How does one create a new business name, identity, responsive website, and signage for a company, whose main mission objective is to provide a facilitating service for a well known, and established furniture brand? The answer is… DECONSTRUCT, RESEARCH, AND CURATE ALL THE GOOD & BAD of that main influencer, and invite elements from the new founders, to make sure the new brand identity being developed, still resonates – not only internally but most importantly, EXTERNALLY.
The passing of time invites competitors; it also allows for the tides of change to come sweeping in. As much as people say, “Print is dead!”… “Retail is dying.”, the fact remains that it is alive and well – Nothing will ever beat the tangible, the immersive real-life experience of shopping – touching, smelling, and quite frankly, being interactive with the product. However, as much as these industries are constantly marked for death, the truth is, that while still alive and kicking, one must take heed in the warning and shift focus, to stay on top of the competition and prevent the downfall.
Behold HEJ! HELLO. The birth of HEJ! (for short), came from the popular swedish furniture brand not being able to retain or accommodate all of their customers needs — No one is Omnipotent or Omni-present, you can only do so much, and I totally get that. The founders for HEJ! worked with the Big Blue Swedish Box for many years, and during their years they observed and experienced, time and time again, how internally staff was not up to par in regards to product knowledge or industry knowledge; how the headquarters would make odd decisions in product offerings or cancellations; how customer service was losing its personal touch — from thought to execution; and the overall need to offer some simple services like cutting countertops, to fulfilling appointments, or honoring delivery dates. Once again, I totally get it, you can only offer so much, do so much, and fulfill every need for the success of a business.
Now this does not mean, that BIG BLUE has failed – they will never fail, they are a unique foreign based brand that has become an American staple when it comes to modern furniture at an amazing price point, and of course… THE MEATBALLS. The founders of HEJ! are actually obsessed with the Big Blue Swedish Box store, and simply wanted to create an outlet to patch the current holes OR my favorite analogy that was given, be the small fish that feeds off the large shark’s kill. They found a way where they can use their personal experience, professional know-how, and determination to help the giant retailer. The duo took the plunge… LET’S CREATE A FACILITATOR SERVICE that will aid Big Blue in where they fall short.
When first approached, I didn’t understand the premise, the problem to be solved, or how I could help. So I was invited for months, to simply SHOP & OBSERVE. I did just that… AND IT BECAME CLEAR. My goals became very simple, solid, and had a concrete foundation as follows:
Developing the name seemed so simple… HEJ! Which means HI or a short common way to say HELLO in Sweden, became evident to use as the business name, it literally spoke to the Swedish culture and aesthetic. The new business name being developed had double usage… It served as a translation side by side, but it also served as a compound set of words, to say HI in a laid back non-pretentious way — You see, HEJ! is pronounced as “HEY”, and by combining the definition with the way the swedish word is pronounced, it allows the USER to say HEY! HELLO… It became a fun new phrase we all loved and shared… It provided a visual when said — For ex. “Hey! Hello there..” OR “HEY! Hello ladies” OR “HEYYY! HELLO, LETS MAKE TODAY A FUN DAY” – it invited many comical and friendly memes of sorts. More importantly, the name was inviting… It’s truly simple; it’s a casual “HEY”, or a simple and welcoming “HELLO” — the perfect ice breaker.
The next step was developing a logo that not only took the wordplay above into consideration, but visually allowed the target audience to pronounce the swedish word correctly; all this while having a hidden symbol in the logo. The result was curating a typeface and its arrangement that allowed me to execute the logo in a precise and direct way — thank goodness for FUTURA P OT – EXTRA BOLD. After days upon days of typesetting, tracking, and playing with visual elements, the special and unique version of FUTURA was a success. The “J” in that typeface is laid out almost like a lowercase “i”, and so the viewer immediately pronounces the word correctly… “HEY”. After careful juxtaposition, I ended up with a cute and clever arrangement where the “J” not only appears like an “i” , but visually appears as a symbolic figure, carrying a box, which in this case, is the exclamation point.
Once the proper name and identity were developed, everything essentially fell into place. The color was not a direct influence of its Big Blue Box retailer, but a direct influence from the country of origin (Sweden). After that, signage, apparel, printed collateral and more, just seemed to flow. In addition, to add more family value to the project, I decided to create a custom illustrated mascot for the brand — and so, the TOMTE was born. What is a TOMTE? Funny you should ask, and this is where lots of research in culture and folklore come into play… The TOMTE is a forest gnome in Scandinavian culture. The names vary within the Scandinavian regions, but in Sweden the gnome is known as a TOMTE, and this particular creature that hails from Sweden, is known to be good luck, a little mischievous, but most importantly a companion for forest dwellers, and guide to those whom get lost in the forest. The role of the mascot in this new brand identity development, was to be just that… A GUIDE! The Tomte would be used in wayfinding / signage experiences, and its most important role was to serve as a character on the website F.A.Q., CHAT, and Support sections. Since the Tomte’s role is to be a guide to those who are lost, it seemed fitting for the mascot to serve a role as an overall guide for the brand, in helping customers find their way, and become educated with the brand.
The rollout has been slow but sure, and while I am confident that the end result will be a smashing success; in the end, my role as a designer is to solve a problem, and I feel I accomplished that on every level. This is the beauty of being a designer… The ability to be approached by a bevy of projects, become educated in their culture, and invite these new experiences to allow me to grow and evolve, and later benefit current and future clients with these new principles and knowledge.