owe.zone Brand Development

Name

The first step in developing our Brand Identity was to find a name for our product.

This name had to meet 4 criteria:

  1. It had to be functional and available as a domain. We are a web app, so our domain should be coherent with our name and at best be our name.
  2. It had to be short. A big part of our product would be the personal link, which every user gets. This link would be made out of our domain and the username (product.link/username). So to look good and be memorable in any situation the link/domain had to be short, and as said our domain would be our name.
  3. It should represent our product and should in some way convey the philosophy of our product.
  4. At last but not least it should flourish in creativity and have an interesting twist.

We brainstormed a lot and had many different approaches. At first, we believed the TLD (.com,.at,.link) should have something to do with money because it would compliment our product. We wanted to use one of the new TLD’s out there (.cash, .money) and not one people see every day and also there would be more short domain names available with a new TLD than with an old one like .com .net. So we looked around, and two looked like they’d fit perfectly. “owe.cash” and “oweme.money”. While testing the names, we discovered over time that they did not suit our brand.  They just sounded wrong, not fluent, and we did not want to build a brand or product around a name that did not feel qualified.

After a little further brainstorming, there was the idea to set the money context aside and just use an animal to represent our brand. An animal would be easy to communicate and would also build a kind of mascot, but we would have to create the bridge between our product and the name which could bring its own obstacles along. That is also around the time we stumbled upon the TLD .link which in our eyes would be perfect for the product because a big part is a link.

Our suggestions were “jelly.link” & “hives.link”. After analyzing the pros and cons of naming us after an animal of some kind that does not have a relevant connection with the product just did not make enough sense.

After that, we focused on making it short and came across an available domain, “for.co”, which we thought would be a great match because it gets the message across even if neither owing nor money is included. We bought the domain but got an email the day after that the domain provider could not buy it for the normal price because it was a premium domain and we did not have the appropriate funds to invest in such a purchase.

Later that day we reconsidered to look at owe.TLD domains and came across one that just fitted perfectly: “owe.zone”. It matched every criterion and just made sense. It was cheap, short, represented our product as a zone where your debtors can come and at last, it resembled the word ozone.

Moods

To get a basic feel for the brand and the look of owe.zone we made some drafts and sketches of our final site just to try something and see if ideas could even work.

This process helped especially the UI/UX department but was also helpful for me because the Brand had to adapt to different style changes over time.

Logo

At first, we wanted to use a wordmark for our logo because we thought it made sense. owe.zone is a website and if our logo writes out our name it would be more prominent and the domain would be remembered better.

The First approach to create the logo representing the project lacked dynamic character and originality. To vitalize its appearance we experimented with various methods of enhancing its visual aesthetic.

Although the logo was acceptable, its insipidness overshadowed its presence. So we searched for upgrades or a twist of any kind, but we didn’t find anything pleasing.

As we thought through where our logo would be used, we recognized that using a wordmark like the one above would not take away the need for something that would work in a square format, for example for a social avatar or a favicon. That is why we started to make drafts and sketches for a lettermark type logo.

We explored different aspects of our initials, and after a good amount of experimenting we came up with two promising versions of the lettermark.

“These are great,” we thought to ourselves. But as we showed the logos to other people we came to a devastating conclusion that nobody recognized the initials OZ representing our brand. The left one was seen as OL while the right one was mainly seen as CZ which was not intended. But the biggest problem was just how boring these looked after seeing them multiple times.

It was highly mandatory at this point to take a step back, look at the problem from a different perspective and start over again in hopes to discover a more innovative solution to this job.

Asking ourselves what we could build from the standard link icon that is used everywhere and three chain parts to reference the chemical formula of ozone, o3, we developed further ideas that went in an entirely different direction.

We found the designs pleasing at the end, but also thought about combining all our thoughts into one and try to fuse the link icon and our initials into one single design.

While trying out this idea we stumbled upon a combination of symbols that resembled a human face. It was of great importance for us to have the element of fun and enjoyment conveyed together with profit-making within our logo, thus having a playful approach regarding these topics seemed to be a great asset.

Finally, we ended up with a logo that’s memorable, universal but also unconventional and fun.

If you think literal, it just reads out o.z but what it represents and visualizes is so much more. It is the face of owe.zone and gives us a personality. It kind of stares at you, and confronts you,  but it also carries a cheeky side along with it. Because our product is technically not that exciting, we needed a strong brand to make it memorable. A logo that intrigues you is exactly what we searched for, and in the end, our goal had been reached.

Colors

After developing a name, there were a few color schemes in everyone's mind, and we portrayed them in the moods mentioned beforehand. So we did not only brainstorm for color schemes, but more of a general experience that respectively personified our brand. At first, there were a few ideas in the room but nothing with a real justification. We used those colors just because we liked them.

After we couldn’t decide on a fixed scheme, we focused on the, for us, prominent space theme that the name owe.zone delivers when you pronounce it like ozone. So our primary colors were dark blues and in various shades of blue.

Blue, in general, was important. It represents trust, and this is important when it comes to a field like payments. Green was also thought about multiple times, but it didn’t represent what we stood for and did just not satisfy our needs.

We focused heavily on blue and experimented further with it, and as our screen design evolved a retro style, a vibrant blue color was a rational choice to make. So we came to a conclusion, our primary color should be #0000EE the default link color of every browser out there. It fitted perfectly with our product because, as said previously, a link is a big part of our product.

Everyone was on board with the idea, but there were still a few things left unfinished. As #0000EE is a very powerful color, we defined for owe.zone, it should never be used as a fill color but just as a stroke/contour or font color. We also set two gradations of the color so we could work better with them and support the primary color or use as a background in the case of #CCCCFF.

We also needed highlight colors for certain visualizations and parts of the project, so we defined a red, green and yellow tone to accompany the main scheme of blues.

Typefaces

There was not much to do in the typeface sector because from the start we decided we want to use system fonts on the whole UI to make the user feel at home and already would be used to the typeface. But after Leo came up with the idea for sentences typography became a bigger topic which had to be discussed again. As the sentence would be an essential part of the product and sometimes have larger font sizes than 64px the system font would make it look very different on each end user device. This would look a little unprofessional and would not good because these fonts are not built for that kind of use.

So we collected a few fonts that would fit our vision and in the end decided to go for Aktiv Grotesk, which is heavily inspired by Akzidenz Grotesk but with a more modern take on some glyphs.

Background Pattern

As we proceeded to test out different screen designs, it was evident to us that it felt a little empty and something was missing. As our screen concepts included a modal to wrap the content the background was technically free to fill with everything we wanted. That is why we started to experiment.

Our first idea to spice it up a little bit was to just use different colors for every site. There would be some colors we define, and those would randomly appear on every load of the site. After some testing with others, we discovered that we would lose recognition value in the process.

 

So we tried out a different approach and wanted to use the subject of a link as a background image.

 

We created a few different mockups with a two-toned style image and patterns for the subject. After we discussed the idea, we came to the conclusion that this would not scale and it would not be possible to find suitable images for every subject. There was also the question of what we should do when no subject is given, and we did not have a solution for this, so we scraped it.

We came to the conclusion that a universal pattern would be the best option, so we developed a pattern that resembled those of banknotes and ended up with a waveform that has a 33° tilt to have a positive direction.

Communication/Behaviour & Marketing

Sentences

After the idea of the sentences had been brought to me by Leo, we thought that it would make sense to use it as a device to communicate with our users and bring out the personality of owe.zone even more. The sentences had to include the data provided by the link, so they needed to adapt to various use cases. There had to be sentences for just the username, the username and the amount, the username and the subject or all of the above. We are still working on various sentences to get a library of just the right ones. There also had to be a significant amount of them to avoid repetitiveness.

Marketing

Before we finish the product, much marketing would not make sense because it’s a small product/company and we don’t want to spam on social media if we just release a small thing in the end. But a little bit never hurts, so I came up with the idea to use clips from different sources where the word ozone is dropped, and insert our logo at the moment they say ozone. This would explain to people how owe.zone sounds spoken and bring a little fun into the conversation without spoiling too much of the product. We are just now starting with social media posts to create some buzz around the product before launching and also busy making the landing page ready and also a short explainer video.

Identity

In the end, I think we created a character that owe.zone needed. It isn’t overwhelming but also not boring. owe.zone seems cheeky yet trustworthy and effectively embraces the juxtaposition between retro and the modern. We have our vibe by inherently dismissing contemporary trends regarding web design which most sites seem to exploit. We think this is important to stand out in a world where so many products and websites get released every day.