How Doodling Helped Me Design for Dragonfly

When I joined Dragonfly full-time three years ago, its brand was due for a makeover. The company had changed a lot since I’d first worked on the design years earlier. With an impressive and growing staff and client list, Dragonfly needed an identity overhaul.

I was pretty much starting from scratch.

The challenges of building a brand identity are, well, challenging. The design should, of course, look attractive and professional. More difficult to achieve is communicating the company’s services, its unique position in the industry, and its personality — with just the right mix of visual elements.

And you know how they say dress for the job you want, not the job you have? While the brand needs to feel authentic and familiar to existing clients, it has to hold up as the company grows.

A little-known but very real conundrum of creative work is that it can often be harder to design for your own company than it is for other organizations, which you can approach objectively.

So I began the complex process of defining — visually — who Dragonfly is and what it’s like to work with us. As I told Kathryn Flynn in a previous blog, that process seemed to take forever.

But I finally got to a place where I was satisfied — and Sam was too. I’d developed our color palette, designed a new logo, and selected fonts. At that point, I should have been ready to start creating our new collateral — things like letterhead, business cards, and postcards.

Except I wasn’t. For this project, more than any other I’ve done, I really needed to develop a design “backstory.” I needed more experimenting in order to flesh it out for myself … while refining it at the same time.
So I started to doodle.

I worked some on paper, some in Adobe Illustrator. I created icons, illustrations, and some random graphic elements. I played around with our fonts and colors. Over time, in the images, I started to see little stories emerging about our brand. I started to glimpse what the brand could look like in its fullest articulation.

Most of the “doodles” I created during this time never saw the light of day. Some of them turned into items we use today — things like our “Word Nerd” stickers and our “Field Guides” logo.

All of them I turn to still for inspiration and ideas.

I heard once that Anne Tyler, author of The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons, has to paint a portrait of each of her characters before she begins writing a novel. She has to see them in a different way than in words.

The process I had to go through was something like that. Extending my creativity in a few extra directions was what helped me bring it into focus.
This post was written by Lexy Nesbitt, a designer at Dragonfly Editorial.


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