In March of this year, our once fresh-faced young agency, Contrast & Co., will have officially been in business for eight years. In that span, what began as an improbable idea has blossomed from a small at-home freelance practice into a branding powerhouse that has surpassed our original vision in every way.
What have we been up to these past eight years?
We’ve been extraordinarily busy. We’ve worked with hundreds of brands from all over the world. We’ve designed countless identities, experiences, and campaigns. We’ve launched startups. Supported mergers and acquisitions. Broken into new markets and mastered new mediums. Along the way, we’ve survived numerous startup challenges, thousands of deadlines, and one global pandemic. Our team has outgrown four different studios, our latest located in the heart of sunny Annapolis, Maryland. Our agency and work has garnered industry recognition and racked up dozens of prestigious awards, but more importantly, we have amassed a roster of clients and fans who continue to rave about the transformative work we’ve created together.
We’ve crushed out-of-the-park homeruns, and we’ve run face first into brick walls. But every lesson we have experienced—no matter how painful in the moment—has helped us grow and learn exponentially as an agency.
So why refresh the brand? Great question.
Our previous brand had never been quite officially created and approved—it had simply just become. Like many startups, our original experience was cobbled together with imagination, sweat, and rolls of creative “duct tape.” And yet, despite its unstructured origin, it evolved as we did and had served us well. At least, to a point.
Over the past year, however, one core challenge began to become increasingly visible to us: Our old brand no longer accurately reflected who we have become. From top to bottom, we’re a completely different agency than when we launched in 2015. Our original optimism, energy, and quest for greatness remain unbowed. But beyond that, only a handful of processes here remain the same as when we started.
Quite simply, we’ve gotten smarter. We’ve racked up more experience. Embraced new tools. Optimized more scalable processes. Added new capabilities. We’ve crushed out-of-the-park homeruns, and we’ve run face-first into brick walls. But every lesson we have experienced—no matter how painful in the moment—has helped us grow and learn exponentially as an agency.
This eight-year milestone presented us with a point to pause. It gave us a chance to pick up our heads, look around, and begin to determine who we are now. And we realized it was time to put ourselves through exactly the same process we advocate to our clients. It was time to define our brand today.
This is the beginning of our new experience—a look and feel designed to reflect the strikingly different perspective we bring to, well, just about everything.
What has changed, visually?
Let’s start with the logo. Originally inspired by our favorite surfing brands, our old logotype was hand drawn and unique, but also quite difficult to work with creatively. It didn’t integrate well with our other visual elements, and just never quite worked the way we wanted. Our new mark is clean, modern, and scalable. Bold typography reinforces our credibility and stature—and a hand-drawn ampersand emphasizes our individuality.
But the defining symbol of our new brand is not our logo. We wanted something bigger than us. We wanted to symbolize possibility. That’s where the asterisk comes in. Some see this shape as a star. My mom saw a butterfly (which may be a stretch, but we appreciate the creativity). Most importantly, though, we don’t see the asterisk as a disclaimer. We see it as a representation of unexplored ideas and unfettered imagination.
After our logo and signature visual anchor, the brush strokes were a welcome new addition to the brand identity. From the beginning, we wanted to feature something different. Colorful stock imagery, no matter how bright and vivid, wasn’t going to cut it. We wanted something organic. Something unpredictable. The brush strokes offered that and more. While our creative work doesn’t spring from brushes and canvas, the strokes remind us that we are all artists, that we all begin with rough drafts, that we all explore various paths before reaching the ideal solution.
What about the color palette? That part was easy. This is Contrast we’re talking about. That means black and white. Two extreme energies. Two opposing forces. No more grays. No more tints. But using black and white alone is too cold and limiting. We needed something else. Something vibrant. Something flexible. Something…
Magenta! It may just be the perfect brand color. It offers the passion of red without the anger or intensity. It’s as friendly and approachable as pink, without coming across as soft or childish. It’s vivid, looks wonderful alongside black and white, and reproduces consistently across print and digital. And you can spot it from just about anywhere. It is our spirit, through and through.
And finally, the type. Our previous brand featured a number of typefaces across our materials. We wanted to simplify. We chose Urbana for a variety of reasons. It’s bold and confident, and the proportions are unique, like us. Various weights give us flexibility in layouts, and make it easier for us to ensure consistency across our communications.
So, that’s an early glimpse into our rebrand. There’s still much more to do, and far more to come. We’re excited about our new visual direction, and will be updating our website and putting out content over the course of the year as it all comes together. You can follow it all on our new blog—a thought-leadership platform that allows us to define the philosophies and practices we use to conceive and create strikingly different brand experiences.
These are our opinions. Our expertise. Our personality. It’s stuff we’ve discussed but never published. Ideas we’ve always embraced but never shared with the world. It will be a repository for our thoughts on all things branding, and we’d love for you to follow us along on the ride.