Challenges, requirements, and objectives
According to Archimedes’ Principle of buoyancy, because of the density of ice and sea water it is estimated that about one-tenth of the volume of an iceberg is above water. We often say in the design world how the work that is seen is just the tip of the iceberg, so I am going to help us dive under and take a look at the other 90% of the work and considerations that went into developing our new logo and product identifier system.
First, let’s set the scene. Lucid historically was mainly known for its flagship product Lucidchart, so the need for a logo system was very minimal. But not only was our company growing rapidly, so was our product lineup. We launched Lucidspark in 2020 and knew we wanted to launch our cloud visualization software Lucidscale in 2021. The Visual Collaboration Suite was here; no longer could we utilize one mark with slight color variations to represent the different products. The Lucidscale launch was the perfect impetus to drive a wholesale change—now we needed to do the work right.
The brief seemed simple enough. We were to develop a logo system that provided distinction between products, while also forming a cohesive set. We needed to address two main challenges: having purely functional icons in our products that are not suitable for branding purposes, and having too little contrast between marks.
We also created a rubric of expectations with specific criteria:
- The marks should distinguish the products at both the interface level and the marketing level. They also should work well independently or in a group and without wordmarks if necessary.
- The product identifiers should communicate the connection between product brands and their relationship to the suite.
- The product identifiers should be built on a system designed with usability and accessibility in mind, and have room for additional identifiers to be created in the future as products are added.
Not only was this an opportunity to clarify and distinguish between our products, but a rare time to elevate our visuals and reintroduce ourselves in the space. So our brand design team excitedly got to work.
Discovery and Research
For me this is one of the most interesting parts of the design process. I enjoy gathering information and inspiration and synthesizing it down to make new connections and ideas from seemingly disparate sources. The team and I started scouring multiple sources online (and our bookshelves) to find successful and unsuccessful rebrands, identity updates, logo launches, multi-product design systems, and use cases to inform our work. We looked at a wide range of sources and didn’t necessarily constrain ourselves to the SaaS space. We filtered our findings through our requirement rubric and documented how other organizations did or did not accomplish what we were looking to accomplish ourselves.
This process was key in our journey and gave us insights like:
- It is possible to have a hybrid icon/logo approach
- A strong identifier facilitates identification, not communication
- Product marks can relate or contrast parent logo
- Consistent application of representation (whether its literal or abstract) is paramount
- Fidelity, styling, and treatment can be adjusted for scale or application
We also sharpened up our requirements a bit after this stage to include concepts like flexibility in application and leveraging multiple formal elements to achieve our desired outcome.
Another incredibly fun and fulfilling part of the design process is actually starting to put pencil to paper. The team and I started in a very open and unstructured way, basically casting a wide net to begin with and not discounting anything out of hand. We all posted our sketches and findings in a Lucidspark board asynchronously and dedicated times to meet as a group to share, discuss, and even vote on ideas. We did this for a few weeks on a regular basis and started to find some patterns and key learnings.
The most informative aspects of this first round were perhaps the dead ends and roadblocks we came across:
- Marks being too simple and generic, allowing no ownership
- Iterations didn’t seem to feel like Lucid, lacking the right tone or feeling
- Being too rigid with construction techniques could be stifling (we really focused on deconstructing the parent L mark for a long time to no avail)
We regrouped and decided to set off on a new round of explorations based on our findings, building on our best ideas. Lots of successful permutations came out of this round, and we were seeing systems that looked more cohesive, had better visual weight, felt more on brand, and were built from more flexible grid systems. From here we took into account our new findings and felt we had explored enough to start pitching to relevant stakeholders, with the caveat that we were deciding on the system first, with style refinements to follow.
Testing and sharing
Sharing is a more stressful but very informative level of the design process. We decided to start putting together pitch decks to show to executives and other important parties as well as utilize a testing platform to gather feedback and qualitative data from users. We set up screener questions to select for people who would be somewhat familiar with the industry and similar products. We wanted to get reactions, gut feelings, insights, as well as find anything that could be problematic or anything we might have looked over in general.
We ended up doing two rounds of testing with three forms each time and had over 30 respondents. We also asked participants to allow us to film their reactions when they would see the marks, so we benefited from being able to see non-verbal cues. Then we assembled our first pitch deck, which came in at almost 100 slides, a testament to the amount of research and exploration we had done (also too long to hold attention, so it was edited heavily).
After several meetings and further refinements, we were asked to share our progress with the entire company in an update meeting. This was a stressful task for the design team, but we thought there could be value in getting company wide buy-in before we deemed the project finished. The day came and we presented a short sizzle reel of where we were at, and it would be an understatement to say that people had opinions. The reactions were mostly excited and positive, and of course there was some negative feedback. But we were confident in our process and the level of engagement in itself was massive and showed how much everyone was invested, so that was a huge win. As time passed people discovered new things about the marks that they loved, and by the time we reached our final designs and had the true release, it was fully embraced.
After identifying the problem, setting up constraints and goals, executing, testing, and refining, we were left with one other major task: how to actually implement our new system.
This was a massive undertaking and involved several teams. UX and product designers identified where updates were needed, engineers executed the changes, project managers planned and coordinated, and our creative team supplied assets.
Not only were we updating marketing sites and collateral with our new brand level marks, but we had to update the products themselves with the product level marks. This is where the beauty of the new system really came into its own and showed how agile and useful it was. By making sure we had designed a hybrid mark that was flexible, we were able to connect a throughline that extends from the highest level of the brand to the deepest level of product and satisfy the full spectrum of needs.
We ended up with a handful of executions that could have potentially worked well. By spending a large amount of time upfront in our goal setting and research phase we set ourselves up to uncover the best solution for our needs. We feel strongly that we have a unique and powerful set of logos and product identifiers that embody our values of clarity and consistency and will be a strong foundation to support our further growth. We are proud of where we stand and confident in the process that got us here, and are excited to share our updated look.