In the last decade a plethora of new companies emerged riding on the wave of new technologies and trends. Some of them have even replaced century old giants at the list of most valuable brands. With software becoming more of a commodity startups realized that brand recognition matters. Flush with venture capital money high flying startups turned to some of the best design studios to reimagine their visual appearance.
We have put together a list of design studios which are behind some of the most recognizable startup brands. Including some well known examples of in-house developed identities.
Website: wearecollins.com, Location: New York and San Francisco
Collins is an independent strategy, design and communications company. They are responsible for creating brands for Twitch, Mailchimp and Dropbox and more. It almost seems like Collins is a go to for tech startups in need of a fresh trajectory and expression.
In 2019 Collins took on the challenge of updating the Twitch identity as it transitioned from a love brand for the gaming community to a major player in the streaming space. This has been a rather small refresh as a lot of elements were carried over from the old brand. The works was focused primarily on delivering a flexible system that he Twitch design team could utilize. See the full case study.
Fast Company wrote, “while other software giants are simplifying their branding, Mailchimp is keeping it quirky.” And indeed this bootstrapped giant kept elements from it's past (their mascot Freddie) during their recent rebranding. See the full case study.
There is probably a very few people who didn't hear about Spotify. Part of it is their strong brand developed by Collins in 2015. See the full case study.
"Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming service, confronted the same realization every fast-growing tech company does: a great product wins early adopters, but a great brand wins the mainstream."
For Dropbox, the file hosting company, their main source of income is providing their solutions to large enterprise clients. First time I saw their new band direction I couldn't help to think it's anything but traditional or corporate. It's great to see that being a B2B company doesn't have to be boring. See the full case study.
Website: wolffolins.com, Location: London, New York and San Francisco
Studio most notably known for their long term collaboration with Google and other larger companies. Wolff Olins has also worked with Uber or GrubHub to solidify their brands and strategy before the IPOs. Funny enough these companies are now planning a merger. At least they can keep the same design agency.
With new CEO onboard Uber wanted to amplify their internal changes externally. Many called this redesign generic as Wolff Olins ditched some of the elements which were already iconic. Many probably didn't get over the strange lowercase/uppercase U to this day. See the full case study.
Work that Wolff Olins did for Grubhub is definitely less controversial. New color, typeface and illustrations helped the company shake off it's early startup vibe and look the part as the $5B giant they are. See the full case study.
Website: redantler.com, Location: New York
Fastcompany called them "something of a cult brand whisperer". Founded in 2007 in Brookly, Red Antler is behind some of the most well known D2C brands like Casper, Allbirds or Birchbox.
Before Casper, the idea of selling a mattress outside of the showroom was unheard of. Now there is 175 other companies doing exactly that. Red Antler is not only partially responsible for the early success of Casper but also for a whole industry moving online in just couple of years. See the full case study.
"Red Antler is simply the best at what they do. They didn't just create a logo mark for the brand; they helped us communicate what we stand for."
Praised as "the world's most comfortable shoe" Allbirds are another D2C success story. Their products have became a symbol for the hip tech entrepreneurs and VCs out of Silicon Valley and beyond. See the full case study.
Website: pentagram.com, Location: New York, London, Austin and Berlin
An icon brand on its own. Pentagram is the world’s largest independently-owned design studio housing 25 renowned graphic designer under one roof. Among their clients are some of the biggest tech companies in the world.
2019 rebranding for the popular workplace communication app is definitively the most criticized one on this list. Colorful droplets that replaced the iconic hash symbol have gotten many nick names like windmill or in the worse case swastika made of dicks. See the full case study.
Kattera is one of the less known investments billion dollar investments of SoftBank. Pentagram created a brand identity for the technology-driven construction company that is transforming the industry in 2017. See the full case study.
Pentagram's work for Cytora is a great example of a dynamic brand identity. This London based AI powered insurance company was looking for ways to differentiate from other traditional players. The result is an ever-evolving patterns composed from colorful 3D block. See the full case study.
Website: design.studio, Location: London, New York, San Francisco and Sydney
DesignStudio is probably best known for it's work on the new AirBnb brand which received a pretty harsh criticism back in the day. However these guys have also been responsible for a fair share of visual identities that are universally praised within the graphic design community.
‘When I look at this brand, I suddenly realised everything I’ve been trying to say, now we have a way to express it.'
Said Brian Chesky, the CEO of AirBnb, about their new brand that was a topic of discussion for weeks after its release. Once the early criticism subsided the work proved to be very flexible enabling many funny use cases such these illustrations for the New York marathon. See the full case study.
Deliveroo rebranding is one of my favourite work on this list. Not only because of the simplified kangaroo and playful colors. DesignStudio though about such consequences as rider safety. Introducing flash material on their uniforms means they are visible even during night deliveries. See the full case study.
Wahanda was an online hair and beauty booking service taking the UK and Europe by storm. When approached DesignStudio decided to start with a new name; Treatwell. See the full case study.
Website: instrument.com, Location: Portland, New York
Instrument is a Portland based digital agency with notable clients like Nike or Sonos. They are also behind some the brand for Quibi which made it to the mainstream with their $400M launch campaign.
Quibi set out to disrupt the streaming world. Ambitious goal considering YouTube, Netflix or Disney+ are already well established players in this space. With $1.8B in funding they worked with Instrument to have a visual identity that matches their ambition. See the full case study.
Website: saffron-consultants.com, Location: Madrid, London, Vienna, Istanbul and Mumbai
Facebook started as a single app. Now, 15 years later, they have a suite of products including WhatsApp and Instagram. That's why Facebook decided to collaborate with Saffron on the Fecabook company brand. See the full case study.
With over one billion users, YouTube accounts for nearly one third of all internet traffic. Since the 2005 launch the brand has not evolved much and its usage became inconsistent even internally. In other words YouTube was ready for a big cleanup. See the full case study.
Lot of large tech companies invested heavily into their own design teams. Although most still chooses to work with an external agency to have a fresh pair of eyes there are some examples of great brands that were developed in-house.
Zendesk builds software for better customer relationships. For a long time the brand was associated with a buddha. The cute mascot was retired in 2016 for a simpler and more flexible brand which unified the growing portfolio of products. See the case study.
There is probably no other redesign that have gotten a spotlight in a Netflix documentary. In 2016 Instagram decided to move away from skeuomorphism and refresh their visual language. What ensued was probably the biggest backlash regarding a new logo in history. 4 years later we can barely imagine going back to the original. See the full case study.
Is your favorite design studio missing? Email us and we will add it to the list.