Regular Practice wants Howie to feel different “from your typical language learning brand”
With a modified font and easy, curiosity-piquing icons, the language platform is meant to fit naturally into a user’s life, with design from Regular Practice.
- Liz Gorny
- 7 December 2022
“With language learning branding, you’ll often see more of an animated or gamified visual identity”, explains Regular Practice’s Tom Finn and the Howie founder, Josie Jones. It’s true. Think back on any language learning platform you might have dabbled with over the years; whether it’s score-based lessons or an owl pushing you to maintain a streak, most look like family-friendly gaming platforms. Regular Practice has spent a lot of time rethinking this approach. The design studio has just delivered branding for Howie – a newly-launched platform that seeks to make language learning less pressurised, and more natural.
At its core, the branding for Howie is meant to fit into a user’s “reality”, the duo says, without them having to take extra steps to incorporate it into their day-to-day. This also meant moving away from “the notion that language learning needed to look and feel like a software brand”, Tom states, focusing instead on fostering connection and relatability.
“Howie was always meant to be different from your typical language learning brand – it needed to look, feel, and operate differently than current language solutions because we’re ultimately building for the learner who has tried existing resources, but hasn’t yet found what works for them,” says Tom and Josie.
From a design perspective, Howie is highly illustrative, featuring icons created by Martyna Wieliczko; while photography from Oliver Hooson edges the platform closer to the look of a lifestyle brand. Regular Practice also employs a modified, chunky sans serif to complement the range of brand icons – depicting polaroids, a paper plane, a turtle with a hat, the sun. According to Tom, these icons were “crafted based on the experiences of learning a language rather than tied to a specific language or culture.” In particular, the illustrations focus on the “feelings” associated with language learning. While the visuals represent the positive parts of this experience, the Howie tone of voice makes space for the frustrations and uncertainties that come with the territory.
Tom and Josie point out another trait in existing platforms that Howie steers clear from: the focus on fluency. “[Throughout existing tools] you often see programs designed for reaching fluency, the reality is that reaching fluency is a barrier to learning a language in and of itself. It’s difficult, and often romanticised.”
Ultimately, Tom and Josie state: “I think our authenticity shines through how we communicate the feeling of learning a new language rather than through trying to position ourselves as an authority of language instruction. [We] also wanted to be sure the brand allowed for exploration while not being too generalised in one way or too prescriptive in the other. People are learning different languages for different reasons, but can still be united by the experience.”
GalleryRegular Practice: Howie (Copyright © Howie, 2022)
Regular Practice: Howie (Copyright © Howie, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.