Driving Innovation: Branding Toronto’s Newest Startup Incubator/Accelerator

Now Creative Group on Building an Identity for Soho Innovation Lab
Hitting the streets of Downtown Toronto this winter is Soho Innovation Lab, an investor-backed accelerator and coworking space looking for kickass companies who want to build and grow, all while working in a collaborative environment.

The premium quality, well-equipped space will foster an environment of entrepreneurship and innovation in Toronto’s flourishing tech and startup ecosystem.

Now Creative Group has had the opportunity to work on branding the organization over the course of the last few months, and it is now time to share the outcome. The following delves into our creative process, the hits, the experiments, and the final reveal of the full Soho Innovation Lab brand.

The Visual Identity Process

Before developing concepts, we set out to compile a spread of incubators and coworking space logos to see where Soho would fit, and how we could help them stand out. The brand needed to pop; we needed their name to break boundaries and take a leap outside of the box because Soho isn’t just another coworking space – it’s a multi-faceted facility that will offer funding for passionate companies looking to excel, backed by stable funding from an established company.

They aren’t looking for just anyone; they’re looking for bold, ambitious, driven, and forward-thinking startups. Our objective ultimately was to brand Soho in a way that embodied this.

Looking at the Landscape

 

Among the first round of logo concepts, we presented the following:


The far left concept was rejected from the beginning as it was too playful without enough emphasis on innovation, which is key to Soho’s vision. The center logo was considered for its innovative spin on the letters of ‘SOHO’ and the reference to building blueprints. Regardless of the angle you looked from, you were able to read the 3D letters. However, it was not strong enough on its own to encompass the full scope of who Soho is. The third concept was a simple take on the idea of breaking boundaries – where Soho is the baseline/structure and you, the observer, fill in the gaps.

 

In the next round of logos were the following:

With this set, we continued highlighting the concept of pushing boundaries and breaking out of the norm. We took the favourite from the first round of logos and experimented with negative space to make the name pop. Additionally, we included two new logos. The middle concept plays on the classic pyramid, an ancient structure that is recognizable by all – a “trusted” shape. To bring life and innovation to the shape, we paired it with a linear mesh that had the effect of being draped over the prism. The ripples in the mesh suggested movement and making waves, while the draping represented a reveal – an intricate concept to show the unveiling of ideas, ventures, opportunities and much more. The third logo of this round relays the idea of stepping out of the box, with a foot integrated into the letters of the name. Ultimately, it was decided that the first logo was still not strong enough and the last logo was a bit ambiguous as the connection of “H” “I” and “L” could be misinterpreted as an acronym.

 

Cue round three!

At this point in the design process, we had determined that we needed to work with a bold, clean font that would be simple enough not to overpower a design element, but would still be strong enough as a wordmark on its own. We decided to do something different with the far left logo and cut the bottom corner of the square to represent the physical space itself. Its location at the corner of Beverley Street and Queen Street West, has a unique shape that, from an aerial perspective, resembles a square with a corner removed. This logo represented more of Soho’s history, but not enough of their broader vision. Applications for future branding extensions would also be very limiting and eventually, this concept was vetoed. The remaining two logos were the front-runners at this point. The centre logo was an enhancement of the previous round, with the main element brought to the forefront so that its detail could be better appreciated and understood.

Given the complexity of the different elements (the pyramid, the draped mesh, and the waves), we went ahead and simplified the structure of the pyramid so it only had lines necessary for the eye to understand that it is a three-dimensional shape. The lines also came together to form a minimalist “I” (innovation) and “L” (lab), which could be used as a stand-alone element – separate from the wordmark and the mesh – if need be.

 

The final concept was our innovative spin on lessening the visual lengthiness of the word “innovation”. In comparison to “Soho” and “lab”, the word sticks out significantly and it was a recurring issue that we faced with every stage of the logo design process. To ease this strain on the eye, we broke down the word into two lines and tied them in together through the use of the diagonal line. The third “O” taken from “Soho”, helped form the idea of a full connection, as in a game of tic-tac-toe. The idea was that a full strikeout represents success and winning. The contrasting shapes of the circles and the line helped build the notion of thinking outside the boundaries and making connections.

 

These last two logos became the most representative of the vision of Soho Innovation Lab and we worked to expand the branding a little further to see which one ultimately was the stronger logo.

Just before we get to the final reveal, here were some honourable mentions:

And now, the final Soho Innovation Lab logo.

The final logo is comprised of the two most critical elements throughout the process – a strong font, paired with an icon that represents motion and thinking outside the boundaries. The icon, first introduced in the second round of concepts, was modified to be as simplistic as possible, while still conveying the overarching idea of stepping away from the norm. In order to be able to overlay the wordmark on the icon, we decided the best thing to do was to thicken the movement lines in the pyramid. Additionally, we decided to remove the structural line so it doesn’t interfere with the readability of the words. The choice in font was a relatively easier one as it was exactly what we were looking for – simple, and bold. It allows for clear legibility from letter to letter. The effect? A subtle, but impactful logo that’s easy on the eyes at first glance, but also makes you take a second look to really see what’s going on.

To solve the problem with the length of the words in contrast to one another, we decided to tighten up ‘Soho’ and ‘Innovation’ closer to the centre. Though the length of the word ‘Innovation’ doesn’t change, this effect tricks the eye and makes it seem less out of place.

We ultimately decided on the far right configuration that ensures none of the letters aligned vertically which could possibly be mistaken as an acronym.

 

Of course, no visual identity or logo design is complete without colour, which is a key part of this brand. Over the course of the process we played around with a few colour combinations:

The result was a combination of the presented colour schemes. The goal was to evoke trust in the organization, but also maintain a level of attention and focus. With that in mind, we paired a Charcoal Grey with a Blood Orange as the primary colours, along with white, and used a Carolina Blue and Jungle Green as contrasting, secondary colours. The primaries act as bold, eye-catching colours, while the secondaries both have a blue undertone that offers neutrality when used in conjunction with one another.

Full Logo Variations

Wordmark Variations

Icon Variations

In deciding the primary body font for the brand, we wanted to ensure that it both contrasted against as well as complimented the title font. We chose Roboto, which complements the clean, geometric and natural read of Mont, while still offering contrast through its narrow lettering.

Now that the brand identity has been finalized, the Now Creative Group team is working away on the website (landing page is live at sohoinnovation.com), print materials and an exciting launch event scheduled for early 2019.

 

 


 

If you’re a startup looking for funding to innovate and support in scaling, please subscribe at sohoinnovation.com and feel free to email now@nowcreativegroup.com where we can connect you to the Soho Innovation Lab team!

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