Evolving the Pluralsight identity: the story behind our new look
- select the contributor at the end of the page -
Today is an important day for us. We announce a new look and feel—a new brand—and there’s a lot more to the story than you might assume.
At the center of our rebranding lies our new logo—the result of thousands of hours of work spread across many months. Our purpose was to better describe visually how we’ve evolved as a company.
We could’ve simply made the announcement about our new identity and left it at that, but that’s not who we are.
Rebranding a company can teach you a ton of things, not only about design, but also about the values of your company. Since we know you share our passion for learning, we wanted to share with you some of what we learned along the way. With that in mind, I sat down with Pluralsight’s Creative Director, Phil Hunter, to find out what went into creating the new brand.
Why did we rebrand?
Pluralsight was founded in 2004, the same year Apple introduced the iPod mini with its massive 4 GBs of storage. A lot has changed since then, both in the tech space in general and for Pluralsight. You’ve probably seen it too.
In just the past couple of years, we’ve grown from 400 developer courses created by 200 expert authors to ten times that amount. We now offer over 5,000+ courses from 1,000+ authors, and our library includes training for IT teams, creative artists and other professionals.
“It’s a coming of age for Pluralsight,” Hunter says of the need to rebrand. “We’ve expanded in size, reach and product. But I didn't feel like our old logo or visual style accurately reflected how we've evolved as a company.”
Our acquisitions of PeepCode, TrainSignal, Tekpub, Digital-Tutors, Code School, Smarterer and HackHands has directly contributed to our domestic and international growth. In only two years, we’ve expanded from 100 employees to nearly five times that amount.
"We saw this as an opportunity to build a new brand, together," says Hunter. "This rebrand allows us to unify the acquired brands into one."
How we did it: Research and development
As any creative knows, you normally don’t fire up Illustrator and start designing your final logo. The first step in any creative process is always some form of research, and this was no different.
Since a logo becomes synonymous with your company’s identity, you need it to reflect who you are as a company.
So who is Pluralsight?
We’re not your ordinary company. If you’ve hung around us before, you’ll know we’re proud of our culture.
Our mission and values were a natural starting point, but Hunter knew our brand needed to capture Pluralsight’s identity for everyone, regardless of whether or not you happened to work at one of our offices.
“We did over 40 interviews with Pluralsight customers,” Hunter explains. “We did some e-surveys, phone interviews and had five focus groups in five different cities."
Hunter’s team also examined competitors in the online learning space. It’s important for your logo to be unique, so a first logical step in finding out who you are is finding out who you aren’t.
Based on all of this research, four words surfaced that helped inform the look of the brand. Those words? Sophisticated. Smart. Aspirational. Expert.
Designing a brand is 97% failure
After gathering research, the next step was to make sense of it all.
“We locked ourselves in a room for a week,” Hunter remembers. “We started on a Monday, and that’s the only thing we worked on. We played music, had people drawing and collaborating on laptops. It was a great experience.”
Historically, Pluralsight’s identity has always had two strong visuals. The color orange and the play button. But when you’re rebranding, you shouldn’t limit yourself to what has worked historically.
“We made it clear there were no bad ideas,” Hunter says. “We wanted exploration.”
When you’re creating a brand, it’s usually important to figure out the shape before thinking about color. To keep color from being an initial consideration, Hunter had his team work only in black and white.
Many of the initial designs revolved around using the letter P, a la Google’s distinctive G logo mark. Eventually, this idea was exhausted without a clear winner, so other explorations started to surface.
As the week continued, hundreds upon hundreds of logo explorations started to emerge. From there the team needed to thin it down.
“We started hanging them up on the wall,” Hunter explains. “As a team we asked each person to pick their top three. Then we put stickies on those, pulled the rest off and refined them from there.”
Hunter continues, “You know, 97% of what we do is about failure. And you have to know you’ll need to work through that failure to get to what’s good.”
With each failure Hunter and his team knew they were drawing closer to the new Pluralsight logo.
“The logo we ended up with has a lot of meaning. It has the connection of moving forward. The double triangles represent fast forwarding your career, and it still alludes to the play button.”
Getting the right colors
Once the logo shape was figured out, work was far from complete. The next major hurdle was figuring out colors.
“When we started looking at colors, we knew we should consider orange because it’s what we’re known for,” Hunter says. “But we felt like we could do more with it if we either changed it or we added to it.”
After doing research on the psychology of colors, the team learned that orange radiates warmth, happiness and optimism. It’s combining the physical energy and stimulation of red with the cheerfulness of yellow.
“When we read that, we knew orange was so Pluralsight,” Hunter says. “With orange radiating optimism and one of our core values being eternal optimism, it seemed a perfect fit.”
To complement the orange, the team went with magenta. While orange is the color of optimism, magenta is the color of change and transformation. It influences our personal development and helps us experience a greater level of knowledge.
“We really liked the psychology behind these two colors,” Hunter comments. “We’re transforming who you are, your career path, and so it almost shifted us from being an optimist to also saying that we’re changing your life with what we do.”
Excited about their findings, the team then did a competitive analysis of colors and found nobody was using magenta in our space.
Although they felt they had stumbled upon two colors that thoroughly represented the company, something still seemed slightly off.
“It felt too flat with our logo being just orange or just magenta,” Hunter says. “We liked the idea of having a color transition because it would also speak strongly to who we are. It’s a transition from old to new, from who you were to who you are now. We tried a bunch of different combinations, but when we tested the orange to magenta gradient, it just felt right. I’m not really sure how else to explain it.”
One story ends, another begins
While the logo is certainly a big part of a brand, a great brand is so much more than that. It’s who we are as a company; how we make people feel and the experience we’re able to deliver.
Although the tale of how our new brand was born may be over, it’s only the beginning of exciting things to come.
Since Hunter and his team finished the rebranding, our product and engineering teams have been hard at work updating the learning experience to fit our new identity.
It’s already taken massive amounts of work, and it’ll continue to take a lot more. But we know it’ll be worth it in the end, and we’re excited to start sharing some of the updates as they’re ready.
We know changes can be bumpy, but everyone at Pluralsight is dedicated and optimistic that we'll make this transition the best it can be.
After all, it’s who we are.