More Than Words: Meaning and Context
When Dependable was still in the early stages of development for the new fully-managed WordPress website hosting platform, the owner, Brad Delaney, also long-time owner of Sound Strategy, contacted me to work with him on branding the platform.
During the workshop, we identified the following brand attributes:
- Culture: Fun, Reliable, Friendly
- Customers: Varied experience levels, Hands-off users, Decisive
- Voice: Friendly, Trustworthy, Knowledgable
- Feeling: Excited, Easy to work with, Relieved/unburden
- Impact: Save time, Peaceful of Mind, Quality of service
- It Factor: All-Inclusive
Attributes in bold are the strongest in the category.
We go through this exercise together to help us not only identify the attributes he has and aspires to but also help us clarify with one another what these words mean to us. For example, I need to know that what I think of as “decisive” means the same as he does. Prior to the exercise, I might think it means the customers know exactly what they want. Brad might intend it to mean that they can make a decision right away once they are presented with the options and educated on what they mean. Essentially, we’re close to one another but not exactly on the same page. As we talk through the process, we discover the nuances of the words we’re using. We gain a common understanding and agreement.
We discussed in-depth who his users/customers would be.
- How would they use the platform?
- How often would they access it?
- What would their expectations be?
- What other platforms are these customers considering, or who is your biggest competitor?
Enhancing Meaning With Typography: Dependable
While the word [dependable] itself contains meaning, typography helps to enhance the meaning, convey emotion, place in time, style (like sophisticated or commonplace), and so much more.
It’s important to understand the value typography adds to meaning. It helps convey the messages we aren’t saying with the words. We can provide more information without using more words.
With a name like Dependable, these attributes make a lot of sense. To begin my process, I wrote out the name in several formats: all in uppercase, then in title case, and finally in lowercase. This is always my first step. I see letters and words as shapes. The types of letters in each word are always different. Look at “Dependable”. You have a lot of roundness and similar shapes from one letter to the next. In a word with that many letters, it’s unusual to have so much similarity.
I made a mental note of the suffix “-able” as a potential emphatic element. I examined the letters in the name and moved to typographic options.
Slab serif typefaces (a.k.a. fonts) have excellent visual support for reliability/stability with their thick bases (or slabs). However, given their historical associations with early nineteenth century, Old West, and typewriters, this class of typefaces would contradict the business, which is tech, progress, innovative. Dependable’s customers would expect the platform to at least be up-to-date with current trends, changes in technologies, and viral and hacking threats. A slab serif might suggest stability, but in this case it would not convey modern or innovative.
Serif typefaces are always an option, but for their historic associations I decided I’d only get to them if I didn’t find a solution with another class of type.
Sans Serif typefaces are more abundant in options and use as computers and digital communications became more common.
Sans-serif fonts tend to have less line width variation than serif fonts.… They are often used to convey simplicity and modernity or minimalism.
Sans-serif fonts have become the most prevalent for display of text on computer screens. On lower-resolution digital displays, fine details like serifs may disappear or appear too large.
To emphasize the curves, provide weight for “reliability” (stability), and to take advantage of specific sans serif typefaces that have a single-storey lowercase “a” rather than the double-storey “a“. You can see in the images that the single-storey “a” is very round and open. These characteristics help to further convey the friendliness, helpfulness and accessibility customers [will] have with the owner and/or support teams. Curves are associated with feminine qualities such as these.
Without going further into the weeds on typographic choices, I chose one of my all-time favorite typefaces:
Avant Garde Gothic
More background on Avant Guard Gothic can be found at TypeWofl.com.
ITC Avant Garde Gothic Pro bold is the final choice for the name in all lowercase.
Not wanting to go with anything kitschy, I examined symbolic options. Many of the animals that represent dependability or stability were either already “done” or had other connotation or historic associations that were totally inappropriate. Mythological characters were ruled out as they are just that–myths. I definitely don’t want to suggest that Dependable’s service is “too good to be true” with such images. Other symbols in nature were options, but, again, the contradictions and associations with anything old or natural and not representative of the digital world was in appropriate. Other worldly, man-made symbols were also overdone. It was truly a struggle…for a little while.
After some time away from it, I restarted with with a fresh perspective. What is the first thing users do when going somewhere on the web?
- Open a browser window.
- Click on a bookmark.
- Type a word into the search bar.
- Type a URL in the search bar.…
The colon and slashes–there was something there. All three were too much. When I tried just the one in an accent color, I knew that was it. The simplicity, directness, appropriateness were all there. HTTPS://… what an ideal connection! While canted, the slash is not a stable, upright rectangle of four sides with four right angles, it is still a four-sided plane rectilinear figure with opposite sides parallel. In other words, it’s a slender, tall rectangle with some forward motion–as if leaning into the future!
Would Brad agree? To my delight, Brad was as enthusiastic about the simplicity and appropriateness as I was!
Dependable is a “sister” company to Sound Strategy in Seattle, which already has a great reputation, significant client loyalty, and name recognition. Sound Strategy has repeatedly won Seattle’s Best Awards. Brad was set on keeping the same color palette. However, it’s important that the two not get confused for one another. I introduced another color, a warm charcoal, to help distinguish it from Sound Strategy a bit, and used the hot pink for the logo mark. That pink serves as a point of excitement and modernity. These two colors are the primary brand colors. The deep blue/purple color is introduced in supporting design elements.
Below is a feature image for blog posts on Dependable’s site. The slash is used as an accent element. Avant Garde is used for headings throughout the site and supporting documents. Helvetic Neue is used for body copy because it is easier to read in smaller sizes and larger blocks of text.
We used the slashes to create abstract backgrounds.
Consistency is the key to creating a solid, stable, reliable brand statement.
Using typographic, color, style, and voice standards, businesses can establish a presence users, visitors, customers, and the public can trust.
Are you looking for WordPress hosting that’s actually fully managed?
It’s not just a marketing statement!
- Do you know what fully managed means?
- Do you want to have the cost for your site security, maintenance, backups, and hosting rolled into one without paying hundreds more each year (or month in some cases)?
- Do you want to put your site up and not worry about it?
- Do you want to have a safe place to host your freelance web design clients without having to learn all the server-side, backend work that could stress you out and has kept you from fully committing to including hosting in your rates/packages?
Dependable was built with the small business owner and freelance creatives in mind. Worry-free, fully supported, and managed means you don’t have to fear added costs, going through a lot of technical jargon and tasks, your site going down, or getting lost.
Dependable hosting packages include:
- Daily backups
- Did you make a mistake that completely destroyed your page or site layout? No problem! Restore from a previous backup! With other hosting platforms, this service is generally an add-on, meaning more money out of your pocket. It’s included with your Dependable hosting!
- Flexible themes that the pros use
- User-friendly page builders
- Avia (Enfold theme only)
- Beaver Builder
- Plugins to extend the features and power of your website
- Only “safe” plugins are allowed on the site. No fear of one “breaking” your site. All plugins are fully vetted before being added to the repository!
- WordFence security