Retroviral is an online communications agency that works with you to enhance your presence on the web. They approached us to create a new brand identity as they has outgrown their current look and were searching for something more exciting to represent what they had become.
When we spoke to Retroviral, one of the biggest challenges for Mike and his team was that their branding had been cobbled together piecemeal over the years. There was no consistency or unity in their vision or message. They had grown very quickly as a company, and their look didn’t match what they wanted to become.
The job presented a few interesting challenges. Firstly, Mike loved his logo and wanted us to rebrand without changing it at all. Secondly, Retroviral is a young, dynamic company that’s always changing and adapting to the market, so they aren’t in a position to have a design firm on permanent retainer to create all their assets. In other words, everything we did had to be set up in a way that was easily adaptable, customisable and extensible. Our final handover would be to a group of people who would know enough about design and the Adobe Creative Suite to not be a danger to our precious brand.
There was some great insight and brand positioning that we did have room to play with. We had the concept of “retro,” which encapsulates the idea that the fundamentals of communication haven’t changed with the advent of new digital channels. Additionally, Retroviral had quickly built up a reputation in the market that we didn’t want to abandon. We wanted to capitalise on this to facilitate the transition to the new brand identity.
The initial brief contained the words “do NOT change the logo” — so, being designers, we decided to completely ignore that. We took the “V” element from the old logo content, which was enough of “the old” to use as our starting point and set off.
We approached the rebrand with a fluid identity – an identity made up of a kit of parts. When all the parts are used together, they create the language of the company. So, instead of looking for a list of design deliverables, we worked toward a set of guiding principles. These principles would create a golden thread to tie everything together, and allow us to create an infinitely expandable approach to creating collateral for Retroviral.
We grounded the new identity with a clean modern look, and then came up with a few simple principles to allow Mike and his team to expand the identity across any media:
Principle 01 — Retroviral is clean and modern, but knows how to have fun
The basis of the identity is simple and modern, but there is a lot of room to have fun and introduce new elements. We really wanted Retroviral to have something that, at its core, could stand with them for the next few decades of business. We still wanted room to have fun, play and adapt to all the new and exciting things that come to life in the world they operate in.
Principle 02 — Let’s make it colourful
There is a basic colour palette consisting of light beige, dark beige and black. Each division is extended with one bright complementary colour. We wanted to reinforce the idea of “retro” in our colour palettes, and stuck with the original Retroviral red.
Principle 03 — New > old
In everything we did for Retroviral, the graphics are mostly new, but always offset with an old world element. We wanted to be very sensitive to not making Retroviral look too old school. Our solution was to use modern elements as the main graphic, and vintage elements as an accent. In our use of vintage illustration, we always recontexualise by deep etching and using colour overlays.
Principle 04 – We Own The Circle But We Have Friends
The V from the old logo has been set into a simple red circle. All of our illustrations and graphics use the circle, but it’s not the only graphic we use.
By embracing executional inconsistency, the sum total of all these elements coming together over time will give Retroviral a distinct look and feel. It will allow Nicework, Retroviral or any other designer to extend the brand into new places. (We are still waiting to get our hands onto the Oculus Rift so we can extend our design into VR.)
Most of all, we enjoyed how fun and free the process was. Mike and the team really let us do our thing.
As a nod to the digital bones of Retroviral, we created a responsive logo that could adapt to any print, screen or digital platform. Have a look how the website turned out.
So far, we’ve rolled out the new look across a range of mediums.
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