I began working with Grafton Studio in the latter half of 2015, as a user experience and visual designer. Having been in business for a year, Grafton began to understand their niche in the tech market building web apps, and were eager to have a cohesive marketing effort moving forward. They also had just moved from Faneuil Hall in Boston to Kendall Square in Cambridge, so there was a sense of a new beginning that a rebrand would help capture.
As any designer will tell you, rebrands are deceptively simple. The end product looks obvious, but there’s always a long, winding path to get there. And to get it right, you really have to be in tune with the final decision maker. After all, a brand sets the tone for a company, and is the starting point for every material that goes out to the public.
A comprehensive rebrand such as this began with the logo, specifically the mark. When it comes to a logo design, I like to get into the origins of the company, thinking about where it comes from and what it represents. In the case of Grafton Studio, the name was derived from the famed shopping street in Dublin. I suppose Sean, the Irishman of the team, came to that name by way of word association, where “business” equals “Grafton.” It also paints a picture of a bustling city center, of a place where customers can get what they need from people they know. Grafton Studio, being the size that it is, has that personal touch with clients.
When I start a design project, I like get all the obvious ideas down, so I can then evolve those ideas, build on them or deviate from them, and see where it takes me. Since Grafton is derived from a street name, I began with the obligatory street sign shape. I iterated on this concept, moving from the literal to the abstract:
Occasionally I paired the mark with text, just to see how it played together. But I was always wary of how they could be separated. The best logos, I think, are the most versatile, and can easily be recognized without any particular color scheme.
While I worked on signage concepts, I also explored variations of the letter G. For every good idea, there are dozens of bad ideas. In order to get to those good ideas, you just have to get all the bad ones out of the way. And so I did, moving from one idea to the next, slowly accumulating the right pieces as I went:
You can see that the directional arrows from the street signs came into play with these concepts. But an interesting idea emerged here, as the letter G came to resemble an inverted refresh icon. That’s when it all clicked. The logo simultaneously represented the first initial of the company name, as well as the ability of Grafton to refresh, renew, and launch good ideas. It was also a shape that would look at home on a street sign, so a rounded corner enclosure made the mark complete.
With the hard work done, the rest of the logo fell into place relatively quickly. We explored several color options, ultimately deciding to stick with the eye-catching red of the logo we were replacing. I also made use of a typeface that complimented the circular shape of the mark, Google’s Montserrat, modifying the diagonal cuts in the letters to match those of the arrow. In the end, we arrived at a logo that’s flexible, simple, and has a story to tell:
Here’s a look at the geometry behind the shape. Even the text was carefully sized, so that if it has to appear to the right of the mark (as it does on the website), the top of the word “Grafton” and baseline of the word “Studio” will line up with the top and bottom of the white G.
Additional branding elements came together fairly effortlessly, since the logo itself established a clear tone and color scheme. The business cards put people’s names in place of the company name on the back, emphasizing the point that a company’s value is in its people.
Finally, the Grafton website became the capstone on the rebrand, a project that was a true team-wide collaboration. The level of polish and interactivity that we were able to give the site really speaks to the benefit of having a small team that works directly with each other.
In my experience, rebrands and logos are among the most challenging projects that a designer will take on. A lot needs to be symbolized in a very simple shape. To be successful, you really have to get what the client is going for on an almost instinctive level. And as with this rebrand, you might have to go down the wrong path a few times before you find the right one. Thankfully, I think we were able to find the right path. Now we just have to keep walking in the right direction.