In Inside Clarifai, Clarifai People

Behind Our New Visual Identity

By Natalie Fletcher

In Clarifai’s four years of existence, we’ve grown immensely, going from one man in an apartment to sixty people across two offices, and with growth comes the need for change.

We’re still on cloud nine over the success of our brand refresh, and couldn’t have made this triumph without many months of hard work from our team! But why bother to put in that work at all? This week, meet Erica Knauss, our Lead Brand Designer and one of the great talents behind our redesign. Read on to get her thoughts on behind our new branding!

What is the one thing you needed to have in place before you could start the brand refresh process?

I’d say the freedom to pin up ideas and brainstorm is essential to any design project, so it was important for me to follow and introduce that process here at Clarifai. I come from a design school where every single project was pinned up on the wall so, at the start of the process, I actually ordered giant black pinboards to display work as it progressed. It’s hard to visualize how different things work together from looking at a computer screen and also easier to have discussions without the distraction of technology. I also wanted not just the executive team to be engaged in the process, but the rest of the company as well. Having the work displayed as it developed through the process allowed the team to get a look at what we were doing and I often watched people having discussions in front of the boards. During late nights, I would get to have conversations with engineers which gave me an opportunity to explain my thought process and gain insight into how they felt about the brand.

What was the process the team followed for the refresh?

The process was then broken up into four phases:

1. Brand and Design Strategy
2. Brand Identity Development
3. Documentation
4. Implementation

During the Brand and Design Strategy phase, I did a complete audit of the Clarifai brand. I gathered everything from illustrations, to logo files, flyers, and anything that was still floating around in the world relating to Clarifai. After gathering everything possible, I wanted to see if anything still had any equity; I wasn’t going to throw something out for the sake of throwing it out. Following this massive undertaking, I did a complete competitive audit to understand the field of AI better, what the trends were, and where our opportunity could be. This information was also pinned up to lead later design discussions.

Additionally, we developed new personality traits and a brand purpose to guide the branding process into the identity development phase. In the Identity Development phase, we designed tons of symbols and type treatments, to explore our ideas across a spectrum. Doing this helped to determine how far out in the refresh we wanted to go. What followed was an identity system development: fonts, colors, patterns, photography, and explored how all these things worked together to tell Clarifai’s new story. I’d say we are now in the Documentation and Implementation phases. Our newly relaunched website is the biggest implementation to date, but as the year progresses, we will continue to build out the brand style guide to show how to use the Clarifai brand.

What was the hardest part of the process of refreshing the brand?

I have two things that I think were the most difficult, one being designing for an AI company, which was a first for me. I really needed a crash course in all things Clarifai. During my first three weeks joining the team at Clarifai, I didn’t want to jump right into designing for something I didn’t quite understand. So, I read almost every company blog post, various online articles on the subject matter of AI, and spoke with several people across the company from different functions of the business. My goal was to really understand what everyone thought of Clarifai before making any branding decisions. The second hardest part for me was educating the company as a whole on what branding is. I’m not a big public speaker, but I had to speak on two separate occasions to the entire company. I felt that to get the team to properly judge the work I was producing, I needed to provide them with a quick background in what branding is. I wanted us to think beyond just the logo because branding is more than that.

What was the most enjoyable part?

I’d say the most enjoyable part of the entire project was actually educating the company about branding and the process behind it. Since the launch, I’ve seen more people thinking about the design of their presentations, and observed an overall desire to be thoughtful in how they approach speaking about Clarifai. It’s humbling to see how excited everyone is with how the refresh turned out!

What were your thoughts on brand refresh? What does everything mean?

We had one piece of criteria that initially had to be addressed, which was the company-wide shift from focusing mostly on developers to providing solutions for enterprise customers. However, Clarifai built a solid following of developers, and with the refresh, we didn’t want to lose them. Therefore it was important the new identity system we developed be flexible enough to speak to both developers and enterprise customers. We also wanted to see how we can add to the conversation around AI, build more trust, and bring in the human element. You will see this come to life in our illustration style and how we begin to represent ourselves through photography and color!

In the development of new touchpoints, we are using our new brand personality traits to really gut check everything we are doing from recruiting, marketing and sales materials, to internal initiatives and events.

Strictly speaking about the logo, the symbol in our new logo was created to allow Clarifai to represent ourselves in a simple and iconic way. The concept behind the mark was to tell the story of the duality between a neural network and the human brain. We didn’t want to lock ourselves into a brand symbol that only speaks to understanding image and video but rather the concept of “Understanding Everything”. So in the end, we landed on a logo and symbol lockup but with the flexibility to change the icons color and overall usage (following our guidelines of course:)) Before, we only had a wordmark which wasn’t as flexible, so I’m excited to keep evolving our new branding.

What makes you excited about Clarifai’s new look and feel? What’s Next?

I’m really excited about the overall flexibility and the different elements in the identity system. I’m already looking into brainstorming more cross-team projects to see how we can exemplify the Clarifai brand internally and externally!

Two that quickly come to mind:

An exciting series of interviews with staff on the blog, where we will be taking new headshots and showcasing our talent here at Clarifai, not only on the blog, but on social media and other platforms as well. That project is in collaboration with our Marketing and People teams.

The new Clarifai HQ is coming this summer. This project is really cross-functional, and my role on the team is focused on the design of the space to ensure we can bring our brand to life not just for prospective employees, customers, and outside visitors, but also for the Clarifai team members who come in every day!

Massive shout out to Erica and the team from the rest of the Clarifam!

Thanks for sharing Erica!
Have more questions for Erica and/or want to connect? Follow her:
Instagram: @whiskeyandsugar

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