20th November 2019

The evolution of our brand and website

Marc Swarbrick Thumb

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Marc Swarbrick

Abstrakt Brand Evolution New

It’s true that businesses should refresh their website and brand every now and then to stay current and relevant, perhaps not as frequently as we have in recent times, but bear with me and I’ll explain why!

Start your engines

Lauren has an excellent write up of the evolution of our agency so I’ll be brief about that aspect. However, I’m going to track the changes to our brand and website, pace for pace, with how the business has changed over the years.

Are you along for the ride? Then read on...

As we had virtually no portfolio, our first website was a basic affair and more a point of contact. So we tried to give our own brand a bit more gravitas and see if we could prove that, if we could create a strong brand for ourselves, then we could do it for other people as well. We decided the best thing to do was be brave, get our elbows out and position ourselves alongside other agencies that we admired in Nottingham.

Fast forward three years and we had developed some excellent client relationships and a decent portfolio of brand, digital marketing and print work. Our ethos was to provide an alternative to the regular client/agency relationship, one based on transparency, agility, openness and honesty and as we embraced this more, we acquired bigger clients and continued to evolve long-lasting partnerships with our previous ones. All whilst sticking to our values of over delivering and being a valued partner rather than simply a supplier. We were no longer a scrappy startup so we decided it was time to change and reflect that.

Retrograffica Website

All change

Renaming is one of the biggest changes a business can make and not something to be taken lightly. The thing is, we’d had a lot of feedback that people didn’t understand the name and to be honest, we weren’t sure that we did anymore either! With a heavy leaning towards Swiss design and the feeling that what we actually did was take complex problems and come up with simple solutions (abstractions if you like), we chose the name Abstrakt as the Swedish translation.

We went all in on the Swiss theme with a clean, white, very grid based website and a heavily modified geometric wordmark which really spoke to our style at the time. We used our (then) current personality to lead the brand. Our portfolio was now strong enough to do the talking for us. Everything was set against a black and white backdrop, letting the images of our work really shine and positioning ourselves well and truly among our peers.

Abstrakt Creative co uk

Moving on

It’s now 2015 and we are almost a decade old with 4 logos, a name change and several websites in our wake but we sensed that there was more we could do (also, the two of us had been working together on our own that whole time and were probably going a bit stir-crazy).

Never ones to shy away from a calculated risk, we decided that the only way to go was to get in amongst the pigeons. We upped sticks and moved the agency into the center of Nottingham. We had decided we needed some fresh talent and in the January of 2016, we took on our first full-time team members.

Again, a fresh website and rebrand was undertaken to reflect the dynamic and personality of the people within the agency. As the designer we hired was even more a fan of Swiss design than me, we went even cleaner and simpler, stripping it right back and letting the full screen images of our work sing from the rooftops.

Abstrakt 2016

A digital dilemma

Back when we began, I mentioned that we were short on resources which meant we couldn’t afford to outsource development. I took it upon myself to learn enough web skills to be able to build basic static websites and html emails for smaller local businesses. Those who didn’t need the power of a content management system and wanted to do some cost effective marketing. This was fine for a while but as we acquired bigger clients, they wanted more control over their content and so, we started to develop websites using WordPress. We even moved our own website over to the platform so we could create more content and manage our portfolio more easily, unfortunately that was not the case. After wrangling with it for years and becoming increasingly frustrated with the options, (we had tried pretty much every platform out there and even developed our own at one point), I came across a little known system called Craft CMS. At this time it was still in its relative infancy but the features roadmap looked promising and the guys at Pixel & Tonic seemed to be developing it at a pace.

Following our move into the city, we took the decision that WordPress wasn’t for us anymore and put out feelers for a Craft CMS developer.

As we made our way toward the end of 2016, we were lucky enough to hire two incredibly talented people in Nikki, a digital designer, and Jamie, a developer who had previously worked together. Obviously this meant another new website! We had finally ditched WordPress and our Craft CMS journey had begun. It was now much more user focussed and far easier to manage (and, I’m told, to develop!)

The website was now reflective of our move on to a modern platform and the skills of our two new team members, but something still didn’t feel right…

As we mulled it over and lived with the site for a while, we also grew the team to include Jimi and Lauren (OG not Swarbrick) and expanded our offering to include application development and digital marketing too.

Abstrakt Nikki

It soon became clear that what was niggling us, was the fact that we hadn’t updated our brand to reflect on our newly expanded team. We set about creating a new one to be more representative of our service offering and our new personality with colours being introduced to show off our new vibrant team. At the same time, a daring new website was designed which threw out a lot of preconceptions about what an agency site should look like and pushed the envelope in terms of interactions and user experience. We said it was here to stay but...

The evolution of our brand and website

This really is the last time (for now)

Earlier this year, we took on another designer, Jamie (the Robin) and fairly quickly came to realise that his mind-blowing illustration skills, fresh take on digital design and relaxed personality had added a whole other dimension to our team. This time we decided to take our time and not be reactionary and just push something new out of the door. We set about working on a brand that would reflect our values as a team, as well as our quirkiness as individuals.

The new identity had to be personal and that much was obvious. Everybody at Abstrakt puts their heart and soul into every client relationship and every project we undertake. We needed something unique, interesting and distinctive yet still staying technically proficient. After much hand-wringing and head scratching about what typeface we thought would reflect these values, we came to the conclusion that the only thing that would do would be a signature. Our signature. Something that we could all feel proud of signing our work with. Jamie the Robin and I spent time crafting and iterating the final marque you see today. We got buy-in from the whole team and didn’t rest until everybody was in agreement that it was right, for us.

In tandem with the identity development, our digital team led by Nikki were busy crafting a whole new website experience. After looking at the work we had produced together, it was obvious that we didn’t need to shout about ourselves by splashing colour around and just like that, the black and white backdrop was back!

The development team equally pulled something truly special out of the bag, taking interaction to a whole new level for the user and giving our content managers a beautifully simple and brand new way to keep the website up to date.

So there you have it, I did say you’d have to bear with me while I explained and hopefully now, you will understand the reason we have so many iterations along the way. This brand and digital presence has been a real labour of love by the whole team, from the designers, to content creators and developers, everyone has contributed and has their fingerprints all over it. We hope you like it as much as we do because we’re not changing it again, until we change again…

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