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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

Work / Graphic Design

Graphic Design: Matt Willey oversees impressive new YCN identity

We’re great believers in the going the whole hog here at It’s Nice That. Incremental change is all well and good, but sometimes it’s great to embrace a brave new world which is what our friends over at YCN have done. Originally launched in 2001 as the Young Creative Network, YCN has evolved into something quite different in the subsequent 13 years, although based on the same principles around supporting creative endeavour. To mark a change to YCN standing for “You Can Now,” they have worked with the peerless Matt Willey on a new logotype and graphic language based around the Founders Grotesk typeface.

We caught up with YCN founder Nick Defty to talk us through the changes which launched yesterday…

Why was this the right time to redesign the identity?

This was absolutely the right time because we want people to know how YCN has grown and to get familiar with the expression “You Can Now.”

This is how we now articulate what YCN stands for, which is helping creative people do new things. It’s like we’ve changed what YCN stands for, but we’ve not changed what we stand for. We’ve always been about helping creative people do new things, but through our membership we are now doing this for a much greater breadth of creative people, and in many more ways. We wanted to positively signal change.

It also coincides with a re-design of our membership offer. We’ve spent the last year talking to existing members (some in the early stages of their careers, many others further along the way) and friends of YCN about how we can best help them in their daily creative endeavours.

Having done all that we felt it was the right time to address our appearance; and to create an eye-catching flag on the top of the iceberg (to paraphrase Michael Johnson).

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

What was the initial the initial brief?

It was discussed how important it was that any logotype would have to work in small spots and big ones too. Our website is often people’s first touchpoint with YCN, and a place that members engage with frequently so an important context for the identity to come to life in.

What did Matt bring to the process?

Matt was brilliant to work with as always. We’d only recently worked with him on the re-design of the YCN Members magazine; which was the first run out of the expression “You Can Now” on its masthead.

We have our own internal design team at YCN, but having enjoyed Matt’s perspective on the magazine so much, we decided to ask if he’d work on the identity brief too; and luckily for us he said yes. 

Matt and I discussed the idea of a cursor being a good metaphor for the whole You Can Now idea, the cursor represents all the different things that YCN can help you do as a creative person and that in digital contexts this could be a great, animated demonstration of all the things we can help you do. 

Hover Studio have brought this to life brilliantly as well (see below).

I am really glad that we got the chance to brief Matt because we trust his vision as a designer. If you respect the designer you’re working with and believe that they understand what your organisation is trying to do then it makes decision-making easy as you only really need to say yes, and thank you.

What do you think are the key strengths of the new look and feel?

The logotype communicates the idea “You Can Now” not just in words but through design. It suggests action, doing, being creative. These are ideas that sit at the very heart of what YCN membership means. The logotype feels like a fitting part of all of that. It can also work in tiny form as a Twitter icon, and then go nice and big as an animated event backdrop. 

The overall visual style (and use of our new typeface Founders) has a smartly fresh feel which helps us communicate that YCN has grown with its audience without losing that fresh, youthful and bright energy.

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

Getting everything done in a timely fashion when it’s something that you care so much about will always be a challenge. But Matt hit on the visual concept first time, and because we have the internal YCN Studio team supporting we managed to run things relatively smoothly and work as a very tight team.

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity

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Matt Willey/YCN Studio: New YCN identity