Set up by Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook and Justin Rosenstein, fellow Facebooker and ex-Googler, Asana was never going to be an ordinary Silicon Valley start-up. It rapidly surpassed its original offer of simple, shared task lists, and repositioned itself around facilitating a new and entirely collaborative way of working. As time progressed and the product was enhanced, it was clear the brand had to be reinvented to reflect the quality of the product offer. We were invited to collaborate with their design team to make it happen.
Internal insights for external change
Asana started to reinvent their product. In doing so, they realised that for their customer experience to shine, the brand needed to be reinvented too.
The further the Asana team dug into the implications of a product redesign, the more design elements and aspects of the brand had to be changed; first a new font, then a new colour palette, then a need for new iconography. The rebrand had begun entirely unconsciously with conversation quickly turning to how the company was perceived externally.
Our partners at Asana told us that their true self was not represented through the brand. But how do you approach a rebrand without threatening credibility? A lurch to current trends runs the risk of destroying value by removing some of the connections between the brand, its product offering and of course, the customer. Asana’s in-house team had made a great start at answering this question, but needed some help completing the task.
“If Asana were a person, how would you describe them?”
Thankfully the team at Asana understood the importance of finding their core identity. Before we were involved, they had already mapped out their brand attributes, though they were vast and needed refining. A survey sent out to their customers asked, “if Asana were a person how would you describe them?”, triggering thousands of online responses.
Following endless brainstorming and hours spent pinpointing what made them ‘them’, the nuances behind the customer feedback and their own personal opinion, the founders quickly recognised a need for an objective, experienced partner to push the project forward and help them refine and prioritise ideas.
Doing great things together
When we came on board, it was clear we were both on the same page; we immediately understood the big problems Asana were trying to solve, appreciating the need to ensure the brand matched up with the product and possessing the candor needed to help.
The process began by conducting dozens of interviews, workshops and analysis around the company and its narrative, managing to narrow the existing six attributes down to just four:
Empowering: Asana helps people do what they love. We provide invaluable support for teams that are benefiting the world, whether they’re working on moonshot visions or more down-to-earth ambitions. We aren’t the hero of their story - they are.
Purposeful: Asana exists to help humanity thrive. Our mission is audaciously large and motivates every step we take. Instead of acting impulsively, we take each step with deliberate planning, craftsmanship and focus.And then we get the job done.
Quirky: Asana doesn’t take itself too seriously. We love all the delightful moments that make us smile unexpectedly, so we create these moments for our customers too. By letting ourselves have fun, we make countless workplaces a lot less boring.
Approachable: Asana keeps it real. We’re open and honest, avoiding aloof corporate language and phony marketing spin. We see ourselves less as a company and more as a team of humans helping other humans, so being friendly and sincere comes naturally.
Confident that we were all aligned on these four characteristics, we developed the brand narrative; a story that explains why Asana does what it does. It encapsulated how most of us feel in our working lives, and ends with a short-form narrative “Do Great Things Together”, that serves as the North Star for the brand.
Once defined, the short-form narrative became an invaluable barometer for judging their own work – now when assessing a written piece or design work, Asana can simply ask, “Does this execution convey ‘Do Great Things Together’?”
In re-inventing the brand, we now had a statement for the company to live up to and to critique future work by.
Three dots, reimagined
Armed with strong brand values and a ruling narrative, next came the visual identity, beginning with the logo and we were determined to develop something able to convey Asana’s true personality.
The design we proposed was still loosely connected to the previous style to ensure continuity. We looked to retain the three inimitable dots but placed in a configuration to represent the energy of teamwork and collaboration. Three circles working together in collaborative harmony.
Arranging the dots in a triangular formation also served to form an abstract ‘A’ in the mark, at the same time evoking the three circular forms found inside the three lowercase ‘a’ letters of their wordmark too. The concept was liked, but not everyone was 100% convinced, so we continued the process.
Collaboration in action
In order to evolve and grow, brands need to redefine and adapt and when considering a rebranding project, the most important thing is to be clear on your objective, understand your story and envisage where you’re heading.
In the case of Asana, we replaced the expected, corporate style synonymous with any software company with a vibrant, playful identity and brand. This project, as many of our other projects, was truly collaborative, communicating day in, day out with Asana’s in-house design team and board of directors to achieve fantastic success. This is our preferred method of working because it works.
As a result, everyone involved was thrilled with the final product; an identity that simply and powerfully conveys what lies at the core of the brand. With this, Asana enables and empowers people to do work that changes the world.
To connect and see more, follow Jim on Twitter and read more about our work for Asana here.