Today's Ranger Snapshot comes from our friends at Octopus Creative. They've been working on redefining their branding process as well as giving their site a refresh. We recently came across the icon work they were doing and wanted to learn more. So we spoke with Octopi James Hobbs about it.
1. We're continually impressed by the work you guys put out. One thing that's really caught our eye is your icon work, and you've done a whole set involving your own branding process. What were the challenges in trying to distill your process into a series of glyphs?
First of all, thanks for the kind words. Iconography is an area that has been a major focus for us recently. We have just redefined our branding process, which gave us the unique opportunity to create some icons for ourselves.
Most of our clients already have a pretty solid understanding of design. However, not all of them fully understand the process that is involved in creating a visual identity from the ground up. Instead of just taking them through each stage, we wanted to help them visualize the process for themselves. We decided to break down our branding process into eight phases (Analyze, Research, Brainstorm, Sketch, Focus, Refine, Explore, Finalize) and designed a corresponding icon for each stage. The glyphs and supporting copy will form the basis for a document that we send to clients when we engage on a project.
The main challenge in the design of these icons was being able to visually represent some of the less tangible phases of the branding process. For example, the "Refine" stage. There were some abstract thoughts before a solution was apparent. In the end, we came up with the concept of a diamond that seemed to reflect the idea of refinement well.
Another difficulty was maintaining simplicity while representing complex ideas. For instance, our initial idea for the "Brainstorm" phase was to depict a whiteboard or mind map – both of which would have resulted in an icon that was too complex. After stripping back the layers, we arrived at a visual as simple and seemingly obvious as a brain.
2. You're also in the middle of a site redesign and we love some of the illustrations you've done for it. What design decisions do you think really work? If you could, what would you do differently?
Thanks! Yes, we are currently redesigning the Octopus Creative website for launch later this summer. The present site has been up for a while now isn’t doing the greatest job of representing how we have evolved as a company. The fact that it only shows about half our current team is a testament to the fact that it’s been on the back burner for a while.
We created a series of nine illustrations to represent the culture and philosophies of Octopus. It was important for us to have the space to create a narrative around each one, so we needed more than a set of icons. In the end, we opted for simple line illustrations with supporting copy in each area of the website.
Our team had a lot of fun working on these, with some lively discussion around the best way to visually represent each concept. While the rocket was an easy choice when talking about launching startups, other ideas were a lot harder to express. We went in circles trying to convey the concept of "Functional Design". After a heavy brainstorm session, we agreed that the most functional designs are found in nature. The nautilus shell was the perfect choice as it also represents the golden ratio.
Specific design decisions like each illustration breaking the top of the bounding circle, and the consistent line weight, allowed us to create a harmonious set out of what are essentially very different concepts. The use of a single color helped to ensure that the illustrations wouldn’t overpower the rest of the content or get in the way of the work we are displaying.
Although, I’m not sure we would have done anything specifically differently with these illustrations, I have always been interested in seeing what they would look like animated – that rocket is just begging to take off!
3.You guys are located in Santa Cruz, CA. How does being so close to the beach and water impact your work? Do you guys ever go for surfing breaks?
Although it’s pretty much a criminal offense in Santa Cruz, I’ll be honest and say that none of us really surf. There are several Octopi that are threatening to learn this year though, so it might not be too long before we don the wetsuits.
The surrounding landscape is a huge source of inspiration for us on a daily basis. We’re lucky enough to be located just a stone’s throw from the Pacific ocean, which helps us balance the digital world with the natural one.
Personally, it’s easy for me lose to motivation and inspiration when I’ve been sitting in front of the screen for a few hours. A design problem will present itself with no apparent solution. Rather than tear my hair out, I’ll jump on the bike and take a ride down the coast for twenty minutes. By the time I get back to the office, the answer will be right in front of me. Breaks like this give my subconscious a chance to consider the problem while my conscious mind takes a break. We support this culture throughout the team, as we truly believe it helps us push out work of the highest quality.
Santa Cruz is a pretty magical place to work as a designer. It’s close enough to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley to work with some amazing companies, but with enough distance to maintain the laid-back atmosphere of a beach town.