Just before we begin our holidays here at Designlab, we asked the team to share their top design moments from the past year. Read on to find out our favorite products, rebrands, and content from 2017!
We’ll finish up by recapping our year as a company, which has seen Designlab grow, not only in size, but also in the quality of our educational offering. Wishing you and your loved ones happy holidays, and a transformative new year.
1. Rockin’ rebrands
Dropbox’s visual bravery
Earlier this year, Dropbox unveiled a dramatic and far-reaching rebrand. The company’s old look was light in appearance, dominated by white and a friendly sky blue. Back in October, they replaced this with an illustration style that is arresting, colourful, and energetic.
Dropbox also applied these principles to new animations and transitions, and launched a heavier wordmark and a new iteration on their “open box” logo, lending itself to the “collaboration” theme of their new look. Oh, and they commissioned Sharp Grotesk, a font family with 259 (two hundred and fifty-nine (!)) separate weights.
This relaunch took many designers by surprise, not least because Dropbox’s aesthetic and illustration style had attracted praise from the design world and high levels of brand recognition from users.
As with many rebrands that are initially dismissed, we predict that Dropbox’s new look will stick – and that within a year or two its strategic genius will become apparent. An important lesson from the Dropbox rebrand is that, in the rapidly changing world of tech and digital design, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not an adequate brand strategy.
Dropbox already had a strong brand, but they recognised that the future of the business depended not on admiring what they’d already achieved, but on understanding where they wanted to go next, and the part that branding would need to play in making that a reality.
- Illustrator Michael Jeter wrote about the previous Dropbox illustration style. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.
- Evolving the Dropbox brand: the Dropbox design team explain their new look
Medium’s brand pivot
Medium is an online publishing platform. Anyone can write on the site, and posts are then recommended by readers through “claps”. Earlier this year, the site introduced an optional membership model: members can submit their writing for inclusion in the members-only area, and they receive payment for an article based on claps.
We’re excited by this shift, because it represents an innovation in membership models that allows contributors of quality content to be paid for their writing, while preserving the social value of an open platform.
Medium’s pivot also drew welcome attention to the difficulties of publishing quality content in a digital age. As many conventional newspapers have discovered, there is an expectation that online journalism will be free to access.
However, creating quality content costs money. Users dislike paywalls and also hate ads, often blocking them entirely. (Medium experimented with – but ultimately eschewed – an ad-based model.) It remains to be seen whether the new membership system will make for a long-term solution to this problem, but Medium deserve credit for trying it out.
Alongside this strategic shift, Medium also returned to a more premium-looking logo, evoking hot metal and ink on paper, and harking back to the logo that Medium launched with in 2012.
- Medium CEO Ev Williams explains the membership model
- Medium sets out their visual rebrand
- An alternative perspective: Why Medium’s membership and partnership model sucks
Chobani’s packaging positioning
New York yogurt manufacturer Chobani overhauled their brand and packaging design this year. The old geometrical wordmark said very little about the company or their product, so it was definitely time for an overhaul. The new brand system is exemplary – repositioning the product both as more friendly and accessible, and as more premium and professional.
Visually, the wordmark contains beautiful thick curves and gloopy letterforms, directly evoking the company’s product. Lots of thought has also gone into the packaging and illustration – doing away with the off-the-shelf feel of the old pots and replacing it with a container that feels beautiful and valuable.