It’s easy to think that branding is just about making things look nice. While that’s certainly part of it, the best design not only focuses on appearance, but on solving problems. Each brand has its own set of problems and parameters, and while those may seem like restrictions, they’re actually what spurs innovation and memorable solutions. Where form and function meet, is where the magic happens, which is exactly what we’ve experienced here at Wonderful Machine with our recently launched redesign. About a year ago, we set out to create a new logo and website for Wonderful Machine, and I’m here to share the journey that led us to where we stand today.
Wonderful Machine started out with a clean, simple logo that served us well over the years, but it was becoming increasingly clear that we had outgrown it. A very important part of my job here is working with photographers on their branding, giving them advice about how to present themselves (and their work) in the best light and letting them know when what they’re doing isn’t working. While our existing logo definitely had some mechanical issues that needed sorting out, the biggest problem was that it wasn’t distinctive or memorable:
In a similar vein, our website began several years ago with the photographer search. The site was innovative when it was introduced, but as we grew, we added new pages, a blog, consulting services and resources until the simple website we’d started with had become a bit of a Frankenstein. We ended up with two websites that were disjointed, difficult to navigate and that couldn’t keep up with the growing expectations mobile devices have brought to the web world in the last few years. We realized that the branding and website we were using to represent ourselves went against the advice we give to photographers every day, and it was time to take our own advice and start fresh.
With a name like Wonderful Machine, it would be a crime not to create a graphic identity that would be just as distinctive and memorable. We started with a comprehensive analysis of Wonderful Machine, our audiences, competitors and brands that have successfully created the kind of brand persona we were looking for. We identified our strengths as well as our opportunity areas and honed our list of priorities to align with our business goals. Armed with a strong vision and newly found focus, we got to work.
During the logo development process, I explored a wide range of stylistic directions, each with its own mood and focus. I employed techniques like hand lettering and illustration, creating solutions that ranged from edgy and modern to playful and fun. Once I had concrete solutions that WM CEO Bill Cramer and I were confident in, we called a meeting with our entire team where I presented my creations and gathered feedback from our amazing staff members. While I certainly have my own understanding of Wonderful Machine, listening to other people who work within the brand each day and have a unique understanding of it was extremely valuable. We continued to refine and narrow down the solutions until one logo emerged as the clear winner.
While the other logo directions each had merits of their own, this solution is both sophisticated and utilitarian—friendly and professional. It reads well at a small size (as every logo should), and is extremely versatile with vertical and horizontal orientations to be used throughout the brand. The mark is iconic—alluding to a location pin icon, a “W” dropcap, a shining idea and even the dial from a machine. We knew that this direction wouldn’t just look good—it would be memorable and would build lasting brand recognition with clients and photographers alike.
Next I dove into color exploration. I drew up a few options, but we all immediately fell in love with the navy, gold and teal palette you see before you today. It balances sophistication and professionalism, while adding fun and interest with subtle teal accents. Our new logo is the culmination of our brand essence, and perfectly embodies our tagline “find what you’re looking for,” which I hand lettered to accompany it for an extra pop of personality.
With our new logo and palette established, we turned our attention to our audiences and the architecture of the Wonderful Machine brand. After all, a brand is much more than a logo and some spiffy colors. During the fledgling years of WM, our exclusive focus was meeting the needs of our photographers. However, as we’ve grown and evolved over the years, we’ve come to realize that when we build relationships with our clients and meet their needs, we are in turn better able to serve our photographers. On our old site this translated into having two separate about pages—How We Help Photographers and How We Help Clients. We were attempting to split our attention so evenly between our audiences and provide so much information to each that it actually made our site confusing and difficult to navigate.
We recognized the issue, and that we needed to be more clear with who we were addressing, when and where. In order to clarify our audiences and focus within the brand, I created a comprehensive set of icons that are both fun and informative. Our new set of primary icons includes an icon for photographer-facing content (which is literally the photographer-facing side of a camera) and three icons to represent our core client services—the photographer search, shoot production and stock requests. You’ll notice that the rays from our logo also make their way into this set, and show up throughout the iconography of our new brand identity.
We wouldn’t be Wonderful Machine without our curated network of member photographers all over the world and the amazing images they create. We do our best to bring them as much value as we can, and the benefits of membership has grown into an impressively long list. A list like that can be a lot to take in, so I decided to create a set of icons that bring our member benefits to life. Any opportunity to communicate a large amount of information in a graphic way makes the content easier and more fun to digest. You can see these icons in action on our About Membership page.
Seamless patterns are every designer’s dream—they’re a joy to make and even more fun to implement. With the comprehensive set of icons I’ve created in the new brand, I couldn’t resist creating a corresponding pattern for us to use. You’ll see this employed throughout our new brand and marketing efforts; one more graphic asset that brings Wonderful Machine to life.
Lastly, we can’t forget our photographer consulting services! Though a relatively recent addition to Wonderful Machine, our consulting services have become irreplaceable to both member and non-member photographers alike. We have six consulting departments: Photo Editing, Design, Publicity, Marketing, Estimating and Production. Our talented team members are constantly working with photographers in each of these areas to help hone their branding and marketing efforts. I created an icon to represent each department, and while each one is unique, the color, form and line weights allow them to operate as a cohesive set.
In addition to the graphic elements within the new brand, I created a complete set of brand guidelines covering everything from our mission and brand tone of voice, to our typography and usage guidelines. I designed a stationery suite for us, as well as a template for our monthly Print Mailers. Our designer Samantha McCafferty pitched in by creating templates for our email promotions, member badges, social media and even a fun set of holiday icons. She also translated our new logo into a new brand swag, which includes mugs and t-shirts (so far).
We first found Sparkbox—a web design and development company based in Dayton, Ohio—through Typefight, one of their online passion projects. Based on that project, I reached out to them way back in February, 2014 as a contender for developing our new site. That’s when we first discovered that the Sparkbox team doesn’t just make websites. They are industry leaders when it comes to responsive web design and have even created a series of workshops dedicated to educating others on building a better web, one website at a time. This instilled the confidence in us that Sparkbox was up to the task, and we’ve been consistently impressed with its employees, ideas and performance ever since. We began the process with a content audit where we evaluated each page of our existing site, which of our audiences that information was targeted toward, and whether that information or its location needed to be reconsidered.
From that point on, they worked with us to redefine the Wonderful Machine web experience from the ground up. Their team brought our vision to life on the photographer search, making it intuitive and practically addictive to use. They helped us distinguish our client-facing content from photographer-facing content, giving our photographers a dedicated portal of information just for them. They also helped us integrate a password-protected section into that portal so we can better provide exclusive content and additional value for our member photographers. On top of all that, they built our new site responsively, so that the look and experience are seamless, no matter what screen size you’re viewing it on.
Sparkbox asked the right questions to help us find the right answers. Throughout our redesign, they earned our trust and consistently helped us find innovative solutions that we couldn’t have conceived alone. I’ve been working with them directly for the last year, and not only have they helped us solve our problems beautifully and create a stunning new site, they’ve taught us so much along the way. Collaborating with Sparkbox on our new site has been educational, empowering and downright fun. We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with their team to further enhance your web experience and to always helping you Find What You’re Looking For.
It’s been a long journey. Our new identity and website have been a year in the making—a year full of tough questions, bold decisions and a hearty helping of collaboration. We’re infinitely thrilled to share our new look with you now.