Behind the Rebrand: How Hustle is Designing for Impact
How often do you pick up a call from an unrecognized number? How many marketing emails lie in your inbox unread? The way we communicate, organize, and spread important information is changing rapidly and traditional forms of outreach are falling short. For example, in an active political climate, campaigns and organizations need to be able to communicate with their communities at scale. Knocking on doors and phone banking are slow and resource heavy. Email open rates are declining and automated blasts have become oversaturated and ignored. It’s becoming harder to authentically connect or get people to take action when it matters most.
We’re excited to announce our investment in Hustle, a peer-to-peer text messaging platform that will solve this problem by providing organizations with an affordable, efficient, and effective tool to reach their target supporters and customers. In the 2016 election cycle alone, over 40 million messages were sent & received across Hustle’s clients. Through Hustle, organizers working for the Bernie Sanders campaign or Planned Parenthood were able to recruit more volunteers, increase voter turnout, and raise money.
Personal conversations between two people are still the single most effective way to move people to action. Hustle’s technology has become increasingly important in empowering impact organizations and the platform has demonstrated success outside of the political realm, as well. Today, universities, unions, non-profits, and businesses are using Hustle to build and maintain relationships with their most important contacts.
Hustle brought on Taylor Curry, an independent designer and Bridge alum, to build a brand system that better reflected Hustle’s values of impact, authenticity, empowerment, and respect. We sat down with Taylor and Roddy Lindsay, Hustle’s co-founder and CEO, to chat about the project and the role design will play in the company going forward.
What are some of the key elements of the Hustle brand & culture that you wanted the rebrand to evoke?
Roddy: We had several different goals, which made this a challenging redesign. First, we wanted to evoke the breadth of the product and brand…that Hustle is a tool that can be used by many different people and types of organizations to achieve their goals. Second, we wanted to connect both the human and informal element of the product—that Hustle connects real people to have authentic dialogues about important topic—with its impact-driven, results-oriented, lets-get-stuff-done qualities. That called for brand elements that evoked togetherness as well as impact.
What were some of the benefits and challenges of working with an outside designer?
Roddy: Taylor was able to look at the brand and the product with a fresh pair of eyes, which was invaluable. Being in different cities, some of the coordination was sometimes a challenge. Hanging out in person a few times before and during our relationship was essential to build trust. Putting in that in-person time up front paid off.
Have there been any surprises that the design process uncovered?
Roddy: Taylor finding the “Us” within the word “Hustle” was a happy surprise. It suggested a way to visually bring together the community and relationship-building component of our product with the unabashed drive and raw energy that the word “hustle” brings to mind.
I was also surprised that we were drawn to wildly different styles in the early iterations. Hustle’s focus on genuine relationships in the age of bots and automation may seem quaint, and I was drawn to some of the old-fashioned styles that harkened back to an era of hand-painted storefronts on Main Street. On the other hand, the very edgy, italicized, bold styles attracted our CTO, Tyler, who is relentlessly focused on getting sh*t done — another key part of our product. Taylor was able to synthesize all of this different feedback and personality elements into the final iteration, which we all love.
What role would you like design to play in your next phase?
Roddy: A good design foundation, especially at this early stage of our development, is an investment that will pay huge dividends in the long-term. In the beginning of the year, we also hired Matthew Ferry, who was the design director at Change.org, to lead design at Hustle. He’s been working on embedding design thinking and collaboration with design throughout the company culture.
We’re working to apply this great core brand work to everything we do and raise the bar in terms of our product experience and marketing materials. We are creating as much of a solid base as we can across the organization so that everyone in the company has access to create beautiful, on-brand materials in their day-to-day. Every time we communicate, either internally or externally, we should be putting our best foot forward through our design and be proud of it.
Tell us about your process for the rebrand.
Taylor: My branding process is pretty straightforward: research, analyze, brainstorm, design.
Research + Analyze
In order to design a brand identity that feels honest & distinct, I love to dig deep in the research phase to understand the “why” behind the company and the unique problem the founders sought to solve. Seeing a slow decline of authenticity & engagement due to automation, Hustle sought to establish real connections between real humans over common goals. The original brand felt scrappy, determined, a little rough around the edges… just like some of the grassroots campaigns they partnered with early on. The team felt it was time to level-up the branding, but we didn’t want to do away with that sense of hustle & grit. I sent out a survey to discover the current status of the brand, with questions like:
- Which of these actions best describe what Hustle does?
- Which of these archetypes fits your brand?
- How well do you think the current brand communicates your archetype / desired brand personality?
- Why do people love Hustle?
This helped me understand the current brand, and where the company hoped to go. The results of my research + discussions with the founders set the groundwork for the rest of the project.
Brainstorm + Design
Throughout the brainstorming & design phases, I continually referenced the values that emerged from that initial research. I bet the team was tired of hearing me repeat it in every design review, but having that north star in place ensured we were staying on track & true to the vision.
As the center point of the brand, I aimed to provide a cleaner, more polished logotype that still had a nod to the approachable, easy style of the previous logo. The new logotype uses a customized italicized slab serif to evoke a sense of speed & speed while still feeling personal & grassroots. The “us” connection was a way to subtly highlight Hustle’s focus on genuine human relationships.
When it came to the mark, the fist icon was such a powerful visual that I struggled to change it. I also loved the story behind it — (Roddy & Perry used it in their first iterations of the platform to differentiate a Hustle message from a regular text). Unfortunately, the fist comes with a fair amount of meaning (defiance, resistance) that the already rebellious company name didn’t need. I felt the flag really embodied all of the qualities of the brand — empowering, aspirational, moving forward, carrying a message… I started tinkering around with that idea and developed the final flag mark out of the H in the logotype.
Once we nailed down the logo, mark, and primary color scheme, I developed an illustration style, brand implementation examples, and a thorough set of brand guidelines to complete the identity package.
What were the biggest challenges and surprises in the process?
Taylor: We got pretty far with one logotype concept before deciding it just wasn’t right. It was leaning heavily on the “us” component and was a little too retro/vintage looking over all. It was tough to start over on the logotype when we’d made so much progress, but it was absolutely for the best.
What were the unique challenges of designing for a product in the political space?
Taylor: I remember sending over the final project proposal the day of the election. We had gone back and forth a few times hammering out scope details and that’s just when it was ready. When the election results came through, I wasn’t sure what would happen. We were all still pretty stunned when we talked a few days later, but Roddy was quick to say that Hustle’s work was far from over and in fact more important than ever. That conversation kind of set the tone for the project, and got me even more excited to contribute.
We tested a bunch of color schemes and styles, from very techy, modern & clean to more vintage Americana, and landed somewhere in the middle. The modern twist on red, white, and blue felt empowering & unapologetic, but I made sure to allow for plenty of color combinations that wouldn’t feel too politically-charged given the breadth of organizations & causes they support.
How do you ensure the brand still works for other spaces Hustle is looking to expand into like higher education, etc.?
Taylor: While it may seem to skew political, the flag icon really works for any space. Much like a crest or heraldry, it can symbolize connection to cause, a team, a creed, a common goal. The logo & flag are primarily shown in a neutral navy with canvas accents, and I included a range of secondary colors & icons to combine across different industries.
How would you like to see the brand evolve going forward?
Taylor: In short order, I’m looking forward to seeing some of the animations & illustration elements that got sidelined for the initial launch to be included, because I think they add even more personality. I’m most excited to see how Matthew Ferry (Hustle’s new Head of Design) implements the brand in the product. He’s working on an initial re-skinning with colors & fonts before working to improve the user experience and really take it to the next level. Hustle’s also looking to hire a Comms designer, and it’ll be awesome to see how he/she interprets the brand as the product, goals, and political climate evolves. I’ve been really impressed with how dedicated the team has been to design & the whole rebrand process, so I can’t wait to see more of the brand in the wild.