The ORCA rebrand
Rebranding a brand agency, the trials and tribulations
Posted on January 21st, 2021 - By James Ewin
It’s amazing what a global pandemic can do to motivate change. This change, in our case, was something we’ve been toiling over for well over 18 months. A change that was long overdue. Our company rebrand.
A rebrand for a branding agency is not too dissimilar to a long drawn-out pleasurable torture… if such a thing even exists. On the one hand, the process is cathartic and inspiring, on the other, it’s painful and frustrating! Or in the words of our Senior Designer, Max: “Branding a branding agency is like finding the perfect pair of jeans"… interpret that as you will. 🤔
As a bunch of creatives who dream big, it can sometimes be difficult to agree on certain things. Give us an exterior challenge any day, we’ll lap that up, savour it and spit out results covered in glitter. But task us with our own brand identity… Ummm, can you give us a couple of years?
Where we have come from
ORCA was founded by two friends, and like many partnerships, there was often a difference in opinion, particularly when it came to the creative direction our brand should take. However, as friends with very different skill sets but a shared mission, we always did a pretty good job at translating our vision. In those early years, before we had honed our structure and processes (never mind our vision and the wider business plan), we created an identity that communicated our message effectively. In a lot of ways, that still stands true, but 9 years on and with hundreds of brands under our belt, we’ve tackled this rebrand with a lot more scrutiny and attention. Perhaps too much in some areas 🤪.
Over the last 9 years of business, we’ve had 4 iterations of our visual identity. More often than not, these have been small adjustments over time to modernise our brand and clarify our messaging. One constancy throughout is that we’ve always been determined that our brand be a reflection of the values and aspirations of us as a business and as a group of individuals, not just the egotistical embodiment of the founder’s personalities. Ok, there may be a little of that, but a visual identity needs to capture every essence of your brand personality, including the wider team; those involved in the fabrication of that shared vision.
As an added complication, this wasn’t just a case of rebranding the same business. Over the last 18 months, ORCA has been undergoing a huge repositioning and restructuring exercise. We are no longer the same agency we were 18 months ago. So much has changed and we feel more confident in our vision, mission and values as a result. For a start, the business is no longer run by two partners - which undoubtedly brings some form of clarity - and with that, we’ve welcomed a few new team members who themselves have very strong opinions for how we should be perceived as an agency. Read more about that here. Secondly, our focus is now creating experiences for challenger brands and ethical and sustainable businesses. As a challenger ourself, we’ve always felt comfortable and at home in this space, and over the years we’ve honed our skillsets and knowledge to become a challenger brand expert. Refining one’s niche is half the challenge.
Refining our goals and position
We began by running a series of workshops with our team. We do it for our own clients so why have we never done it for ourselves? The outcome was equally enlightening and refreshing. Enlightening because it quite quickly became clear that our brand didn’t represent our true voice and personality, and refreshing because as a team we were all on the same page and were desperate to make the same changes!
The creative process
ORCA was built on a foundation of craft. We’ve always been passionate about design in all it’s forms, but particularly about custom typography. Every brand identity we’ve had over the years has started with this, and so we followed the same process this time.
After a substantial research, discovery and mood boarding phase, we began creating a series of hand-drawn letterforms which we then digitalised and began tweaking again and again… and again.
Eventually, we landed on a wordmark that felt right. It was unique and bold, loud and progressive. It suited our new direction and began to form the rest of our brand language. From here we experimented with colour, type, texture, illustration, animation, you name it. The wider creative process has been ongoing for over a year and we’ve fine-tuned our image until we landed at the right result.
Leading with bold oranges and blues, and championing texture in all its forms through the use of expressive, abstract imagery, we developed a visual identity which we can own for many years to come.
A digital partnership
Our new website was a whole other beast. Being the perfectionist we are, we spent hours poring over the minutest details. We wanted a digital presence that felt as bold and confident as our brand values, and that allowed each project to shine. Another first for us was working with a partner agency in the development of our site. Having always done all our development in house, this time we decided to hand it over to our trusted partner, Noughts & Ones, to get a new approach. Having collaborated with Noughts & Ones on a few client projects already, we knew they were the right team for the job. Working with a JAMstack headless CMS solution, we were able to create a super lightweight, fast and environmentally friendly website.
In the past, we've found it hard to know when to stop with our own development projects, and so handing this over to another agency with different skill sets allowed us to take a step back and process it as a typical project. We worked on the sitemap, wireframes and user interface design in one sprint, and then handed over to Noughts & Ones for the build. This experience has lead us to reevaluate how we do things here at ORCA, and if the project fits, we've decided to continue building sites in collaboration with Noughts & Ones so our clients can receive the best of both worlds!
Watch this space.
Although like most companies, we undoubtedly have a tough year ahead of us, we’re really excited to begin this next chapter as a Challenger Agency. For us, 2021 will be all about staying inspired and immersed in our vision, so keep an eye out for some exciting new project drops as well as some playful WIP and unique thought-pieces, fresh out of the ORCA studio 👀.