Roughly a year ago, I sat across from DataHero’s co-founders to present my initial ideas for the company’s brand and to get a better feel for their long-term vision. It was that meeting that triggered a realization: just as DataHero’s goals stretched beyond any other data product in the market, so must its brand. Simply choosing a few fonts, a logo and some colors would never do justice to the multifaceted and rich product that Chris and Jeff envisioned. The goal: to create an illustrative language that would capture and convey the essence of DataHero.
The first rendition was all about creating a singular superhero. Making it an almost stick figure reflected the product’s ease of use. For color and depth, we’d give a nod to the comic industry by using a play on the Ben-Day Dot.
We had a great response to our first hero, but ultimately he was too 2-dimensional and reflecting an art style not flexible enough for the range of media we needed to apply it to. As a line-art character on a white or light background he worked fine, but place him on any other texture or on a visually busy web page and he’d immediately get lost.
This led to a re-evaluation of our main character, which began with some research. Superheroes as icons reached their highest point during the silver age of comics in the 1950’s. For the next series of sketches and concepts, I focused on representing aspects of that time period into the design.
Although this was an improvement over our original hero, as I worked on these concepts and DataHero evolved, it quickly became apparent that there were limits to the use of only one titular character to represent the many aspects of our product. DataHero’s goal is to make a hero out of every man and woman. How could one character represent everyone properly?
Expansion into this idea led to a series of sketches and studies of everyday people with a superhero twist. The art style would maintain that 50’s look by using offset blocks of color as a nod to the Ben-Dot printing system and expanded upon it by stylizing the dress and look of the characters to reflect the time period.
Unfortunately, the sketched art failed to reflect the simplicity and accessibility we wanted to convey (and that we had captured so effectively in the early concepts). My next move was to strip off the pencil art, leaving me with color blocks that silhouetted the illustration perfectly. Building upon that as minimally as possible, I added the details: eyes, glasses, lips, etc., using geometric shapes and capturing an almost cut paper feel to the art.
As we further delved into this illustration style, we started questioning using actual superhero figures at all. In our world, real heroes don’t wear capes or their underwear over their pants, they are average-looking people who accomplish amazing feats. Representing the empowerment of everyday people meant shifting our concept to depicting ordinary men and women about to do extraordinary things with their data.
We started to focus on that split second before the Clark Kents of the world became something more. The result is the heroes that represent DataHero today: regular men and women on the verge of doing the extraordinary. They are depicted taking off their glasses moments before becoming their inner hero-self, looking over their shoulders before delivering great data, or grabbing an everyday tool as they head forward to simply get things done.
Spending more than six months iterating on a visual art style that would represent not only our brand, messaging and philosophy but also capture the essence of our users was an incredible experience. If you want to see more of the final result, sign up for DataHero and take a look for yourself!
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