own as independent icons; however when concepts become more complex or multi-faceted, we use the icons together in ‘clusters’ to bring those ideas to life. We developed 6 levels of icon usage in our guidelines, from functional to expressive, to help designers understand how to use the icons to communicate effectively in their designs. It also ensures that every touchpoint is consistent, but never monotonous.
Finding our voice
The way we speak with our consumers is one of the most important aspects of building a brand, especially because we are helping people make one of the biggest decisions of their lives. Part of our work with DesignStudio was to develop a neighborly approach to how we talk with our consumers. So, along with our neighborly visual system, we now have a specific tone of voice to meet consumers where they are — whether it’s dealing with something as serious as explaining different real estate laws, or lovable when telling the heart-warming stories about people doing good in their neighborhoods. Just like our visual system, we now have a modular tone of voice guide that helps us be as neighborly as we need to be, in all the right moments.
To bring our voice to life, we worked with FontSmith to develop a custom typeface, Trulia Sans, to ensure everything we say to our users is friendly, open and approachable in both tone and in manifestation.
Photographing the neighborhood
Last but not least, we wanted to show off the neighborhoods that we love so much. Along with developing the new look and feel of the brand, we also went out to metro areas across the country and captured the good, the charming, and even the weird, that can be found in the nooks and crannies of different neighborhoods.
Our custom photography and video needed to feel consistently neighborly to ensure our vision was apparent at every touchpoint. We developed not just a guideline, but a visual strategy to help our photographers capture the neighborhoods from the eyes of a local, giving a glimpse of what it would be like to actually live there. We made sure all the imagery felt genuine and authentic to the place, while staying warm, inviting, and approachable. These images exist to help you make the most informed decision possible about that place, so capturing the local “street art” or cracks in the asphalt was all a part of that process.
Bringing it home
Over the past year, we’ve dug deep, stayed up late, imagined, re-imagined and soul-searched to make sure there was not a stone unturned on our quest to bring neighborhoods to life. It took a massive amount of research, exploration, and partnership to get to this point, and we are so excited to be sharing this work with the world.
We understand how hard the home buying and renting process is — all of the anxious late nights thinking about finding the right realtor, navigating through the mortgage process, and wondering whether your offer will be accepted — we hope that this new evolution of the Trulia brand will help you explore more neighborhoods, and make the process just a bit easier, because you’re now more informed than ever. Helping people discover the neighborhood they love, not just the home, but the places outside the four walls that make your bit of the earth special for you and yours, is what brings us to work everyday.
What made this work truly special was the people that poured their hearts and souls into the work with my team and me. We wouldn’t have been able to do even half of it without the teamwork and close collaboration across the many groups and organizations; the DesignStudio team who helped us turn our vision into something tangible, all of our partners, and the whole Trulia family that helped build this new world and get us to a place we love.