Branding a startup in an untrusted industry

Over the last three years, whilst I've been a designer at Nested. I've overseen three distinct brand evolutions that have been started to match the evolving nature of our brand with how we want to communicate with our core customer base.

When rebranding it’s important to consider three key questions

1) Who are your audience?

2) What does the company want to achieve?

3) Why are the company doing this?

Each time I've taken on this challenge at Nested, everyone of these three questions has had a slightly different answer. This is why I've ended up reiterating on this three (soon to be four) times in my three years here.

Being fresh into the role and the first designer on a project of this scale was exciting so I got to work pretty much straight away. I think within a month of me starting there we'd moved away from the muddy green colour on our website to a bright blue (actually quite similar to our new account blue) and a now custom type set logo.

“As soon as you put your work out in public you’re not happy with it.”

Come November 2016 we needed a fresh approach

Our CTO (Phil) went away for a week and during this time I couldn't really push any website work (I'm not a developer but my first year at Nested involved me building our HTML and CSS frameworks for our website). I therefore decided that now was the time to work on a brand evolution that had been in the planning for quite a while. We'd actually grown from a fledgling idea to a company starting to attract it's first users, we'd even made our next hire, Darren a developer (who's still with us) and were actively looking for another two people to join the team.

Putting this together with what we'd so far learnt from anyone we'd interviewed (actually a lot at this stage as I used to user test once a week) I came up with a brand strategy, new set of typefaces, a tone of voice, how to choose photography and a new colour palette all inside a week. Admittedly this did take a lot of night and weekend work, but when it was done, I scheduled an all-hands meeting for Phil's return to present my latest work and pitch this new brand positioning.

And the brand pillars are... consultative, friendly and ambitious

Fast forward a year and three months and we were still using the same brand, colours and typography. At this point we were a business of approximately 60 people and a lot had changed. So the decision was taken that we should rebrand, but this time with a team of six, three from design and three from marketing.

We first set up a workshop to settle on three new brand pillars, these would form the basis for which we would build all of our brand. We decided on consultative, friendly and ambitious as we thought they most accurately represented the business and the direction in which we were moving.

Off the back of this, myself and the two others in my team Ben and Kelly, set about crafting a visual identity to sit atop these three pillars.

Just like Hugh Grant our colours have roots in Notting Hill

I decided that our colour palette should of a pastel nature in order to evoke a friendly vibe. I was walking down Portobello Road in Notting Hill when I noticed how a row of houses so distinct in colour yet so perfectly matched lay all in a row, I knew that this should be where I draw my colour inspiration from.

From the photo I took, I sampled and tweaked five different colour ways from this row of houses and translated the colours into a HSL setup. This allowed me to alter the lightness of each colour to create a set whilst whilst maintaining the same hue and saturation so the colours themselves didn't lose their unique pastel identity.

A living brand is one that moves with the times

We launched the rebrand around July 2018 and we’re still pretty happy with it. We’ve made a few tweaks along the way but the core of the visual identity is the same. From our choice of Euclid Circular B as a typeface, to the house based colour palette, we’ve been pretty consistent in keeping this brand fresh and useable across all our customer touchpoints.

If you want to see what that evolution currently looks like head to and check out our website, toolkit and account.

We’re now in the progress of a little brand refresh with some subtle tweaks to the palette and potentially an introduction of a few new graphic devices. As we start to see some work come together I will be posting it as always on Dribbble so keep you eyes peeled for that.