is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Late last month Meetup, one of the stalwarts of New York City’s tech scene, launched a new redesign, developed in partnership with the famous design studio Sagmeister & Walsh. This video gives you an enthusiastic tour of the new look:
As those familiar with Meetup will notice immediately, the new identity does away with the longstanding “Hi, My Name Is…” nametag logo that had been a defining feature of the brand for many years. This change surprised me; when I asked the Meetup team why they made this decision, they told me that the old logo, though much loved, felt dated. It also continually proved “hard to work with in the modern world. The most important example is that it made a bad app icon. If we tried to fit the entire nametag into the small square the text became unreadable, so we cut off the sides, and that made it unrecognizable as a name tag.”
What I really appreciate about this work is that it’s comprehensive in its approach to the problem of crafting a new brand for a company for which many people have tremendous affection. This is rare; what’s more common, especially for tech companies, is to roll out a new identity that gets shoehorned into the existing product. In this case, the Meetup team integrated its new design principles directly into a major revamp of the Meetup product itself as Sagmeister & Walsh developed the supporting system. The Meetup product design team told me:
Once we got a look at the direction they were thinking, we started integrating that into our mocks. It was a good amount of back and forth and we evolved the app’s visual language as the branding work developed. We also sent over prototypes of the app as we built it out, so that they could see the work in action and give us feedback.
The result of this expansive system includes a photographic series articulated in a visual vocabulary that, from the start, is intimately tied into the new direction of the company. All the elements look of a piece. Here are some examples of the work:
I’m always curious about how effective it is for technology companies to work with design studios, especially veterans like Sagmeister & Walsh. There have been some truly bland outcomes from such pairings in the past, and it often seems clear to me that the act of going to a big name branding studio is really about validating the company in a way meant to comfort investors and business partners more than it’s about doing what’s best for products or customers. I wouldn’t say that Meetup’s rebranding falls into that category—it has far more personality than most, to begin with. There’s a good write-up of the logo and its merits over at Brand New, which captures my sentiments when it concludes, “I highly appreciate its effort for standing out in a sea of logo sameness.”+