DesignStudio rebrands AO, conveying the passion, high energy and personality of the brand
The previous identity was merely functional and needed consistency across brand touchpoints.
- Ruby Boddington
- 22 September 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Started in 2000, AO is one of the biggest online retailers in the UK for electrical and home goods. And while this longevity means AO is somewhat of a household name, its brand identity had become limited, dated and was similar to a lot of its competitors. That’s where DesignStudio come in; the creative agency with offices in London, New York and Sydney has delivered a refresh of AO’s identity, updating its logo, colour palette and communication across brand touchpoints.
Elise Santangelo, design director at DesignStudio, tells us that when they first came to AO, “there were several styles and messages floating around and the advertising felt quite different to the website.” What AO needed was more consistency across everything, “from the online experience to delivery and installation, all the way through to recycling.” The old identity was merely functional and the problem was that none of the brand’s “incredible passion, high energy, or personality was coming through, so we set out to bring this to life.”
DesignStudio began by defining a concept which would underpin everything: “Always On”, which is a reflection of the “full-of-beans spirit” DesignStudio experienced during the “immersion” phase of the project. This concept “inspired every element of the toolkit, including a clear, upbeat tone of voice, motion principles, and new photography principles,” explains Campbell Butler, creative director at DesignStudio. Included in this was a redraw of the smily face logo, which was bang-on in terms of tone but drawn awkwardly. “The smile was too chunky and the elements were uncomfortably spaced,” Butler continues. “It was difficult to centre and didn’t sit comfortably in a square. There was also a disconnect in styles between the bubble ends of the ‘a’ and the rounded ends of the mouth.” The new logo is clearer, with better spacing and curvatures as well as being optimised for digital environments, at small sizes, and in motion.
The colour palette received a revamp. Similarly to the logo, which took into account what was already working and fine tuned this, instead of totally starting from scratch, DesignStudio stayed with AO’s well-known green but made it more vibrant – a shade which stands out compared to the brand’s competitors.
A major part of the rebrand is the creation of a new typeface, made in collaboration with Rick Banks from F37. A custom typeface called Smiley Face, it’s full of “friendly” ligatures and glyphs which help express AO’s personality and it also provides “full functionality in digital environments” through its body weights. For the headline weight, “we matched the rounded characteristics and geometry of the logo, and developed special ligatures that ‘smile’ towards each other,” Santangelo outlines. Each headline character also has a variety of alternates, providing flexibility and the ability for expression or formality, depending on the context.
A suite of graphic elements were introduced, all directly inspired by the smile and Always On. “We broke down the smile into multiple pieces, giving us a simple set of pieces to create nearly anything, from patterns to icons to 3D objects,” Butler says. Using these shapes, DesignStudio created brand patterns and product category graphics, furthering the notion of consistency, as well as 3D sets full of these graphics which can be used to show off new products or to design retail displays.
Finally, DesignStudio entered the sonic realm, creating a sonic signature for AO, using sounds from the home set to the beat of AO’s iconic jingle. With departments throughout AO already equipped with the new identity ready to use, it will be appearing nationwide imminently.
GalleryDesignStudio: AO rebrand (Copyright © DesignStudio, 2020)
DesignStudio: AO rebrand, logo (Copyright © DesignStudio, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.