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The New SNS Brand
10th February 2017
The new brand logo for SNS Group is, in some ways, a big change for the company. There’s a new website on the way too and the feeling around the office was that we wanted a new identity.
I’ve been at SNS Group for about 6 years now. The old logo has been around a lot longer than me so I’d like to talk about that before I go into our new marque.
I don’t know who designed or created the original SNS Group logo. It sat at the top of the stairs in the office and it always welcomed me as I came in to work. For me it was part of the make-up and character of the company. I never really gave it much attention. It was always just there.
When I was asked to come up with ideas for the new brand logo I started to pay it more attention. I’m not a fan of the typography on the old logo but it’s easy to pick holes in something that is over 20 years old. I have respect for the old brand and its longevity and I thought it was doing its job well considering its age. If the logo I have created lasts another 20 years then, well…
Over the last few years SNS Group has expanded greatly, now offering Design and Video Production services to both compliment our photography and to work perfectly in their own right.
I was originally part of a two-man design team that has now grown to four. We provide solutions and products to clients such as ScottishPower, Clydesdale Bank, SSE, NHS and the Wheatley Group. As a company we are primarily known for taking amazing sport photographs but it’s time to change that perception and time to let people know we’re More Than Sport.
With work already underway on a shiny new website we decided now was the perfect moment to create a modern, fresh new marque that cements the idea of SNS Group, the creative trifecta – Photography, Design, Video Production – no longer just SNS Group, the photography company.
I started the process by researching what else was out there, what our competitors were doing brand-wise and looking at other media companies around the globe. Some would say my own style is minimal and I thought this would be suited to what SNS Group wanted. Something clean, not fussy. For me it’s a case of the simpler the shape, the better.
At the beginning the brief was bare, simply to throw a few ideas around and to get something that conveys the trifecta message effectively. We have three core services, that must be reflected. As long as I worked to that end I had free reign to try as many ideas as I could before finding ‘The One’.
As a designer I always find it harder to work on projects for myself than those I do for clients. For me it was a tough task as it was somewhat personal. I knew there would be a fair amount of rejection before we started to make real progress.
My initial ideas were put in front of Derek Bryce, Senior Designer at SNS Group. Derek has been here longer than me and knows the company’s DNA inside and out. He let me do my thing, playing around with shapes and fonts to get a feel for the project with no pressure. As you can see from fig01, my first ideas were not particularly strong. That said however, notice the triangle and hexagonal shapes were in there from the start.
I thought I was onto something when I combined the star – representing the camera flash – with the hexagonal shape – a camera shutter. At this point I thought “job done” and Derek submitted the ideas to Managing Director and Company Founder, Jim McCann. Thoughts of putting my feet up were short-lived though, Jim wasn’t sold on the original ideas so off in another direction I went.
Next up we tested triangular shapes, splitting them into three parts, trying to get something that would fit the message. Again, at this junction I felt like we were onto something. The shape got more rounded and it morphed into a simple marque I liked.
We also needed a typeface that was on point. Clean. Fresh. Modern. Here’s the tricky bit though, I didn’t want it to be too clean, fresh or modern. I wanted something that was solid and also, dare I say it, something that would stand the test of time.
I’m a big fan of Helvetica. It’s a classic font that can be a solid, basic workhorse or it can be put to work for an extravagant London fashion house. I wanted something like Helvetica as the font, but not Helvetica exactly. It had to be new and have its own character. In the end we whittled it down to six typefaces that we thought were good and would work well. Roihu was then selected as our new typeface.
Roihu has a nice style to it, retaining its effectiveness in many different weights. ‘SNS Group’ was starting to look good in its new clothes but there were a couple of small things that still niggled me. I didn’t like the lowercase ’s’ and I felt the ‘o’ needed beefed up. I decided I would work privately on this in the background. Everyone else involved in the project was happy with the Roihu typeface but I knew some tweaking here and there would make things look even better.
I changed the ’s’, the ‘o’ and then the ‘r’, making a mould for the latter using the existing ‘n’. Once I had those shapes in place I tweaked the ‘p’, pulling it out ever so slightly against the ‘o’. Finally I adjusted the ‘g’ to balance the ascender with the ‘r’ next to it. I thought the shape created from the leg of the ‘g’ up and around the ‘r’ was now considerably better. Some probably didn’t notice, maybe still don’t, but Derek and I were happy with these adjustments.
The simple shape was beginning to form. There was something about this hexagonal shape that kept pulling me in its direction. I suppose looking back the logo was always there. My next submission to Jim and Derek was a smaller hexagon within another (see: fig05 ) – I liked it, but it still wasn’t quite right. There were other shapes added to the inside of the main marque to give it a bit of depth and character. I remember thinking one of them looked close to a Saltire, almost returning us full-circle to the old identity, but that wasn’t what I was looking for. It had now been a good few months but things were beginning to form. We weren’t far away.
So, we had this rounded hexagonal shape with a triangular shape living inside it. The hexagon had always been there, desperate to be part of this logo, and once I put it with the triangle I knew, “yeah, this is it”. Simple.
Now, I suppose up until this point I had always felt the logo would be blue, or certainly shades of it. I noticed some nice colour palettes whilst on holiday however so I decided to bring them into the project. There was a section of red that was really kicking out. Derek, Jim and myself all remarked on it. The colour preferences were starting to change…
After that it came down to a straight choice between red and blue. I think there were a few people in the office who didn’t want to give up the blue, we’re a Scottish company after all. When it came down to polled opinions though, most opted for the new, very new, reddish-pink colour – Rubine Red.
The logo was now working, it was just a bit too flat. Derek suggested we look back at some of the earlier ideas and add in some layering. We did this and it brought out a few more colours and shades. Once we got the balance right with the marque and typeface we were set. We had our camera shutter, we had our ‘play’ button, we had our palette. We had our new brand.
All in all the project lasted about 7 months. The feedback so far has been positive and there is a sense of excitement within the office to get the logo out there and into the business world. I think it represents SNS Group well. Without getting too deep and ‘arty’, I’d say it looks like, and represents, a new dawn.
Ok I suppose that final line does sound a bit heavy ☺. I wonder if this logo will be around in 20 years for someone else to pick holes in it though?