A refreshed identity to represent cultural and commercial change
Changing our identity after some twenty years was a daunting exercise, but something we were ready for.
The need for change
There have been many changes at Salad over the last two years. We’ve spent more time, as a team, discussing our place in the world, our strategy, and what we’re all looking for from our work and our partnership. We’ve always maintained fairly transparent communications internally, now we’ve stepped up.
But these changes have been mainly internal. We felt that to better represent the cultural and commercial changes from an external perspective, our identity needed a refresh.
We run a visioning day once every quarter. It’s an opportunity for us all to get together, turn our notifications off (well, most of them) and talk shop. Where are we going? Who do we want to work with? What kind of biscuits should we have next time?
During one of these sessions, we discussed how we could infuse our identity with a sense of our new shape. We talked about an evolutionary approach, something that kept one foot in the past and one in the future. That discussion didn’t last long.
In fact, there was a clear and compelling desire to shake things up. Not necessarily remove the shackles of an old identity, as the 20-something-year-old Salad identity has served us exceptionally. But there was a thirst for something different, an identity representative of our new shape, new ownership and renewed mission.
From Evolution to Revolution
During our discussion, revolution won the day. We set out with our usual process, generating ideas and concepts to move us forward. We’d spent the previous few vision sessions developing our proposition and aligning our culture, so our visual identity was the next step.
Conversations between the creative team led to a few ideas. We wrestled with the concept of representation, and how to ensure that our identity wasn’t just a standard design studio blank canvas capable of showing off client work. Ultimately we needed something that would represent us, feel authentic, and give us the flexibility to present our work without losing that sense of individuality.
We’ve said, for years, we want the client work to speak for us. But we’ve never shouted about us before, our personality has always come through our work. What we’re trying to do now is say this is who we are as a group, as a team.
Goodbye to Clarendon
Of all the people in the business, Bella had the greatest connection to the old marque, set in Clarendon. It is, after all, something that’s been around for over twenty years. Through the conversation it was obvious that we would need to tread carefully, accepting and respecting deep connections to history and a nervousness around change.
It felt natural to create a working group to develop the initial ideas. It was agreed that Jon (Head of Design), Natalie (Senior Designer), Bella (Founder & Managing Director), and I (Strategy & Creative Director) would lead the project. We kept a fleeting eye on the past, knowing that 20 years of equity was at stake, and then fixed our gaze on the future.
We’re grateful for the fact that we were given free rein to look into creative routes that we felt represented us as we are now, rather than as we were when Bella first founded the agency. There wasn’t an argument that we had to create something ‘better’ than the old identity, just a desire to create something we could all rally behind, something that pushed us all forward in unity.
So, how to capture a sense of collective ownership? Could we all have our own way of using the identity which made it personal? Actually, it turns out that we might be able to. At least, the identity is capable of it.
Our team is made of individuals who are, by that definition, very different. It’s the combination that makes us capable of greatness. Much like any organisation that believes in and empowers its people, Salad is a place where individuality is important. Self-discovery, motivation and our unique lens on the world make our work richer. It’s that specific mixture that makes Salad. So we investigated how we might be able to represent both that sense of individuality, infused with a strong sense of team.
When we present identities there’s always a story to tell. We take our clients, and in this case it was our team, on a journey. This project has helped reinforce the value of that underlying narrative.
Seeing our process from the inside out
What has been most striking about working on our own identity has been seeing our process from a client’s viewpoint. The very idea of changing a brand’s identity has proved daunting to us, and that feeling has been communicated by clients on many occasions. It’s a big change for us, as it would be for anyone. There’s a need for empathy, and the reasons for change need to be sound.
We publish a list of challenges we’re regularly asked to solve on our website. Change of ownership is one of the triggers for identity change – be it revolutionary or evolutionary. And so, we began with a sense of caution, to make sure we didn’t overstep the mark, but also excitement, knowing that the right solution was there for us to find.
Once we navigated through the initial identity work, we opened up the project to the rest of the team, so we could collaborate to produce a new website. Matt (Head of Digital) has been threatening to rebuild our CMS (Content Management System) for years. We still have one, but the content is drawn out of it via an API and some custom PHP code compiles the pages at blistering speed. It’s a bespoke job, without the bloated libraries we had been using, and similar to the solutions we’ve been building for our clients.
Greg (Senior Developer), who’s only been with us for just over a year, has been put very much in the hot seat working on the website’s front end. It’s no small task keeping the eagle eyes of our design team happy. But, after a few discussions and a healthy dose of realistic expectation setting, we’ve found a new gear that keeps everyone travelling at speed, and knowing where the limits are.
Our best work comes from passion & connection
It feels a bit of a cliche to say that we do our best work when we’re inspired. Actually, we gain inspiration from the people we work with and the depth they bring to our partnerships. We respond in equal measure when clients show a real passion for what they do. Working closely on our new identity and website really highlighted the passion we share as a group.
That’s not to say it was all plain sailing. Debates often surfaced. But it wasn’t ego at play, just a passion to get it right. We can often accuse ourselves of wanting everything to be just right, to be given enough time and space to hone our craft. Some aspects of this project challenged that sense of perfectionism. It hurt a little, but it meant that we got the job done, and in the timeframe we’d set ourselves.
There’s still work to be done, we still have items on the list, and we haven’t quite worked through all the Trello tickets either. There’s a sense that we have got what we needed to get done, done, but that we will continue to tweak, change and respond to external feedback.
Ultimately this project was about being bold. Bolder than we have been in the past. Bold enough to put something down that we can all stand behind, and that can help represent the journey of the last two years. It’s been a challenge, and we’ve been pressed for time. Our FD, Andy, challenged us by setting a launch date and, I’m happy to say, that our team pulled out all the stops to deliver on time.
Now that the dust has somewhat settled, we have been able to take the time to ask questions of our process and tweak it where we feel it could be stronger. Being our own client has helped us to see the experience through a different lens. And, we hope to apply all that we’ve learned across our client work, continually improving, and striving to be the empathetic partner we aspire to.
Is your brand identity an authentic representation of your business?
If you’re interested in talking to us about a brand, identity or digital project or just want to find out more about us and what we do, please get in touch with a member of the team.