Evolution of a brand, part one: how we reinvented our identity


The Problem

It was some time during the winter of 2016 that we realised that our company, Illicit Web Design, had outgrown its brand. What began as three friends making websites on cheap laptops from our bedrooms had become one of Exeter’s most successful design companies. With this, we were developing some real swagger, and the knowledge that, rather than offering the usual ‘safe pair of hands’ we were creating designs that were essentially daring and different.

The issue here was that our name, logo, and all the supposed signifiers of our company’s identity, had seemingly missed the memo. Having worked hard for five years building our client base and honing our craft, we hadn’t taken enough time out to step back and reflect on what we’d become, and how we were looking to the outside world. Take our old logo – with its friendly bubbles and blue disc emblazoned with the initials ‘IWD’ – the design was starting to look safe and corporate. In a nutshell, it was no longer ‘us’.

But what does ‘us’ mean? To articulate this, you have to go back to the core principles of branding – to identify the values you embody, to define your mission, and then to build a visual language that perfectly crystallises these principles.

Our Mission

With this in mind we formulated a plan to nail our branding. Our first port of call was to think about brands that inspire us, and to find out what made them a success. One of our clients, Will Little, owner of the coffee company We Are Littles was the perfect candidate to talk to face to face. With a background in design, and a brand that was fast becoming a household name, we met with Will, who got us thinking about our mission statement and USP. What was our agenda? What made us different? Sure, we aim to make high quality websites and make our clients happy. But we eventually discovered that, with our backgrounds in punk musicianship, we espoused a collective rebelliousness that aimed to reject safe and ‘humdrum’ design, and to transform the web into a more creative arena. From this, a manifesto was born that could be encapsulated in a single opening statement on our website: ‘Ridding the world of mediocrity, one website at a time’.

Our Identity

The next challenge was to find a way to eloquently tell the world who we were. Step in Tim Burley from Believe In, a creative branding agency from Exeter. Arming us with the system of archetypes as a basis for self identification, he enabled us to view ourselves as the ‘maverick’. As self-trained creatives, we embody the intuitive, cavalier side of the design industry. These personality traits and values can be evidenced in the work we do: careful and considered, yes, but also boundary-pushing, brutally honest and artistically curious.

Now we were ready to turn our discoveries into a new name and logo to complete our brand. See how we did this in Evolution of a brand, part two: how we designed our new identity.