When James and I started Populi back in 2007, visual identity was not something we discussed. We knew what we wanted Populi to be—a comprehensive online system that any college could afford—very early on. We also settled on the name Populi pretty quickly, wanting something simple that didn’t try too hard to explain what it was; something we could imbue with meaning through our services and interactions with our customers. I remember thinking at the time that if The Beatles weren’t the greatest band of all time (don’t @ me) we’d all think that was kind of a silly name. Populi seemed like a name that we could define as opposed to it defining us.
So we had a name, and part of what you might call a brand strategy, but we didn’t have a logo in the very early days. Eventually, when we put Populi on the market, we, as one does, needed one. By this time Populi had been acquired by EMSI, and I remember saying something to the in-house designer like, “How about the word Populi with a person shape inside the O.” I chose Lucida Grande as the typeface because that was the Apple system font at the time, and “Apple-like” software was something we aspired to. He produced a bunch of ideas, and I picked one. That was it. Kind of a placeholder, really.
A little while later Populi became independent again, and we just kept pushing forward; improving Populi and trying to bring on enough customers to be sustainable. Our logo was never something we were particularly proud of—we’d sometimes (lovingly) refer to the person-in-the-O mark as “bathroom sign man”—but we were focused on making Populi the best it could be to serve our customers as well as we could.
Fast forward ten years, and we aren’t the same scrappy start up we used to be. Our logo has gone from a kinda goofy placeholder to a reminder of our humble origins to something of a liability. We’d actually achieved a level of acumen (so we’ve been told) at the things we originally set out do, but our visual identity didn’t reflect that. While I've always admired brands that resisted the temptation to rebrand as trends changed, it became clear that our never having gone through the process of establishing a visual identity had become glaringly obvious, and was letting Populi down.
So in 2019, with all those years of experience building Populi into what it is now, we finally set about figuring out how we wanted to present Populi, the brand, to the world. Luckily, we didn’t have to look too far to find someone to guide us through the process. Isaac’s brother JT has extensive experience in brand strategy and identity, and, naturally, already had some familiarity with Populi. After a few conversations, confident that JT understood where we were coming from and where we needed to go, we embarked on a process of refining Populi’s brand and coming up with our new visual identity, our new logo.
We started with a series of discussions with key staff members to identify which of Populi’s attributes are most important to us and our customers, and how to talk about how Populi can help customers to get from where they are to where they want to be. This involved a lot of sticky notes and flash cards, but the upshot is that it helped us all to get on the same page so that JT could begin to develop a visual identity that fit with how our customers see Populi. One advantage to going through this process after so many years was that we all already had more or less the same ideas about what Populi, the brand, represents. This phase went pretty smoothly.
After several weeks, and exploring dozens of concepts, JT presented us with three different takes a new Populi logo. One was the clear front runner from the get-go, but we liked the new shade of cyan proposed from another. After a few rounds of refinements we presented the new logo to the team. Naturally, seeing a radically different design for the first time comes as a bit of a shock, but there was universal agreement that it was a big improvement.
Next, we updated our website and social media accounts with the new logo with plans to publish a story like this one soon afterwards. But instead we all ended up working from home for the next couple of months, and felt like you’d rather we write about things related to online learning for a while. Eventually it really seemed like high time to say something so here we are. We hope you like the new logo as much as we do.
P.S. If you’re using Populi’s old branding anywhere on your website please reach out to Populi Support so we can get you updated images. Thanks!
P.P.S. Want a new Populi “pop” sticker or two? As a reward for making it to the bottom of this post, just fill out this form and we’ll send them your way.