Case Study by Rajinder Sidhu RGD
Organic Horizons is a small organic food distribution company that was looking to target larger retailers to carry its product lines. To reach the right audience, the company asked GJA Communications to re-design its identity and update the website to showcase the company's products.
GJA worked with Organic Horizons previously to design packaging for a few of the company's product lines. This meant the GJA team already had a great deal of insight on the business and an in-depth knowledge of the products.
The main objective was clear from the start: to create a brand/website that would help the organization's sales by reaching large retailers. We needed to create a cohesive system that would essentially turn multiple brands into one parent brand. This was defined during our explorations of the brand architecture, and thinking of the future growth of the brand. We knew that there were multiple product lines being added in the near future, so setting guidelines and setting up the system was key.
Even though there wasn’t much room in the budget for research, we couldn’t leave out any crucial steps in the creative process. We started with a simple Google image search to identify imagery that would best represent the brand. With the goal of keeping Organic Horizons top of mind for retailers making purchasing decisions, we looked for imagery that would appropriately represent what people think 'organic' should look like.
Farmers Market signage, weathered textures and hand-painted type became the building blocks of the design. I started off by sketching out options that explored the hierarchy and relationship between the two words, “Organic” and “Horizons". From a communications perspective, we decided that it was a clearer message if we focused on “Organic”.
The next step was to sketch out the typography. After we selected the type style, I took the sketches into Illustrator and found what fonts would work well as a starting point. I began by sketching some ideas to establish the right feel, and then searched for the font that matched nest. The font I started with was Tango Script Black, to which I made a few adjustments, and then paired it with Slate Pro to get some contrast.
There were also a couple of “accidental” things that happened during these explorations, such as the leaf icon. For historic reasons, I wanted to bring some elements of the old logo into the new one. I noticed the leaf in the negative space of the “O” and made some tweaks to the line work to define it.
Another idea developed while exploring the acronym OH for an icon. I realized we could have some fun with it and turn it into a dynamic tagline: “OH so (Natural)”. This worked to connect the parent brand with the product lines by using different variations: 'OH so Sweet' for the honey, 'OH so Fresh' for the tomatoes etc.
This was the rare situation where designs were approved the first time around. We then created final artwork files for the logo and established a style guide, which included the following:
- Logo guidelines that included sizing, colour variations, whitespace
- Typography guidelines that included display type, headlines, subheads, body copy for both web and print
- Texture guidelines that included how and where to use texture in typography, photo effects and backgrounds
- Photography guidelines that focused on lighting, texture, props and backgrounds
Once we had established the identity, it was time to plan out the website. We started by asking the client as many questions as possible to understand what they hoped to achieve. We also did more online research. We reviewed the websites of competitors, other distributors and other companies with similar brand architecture to identify essential content and determine the AI of the website.
Throughout the process, we kept the lines of communication with the client open. We shared websites with different elements that we liked, and exchanged ideas to ensure that both parties agreed on our direction.
The next phase was finalizing flow charts to ensure we had all of the essential pages needed for the site.
Once the flow chart was approved, we prepared rough wireframes to determine how many page layouts. This is an important step because it sets the scope for how much design and development time will be needed for the rest of the project. Once you have these pages established, the rest of the process is essentially duplicating pages and migrating content.
Next we jumped to detailed wireframes based on the rough wireframes. But now we worked with the content provided by the client in a tabled word document. A lot of the content was technical (nutrition, ingredients etc.), so we left it up to the client to put it together before our copywriter reviewed it.
During this time, we also started planning the imagery for the site. We had included some different use cases and supporting graphics when presenting the initial identity designs, so there were no surprises here. We created mood boarding for the photography, with images gathered from Google searches to illustrate lighting, angles, props, textures, etc. We showed these mood boards to the client to establish the direction.
After doing the photography mood boarding exercises, we were able to identify a few photographers in the area who had the style we were looking for. We ended up going with Studio 404 for a few reasons: they were very experienced in shooting food and we had worked together in the past, and already had some trust established. We also like to support local talent whenever possible.
Since Organic Horizons has many different product lines, the website experience needed to differentiate the products while also unifying them under a single brand. With the art direction of the photography, we unified the products by using props and lighting to establish a consistent tone. The typography was also carried through the visuals.
Another challenge we had was the photography itself. This was my first time shooting with food and, in hindsight, we should have brought in a food stylist. Even though the packaging was the focal point of each shot, the food props were also an important part of the visuals and needed to be dealt with using a different approach. The solution was to roll up our sleeves and work very closely with both the client and the photographer, who had experience shooting food. I learned a lot on the set that day, like how to get beads of water on produce (glycerine and water in a spray bottle) and how to capture a steaming cup of coffee (heating up a metal nut over the stove and dropping it in the tea). Having the client there was also helpful to make sure the right type of produce was available to use as props.
There has been a continuous increase in orders and interest for Organic Horizons at retailer trade shows. The new identity has caught the attention of target retailers such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Sobeys, Metro and Well.ca. A well-known trade publication will be showcasing the new brand on the cover of their annual organic food catalogue.
- A small budget doesn’t mean you should skip any steps in the design process. Look for ways to scale back and use it as an opportunity to get creative.
- Mood-boarding is very important, not only for the designer to explore different concepts, but also to communicate ideas to the client and external vendors.
- Always get approvals at each step in the process. This ensures everyone is on the same page in terms of the design work and the project scope.
- Establish clear goals at the beginning of the project. This will help both you and the designer make more strategic decisions along the way.
- Recognize your design partners as a great resource for problem-solving: give them as much information as possible. They will make sense of it all and come back with a great story.
- Be patient. Site maps and wire frames might not be the sexiest steps in the process, but the planning you do at the beginning will greatly impact the success of the results.
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