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Cre­at­ing a time­less brand iden­ti­ty in an indus­try that’s only just get­ting started

Case Study

Ryan Tay­lor & Elliot Anderson

We first met Scott Mill­ward — founder and own­er of Voir — back in the sum­mer of 2021. Bare­ly a year ago, but my god, does time feel so mal­leable right now.

His sto­ry is quite remark­able. At the ten­der age of twen­ty-now-you’re-just-mak­ing-me-feel-old, Scott has already found­ed a fash­ion brand, worked for some top firms as their mar­ket­ing lead, and has now found­ed a per­son­al brand­ing agency, to meet the ris­ing demand of match­ing busi­ness­es with their cus­tomers in ever more online ways.

Scott is an inter­est­ing fel­low. He’s a con­tem­pla­tor. He’s qui­et­ly con­fi­dent. And, he doesn’t shout and scream and dance around like many mar­keters. In fact, he’s the antithe­sis of what you’d expect from a guy with so much expe­ri­ence in the industry.

Long­time fol­low­ers of Umlaut will know we’re all about the left field. So, that folks, is why we couldn’t wait to work with him. We want­ed to know more about Scott and how we could sup­port trans­lat­ing his ideas into a brand that would ele­vate his com­pa­ny beyond the gener­ic mar­ket­ing agen­cies we all (love to) hate.

Cre­at­ing a brand strat­e­gy for an entire­ly new industry

Unless you’ve been hid­ing under a rock for the last 5 years, you’ll know that LinkedIn is pret­ty big. Like mas­sive. And, much like what hap­pened to Insta­gram when the nor­mals found out about that, it has become lit­tered with guff. We haven’t quite got to the don’t for­get to like and sub­scribe’ era yet, but we aren’t far off.

So, when Scott came to us with an idea to set up a per­son­al brand­ing agency — one that coach­es busi­ness lead­ers to nav­i­gate this quag­mire to reach new clients in an authen­tic and con­sid­ered way — we saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty to look at this indus­try a lit­tle differently.

The return on invest­ment is there for the tak­ing, and giv­en its new­ness, agen­cies like Voir are here to help make us sense of it all.

You see, per­son­al brand­ing’ is a mis­nomer at best and out­right asi­nine at worst. Much like graph­ic design­er’, it’s total­ly mean­ing­less. Part sales, part mar­ket­ing, part brand­ing, the basic idea behind per­son­al brand­ing is that you con­scious­ly share your­self with the world in the hope of cre­at­ing and influ­enc­ing pub­lic per­cep­tion of you and your business.

Gen­er­al­ly con­duct­ed via social media plat­forms such as LinkedIn, it’s con­duct­ed in a way that demon­strates authen­tic­i­ty, val­ues, and what makes you and your busi­ness tick.

The return on invest­ment is there for the tak­ing, and giv­en its new­ness, agen­cies like Voir are here to help make us sense of it all.

But, as with any­thing relat­ed to social media, it’s already attract­ing vary­ing lev­els of qual­i­ty, start­ing with those like Scott that care deeply about this stuff, to ever-increas­ing lev­els of pre­tenders and char­la­tans. In many ways, the indus­try is a vic­tim of its success.

To that end, what­ev­er brand strat­e­gy we cre­at­ed, need­ed to demon­strate Voir’s integri­ty and pro­fes­sion­al­ism above all else. We couldn’t wait to meet the challenge.

Ele­vat­ing your brand above the wannabes and the hang­ers on

Ulti­mate­ly, Scott want­ed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate Voir, to move it above the mias­ma of new­bies who have had one viral post and now think they know all there is to know about social media. He couldn’t lean on the tropes of tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing agen­cies either, with their used car sales­man pat­ter and wild­ly inflat­ed sense of self; that just isn’t what the world responds to any more.

As we’ve said already, Scott isn’t either of those things. He has a vision and a pas­sion for what he does. He can also back up his claims with real-world successes.

I love the thing I do, I just hate the way it’s done.’

And that, right from the begin­ning, was the key to solv­ing this prob­lem. We knew that the best way to attract high cal­i­bre clients would be to lean heav­i­ly into attrib­ut­es and values.

Some would think this is an insur­mount­able task, that we’re swim­ming against the tide, but the clients we work with reg­u­lar­ly have this exact feel­ing about their indus­try, indeed we think the same about our own. In a nut­shell: I love the thing I do, I just hate the way it’s done.’

Voir couldn’t be more up our alley if it tried.

A user-cen­tred brand iden­ti­ty for a peo­ple-focused business

We took an ear­ly deci­sion in devel­op­ing Voir’s brand strat­e­gy to down­play the num­bers and the memes, the brava­do and the bull­shit, and instead focus on the val­ues and the user expe­ri­ence. This indus­try is sup­pos­ed­ly about help­ing oth­ers find their voice, so it felt disin­gen­u­ous to cre­ate a brand that navel-gazed.

We also want­ed to bring to the fore the bespoke method­ol­o­gy that Scott uses with each of his clients. Scott’s belief is that per­son­al brand­ing is a longterm com­mit­ment to a poten­tial­ly ever­last­ing solu­tion, not a quick fix. With Voir, you learn how to do this thing your­self. With Voir, you lit­er­al­ly have Scott on hand to guide you into this new world and make your mark with your peers.

It’s a whol­ly dif­fer­ent approach, which we believed deserved a whol­ly dif­fer­ent brand strategy.

We turned to tried and test­ed design the­o­ry, the arche­typ­al back­bone of our indus­try, to pro­vide solu­tions for a time­less brand.

But let’s not get too ahead of our­selves. That doesn’t mean the visu­al iden­ti­ty — which is, let’s face it, the cor­ner­stone of brand­ing — is in any way less impor­tant. In fact, we’d say the opposite.

So, we set to work cre­at­ing brand­ing that had imme­di­ate visu­al appeal, felt unclut­tered and dis­tinc­tive, that was time­less and acces­si­ble, and that spoke clear­ly to the client.

Fol­low­ing the lat­est trends was nev­er going to be the right solu­tion here. We had to be more con­sid­ered, more thought­ful. We turned to tried and test­ed design the­o­ry, the arche­typ­al back­bone of our indus­try, to pro­vide solu­tions for a time­less brand.

The result is an approach­able and engag­ing visu­al iden­ti­ty that is clean, under­stat­ed, and intu­itive. It’s also easy to under­stand. Dieter Rams, the Grand­fa­ther of Design, invent­ed the 10 prin­ci­ples of good design and we worked hard to ensure they were invoked through­out the brand iden­ti­ty. After all, design for the sake of design isn’t design at all.

Which is why every ele­ment of Voir’s brand iden­ti­ty has pur­pose. Noth­ing is extra­ne­ous or improp­er. It’s mov­ing the indus­try on. It’s use­ful and infor­ma­tive. It isn’t obnox­ious or over­bear­ing. It’s truth­ful and direct.

It is also a brand iden­ti­ty that uses colour the­o­ry to its full potential.

The pri­ma­ry palette con­sists of unc­tu­ous blues, glo­ri­ous rose golds, and sump­tu­ous yel­lows. The website’s user jour­ney pro­gress­es in colour gra­da­tions to pro­vide a sense of move­ment for the vis­i­tor, as if you’re achiev­ing some­thing sim­ply by read­ing. We used yel­low to denote suc­cess, results, and end­points, or areas where user inter­ac­tion can take place. We employed rose gold to sign­post alter­na­tives and rec­om­men­da­tions. We used block colours and sub­tle gra­di­ents, care­ful­ly placed drop shad­ows and full-colour ani­ma­tions, all in an effort to cre­ate an expe­ri­ence worth spend­ing some time with.

Giv­en this is a new indus­try, we knew we need­ed to define clear­ly and sim­ply Voir’s ser­vice propo­si­tion. For exam­ple, with the home­page of the web­site, we cre­at­ed a sim­ple yet infor­ma­tive user jour­ney that method­i­cal­ly out­lines Voir’s process.

It also serves the pur­pose of putting off the wrong kind of client. Want some­body to pump the num­bers? Look else­where. Want some­body to promise you the moon and nev­er deliv­er? Look else­where. Don’t want to pay for a qual­i­ty ser­vice? Look elsewhere.

In choos­ing a pri­ma­ry type­face, we knew it need­ed to project mod­ernism and sim­plic­i­ty, but also pro­fes­sion­al­ism and sophis­ti­ca­tion, as well as work well in both dig­i­tal and print settings.

We tri­alled over 150 type­faces before land­ing on the ever so resplen­dent Neue Haas Uni­ca. The sto­ry behind this type­face is a whole the­sis in its own right. Briefly, it was invent­ed to bring the clas­sics, such as Hel­veti­ca and Univers, into the mod­ern age, with a fresh and evoca­tive dig­i­tal fin­ish. It was cre­at­ed by a stel­lar trip­tych of typog­ra­phers who have con­sid­er­able respect for the his­to­ry of their craft, but were itch­ing to add new­ness and imag­i­na­tion of their own. It’s a sto­ry of transformation.

Brand­ing is as much about how some­thing sounds and feels as how it looks.

Noth­ing could have been more per­fect for Voir.

We com­ple­ment­ed the colour palette and typog­ra­phy with an array of bespoke graph­ics that are per­fect in sta­t­ic, but real­ly come into their own when ani­mat­ed. They fur­ther sign­post Voir’s process and its brand val­ues, but also bring a lev­el of fun and dynamism to the dig­i­tal aspects of the brand. Sub­tle line rules, mod­ern iconog­ra­phy, and a com­plete range of micro-inter­ac­tions dot­ted through­out the user inter­face, round out a brand kit that sings when it needs to, but moves out of the way when it doesn’t.

Beyond visu­als, we looked at tone — brand­ing is as much about how some­thing sounds and feels as how it looks.

With Scott’s help, we cre­at­ed a tone of voice for Voir that is not over­bear­ing like that employed by its peers. It doesn’t talk about itself, which is the irony of so many mar­ket­ing firms. Instead, like the visu­al aspects of the brand­ing, it’s user-cen­tred, and even pokes fun at itself in places, pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary lev­el of humour you get from work­ing with Voir. It feels ground­ed, self-aware, and demon­stra­tive of a deep love for craft.

Ulti­mate­ly, the tone of voice is about attract­ing the kinds of clients that Scott wants to work with, on a lev­el that sim­ply doesn’t exist yet in this indus­try. All in all, it’s a pre­mi­um brand iden­ti­ty for a pre­mi­um per­son­al brand­ing agency.

And we’re only just get­ting started…

Brand­ing that con­verts prospects into clients

What we learnt from work­ing on this project is that there are two types of pur­vey­ors of per­son­al branding.

There are those that give all their time to the num­bers, to push­ing out con­tent, and to buy­ing into the notion that likes, shares, and views are a form of social currency.

And then there’s Scott. He sees the val­ue in the num­bers, but he knows they’re the con­duit, not the endgame.

Yes, he’s a mar­keter. Yes, Voir is a mar­ket­ing agency. But both are tread­ing a path to matu­ri­ty, not van­i­ty met­rics. It’s a plea­sure to behold.

This project has been — and con­tin­ues to be — a true labour of love for our team at Umlaut. It is hum­bling to see real-world changes to how Scott does busi­ness as a direct result from the brand­ing we have created.

Com­ments on the visu­al iden­ti­ty cen­tre around cred­i­bil­i­ty, direc­tion, and one that isn’t scared of speak­ing a whole new lan­guage, even if that means zig­ging while oth­ers zag.

For a new com­pa­ny in a new indus­try, this speed of pro­gres­sion is prac­ti­cal­ly unheard of. We couldn’t be hap­pi­er to have helped make that happen.

And, what’s prob­a­bly most inter­est­ing is that Voir is yet anoth­er exam­ple of a client who came to us specif­i­cal­ly because we share the same out­look of being just left-of-cen­tre enough to bring some­thing fresh to the world.

You could say it was a per­fect match.

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