Uliving rebrand (2014)

That time we pitched a rebrand to a multinational... and won!

Published , updated by Richard GoodwinFiled under Illustration

Uliving is a joint venture between Derwent and Bouygues, a French construction group operating in over 90 countries. The brand needed a bit of a refresh, and some work had already begun.  Somehow Steve and I got involved, I think purely to cast an eye over what had been produced so far.

Logo design

The original logo was a square border with a rainbow fade all around it, and text in the middle.  This was a bit busy and didn't really work on anything other than full colour printing - you certainly couldn't do a simple mono version. The proposed new logos ranged from either "not quite as fadey" to "let's put an entire city in a logo".  That and an overly specific topography for a new website (no real content, just the list of pages) was basically the rebrand.

Perhaps we didn't want to go back and say "this isn't great, guys", or perhaps we just thought "pah, we can do better than that!" but jump cut to where we're trying to design logos.  Steve has previous here, me not so much, but I'm "helping" by trying to create something too.  Eventually I come up with the germ of an idea where there's a bit of building 3D-ness happening, and Steve is reasonably interested.  The logo is sort of OK-ish, but it's just a U shape and doesn't really do enough to ID the company.  After trying to add text across it, Steve goes home with some thinking to do.

Steve comes back the next morning with a fully realised logo, colour scheme and rationale.  Just smashed it out overnight.  I'm not sure if I inspired a bit of the 3D-ness, or whether he just needed to get some peace and quiet (and a few beers) to get on with things himself, but I'm totally claiming at least a tiny percentage of the result!


Social media avatar

The bit I'm totally claiming is the social media avatar.  At some point the logo went off for approval, and was shown to some fancy design studio they had on retainer in London.  Apparently the designers were a bit sniffy, not because it wasn't their logo of course, but because it "wouldn't work for social media" due to being long and thin.

They couldn't figure out how to make it work, but this is is the whole conversation where we came up with the social media logo.  It is 100% word for word*
* as far as I can remember after five years

"They say it won't work Rich.  It's too long and thin."
"Bullshit.  The interesting parts of the logo are two sticky-uppy bits.  The U has two sticky-uppy bits.  You just take those from there and stick them on the U".
"You can't do that!"
"Why not?"
"Because no-one does that with a logo.  Where's the precedent?"
"Since when did we start caring about that?"

I dragged him to my screen and made a crude version of what it would look like.  And suddenly he sees it will work, runs off to his own computer and produces the final version there and then. I remember this moment because it's probably the only time I've ever been right when it comes to non-web design!  But it says quite a bit about how we work together - if one of us feels strongly enough, and can make a convincing argument, then the other person will listen.

Anyway, five years later, this logo is still in use as the Uliving social media avatar.

The pitch

We still had to actually present the rebrand - the logo, the initial style guide, and how it all fitted in to the company ethos - but we didn't exactly have a lot of time to prepare.  I remember us basically having two days to produce something to take in to the pitch, so Steve was handling the technical stuff and I was producing mock-ups of how the logo would look in various use cases.

I spent my dinner break wandering down to the Derby County ground and taking photos to stitch into a panorama with a mocked-up advert on a screen out front.  I also produced some crude pics of a rebranded hoarding, a big back lit sign behind reception desk, frosted glass, even splashed the logo across a footballer's jersey.  Then I had to put our collective work in to a PowerPoint presentation, which, as I'd never created a PowerPoint deck before, maybe I went a bit overboard with fades and rostrum camera moves.  A bit like this in fact:

It worked!  The feedback was that they'd not seen such a polished pitch before (which mades me proud, and slightly puzzled what everyone else was playing at).  But then again maybe some people are easily pleased/confused; I can remember someone walking past my desk and asking when we'd had an advert running on the football ground ("No, see, it's just a mock-up, it's just a picture that I drew some shadows over...") and Steve got asked to stop making business card holders because they didn't need any ("No, see, it's just a mock-up...").

Tease and reveal

The reveal was going to be at the cubo show which I think Uliving was sponsoring that year.  We decided to throw a microsite online to get the hype train running, but obviously that couldn't include the new logo ahead of the show.  So Steve decided that we should drape the logo in cloth like a car at a motor show - except of course the logo only existed in a computer, so someone had to create a virtual cloth-draped logo.  I gave it a half-hearted go but Steve did not like the result, so he went away, found a photo of something draped in a white cloth, and said "no, like this!"

So yeah, I draped a cloth over a logo that didn't really exist.  I had to figure out where it'd sag under its own weight at the top, and even add subtle little dark patches so it looked like the cut out parts of the letters were showing through.

There was a countdown timer, and I think the logo was supposed to change to the undraped version timed to the reveal onstage, but I think I had to give it a nudge. We were being a bit too clever - but manual override is always an option!

I wasn't at the show, but I do know there was branded merch on the stand (and for some reason, Wii Tennis) - so here's a photo of the logo on a polo shirt.

There's more I could say about that show, but let's just put it this way: if a certain other member of the team not named here had reacted differently when propositioned at the exhibitors' party that night, maybe we'd all be sitting on our yachts right now Grin emoji But he didn't, so let's move on to the toast photo instead.

Further work

So this is a thing that happened.  It's not technically part of the initial rebrand, but I love this photo too much not to share it.

We literally spent the morning making toast and cutting several logos out of real butter for a photo shoot - I think the idea was that that something something "is our bread and butter" (found the advert - "Groundbreaking deals are...").  And Steve wonders why he's the King of Strange Requests (although I can't rule out the possibility that this idea was a joint effort).

We couldn't get the butter to melt just right on command, but a combination of shots and some Photoshop trickery got the job done.

Further reading