Last summer at Trouva we began the journey of solidifying the company’s brand positioning and gaining a deeper understanding of our loyal customers. As part of this project, I was tasked with reimagining Trouva’s visual identity.
Trouva.com was launched in the autumn of 2015. Its visual identity comprised of four key components; The Trouva word mark (Domaine Narrow by Klim Type Foundry), the ’T’ monogram taken from the word mark, the brand typeface (LL Brown by Lineto) and a wide-ranging colour palette.
Since it was pushed out into the big wide world the visual identity hasn’t had the smoothest ride. The original tagline — “Inspiring Individuality” — was dropped by new Creative Director Lucy Ward shortly after taking the helm. Also the wide-ranging colour palette was reduced from eight to two colours as a means of simplifying its usage.
Fast forward two and a half years and Trouva has become one of the top 5 fastest growing Ecommerce startups in Europe*. We’ve won multiple awards, including ‘2017 Venture Funded Business of the Year’ at the UK Startup Awards, and raised a $10m Series A. Our community of boutiques now stands at 450+ in the UK and our sights are set on European expansion. During this time, the backbone of our visual identity — the wordmark, monogram and typeface — stood resolutely, keeping our design offering consistent.
The main objective with this refresh was to create a visual identity that represented our solidified brand positioning. At the heart of that was our new company tagline ‘For The Independents’ and our redefined brand narrative. Before starting, we had a clear set of deliverables that included the logo, the monogram, typography and the colour palette. It was key that the identity was flexible and scalable so that a language and system could be built around it and applied to a multitude of touch points.
Trouva’s logo has always been the anchor for our identity. The previous identity lacked clearly defined colour or typeface components, instead leaving the logo to do all the heavy lifting — ironic, considering it was set in quite a fragile serif.
So how do you represent and communicate independence in a logo? My research lead me down some interesting routes, from mid-century independent shop fronts to social movements like ‘HeForShe’. Each had its own take on what it means to be ‘independent’.
One aspect of my research that really hit the mark for me was protests — more specifically the posters and signs brought to them. The signs commonly found at protests and marches have one intention: to have their voices heard. The signage is a visual display of the creator’s voice and message. This seemed to fit Trouva’s brand narrative, which has a similarly manifesto-like quality:
“We are Trouva. We champion the independents. It’s about time we said ‘no more’ to ‘more of the same’. Together, we will stand against the uniform and the ubiquitous. Our role is to broaden choices and amplify voices.”
After experimenting with a host of condensed sans-serif typefaces — similar to those seen on the signs at protests and marches — we chose to go with Core Sans. There is a strong hint of FF DIN (a popular German typeface designed in 1995 by Albert-Jan Pool) about Core Sans. It has a similar width and weight but its differentiator is the small elements of personality and charm that aren’t found in FF DIN — most notably the arm of the capital ‘K’. Another similar trait to FF DIN is that Core Sans has as a condensed family, which gave us the option to use that for the tagline and other materials.
We chose to set the logo in Core San’s ‘65 Heavy’ and uppercase to give it maximum impact as well driving home the concept of empowering independents and amplifying voices.
Special attention was paid to the spacing between the V & A which is a notoriously tricky letter pairing. The solution was to negatively track the A, reducing the uncomfortable gap between the two letters.
Previous to our refresh we had relied quite heavily on Lineto’s Brown as Trouva’s one and only typeface. From a design point of view Brown is beautiful, especially in big open spaces, however practically in an increasingly condensed digital environment we didn’t feel that Brown was working hard enough. Also, from the emotional and communicative standpoint Brown no longer represented the voice that we wanted to project.
The solution was to break apart our headlines and our body copy. For the headlines we followed the path of our logo and utilised Core Sans. The idea that the headlines would be communicating ‘We are Trouva’ without actually saying the words “Trouva”. In the Netflix documentary ‘Abstract’ Paula Scher candidly dropped into a phone conversation the line ‘You don’t have to see the logo to know what it is’.
After a looking at a range of sans-serif alternatives we landed on Lineto’s Circular. We felt that Circular would work brilliantly as a workhorse body and detail typeface. Similar to Brown (a fellow geometric sans-serif) it nicely contrasts with our use of Core Sans in headlines, providing warmer and more welcoming body copy. From a practical point of view, Circular is a huge step up in terms of readability in all mediums, but especially online — which is important for an online business.
The Trouva monogram hasn’t previously played the biggest role in our visual identity. Its primary use has been as the masthead for our social channels where it has helped our following and engagement rates grow massively. One of the main issues with our previous monogram was that it wasn’t very distinctive and its black background and white monogram closely mirrored a few other brands.
With the new monogram the goal was to create a mark that had a story; something that tied with our new logo and typography and could become synonymous with independence.
After experimenting with a variety of differing concepts the one we pursued was ‘Paths’. The idea was that independence isn’t necessarily about battling global institutions or rebelling against the mainstream, but rather the action of choosing a different path. The two paths in the monogram go down different directions, whilst also forming the shape of the T.
Special consideration was paid to the curves and weight applied to the mark. We chose to mirror the curvature found on the bowl of the ‘O’ from the Trouva logo as well as the weight of the type to determine the thickness of line. Despite the fact the logo and monogram may not be seen next to each other, it was important that they they still felt part of the same family. Other details include purposely choosing to reduce the space between both paths so that it didn’t look ‘perfect’. Although it was still built using a grid, we decided the mark felt more authentic if it was ever so slightly imperfect. Nothing involving humans is perfect and Trouva represents people; real people with real stories. Creating a mark that was completely polished would not have been a clear representation of what Trouva is about.
Over the coming months we’ll be rolling out these updates across all Trouva digital and print touch points, and from there we’ll begin developing a structured design system. We feel it’s important that as Trouva and our design team grows, we put the systems in place to help us move forward in unison and with one clear voice.
By Matt Roundell, Designer