blogTO is Toronto’s main stop for local news, reviews, and best of lists. Created in 2004, it’s one of the city’s longest standing culture sites.
A new visual identity and responsive web design were required to help the organization preserve its place as a contemporary destination for all things Toronto.
The refreshed blogTO logo combines influences from editorial design, typographic sensitivities from the modern web, and a visual nod to the early days of blogging.
This simple, meaningful approach provides blogTO with a wordmark that communicates with authenticity and is better able to stand the test of time.
Part of blogTO’s ongoing success stems from their sustained investment in social media. Each of their channels boasts a robust following and the organization tries hard to keep their audiences engaged.
Specific versions of the wordmark were designed to live comfortably in the icon formats required by various social properties.
It’s no secret that the majority of contemporary internet traffic comes from mobile devices. blogTO wanted to reinvest in creating a great reading experience for users on any device or browser.
Specific attention was paid to the design of individual article pages. Users are becoming more likely to first land on these pages via shared content on social. Individual article templates have become just as important as the home page itself.
Photography plays a huge role in user engagement and blogTO is dedicated to making sure each article portrays assets effectively.
Strong visuals are supported by various layout systems that allow different templates to properly manage a wide range of content.
Maps and address data are central to a location-based content strategy. Contemporary mapping services were skinned and incorporated into the redesign of specific page templates. These solutions were created to communicate clearly on any browser or mobile device.
Themed slideshows are a very effective way to quickly tell a visually engaging story about a local establishment. Significant effort was dedicated to the creation of an immersive, full-screen image gallery experience. A system was also designed to allow unobtrusive ad integration.
Once logged in the user has access to a dashboard and a wide range of useful features to further promote engagement with blogTO articles, reviews, and best of lists.
An innovative approach to the responsive dashboard design feels bespoke and elevates the brand.
Continued emphasis on photo and image content keeps the app design from feeling dry or cumbersome. Special attention was dedicated to creating flexible layout systems and strong typographic hierarchies.
blogTO’s responsive platform and web app were developed by the amazing team at Hipo.
Video content is becoming one of the main ways blogTO engages with millions of users on social. A cohesive system for video art direction, text overlays, and other graphics was required to maintain brand consistency in this growing medium.
Part of blogTO’s growth strategy is to bring various content producers under its brand umbrella. Stuck On The Gardiner is one such example. Each of these acquisitions require visual design that registers as unique, but still exemplifies a strong connection to the central brand character.
Various animations and motion graphics were created to provide art direction to external production teams. See them live on blogTO’s Facebook video page.
Canada Learning Code is on a mission to help 10 million Canadians learn vital skills for the digital economy. Through program workshops, strategic partnerships, and a focus on underrepresented demographics in STEM, the organization is changing the landscape of tech education nationwide.
CLC’s leadership team required a new overarching, national identity to unify its various programs in a brand umbrella, along with a design strategy to ensure quality and consistency of all communication touchpoints moving forward.
The positioning of a new identity requires clear definition of audiences and communication goals. The creative brief process captures essential input from stakeholders and sets a criteria for successful messaging and visual design.
A positioning strategy for the preservation of established, well-known program identities like Ladies Learning Code was also essential to the process of generating CLC’s new national brand.
CLC required the creation of a new logomark to communicate stability and accessibility to a wide audience of learners, educators, partners, and volunteers.
Refinements to existing program logos helped establish a flexible system for the addition of new initiatives in the future.
CLC believes that coding education can make a significant impact on the lives of all Canadians, and contribute greatly to the health of Canada’s economy. Aspects of the new visual identity represent the energy created by the intersection of the digital and physical world.
The responsive layout was designed to accommodate french and english content in all page sections. Key stats and other achievements were called out to help viewers read quickly. Social media integration was another important aspect of the site design to support CLC’s impressive number of followers nationwide.
Social media is a critical aspect of CLC’s communication strategy. Twitter in particular allows CLC to promote events and engage with communities associated with its various programs. Large groups of learners, partners, and volunteers are united by conversations and the common goal of making tech education accessible to all.
Founded in 2011, Ladies Learning Code is the original educational program. Over the years it has gained much notoriety and brand equity, so the challenge was to integrate it into the larger brand umbrella while preserving its character and charm.
Updates were made to LLC’s visual language with new typographic and illustration styles.
For a deeper look at our collaborations with LLC since 2011, read our design retrospective on Medium.
Encouraging kids, particularly girls, to develop an interest in coding is central to the success of CLC’s mission. A range of design collateral was created to support these educational programs and encourage young minds to pursue an interest in technology.
Classrooms also play an essential role in making coding education more accessible to young Canadians. CLC created specific material that allows teachers to deliver existing curriculum through the lens of coding exercises. Simple, characterful visual design was required to help these assets communicate clearly and inspire educators.
Canada Learning Code’s new visual identity will be used by various team members, volunteers, and community partners. This resource helps ensure graphic standards are upheld during the application, extension, or future generation of brand assets.
Visual consistency across a range of touchpoints helps elevate the organization, underscores credibility, and encourages the formation of new partnerships.
Quality and consistency are also required when working with specific program-level identities. A second resource was created to highlight typographic treatments, illustration styles, use of colour, and other essential characteristics for each program initiative.
The Blueprint is a quarterly magazine and website dedicated to what’s new in the hardware space. Combining news, opinion, reviews and a shopping experience, The Blueprint should be the number one stop for anyone interested in the latest gadgets and other advances in wearable technology.
The Blueprint website seamlessly marries editorial content with shopping opportunities. Working under the creative direction of “Vogue meets Wired,” a distinctly fashion and tech art direction is carried throughout the entire web experience, with a stark black and white palette paired with hits of electric blue.
Consumer hardware goods are visually treated in a way typically reserved for high-end clothing, helping to cultivate a feeling of luxury. This art direction allows focus to be placed on the detail of products, encouraging viewers to covet hardware in the same way as other luxury items.
When browsing on any device, The Blueprint’s responsive site design adapts to showcase optimized images and text. Keeping with the established art direction for product photos, editorial content is treated in the same visually interesting manner to encourage readers to engage with content.
By embracing whitespace and letting the typography sing, all site content feels refined and intentional. Though stark in its colouring, readers are still encouraged to interact with site and have the opportunity to appreciate details in the hardware showcased throughout the site.
Each product spotlight was supported with team testing and review, represented with concise curator’s checks of approval. Interesting grids of photos helped highlight the process behind the product, and the making of the spotlight, allowing the reader a glimpse behind the scenes.
Maple offers online doctor consultations to Canadians anytime 24/7. With a convenient, patient-centric model, the company hopes to create a more sustainable system for healthcare delivery by reducing the load on overburdened clinics and emergency facilities.
The team at Maple required a visual identity, responsive web presence, and digital product design to help realize their vision.
All design exercises start with a creative brief. This paints a clear picture of the communication goals, competitive landscape, and target audience profiles.
With a creative brief established, the next task is to define a brand voice and messaging strategy. The hierarchy and tone established here helps ensure consistency in all Maple communications. Consistent messaging is essential and leads to feelings of trust and confidence in the brand.
Maple’s marketing site had the challenge of introducing a novel service to Canadian users who are not accustomed to paying for doctor consultations. As such, special emphasis on the personal benefits of this convenient, patient-centric service was required to immediately convey value and drive conversions.
Various pages of the marketing site blend approachable design, illustration, and copywriting to put users at ease and help Maple stand apart from other current and future competitors. These pieces are assisted greatly by the charming illustration work of Sam Island.
Underneath this layer of approachability are strong alignments and good type hierarchies. This solid visual foundation makes the layout feel credible and helps inspire feelings of trust.
For a closer look at the generation of Maple’s identity and design collateral, read our case study on Medium.
Many UX and UI considerations were delivered for Maple’s iOS app design, a key element of their growth roadmap. The app experience needed to anticipate a wide range of audiences and convey the same feelings of trust and warmth expressed on the marketing site.
Various parts of the onboarding process were broken onto multiple screens to focus the user action at each step.
Users expect text messaging and video chat to be straightforward and uncluttered. The Maple consultation experience was crafted with familiar UI patterns and general ease of use in mind.
The memorable brand colour palette is used strategically throughout the app to focus attention on certain elements at the appropriate times.
Following their diagnosis, the user has an option for free delivery of any required prescriptions. Since this is still a novel service, great care was taken to succinctly explain the process to help address any concerns.
To maintain a high standard of care and service, Maple collects a variety of feedback from users following every consultation.
Special care was taken to ensure every step of the user onboarding process maintained a consistent, characterful brand experience.
Use of colour, illustration, and copywriting all combine with a unique take on the design of typical form elements to elevate the page.
Much effort was dedicated to the planning and execution of Maple’s web app. Preliminary designs lead to user testing which fed crucial info back into the design process. Ultimately the result is an app experience that feels branded, intuitive, trustworthy, and interesting.
Canadians aren’t used to paying for on-demand healthcare, so a clear system was designed to provide pricing transparency and make sure each user knew how much the consultation would cost.
Custom brand-specific icons were designed for different time blocks to help visually communicate the pricing structure.
Maple doctors can diagnose a wide range of issues based on text conversations, image sharing, and video chat. They can even provide prescriptions and doctor’s notes remotely.
The design system here needed to simply and clearly manage all the variable data and states of the online consultation.
Special care was taken with the design of the summary pages to ensure the patient has clear access to all the consultation info, prescriptions, and next steps provided by the doctor.
A system was also designed to rate the consultation experience, as this is another key aspect of the patient-centric brand vision.
The presentation aims to show each logo concept in context, since logos are seldom seen floating alone in empty space. This range of example deliverables allow the team to judge the effectiveness of the logo concept in context and provides different visual interpretations of the creative brief.
The final Timecounts logo takes a simple visual approach to representing community action and scheduled time. The clockwise traveling line feels dynamic and has an inspirational element of momentum that lends itself to animation. Paired with a contemporary lowercase sans serif, this combination mark is approachable and works well for the various needs of the brand.
A logo is a small piece of the puzzle – a larger visual identity system needs to be crafted to breathe life into the brand. A dynamic colour palette, typography system, photographic treatments, custom patterns and iconography were all created for Timecounts with scalability and growth in mind.
Timecounts’ brilliant engineers worked hard to develop a functioning product prototype, but needed guidance to extend the visual identity system to their various online and offline touchpoints. Their volunteer management platform maintains the voice and art direction established in their visual identity, but takes a step back to allow the user actions to be the main focus.
We collaborated with the team on product wireframing and UX strategy based on different user workflows, through to visual interface design and asset preparation for development. Each area of the app strives to address user needs and promote an efficient workflow based on customer feedback from real-life scenarios.
Once the product design was finalized the next phase was tackling the onboarding and public facing marketing site. The process kicked off with a competitive landscape analysis and the generation of communication strategy options that would ensure Timecounts had a distinct position in the market.
Highlighting actual users and organizations allowed the product features to be showcased in a valuable real-world context.
Each organization’s story was tied to a different set of product features that new users would easily understand and derive value from. By sharing actual customer stories, Timecounts was able to provide inspirational accounts of how their product was helping to make an impact and move the needle in the real world.
When approaching the tour for Timecounts’ feature-rich app, it was important to connect with the various types of user needs and workflows. Grouping related features and succinctly describing their value demonstrates that Timecounts understands the typical pain points encountered by organizers.
Like many SaaS marketing sites, Timecounts required a pricing area that could grow as their offering evolved. A flexible slider system was designed as an engaging way for the user to determine the price for their needs. Animated icons help to visually support the idea of a lively, bustling community.
For a deeper look at the full design process with Timecounts, read our case study on Medium.
We often collaborate with startups that have their own in-house developers. When designers and developers work remotely, many visual nuances can be lost in translation. To prevent this we take special steps in the production of our designs with an in-depth dev pack which provides mockups for different viewports, CSS type styles, grid guidelines, and detailed functionality directions for specific page sections.
Download our ebook – The Dev Pack: A guide to preparing design mockups for development.
Plaza Ventures is a forward-thinking venture capital firm focused on the innovation economy. Their annual micro-funds connect growth-stage companies to a wealth of knowledge and private capital from successful families.
The team at PV required a visual identity overhaul, new web presence, and refined messaging strategy to resonate with private investors and visionary entrepreneurs.
The most effective marketing messages combine aspects of authenticity, audience definition, and competitive landscape awareness. Creative strategy defines these aspects and explores top-level concepts to get stakeholder approval before design execution.
Once established, creative strategy powers a web content planning exercise and helps to define communication requirements for that brand touchpoint.
This updated design provides a sense of structure and established brand presence, while also maintaining a visual connection to PV’s previous logomark and parent company Plazacorp.
Subtle typographic details add visual interest and encourage memorability with new audiences.
Plaza Ventures is community-oriented and believes success is derived from great relationships. The firm actively connects investors with company leadership to help all parties achieve a successful outcome.
The new website was designed to celebrate these relationships and put the focus on great teams and outstanding individuals.
The website was designed to accommodate future growth as PV brings new teams into the family. Portfolio company cards and other company-specific layout elements anticipate content variability and allow brand colours to create vibrancy on the page.
The overall art direction allows individual portfolio companies to be showcased and celebrated, highlighting details about PV’s relationships with various teams.
Successful websites find a deeper connection between page content and create harmony within those expressions. PV’s new web presence unites typography, icon design, infographics, photography, and layout with a sense of openness and transparency. This unification creates a memorable experience and imparts a positive impression of the brand.
High-quality, consistent visual design is the product of thorough preparation. An identity standards guide and other document templates help to ensure all team members understand the components of the visual language and are equipped to use the assets provided.
Function is a Toronto-based design studio focused on the propagation of meaningful solutions to a variety of communication design challenges.
Brand definition, visual identity, messaging strategy, contemporary web solutions, and digital product design are all passions. We understand and respond to the ever-changing nature of the design landscape to create real value for our clients. In short, we design for business, we design for love.
Maple provides Canadians with 24/7 access to doctors online. Frank and Vivian have been working closely with the team since 2015 to develop a rich brand language spanning visual identity, responsive web presence & web app design, iOS app design, print & environmental graphics.
We love collaborating with passionate entrepreneurs, growth stage startups, and established businesses to create or re-energize brand identities. Our team moves quickly and offers valuable insights from an external perspective. Email us and let’s get started.
HackerYou offers full- and part-time courses for anyone interested in web development and design.
Their 12,000 sq. ft. education and co-work space on Queen St. West is one the most inspiring places to learn and connect with other passionate minds. Since 2012, Frank and Vivian have had the pleasure of helping build their brand identity and truly believe that there is no better community in Toronto to advance your tech skills.