At Rex, being the creative director also means being the lead product designer because we’re still relatively small (getting bigger and bigger). In the past I’ve thought that the design happens brand first, then everything else follows suit. However lately I’ve been realising that this isn’t as one sided as I thought.
Letting the logo evolve
Before we made the new Rex, I designed the logo. Some elements of this design influenced the Rex interface. For example the login screen is set up to reveal the logo’s secret (talked about previously) and follows very closely branding led decisions, i.e. it’s red.
After the login the logo hangs in the application in way to suit its shape, this set the way for the design of the menu which sits around it. However when it came to colour around the menu we wanted to make it changeable per office. With this changeable background in mind a red logo was out, therefore the logo became black so it could sit comfortably over (almost) all user colours.
In time I came to like a black logo over a changing background colour a lot more than I liked the red logo. So as we move forward with the brand, the Rex logo has become black over a strong background colour. In fact you can see this visual idea prominently featured in the images we’re making for the blog and social posts. An idea that came from practical reasons in the app has been expanded and become a core visual theme of the brand.
A brand’s style changing over time is perhaps natural. When you first design something you can’t fully see how it will be rolled out. Then when you start using it, you see where you’d like to push and change it. I think in this instance this evolution of ideas was sped up because I was doing the branding and the app design. Therefore it was quick for me to decide to update one to reflect the other. Obviously I couldn’t change it all at once, that would end up with frazzled and grumpy (well grumpier) programmers. Therefore our current website still reflects the initial visual decisions. But I have the longer term view now.
Icon to decoration
Another example of this idea of app out design was recently when designing the Rex letterheads. I knew I wanted the back of the letterhead to have a colour and an illustrative flourish. This was partly to bring the letterhead in line with the new colour direction but also because I thought it would be a nice touch.
In coming up with the flourish for back I tried a various ideas – pinstripes, banknote style patterns of repeating houses and others. However all the ideas felt a bit insincere or off brand. Eventually I realised we already had some illustrative elements in the application in the way of icons. As soon as I laid out some app icons in a repeating grid the design came together, it just felt right. By bringing the icons out of the application I was able to see them in a new way, i.e. as a decorative element, but they also felt true to the design language of Rex.
- design is holistic, don’t design in isolation (where possible), in this example the app affects the brand just as much as the brand affects the app, having a common voice between the two strengthens both.
- don’t be afraid to let your brand evolve after seeing how it works in the wild. Brands shouldn’t be fixed, which doesn’t mean you should be fickle but if you can see a useful direction you shouldn’t be afraid to move that way
I’m in a great position to work holistically at Rex, being the designer of the brand and the application means I can bring these two sets of visual styles together and I’m finding more and more that they both have elements that inform the other.