Developing an visual identity for a service, as opposed to a physical product is deceptively challenging. Everything from one degree to another can be represented by universally understood symbols. However, being predictable creates conformity. So there are two questions we need to ask:
1. How do you conceptualize an abstract concept?
2. How do you break free from cliche to create something truly genuine, yet differentiated from your competition?
Sean Davies is a northwestern Ontario entrepreneur with a background in aviation and equipment leasing. He hired Generator to rebrand his new business because its identity was in conflict with another local business. I was the design lead during this project.
Our objective was to rename the company and create a logo that conveys Sean’s reputation as a respected and savvy businessman. Our goal was to brand Sean’s new company as clever, forward-thinking and professional, but also appeal to a broad range of industries within northwestern Ontario.
I researched local, national and international consultancies to gain a base-level understanding of what graphic trends were being used in the leasing and aviation industries. I collected examples of graphic work that effectively communicated their expertise, and using these examples, I created three mood boards to present to Sean.
After analyzing the reference material, Sean, Barry (Generator, Creative Director) and I concluded that the identities of the researched consultancies can be described as conservative, traditional and non-conceptual. Based on this analysis, we felt there was an opportunity in the local market to establish an identity that differentiated itself by presenting more personality and authenticity.
We began the process by determining a name for Sean’s company. We reviewed the creative brief Sean completed, then our copywriter, Chris Servais, explored linguistic concepts touching on local landmarks, geographic location, modern business trends and creative neologisms. In the creative brief Sean told us that his skill as a problem-solver was a vital trait to the success of his business and his company name should reflect this quality. Using this information, and by adding a touch of modern flair, we settled on a name—Deciphr.
“Deciphr represents problems that need to be solved. Reading the name involves a brief mental double-take, that something isn’t quite right—then you figure it out. It’s not complicated enough to confuse anyone, but it cleverly establishes the nature of the work and the company as problem-solvers. It promotes the notion that small details can have a huge impact.”
The name also allows Sean to branch out into other markets and services without having to rebrand. Once the name was established I began brainstorming logo ideas in my sketchbook. Most of my initial explorations used universal symbols for aviation, money, business and problem-solving. Consulting the Generator design team in a critique/brainstorming session inspired me to explore the idea of amalgamating these concepts to create an interesting array of unique visual expressions.
We presented Sean with four different creative directions and he immediately gravitated towards the most non-traditional concept. In comparison to traditional “consultant-like” representations that I had researched, Sean chose to be positioned on the other side of the spectrum and differentiate himself from his competition—being more zealous, imaginative and unique.
To differentiate Deciphr from the competition, I designed a logo that embodied the same logic that was used in the naming process. Instead of merely telling his audience that he is an excellent problem-solver, I created an interactive logo that allowed them to solve a problem themselves. By fabricating the letterform of an uppercase ‘D’ into a maze, the Deciphr logo became a physical representation of a problem that needs to be solved; and one that can be solved in multiple ways given the time and effort to solve the puzzle.
To create a harmonious triangular balance, I paired the ‘D’ icon with a typeface that mirrored the stroke-weight used to construct the maze.
The most challenging objective for this project was to conceptualize an abstract concept such as problem-solving. My sketchbook explorations are filled with symbols like magnifying glasses, question marks and speech bubbles, but there weren’t any ideas that I felt broke free of cliche. The maze concept brought an elevated level of communication because it provides a chance for the audience to interact with the logo, experiencing a microcosm of what Deciphr offers as their primary service—creative problem-solving and an enjoyable experience.