How Design Studio rebranded Shopify’s Oberlo into a hub for DIY CEOs

The identity champions the experience of the self-made entrepreneur by visualising the messiness and scrappy energy of a start-up, channelling “a vibe of the business idea scribbled hastily on a napkin over dinner”.

14 October 2020


Oberlo started out purely as a dropshipping app owned by e-commerce giant Shopify, and until recently focused mainly on providing useful products and tools to its entrepreneur audience. But as it grew, Oberlo wanted to become a broader content platform for these users, a place for members to not only access those tools but also take online business courses, and learn through articles, podcasts and ebooks in the form of advice and interviews with other entrepreneurs. Oberlo worked with branding agency Design Studio to revamp its brand to convey this new approach, and the resulting identity expertly toes the line between professionalism and the scrappy energy of a start-up.

“When we first met Oberlo, it was clear they had a distinct point of view on the world of entrepreneurialism, one that stood apart from the romanticised idea of overnight success stories, get-rich-clickbait or Lambo bros,” explains creative director Alex Johns. “It was a refreshing attitude that didn't shy away from the grind of hard work, but encouraged its community to strive to create something meaningful in the long term. A self-made, rebellious energy embracing failure and success in the same hug. We wanted this make-it-yourself spirit to run throughout the strategy and creative expression, creating a brand with momentum, honesty and a little bit of grit.”

In the visual identity, the overarching creative concept was the DIY CEO and their “hustler spirit” says senior designer Alistair Davies, its target audience being the young generation of entrepreneurs building brands from their bedrooms. “We wanted to visualise the messiness and imperfection of building a business to create a brand that felt authentic, and didn’t take itself too seriously.” This system features bold but friendly typography and photography, and illustrations by Guy Field and Appear Offline that ties into themes of the ups and downs of an entrepreneur’s journey. “We wanted these drawings to have a vibe of the business idea scribbled hastily on a napkin over dinner,” Davies says. These are used across the system “as if they were sketched and scrawled over perfectly set elements,” including the logo.

The illustrators were briefed to subvert traditional business tropes, Guy Field creating characters and Appear Offline focusing on lettering. “Guy got the idea immediately,” says Davies. “There were so many hilarious initial scamps, from a weirdly muscular briefcase to snakes made from receipts. My favourite has to be the dog in a power suit. I had the idea on a long lock-down walk and was thinking about how to reimagine the phrase ‘working like a dog’. I originally imagined an Afghan hound in four red stilettos, hair blowing in the wind, bossing it in the business world. Guy went for something more butch, but in retrospect, I am actually much happier with how it turned out.”

Appear Offline’s hand-drawn type brings to life phrases and graphics in the identity. “He comes from a graffiti background which we thought would perfectly complement Guy’s work,” adds Davies.

As for the wordmark, Design Studio capitalised on Oberlo’s high density of circular forms, exaggerating them to great effect. “We pumped up and emphasised all the rounded shapes to create a chunky wordmark with an idiosyncratic personality,” Davies explains. In animation, the word mark is spun like a wheel that gathers momentum and speed, apparently a metaphor for “entrepreneurial drive”. Meanwhile, the rest of the type and headlines are purposely bold and in-your-face, “a heavy base beneath our illustrative interventions”.

Finally, the brand colour has been tweaked and added to, plus the agency has created a holographic colour swatch as a slick contrast to the “scrappiness” of the rest of the graphic system. Davies says this was inspired by the shiny stickers on the back of bank cards, and Pokemon. “It’s like that rare Pokemon card that feels special to collect, and it’s used in moments where we want to reward and surprise users.”

GalleryDesign Studio: Oberlo identity (Copyright © Oberlo, 2020)

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Design Studio: Oberlo identity (Copyright © Oberlo, 2020)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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