We’re dedicating the month of October to transformation. Because we’re creative types, each person’s interpretation of transformation might take its own shape. Next month will mark 15 years since we received the seal of incorporation and began the Trampoline story.
When we incorporated in 2003 we had two full-time employees; today we have 18. Our specialty was branding when we started, fifteen years later destination marketing is our sweet spot. That said, every new brand that comes into the shop is lunged at like a tray of gooey-fresh-from-the-oven-chocolate-chip-cookies.
There was a time when we thought we had to change who we were to make it, turns out the most important asset has always been who we are. This isn’t to say that we haven’t had to learn new things or make adjustments, because we have. What I mean is that the partners who started this agency made it because we had skills that complemented one another.
Numbers, design, strategy, and language—threaded together with a fondness for solving problems. These elements carried us from our first client to our current professional relationships. It’s these same strengths that have helped drive our growth. Looking back there are visible periods of expansion, as well as times that we’ll always remember with a wipe of the brow. There comes a time when you have to reevaluate the business plan, not just to update it, but to make sure it reflects who you are and where you want to go.
More significant than the influence digital had to print or that social media had to communication, employee additions have demanded the most transformation.
Today the reality is that we’re having a lot more of the meetings we used to scoff at, “Another meeting? Just get it done.” We’re talking about objectives and inviting conversations about leveraging individual strengths. I watch headlines publish that I didn’t write, our Art Directors approve projects they otherwise would have designed. We don’t sit in on every meeting, and we don’t take every job because we’re doing what makes the most sense for the entire team.
A few weeks ago, everyone in the office selected their favorite completed projects and we had them printed. Our impetus for doing so was a desire to make the studio represent the people here. Watching the enthusiast suggestions was unlike anything I’ve experienced.
Some days I catch myself looking at the office, the workspaces decorated with snapshots of pets, children’s handprints, and souvenirs from vacations people have taken and I am moved to silence. We started a business for us, but we have built a life for many more. It’s an honor and a responsibility.
Here’s to another 15.
From the Designer:
Creating a brand can often be an exercise in answering questions. What does the client see? What do we, the designer believe will best represent what they are offering? How does what we envision work with what the client envisions? Who is the audience and what will they expect? What will draw the viewer in? What will push them away?
When executing a rebrand, the list goes on. What is our client’s current perception? What about their current logo contributed to that perception? What about that perception do they want to change? How do we move in the right direction?
In the case of the Washington County Economic Opportunity Council, an organization providing many resources both in and outside Washington County, from career assistance to educational resources to a food pantry, our objective seemed clear. They needed to expand in many ways, but first, their name needed to be shortened. We needed to make it clear their services were available to more than residents of Washington County. We needed to broaden the scope of their services beyond the titular ‘Economic.’ We needed to welcome those who felt they needed their services and not just cater to those who were directed there.
When we began work on this project, the client acknowledged that there was confusion being caused by their current brand. It seemed they were an agency of the Washington County government and the consistent use of ‘EOC’ was causing even more confusion than its source, ‘Economic Opportunity Council.’ We wanted to land on a name that was both more direct and more inviting for people in need of their services and potential donors/corporate partners alike. In addition to the naming, they wanted to leave behind their old mark, a busy, low-resolution file depicting the county with its seal and the acronym nested inside, and shift towards a more professional appearance.
After a ‘name-storming’ session or two ‘L.E.A.P.’ was decided upon, an acronym standing for “Learning. Employment. Assistance. Partnership.” and doubling as an accessible action verb. This name allowed us to position them as a serious and professional organization while also setting up a visual system, that unlike its predecessor, could encompass all that they do.
We started by focusing on a letter treatment with an abstract mark or none at all. While facing spacing issues caused by the periods in the acronym, the solution of using them as the signal art presented itself. Eventually, we landed on a solution where the letters were encircled in colored, lightly overlapping circles. This would allow L.E.A.P. to offer a bright and approachable look, while further establishing the division and overlap of their services. The rings related color to a subsection of services, something that would go on to be used across many print materials and organizational pieces. The transparent overlaps illustrate the Venn diagram of those services and spiritually represents the connection between the communities and people they serve.
A valuable insight came during our final round of presentation. Up until that point, the colors were saturated, but far from bright, and the spheres were perfectly symmetrical. The feedback was along the lines of, “These are too serious. We need it not to feel too heavy. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable coming to us.” This note was the perfect example of the question we hadn’t asked that pushed us one step further.
They were right. This wasn’t a brand about the severe nature of the problems that the organization was trying to resolve. This was about people. We brightened up the colors to a warm and welcoming family and added a loose, organic touch to the circles to echo that idea.
This mark is a clear and conversational identity for their organization and a catch-all for the multitude of services they offer and people they serve.
From the Account Manager:
I jumped into my first rebrand at Trampoline with the L.E.A.P. project. It was an incredible immersion into Trampoline, rebranding, and the process of working with a client with multiple layers of decision making. As an account manager, one of the things I focus on is client satisfaction, in this case my clients were the administrative team at L.E.A.P., the Head Start staff, and leadership, the Board of Directors, the current and past customers of L.E.A.P. services, as well as the communities within Washington County that they serve. That’s a lot of layers!
Rob talks about the design process in his post, I hope to shed light on the other side of the equation, which are the goals and objectives of the various stakeholders and indeed forecasting how we can design and strategize in a way that makes people feel seen and heard. My experience prepared me for people to be nervous and resistant to change. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this group had done the work ahead of the project. Everyone was receptive, trusting, and excited.
As the first start-to-finish transformative project at what was to me a new job, L.E.A.P. helped me see that my non-design role is an integral part of the big picture. We established mid-way through that these groups were not going to work effectively through email.
We took great pains to ensure that people got face-time with us. We visited Head Start, attended various committee meetings, and generally made ourselves available. Even when people told us the idea of a name change was intimidating, they offered up promises to go for it. It was actually something we remarked on as L.E.A.P. rose to the surface from the potential names.
This organization and its people are all about making things happen. The Head Start educators innovate with materials and mindsets, the L.E.A.P. administrators navigate grant funding and bootstrapping aspects of the job, and the various committees volunteer their time with great excitement. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there were times when I thought they’d say, “It’s too much. We can’t.”
They met each presentation with thoughtful consideration, honest feedback, and valuable input. One of my favorite memories might be when they took turns “answering the phone” with potential names. And yes, some names got the ax because they couldn’t imagine saying them to a caller or to a colleague in an elevator.
Over the coming months, we’ll be helping L.E.A.P. launch, I have no doubt that they will do it with the same passion that they’ve had, but with a new spring in their step and twinkle in their eyes.
Of all the rebrands I’ve been involved with at Trampoline, Capital Roots holds a special place on the list.
The partnership between Trampoline and Capital Roots began in 2014, when Executive Director Amy Klein reached out to rebrand an organization then known as Capital District Community Gardens. They had outgrown the name, which dated back to its formation in 1975 as a small collection of community gardens.
I was new to the Trampoline team. With just a couple of months under my belt, I was still timid when it came to speaking my mind in a room full of more seasoned designers. Nonetheless, the prospect of renaming such a great organization was something I was eager to be involved in.
We began with a process we call “namestorming,” where we gather around a whiteboard, throw out names and see what sticks. All the while we vet names to be sure there’s no competing trademarks.
The session produced a list of 50 names. We narrowed it down to seven that we sent to the client. None of them quite hit the mark, so went back to the drawing board. Then, a breakthrough: “What about Capital Roots?”
Eyes lit up. Someone ran to a computer and did a Google search. The name was free and clear of trademarks and patents. We pitched it to Amy and she and her team were as excited as we were. We got the green light to begin logo design.
As with renaming, logo development involves a lot of trial and error. Our first concepts were safe and conservative: words inside a badge or geometric shape; clean and legible. I felt that if ever a logo lent itself to an organic, unrefined shape, Capital Roots was it. I started sketching out logos where the “O’s” in “roots” were made of fruits and vegetables: apples, tomatoes, etc. After some lighthearted debate, we ultimately landed on beets. After all, beets are a root vegetable, reaching out as if searching for fertile ground to take hold and grow. The client liked it, too, and—after some fine tuning—it was adopted as their new mark.
Then it was on to creating system of word marks and taglines for the family of 11 programs and services they offer, like the Veggie Mobile food truck, The Produce Project, and the centerpiece of their transformation: the Urban Grow Center, a 12,000 square-foot headquarters and food hub in Troy, NY.
Since the initial rebrand, we’ve worked with Capital Roots on various other projects, including a 40th anniversary mark and, most recently, a case statement piece for Phase II of the Urban Grow Center project.
Maybe it’s because it was one of the first rebrands I worked on, but it remains one of the most memorable. I love seeing how logo has been embraced and implemented by Capital Roots: as vehicle wraps, apparel, tote bags, and even a mosaic mural designed by a local artist and collaboratively installed by the community.
I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this special partnership.