Creative Process Study 14

11.01.2010 / Project: BevReview


Hexanine is a design firm that focuses primarily on identity design and branding, helping clients master the pivotal moments of change in their brands. Whether it’s launching a new company’s identity or helping a brand reposition in response to market forces, we create design solutions for brands that shape our culture. Tim Lapetino and Jason Adam are partners of Hexanine, with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively.

Identity design is one of our great passions, and we relish working with the foundational elements of great brands. Just as Cicero said the eyes are the window to the soul, we believe that an organization’s logo is a glimpse into its inner life. While an identity won’t say everything about a organization, it is a key distillation of the power, energy and culture of that brand.

Bottoms Up

We were commissioned by the founders of the drink aficionado website,, to design a new identity. The logo would be used primarily on print collateral and eventually a redesigned website. To decide on which symbols were relevant for this project, our team did a significant amount of research and interviews with the owners of the company, to get at the guts of what BevReview is about — its mission, if you will.

After exploration (and confirmation from BevReview) we found that BevReview’s focus was fourfold:

  • To cultivate an active community around beverages and beverage brands
  • To curate content and offerings related to beverages
  • To comment and editorialize on beverage product releases and current/ongoing trends
  • To evaluate and inform its audience about all the above

With those things in mind, and after solidifying the project creative brief, we decided that three symbols needed to be present in the final design in some fashion:

  1. Beverages (specifically sodas, energy drinks and teas; not alcoholic or coffee drinks)
  2. Some visual representation of the “ratings” concept (because editorials and evaluative commentary are such key differentiators of the website)
  3. Casualness. We also had to make sure the identity had an approachable feel, capturing the “friendly insider” role of the brand discussed in the creative brief.

So, we began generating symbols for these categories, “Beverage”, “Ratings” and “Casualness”. Many of the usual suspects reared their heads — glass soda bottles, cans, paper cups, liquid in various forms, the “thumbs up” symbol, check marks, clipboards, microscopes – we covered our bases in this stage and did an exhaustive visual inventory of all possibly-related symbols that fall under each of the categories. It’s key to be thorough in this stage, because the better the raw materials (symbols), the easier construction will be.

Marrying Symbols

The symbols mentioned above might not sound very interesting or unique, but nevertheless, they’re crucial for the foundation of our logo. In our experience, the key to great identity design lies not in the generation of never-before-seen symbols, but in combining existing symbols in unique, ownable, and memorable ways. We like to think of this almost as an X/Y chart, plotting each of the symbols on different axis, and visually iterating every conceivable way they can be combined. This is the meat of our process, where the bulk of the time is spent, and where magic can (hopefully) happen.

At this point in the development process, much of the conceptual heavy lifting has been done. The vast symbol storehouse we’ve created is the basis for hundreds of iterations that will follow. Now it’s chiefly about covering all of the visual bases with our iterations, and presenting these concepts to the client for initial approval. Once the general directions are confirmed, it’s just a matter of applying a variety of appropriate visual styles until we find the ones that best harmonize our combined symbols and the needs of the brand.

We narrowed our concepts down to three, and strategically applied visual styles to each, based on taste, overall appeal, and the needs of the brand. These final three were presented to BevReview with our recommendation, and they chose this logo as the final one.

But Wait, There’s More!

The work of building an identity doesn’t end with a logo. A strong identity also has to include other components that allow the visual brand to be deployed correctly, strategically and consistently. These include color palettes, secondary typography, graphic patterns, guidelines on usage (possibly a standards manual), photo art direction recommendations, and many others.

It’s best to think of a final identity as a toolkit — a series of elements that can be adapted, taken apart, and recombined depending on the needs of a specific use or deliverable. This way of thinking will help to ensure that the final identity is flexible and malleable enough to meet the needs of the brand today, and into the future.

Design Credits:

Art Direction and Design: Tim Lapetino, Jason Adam
Design: Brigid Eduarte, Chris Paluch, Tim Lapetino

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1 comment, please join in the discussion

  1. 11.02.2010

    A valuable point about identity design often relying on the combination of common elements in a never-before-seen way. Coming up with a sketchbook full of potential parts and then seeing how they can be combined is something I have never tried — but will! Great insight into your creative process. Thanks.