This article talks about the process followed to design the identity of Workday Physique, a kickass podcast by Ajitesh. Since I was asked sternly to write a long-form essay, I decided to be kind to my readers and share a playlist they can enjoy while reading.
This blog piece will discuss the design, branding, and semantics behind the Workday Physique identity. I’ll curb my inner design nerd and keep things crisp 👌🏻
Need for design
I often find myself in the supermarket aisle wondering exactly which brand of condiment I must choose. Since I don’t have loyalty towards any particular one, I tend to deviate towards the one that most appeals to my aesthetic taste (pun intended).
It is normal to pick up on the visual cues of packaging, such as its shape, text, colours, patterns, etc., and form a judgement around how the brand is— cheap or expensive, fun or serious, Indian or imported, etc. So, how we see something has a substantial effect on our perception and likability of it.
It’s an important realisation a lot of brands are recognising, and rightly so.
Over the last few decades, there has been a shift in how businesses look at design. At the onset of the industrial revolution, an essential differentiating factor used to be the value of a product. How much did something cost you?
With prices normalising due to competition, the next differentiating factor was the features. With technology becoming more accessible, and with the advent of globalisation, all companies started to reach parity in terms of the product features they could achieve.
Mostly indiscernible to the end customer, a modern-day Mercedes or BMW would not have many differences. They are both engineered to the teeth, cost about the same, and offer the same set of creature comforts. So, how do you continue to attract customers and provide them with something meaningful?
The next set of differences comes with design. How something looks, feels, functions and the kind of experience it affords. The companies that recognised this early on are reaping the fruits of this investment in design (read: Apple). Design differentiates and embodies the intangibles– emotion, context, and essence— that matter most to consumers.
“By 2020, design will overtake price and product as the key differentiator”
Now, what if something is intangible? Unlike the dijon mustard or the shiny new iPhone. What if it was about an idea around a service or an entity such as a company? How do you set something apart that exists only on paper? This is where the notion of branding comes in.
Branding does not have a single definition amongst designers and marketing people. Go ask thirty experts, and you’ll get thirty different meanings. If you had to ask me (I’m no expert), I’ll borrow the definition by David Ogilvy, which he wrote in his book ‘On Advertising’ which goes like, “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised”.
But if you want to be highly pedantic about it and must know how the concept embodied its modern meaning, you’ll have to look at cows. Yes, cows. For thousands of years, humans have reared domestic animals, and as a way to identify these as their own, they have burnt symbols onto them.
This practice gets its name from the Old Norse derived words ‘branding/brand’ for burnt-in signs. This extended to other reared animals and traded goods too. Only recently, post the 1980s, through publications and usage, did the word become more common.
In its modern avatar, it transcends the concept of a physical mark/symbol to include things like colour, texture, type, scent to identify goods and services. That’s the reason beer bottles have different shapes and colours, Pringles come in a container instead of a packet, and Netflix has the (now iconic) ‘ta-dum’ opening chime.
It’s all to appeal to your senses and bring about a deliberate differentiation. A brand identity fuels recognition, amplifies differentiation, and makes big ideas and meaning accessible. You’ll encounter a vast number of brands every day, but you only remember the ones you love. It’s an important foundational pillar of any great company or service.
So, how do we do the same for Workday Physique?
Workday Physique Identity
A solid branding would allow a nascent brand like Workday Physique to establish a perception about what it is and some credibility even before the people listen to the podcast. If something looks well made, you’ll be more likely to try it (and even enjoy it). Just like food.
A professional looking brand would also be important for the organic traffic that discovers the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Instagram, etc. Amidst a slew of options, why would someone tap on ‘Workday Physique’? This is one the most important challenges we faced while designing the identity.
To approach the problem, the first step would be to dissect the brand and articulate in simple words what Workday Physique means (or it should at least). It required a bit of soul searching to get clarity on this front. We finally got to work with a brand trying to educate millennial professionals about exercise and nutrition. This would help us with the semantics of the brand— the search for its meaning.
“…a brand trying to educate millenial professionals about exercise and nutrition.”
So, we knew we had to promote the pursuit of our listener’s dream body (or physique). This was the core of the brand. The podcast captures the spirit of training, the energy of lifting, its discipline and the inclusivity of the activity. Also, it’s a podcast whose audience is English speaking millennials from Tier 1 and 2 cities.
This gave us the confidence to adopt a minimal look for the brand, which resonated with the target audience. We then looked at other gyms, health and nutrition brands operating in the digital space to see what kind of branding was common. We also gauged the level of competition in the health and podcast space.
The good news was that very few of them had a concrete brand identity and the visual design for most was all over the place. This exercise gave us an idea of how we plan to differentiate our identity in the space.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” – Sun Tzu
A metaphor we took for the brand was ‘rising’. The sun rises everyday to start a new (work)day, you push yourself to raise your fitness level, increase your energy levels, exercise lifts your mood up, and you strive to reach a new level of yourself. Everything has a sense of rising or moving up. So, the logo also has an upward/vertical movement to it to symbolise this idea.
To sum it up, a few things that hold the identity together: minimal, modern, rising, and bold. This dictated all the decisions around the colour, typeface, composition and graphical elements we designed for the brand.
The colour palette is vibrant, rich and feels alive when you see the complete set. This helps capture the energy, which is so central to the brand and is inspired by the gym and exercising. Anything muted or pastel would’ve made the brand look too chic, and come off as a wellness brand— which we aren’t.
The brand colour that we decided to pick was red. You see red, and you get a sense of vigour, health, and it completely catches your gaze. In many cultures too, red objects were believed to convey health through their colour alone. Red also manifests itself in connection to passion. Maybe that’s why a Ferrari is red and not blue.
The typography for the brand takes cues from the parallels in the industry and doesn’t stray from the approach of having a tall, weighty, sans serif typeface that you see with a lot of other fitness companies. This keeps the typography impactful and in your face.
For a primarily digital brand, it helps to also catch attention on a mobile screen. The typeface of choice for the brand is Knockout. Designed by the famous type foundry Hoefler&Co., who have also designed typefaces for Barack Obama, Tiffany and Co. and The New York Times, just to name a few.
Knockout belongs to a family of 32 sans serif style with different weights and widths. This allows us to really play with varied typography layouts and experiment a lot with type. The font is clean, disciplined and functional. It captures a lot of the values of the brand and provides spirit to the identity.
While designing the mark, choosing the colours and the usage for the brand, we had to always be conscious of its digital use. On a digital interface, things have to work at a small scale. Handheld devices have limited screen space and need to have a lot of details crammed into them. This can often do more harm than good as a person would have a ton of elements on their screen fighting for attention.
The logo mark had to also work at a shrunk down size and still retain its identity. We designed a simplified mark with reduced details and adjusted spacing to be used below a specific resolution. The colours, too, satisfy the minimum contrast ratio to provide maximum legibility against different colours on the screen and increase accessibility.
The brand exists solely on the digital medium and would have to work within its limitations. As a designer, my role is to ensure the brand stays consistent across mediums and does not break at different places. We make strict guidelines for the brand that are supposed to ensure quality control, and let the brand mature organically over time.
All of this has led to a clean and modern looking brand identity for Workday Physique. It’s not trendy or fashionable that would fade away by the end of the year.
It was built with the purpose of driving recognition and to build loyalty. Every entity creating expressions with the intention to be recognised has a brand, but simply having a brand does not spell success. Brands serve recognition, for better or worse.
Only strong brands help with persuasion and loyalty, leading to a substantial increase in economic and social value above a baseline business.
The project started off on a very casual note, and its scope was never defined. I was just a designer looking out to support a new project a friend had started. But as you begin the design process, its magic is such that it gets you more engrossed into it.
What was initially only a fun, logo design weekend project expanded to become a wholesome identity design exercise. It’s still not exhaustive— there are multiple aspects of the brand that we didn’t look at or just don’t have the time to dive deeper into. However, we have a great starting point and something that gives us a great advantage most new brands lack— an identity.
Just being able to establish yourself in the minds of listeners ensures that they are more likely to drift towards your content. The brand is still in its early days and has a long way to go. Workday Physique is a brand that celebrates the human spirit and helps its listeners to achieve their goals.
Thanks for reading!
This is a guest post by Himanshu Sharma.
Himanshu is a Senior Product Designer working at Airtel. He’s a geek at heart, and loves everything about cars, tech and design. He lives for the weekend cos that’s when he watches Formula 1. Other days he likes to run away from responsibilities and is so good at it that he’s now training for a half marathon.
To talk about cars, design, running or buying SIM cards, you can reach out to him at his email [email protected]. You can also check out his design work on Behance.