Much like any brand, Graydient Creative didn’t happen overnight. Originating as the internal web team for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, the group recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of a holiday we’ve named “Seed Day” on July 25th. This very special day commemorates the hire of leader Shawn Spartz, thus planting the seed that would later bloom into Graydient Creative.
Building a Brand
Initial ideation for the branded concept began in June of 2015. The team visited Splash Studios and participated in a full out branding brainstorm with the talented team at Odvant Creative. From this session, we gained a better understanding of ourselves, not only as we were, but also who we wanted to be going forward. We started with our colorful creations, as well as a list of words that best described the bunch:
A Rose by Any Other Name
Next up was determining a name. A number of concepts were brought to the table while the group continued to call the company NewCo behind closed doors. The forerunners included Sonder, Particle, and Graydient – each carrying their own weight and special meaning.
Sonder, by definition (according to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows) means the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. We thought this related well to our experiential desires and spoke to our hospitality roots and passion towards user (and client) experience. Particle had come in as a recommendation from our friends at Odvant, since much like matter, a particle alone may seem like nothing much, but as a team, it could move mountains.
Graydient, on the other hand, was initially driven by color. Lead Designer Leslie Berkley (then Fickau) had another idea and ran with it. “Pete had told the team his branding story [from his previous work experience that involved naming a business based on the numbers 777] and I thought ‘we’re web kids – what’s the color for the hex code #777(777) – its gray!’ Then I went on to think about how we could use gray in the name.”
Little did she know, the name would resonate and spark inspiration for so many reasons.
Taking things literally
The word “gradient” by definition means slope, or more mathematically speaking the degree of steepness. This seemed to fit, since time went on, the team was known to scale particularly quickly as well. What started as a single developer and graphic designer in 2007 has exploded/erupted into the nearly 20 members our team has today!
Gray: Not black or white, but everything in between
As there are two sides to every story (and two sides to every brain) the term gradient conversely reminds designers of the blending tool made famous by Adobe, representing a full spectrum, much like our team of developers, content creators, and designers. Spelled with GRAY in the name, we wanted the ability to highlight that we don’t see anything in black and white, but always shades of gray. Additionally, from a visual standpoint, we are able to literally show the difference between left and right brain.
Scaling the Summit
The idea of slopes led to another revelation: mountains. It’s old hat to hear founding/creating/building a startup compared to scaling a mountain, but we see our clients making the trek daily. The digital world often seems like a mountain range, with a number of peaks and valleys that need to be conquered. Sure, climbing a mountain seems like fun, but to do it alone is dangerous. Which is why you need DIGITAL SHERPAS. And so our theme was aptly created.
Dient: Service with a Smile
While we didn’t know it until after our big reveal, ‘dient’, the second half of our name, was also discovered to be a German conjugation of the word “dienen” which means to serve. (More specifically, this is noted as the third person singular – therefore s/he serves.) Rooted in hospitality, we can’t think of a better name!
Make it Pretty – Logo Design
We’re in digital marketing, so we can’t have an awesome name without a beautiful design to back it up! Since three names were still on the table, our design team went to work cranking out logos for each concept.
When asked about the logo creation process, Leslie noted, “The process was hard in general because we were designing logos for three different company names at the time.” Sami Weber, web design extraordinaire, added the additional challenges “and having the team vote, not knowing what everyone individually would like to see… in essence we had multiple clients.”
The two worked together, as they commonly do, and came up with what we know today as the Graydient logo. “It was a combined effort with Leslie. She had the original font picked out with the poly pattern and I added the brackets/colors/sub-text.” said Sami. Leslie states, “We were going for techy, and fun. San serifs are so modern. This font in particular (Francois One) had a lot of fun characteristics like the slants and non uniform stroke widths. Then the polygons and the brackets for the techy, and the vibrant colors to show our fun.”
There Can Be Only One
While the winner may be obvious today, the choice wasn’t that easy. After dozens of names had been rejected, hundred of logos created and reworked, the team had to make a decision. The big pitch meeting had been scheduled for NewCo and when we walked in, we wanted to solidify our choice with a single name, to show that we meant business. (After all, we didn’t spend months of hard work not to be taken seriously.)
To make the final selection, most companies would probably do some user testing, converse with potential clients to gauge their reaction and feedback, but we’ve always done things a little bit different. When push came to shove, we did what any logical group would do: gathered our entire team in a conference room, put our heads down, and thumbs up. That’s right, the name Graydient was selected by a blind vote in the style of the popular children’s game Heads Up, Seven Up.
Now, more than a year later as an independent agency, Graydient Creative has made a name for itself and the team shows no signs of slowing down. We’ve been working with some of the nations biggest brands and we recently moved into a new office. We’ve come from humble beginnings and we’re looking forward to a bright future, scaling summits and helping others build on their brands in the digital space.