I’d say this about a: 10-minute read
Melanie Halliwell, The ID Crowd’s Art Director and Nicole White, Founder and CEO (that’s me!) sat down last week over Zoom and a G&T and reflected on developing our refreshed brand and our shiny new website.
Nicole White: So I think from my perspective, we’ve had the same website since I started The ID Crowd six years ago. I had this guy make it and he never actually finished it. In hindsight I think I’m pretty sure I paid him like a handful of beans for it.
Melanie Halliwell: This question makes me think more about changing the approach as opposed to just the website.
Nicole White: True, well our mate Zawadi did the logo and fonts originally and so we really only had those to work with in the beginning. The green color became a big part of the brand because it was driven by the logo. So that’s what the entire website was built around. Also I think because it was just me at the time, like most of the writing, the tone of the actual website was all ‘Nic’, it wasn’t about the Crowd. I think there was going to be mutiny in the Crowd if I didn’t change something!
Melanie Halliwell: I remember when I first started and I was doing a couple of little brand things. I actually really liked the chance to explore that style. It didn’t feel to me like I was designing something that was you, it felt like I was just expanding on a brand for this little company. The ‘look’ was there, even though it was bits and pieces. It was really easy to expand on. This really inspired me when thinking about our new brand and designing for something intentionally flexible.
Nicole White: I think that’s interesting. This change wasn’t about throwing something away, it was about building on something. I’ll always be grateful though because it attracted the customers and the team that we have at the moment! It helped us to build this group of like minded people.
Melanie Halliwell: I feel like it’s just the next phase of what and who we are.
Melanie Halliwell: I first started looking at the ‘shapes’ concept when using the old brand for some conference stuff, it was actually from some of the early exploration work that I did back in Newtown. I had this old nightie with a ‘shapes’ print…
Nicole White: Flammable?
Melanie Halliwell: Very flammable. I had it from when I was in primary school. It had cut out triangles and dot patterns. I scanned it and turned it into vectors – used it as a starting point. If you have a green and you put a fade 40% fade on it, it takes the edge off it. It was all those colors and I just loved it. So this new brand was like, oh, this is what it would look like as a grownup!
Nicole White: Ha! Yeah, I remember feeling inspired by the ‘fat bottom girl’ style illustrations and muted colors. But then I realised that as much as I like those sorts of illustrations and those sorts of sites, they’re everywhere now. It was more than ‘what’s the next thing?’, or more like ‘what is our thing?’
Melanie Halliwell: Yeah.
Nicole White: I don’t imagine that there’ll be like a million sites like this, right?!
Melanie Halliwell: That’s what I love about it. I think that’s what I found difficult in that first round when we were discovering who we were, what we were supposed to look like.
Nicole White: Yeah, the process of refinement, those early iterations were great work, it just felt like someone else’s brand.
Nicole White: So one of the things we rejected was how clean and neat and finished everything seemed. We grabbed this idea of ‘off center’. An early iteration of the logo for instance was in this perfect circle. I’ll never forget that call we had when I was in NZ and we just started – messing it up! Making it slightly off center, could it have this little shadow…
Melanie Halliwell: …remember we tried it with the outline offset? Something just clicked.
Nicole White: I think it was a big turning point for us. We’re not perfect, we have rough edges before we refine. That’s why the shapes don’t have perfect edges. I fell in love when Ana, our designer, showed us what she had actually made by getting down on the floor and tearing pieces of paper.
Melanie Halliwell: Yeah.
Nicole White: It represented our process, we aren’t afraid to get into the nitty gritty and explore content and people and context from different perspectives, to actually understand it.
Melanie Halliwell: I feel like that is one of my things about what I love about design. It’s like making the intangible, tangible. Taking old things and making them new. Well, not even that, making them relevant, giving them a new meaning.
Nicole White: It’s kind of where ‘making more thoughtful learning’ came from.
Melanie Halliwell: I like that word, thoughtful.
Nicole White: Yeah, to me it’s loaded. It feels analytical and empathetic. More thoughtful is taking the time, there’s consideration of others.
Nicole White: I wanted to capture the idea that as designers of learning, we take something that may come to us in a particular format, and what we do is, we pull it apart and we look at those individual pieces. Those pieces then get put back together in a completely different way that’s more meaningful because of the conversations that have been initiated about those pieces and ‘who’ interacts with them – that’s the ‘craft’. I think the visuals ended up being a bit of a play on the word ‘craft’, because it is almost like construction paper and roughly cut out shapes that you do on the weekend (that’s what everyone does right?)
Melanie Halliwell: It’s sophisticated, but it can take whatever form. I feel like it’s really flexible. I started to think about brand guidelines, with fixed colour palettes and logo – why does it need to be that way?
Nicole White: I think I’ve seen the result of why.
Melanie Halliwell: Ha! I thought to myself, we’re not a big organisation – and we are a team of creatives! In my mind, it was always let’s have these individual shapes and colours and patterns that we can do whatever we want with. I wanted something that we could create art with to suit our mood, but also going forward with something we could use for years.
Nicole White: You can take those shapes, colors and patterns and you can create something completely unique!
Melanie Halliwell: And that’s what I find really exciting about it. I feel like it gives everybody an opportunity to personalise what that means for them.
Nicole White: Which is what we have leveraged in our email signatures for instance. There’s consistency in structure, but no two are the same. To me this is really powerful because we’re not a company of people who are all exactly the same.
Nicole White: Do you want to talk about losing our way in the renaming?
Melanie Halliwell: Yeah, why not. So I feel like we were all pretty open to the idea of changing, but the options – they just weren’t right. As we pressed on we started to question do we really need to change, what’s actually the purpose? Is this a name change for the sake of a name change?
Nicole White: I’ll be honest I think that one time someone said to me (about The ID Crowd), I want to remember you, but you’ve made it hard for me to remember you!
Melanie Halliwell: Damn! I also know it was you trying to evolve from being more than just being made up of IDs. To me it kind of feels like that doesn’t actually matter because it’s not saying that’s who we all are – it’s become a brand.
Nicole White: Yeah I think that’s why the names presented to us just had a weird ‘mouth-feel’. It was like letting your 6-year old know that they’re going to be referred to as Trevor from now on. In saying that, while the exercise went on for too long, it wasn’t a mistake for me. It allowed me to put a few demons to rest and actually say to myself – you know what, not everyone will ‘get it’, yes, some people will think we make identification cards, or we’re interior designers. I actually feel like because we went through the idea of not being The ID Crowd it allowed me to reconnect with it. It allowed me to play with the idea of the ‘Crowd’ part of the name. It’s reinvigorated the name.
Melanie Halliwell: Yeah, that’s what I feel.
Nicole White: Actually one of the things that I still really love to this day, is the one or two people who walk up to me at an event and give me an IT Crowd reference – that’s ‘connection’, I don’t care what anyone says!
Nicole White: I look at this first page and it just, it makes me smile. Nailed ‘Corporate meets Crafternoon’!
Melanie Halliwell: I love it. Yeah.
Nicole White: You can go in there and you can explore.
Melanie Halliwell: I’ve always loved that idea that you go in looking for something specific and not just come away with what you were looking for. We want people to go back and look at it and go back in, just because it’s an enjoyable experience.
Nicole White: I love that. It’s so ID Crowd to provide a little something extra, that you didn’t know you needed! I hope people follow that little azure piece scrolling down and feel a sense of relief when they see, ‘You just found your Crowd’. That’s all we’ve ever wanted to be – something bigger than us as individuals, a collective who appreciate that adult learning can be curious, thoughtful and beautiful.