By Michelle Rock • Apr 23, 2019
As part of Industry Dive’s branding refresh, our team designed a series of reader testimonial posters.
With each poster in the series being created by a different designer, we were presented with a problem: How do you achieve visual cohesion without letting one person dictate the design? For experimental projects like this one, I believe that a democratic approach is best. It encourages every participant to contribute, steering away from one singular authoritative voice making the decisions. So, how exactly does that work?
Creating our “campaign”
We had several goals for this project: display positive reader feedback for our editorial team, have our design team flex its creative skills, and of course, boast our successes to any office visitors! With that in mind, we were faced with the question: How do you find unity within a series created by four designers? Each designer has a unique style – including difference of opinions on color, typefaces, and textures – so, we had some compromising ahead of us.
Developing our “platforms”
Across our graphic design team, myself included, we each have different personal aesthetics. Some prefer a more minimalist approach, with emphasis on negative space; while others prefer exploring texture, line direction, and how type interacts within that space. To begin, I invited each designer to add inspiration to a shared photo album. We set up our first meeting to review, get ideas from each other, and decide which pieces reflected what we thought this series should look like as a whole. After reviewing, we chose a few pieces that would direct the designs.
This was a typography-first project, so we needed to decide what typefaces we would use. Our brand’s official typeface, Proxima Nova, was an obvious answer. But, we wanted more than one type family to work with. With seemingly endless possibilities, how do we narrow down our options?
To begin, it needed to be a serif typeface to maximize visual contrast between different lines of information when paired with Proxima Nova. We also knew our serif choice needed to exhibit certain qualities: clean, elegant, and especially, timeless. If this typeface wasn’t officially part of the Industry Dive brand, it would need to be a classic. We met as a team and tossed around a few possibilities, including Times New Roman, Bodoni, Century, Garamond, and Baskerville. We weighed the pros and cons, eventually all agreeing that Garamond fit our needs.
This was a pretty obvious choice, as the design team uses minimal color to allow for maximum emphasis on content. Black, white, and Dive Red are the real stars in our brand. We follow design legend Paul Rand’s philosophy on color:
“Limited color when combined with black and white, which provide a brilliant but neutral background, is often far more effective than the use of many colors. Furthermore, the tendency of black and white to brighten and enliven other colors often makes any color used more articulate…” – Paul Rand
Running our “primaries”
Once we nailed down our aesthetics, the designers created dozens of design iterations with their assigned quotes. I invited them to another group critique to assess which drafts worked, which didn’t – we critiqued style, legibility, whether the aesthetic was “on brand” – and either ruled options out or considered how we could tweak them to be more cohesive as a collection. You can see examples below of which drafts didn’t make it to the next round. After a lengthy (and very opinionated) review, we standardized elements of texture, logo placement, and use of color.
Presenting our winners
After several critiques, our designs evolved into one unique style, which is undeniably Industry Dive. Because I didn’t just hand them a set of instructions at the outset, each person had an opportunity to craft their own solutions. Furthermore, because it was a collaborative series, they were then forced to justify or compromise on each of those solutions. Looking back, the democratic approach was definitely a time-consuming process – it involved multiple critiques, longer discussions, more debates – but I think it was a valuable team-building exercise. It resulted in a stronger aesthetic and gave everyone a sense of ownership in the final product.
The final series was printed, framed, and presented to the entire company at a branding relaunch meeting. I couldn’t be more proud of how they tackled the process – and had fun doing it! If you ever visit our office in Washington, DC, come check out this exceptional work!