Branding from TBD Studio helps unify diverse startup team

Case Study by Mark Buchner RGD and Yousuf Afridi, TBD Studio


Qubd (formerly A3 Capital) is a recently launched start-up firm based in Toronto. At the beginning of 2016, the team was commencing their research towards the integration of machine learning and artificial intelligence with the investment industry. Their goal is to use this emerging technology to better differentiate market signals from noise, identify key market trends and find patterns in investor behaviour.


To launch to potential investors, i.e. family offices and institutions, A3 Capital enlisted TBD Studio to help with brand strategy and design. Our process starts with stakeholder interviews and an analysis of the brand and market. The primary objective is to listen and learn, beginning with group discussions and then following up with one-on-one interviews.


After thoroughly considering this information along with independent research, our next step is to share our insights and recommendations. One of our key proposals was to rename the organization. The name A3 (intended as “A to the power of (superscript) 3”) was confusing in its pronunciation and limited in written form. Using our Collaborative Creative Brief document as a guide, we explored a number of naming territories. The resulting name, Qubd, is a reflection of the client's atypical multidisciplinary team and approach. It’s easy to communicate and appropriate for a financial technology startup. It’s also a wink to the original name and the rationale behind it.



With the new name selected, we began work on creating a positioning line and visual identity. Four logo proposals were presented. After considering and debating the options over a few days, all stakeholders came to an agreement. The chosen design is a perfect cube with a single square shifted out to create a “Q” letterform. This singled out element is representative of the AI technology’s ability to separate signal from noise. From another perspective, it also speaks to Qubd being an outlier and innovator in the Canadian market. The team’s diverse set of talents (it includes a former geophysicist!) uses unconventional human and machine thinking to build the future of trading. The construction of the logo also reflects the analytical nature of the team; the inner square is exactly half the size of the outer square and the smaller shifted square is a quarter of the whole. It’s perfect in its precision – a quality highly valued by Qubd.


To reinforce the thinking behind the logo, a vibrant orange (Pantone 165) was chosen and paired with a deep, rich blue (Pantone 655). Stationery was printed with a double hit of the orange and business cards feature a painted orange edge. A mix of Neenah Classic Crest super smooth and smooth paper was used to further enhance the look and feel.




The opportunity for signage was one aspect of the project we especially looked forward to. The Qubd office features vaulted ceilings, an abundance of glass, rich wood floors and large steel support beams -- its most distinguishing feature. With such an inspiring backdrop to work with, we consciously avoided the temptation to over-brand and kept signage elements concise. To take advantage of the long corridor leading up to the entranceway and aid with navigation, we created a large rectangular sign made up of orange acrylic sandwiched by two pieces of aluminum. The Qubd logo and logotype is laser cut into either side of the aluminum, and the sign is mounted perpendicular to the wall for optimal visibility. For the doorway, we used frosted glass with a cut-out of the logotype, offering a small glimpse into the office space. Upon entering, the brand’s guidance statement is prominently visible, as a reminder for the team to be continually forward thinking.






The naming process can often be one of the most lengthy phases of developing a brand, and that proved true in this project. Due to the high number of businesses in the financial sector, original name ideas are at a premium. We frequently encountered conflicts during our preliminary research of proposed name ideas. One proposal, which had passed preliminary research and received client buy-in, came back with a red flag during the comprehensive legal search. Although it was an initial disappointment for us and our client, we immediately returned to the creative process. Once we landed on the name Qubd, we happily realized it was a stronger and more appropriate solution.


One of TBD Studio’s core beliefs is that the creative brand process should not be rushed. It follows integral steps to create a long-lasting brand that delivers ROI. However, clients often need design components in the interim. To accommodate this, we create an alpha version of the identity. For Qubd, we chose basic logotype and colours and applied it to temporary design collateral. Further on in the process, parts of the alpha version of the identity served to inform final design decisions.





Prior to the creation of the Qubd brand, the team lacked a unified identity and voice. Each of them had come from different backgrounds, leaving senior positions to take on the risk of being part of a startup. It was important to establish an identity that would represent the team as a whole and serve as their flag. Through our collaborative process, we were able to create a brand that had been influenced by key stakeholders to represent their differentiated thinking and aspirations as a group. Importantly, the new identity will visually present Qubd as a sophisticated and worthy brand to potential investors.


Designer Takeaways 

  1. Don’t get discouraged by circumstances beyond your control. Find a better solution.
  2. Listen. Understand your client’s needs.
  3. Small details can have a big impact.


Client Takeaways  

We were fortunate that our client demonstrated all three of these qualities:

  1. Be open to collaboration. You know your business best and your input will be valued by your design partner.
  2. Be thorough. Ensure all of your touch-points are consistently implemented.
  3. Trust your brand design partner.



Agency: TBD Studio

Client: Qubd

Creative Director: Mark Buchner

Strategy: Yousuf Afridi

Printed By Somerset



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