Before I joined SocialCops, I was working for myself as a freelance designer. Letting go of my independence to join a startup was an intimidating leap. Since I had no experience with number crunching, I thought my biggest challenge would be entering this data-driven world. But I actually had a more basic challenge — figuring out exactly what SocialCops does.
Before I joined, I did my research about the company. On my first day, I walked into SocialCops with three key pieces of information:
- SocialCops is a data company.
- It creates software products.
- It uses these products to drive positive social and economic change.
However, I quickly realized there was so much more I didn’t understand.
- How is SocialCops different from other data companies?
- What do its products do?
- How does it actually drive social and economic change?
I thought that maybe I didn’t understand everything because I didn’t have a data background and didn’t understand most of the technology jargon thrown my way.
But this wasn’t just about my understanding of the company. It was about that feeling or idea that pops into your head when you think about a company. SocialCops had a logo and website, yes, but it was hard to grasp the idea of SocialCops without investing lots of time into learning about each product and case study.
It gradually became clear that we were missing a cohesive brand to communicate our mission. And with this realization, we began the year-long journey of our brand refresh.
Understanding our purpose
Before we could go about creating a new brand, it was important to find out what already existed. So we started by questioning everything.
We started with difficult existential questions like “Why do we exist?”, then we moved to even harder questions about the future like “What do we believe about the future of SocialCops? How will we achieve our goals?”. We even posed fun questions like “If each of our products was a person, what job would it have at SocialCops?”
The answers were not always clear, but one unified idea emerged — a goal to empower people with the tools they need to solve complex problems.
Mapping internal perceptions
Next, we wanted to get a sense of what our team currently felt about SocialCops. Since complex explanations were all anyone could offer earlier, we limited people to one-word answers. The result was a sort of mind map.
There were a few common themes that everyone agreed on — simplicity, innovation, transparency, purpose, and more. These were very helpful in creating the new core brand values that later drove our brand refresh.
Exploring external perceptions
Since we used Intercom (a live chat service) on our website, we had thousands of stored conversations between visitors and our team. These messages were easy to access, but incredibly difficult to go through. We ended up going through all the messages manually.
We wanted to find out how external people perceived us, what confused people about us and our products, and why people came to our website in the first place. This helped us find out what was most important to our users and what they were looking for in our products.
Choosing our brand type
With lots of information about what people currently thought about us, we set out to define how we wanted people to think about us in the future. We started with what sort of brand we want to be, using an adapted form of eswStorylab’s 12 brand types.
We showed this chart to people in our team and asked what categories fit best with our brand. After we eliminated obvious misfits like The Seducer, it quickly became clear that The Imagineer and The Pioneer resonated most with the team.
Both brand types go to the heart of why we think we’re not just another tech or data company.
The Imagineer reflects the fact that we’re not just trying to build data products — we’re imagining and creating a better way to use data for important decisions, one that takes a traditionally tedious, slow process and makes it infinitely more effective and engaging.
On the other hand, the Pioneer reflects the fact that we are ambitious in choosing the problems we work on and the solutions we build. We don’t just pick any data problem — we try to pick the most challenging, important problems that no one else can figure out. Then we build solutions that thrive under even the toughest conditions and can adapt to solve whatever problems arise in the future.
Creating brand values
Agreeing on our brand types was good, but how could we actually put these into action? We realized we needed brand values — actionable feelings or ideas that people should get from our brand.
We started by listing dozens of words and ideas that we felt reflected each trait. For example, we added words like “creativity”, “new”, “innovation”, and “originality” to The Imagineer. After reaching critical mass, we started paring down this list. We first eliminated the jargon (“cutting edge” and “visionary” got tossed out within the first minute), then we questioned every word. Did “originality” really reflect the company we wanted to build, or was “creativity” more accurate? How was each of those words used in everyday life? Did any words hold unexpected connotations or hidden meanings?
After several iterations, we ended up with 5 brand values: imagination, innovation, boldness, resilience, and purpose.
Since it would be impossible for a single piece of writing or design to show every brand value, we divided our brand values between the products on our platform. Each of our products already had its own personality and purpose, which neatly aligned with our new values.
For example, Collect (our Android-based data collection tool) is designed to be incredibly flexible and adaptive to every sector or type of data collection exercise, yet it is also optimized for the toughest conditions — being used by people who had never touched a smartphone before to collect data in places with no internet or infrastructure. This combination of robustness and flexibility is the textbook definition of resilience.
We associated Access with boldness, since its uniqueness comes from the sheer number of data points and sources across every sector. Transform was tied to innovation, since it was built to solve data problems that no other data cleaning tool in the world could handle. And Visualize was tied to imagination, since it aims to transform dry data tables into a beautiful, engaging dive into important insights and trends. Purpose was left unassigned since our purpose drives everything we do.
These values immediately became helpful in building the rest of our brand. When writing new content or building a new design, we could quickly check the result against the relevant brand value. When writing a tagline for Collect, we asked if it was showing resilience. When building a case study for Access, we checked that it was emphasizing the scale of that project. Having a single value for each piece of the company made it easy to keep everyone on the same page and do quick checks if we were on the right track.
Creating the logo
With the idea of our brand in place, we marched on to create a new logo — one that could quickly convey why we existed and would help to tie our diverse products together.
We first worked on multiple variations of the letter “S” placed in the realm of data and technology. As we created each new logo option (believe me, there were a lot of them), we discussed it with the team. But it seemed like the team had strong but contradictory associations with every option.
We took a step back and thought about what we had learned so far.
Our quest so far had revealed something very crucial to our core purpose. Traditionally, most data exists in chaotic systems. One of our goals is to bring order to this chaos so that the user can focus on what is most important in making a decision. This idea of drowning out all unnecessary peripheral noise and focusing on the most important piece of the puzzle resounded with everyone.
We started searching for a new visual, something that would help us emphasize this focus on what’s most important. We immediately came upon a symbol that worked well in this context — a frame.
The frame symbolizes how we help people focus on the most important pieces of information — the data that is useful. Instead of keeping the frame as one solid line, we opened it up to make it flexible and adaptive, just like our platform.
And so we settled on our new logo…
…and we translated the logo’s key visual element — the frame — across the products on our platform. We also made short versions of each logo since our site and products have to work on various devices and screen sizes.
We are building a new visual language for our brand, one that makes everything we do unified and easy to understand, and this logo is the starting step towards that goal. Check out our new website to see how it’s all coming together!