From concept to reality: rebranding Google Squared

2nd November 2014

From concept to reality: rebranding Google Squared 
 
Rebranding Google Squared - Awards & Honors
Squared (often referred to as ‘Google Squared’) is an educational initiative developed and launched by Google London in 2012.
 
It’s catered to people working in the advertising and creative industries and encourages learning by doing and action over theory; training participants to affect change in their industries behaviour and methods by understanding how technology impacts society.
 
I was fortunate enough to discover Squared when it was first introduced and instantly identified with their vision and way of doing things. However, I had always felt that their branding was severely lacking. It wasn’t congruent with their can-do attitude and innovative teaching methods.

Original Google Squared Logo (2012)
In July of 2013, I had a new vision for the future of Squared. So over a couple of weekends, I created a conceptual rebrand of the programme. This experiment focused on giving the brand a bolder and more powerful voice, capturing the team’s ambitious mission and vision for the initiative.

 SQUARED Conceptual Rebrand (2013)
The project was shared heavily on Twitter, leading to useful feedback from thousands of people around the world – many of them designers.  
 


 
Not long after publishing the conceptual rebrand, I met the small and passionate Squared team at Google London and in October 2013 they hired me to re-imagine the Squared brand from the ground up, for real.  Here’s a brief overview of the journey we took to give a new face to their groundbreaking educational initiative.

Process  

Google Squared Rebrand Process

Approaching this in the right way was key. I needed to put myself in the shoes of a ‘Square’, so I immersed myself in the brand by devouring every piece of course material and marketing collateral I could get my hands on.
 
I joined the participant groups online to follow their discussions, studied the photos from Squared events and attended one of their prototype workshops at Google London, to understand what it feels like to learn with the team.

Student feedback  

Student Feedback - Google Squared

Squared is more than just an educational programme, it’s a network. The Squared students and the people they work with are shaping the future of an industry that has infinite potential to be better; more relevant, less obtrusive and with far better ethics. These are the people who will be running the place in a decade, so it’s crucial that they develop the right perspective.
 
From their feedback, it was clear that change is a constant in the Squared experience. A similar trend appeared when observing the words the team used to describe the programme:
Brand Attributes - Google Squared
This progressive attitude needed to permeate throughout all of our communications and be the foundation of the new brands voice. When I presented the first draft of the new identity to the team, I titled the presentation ‘A complete vision for the future.’ because I found myself wondering: 
 
What if Squared were more than it is now? If we grew to become Google’s global education platform for teaching the world with the greatest experts, the latest technology and the fastest delivery methods, how would we look and sound?
 
The new Squared brand is the result of these philosophies.

 

 

Logo

The original logo was created back when Squared first began – as a scrappy, skunkworks project at Google London. Now that Squared had matured, such a literal execution wasn’t necessary.
 

Logo Before & After - Google Squared Rebrand
The new logo was developed with Google’s design philosophy in mind: simple, abstract and colourful with a geeky undertone.
 
 

Inspiration 

 
Google Name Meaning - Google Squared

Google’s logo is a great example of an abstract mark done right. A complex and geeky metaphor with a playful and memorable execution.
Google Product Icons - Google Squared
Their product logos follow the same formula, except they’re icons: simple faces for innovative products that are instantly recognised as being from Google. 
 
We knew we needed to take the new Squared brand in this direction, but without sacrificing our edge by becoming overly friendly.
 
Rough Logo Ideation - Google Squared
 
While experimenting with abstract takes on the original ‘[ ]‘ Squared brackets and a similar tone to the conceptual rebrand, I remembered a photo I had found on Twitter a few months beforehand:
Google Squared Hand Sign
Squared students often make these playful hand signs when posing for pictures together, similar to how you would mime a ‘frame’ before taking a photo. I saw this during the programmes launch back in 2012 and it had become part of the culture of being a Square.
Logo Design Process - Google Squared Rebrand
Combining this with the classic Squared brackets created a perfect symbol for the new identity – a frame.

The frame

Google Squared Logo Frame Development

 

Memorable

The brain acknowledges shapes before anything else. Repeated exposure to symbols is what allowed brands like Apple and Nike to become so deeply ingrained in our minds. It’s why road signs aren’t written in text, because they need to be universal and instantly understandable in a fraction of a second.
 
Colour comes next. Blue, Red, Yellow and Green are Google’s calling cards. You’ve seen them thousands of times already and you’ll keep seeing them – every time you open the Google homepage.

Student with Google Squared Logo
This all boils down to a single ambition for the new Squared logo: one symbol for Squares around the world.
 
Brutally simple, memorable and perhaps one day, iconic.
Logo Framing Concept - Google Squared

Versatile

To become ubiquitous, the frame needed to be able to accommodate a wide range of use cases. From collaborations with partners to playful logo illustrations, the frame is a mark you can take anywhere.

Partner Logo Concept - Google Squared
 
 
Logo Transformations - Google Squared
 
 
 
Graduation Presentation - Google Squared

Agnostic

Although Squared is a Google project, the team’s teaching methods are ‘platform agnostic’. They don’t encourage the use of Google products more than competing services and they’ll collaborate with anyone if it results in a better experience for their students.

 Android of education - Google Squared
 
A Google employee even used the phrase “The Android of education” when discussing their goals for the initiative: developed by Google, but made for everyone.
 
Because of this, it was important to deviate from Google’s typical product logo anatomy and position Squared as a standalone brand. A Google project, but with no bias toward the company.
Google Product Logo Anatomy
The logo was developed with the omission of the Google wordmark, allowing it to be perfectly visually balanced and independent while still carrying Google’s DNA.
 
One of my initial ideas was to integrate a bold logotype within the frame, completing the ‘S’ that’s implied by the frame.
Google Squared Logo Concepts
This was powerful, but it felt too overbearing and didn’t scale well. So we chose a lighter, more balanced version using Open Sans – Google’s sole brand typeface.
 

 Final lock up 

Google Squared Logo Lockup

Messaging

Having a clear voice to represent the new brand was imperative. Our old messaging had begun to feel awkward and clunky – a little too long to be a tagline and too short to be a manifesto.
 
Squared talks a lot about ‘the digital revolution’ (the one we’re in right now) and Google even named their Barbican London art exhibition after it – again, change is a constant for Squared. We knew that the brand should look and feel like the symbol of the digital revolution as a movement. A community with a shared belief system: the belief that the digital revolution is underway, that we’re right on the fringe and that we need to make the most of it.

 
Tagline Before & After Rebrand - Google Squared

The Google accent

 
 
Look closely at core Google products – from the experimental Chromebook Pixel to Google’s marketing landing pages – and you’ll see a simple strip of Blue, Red, Yellow and Green.
 
I’ve always loved this playful touch. Bold, energetic colours against an otherwise stark and minimalist aesthetic. It’s just like the Google homepage.
 
This is the new message for Squared. An idea that projects confidence and utilises what I call ‘the Google accent’. 

Google Accent - Google Squared
Beyond integrating the Google colours into the new frame, using the Google accent to underscore our message was an even more powerful way of bringing big Google’s DNA to the Squared brand.
 
When paired with an instantly recognisable symbol, Squared becomes the face and the voice of a new movement in education. Welcome to the revolution.
 
 
Google Squared Tagline
 
 
 
Sergey Brin Google Glass Keynote - Google Squared
 
 
 
Vic Gundotra Keynote - Welcome to the revolution - Google Squared 
 
 
 Welcome to the revolution - Google Squared Tagline
Like the new logo, the new tagline is designed to be versatile and global.
 
 
Tagline Translations - Google Squared
 
To really bring this to life, a conceptual ad campaign was created by pairing the new tagline with images from recent history that symbolise the digital revolution.
 
 

Note: The ‘google.com/squared’ URL is used for illustrative purposes only and is not currently active.

 

 
 Google Squared Moonshots - RedBull Stratos Jump YouTube
 
 
 
 
Google Squared Moonshots - Sergey Brin Google Glass
 
 
 
 
Google Squared Moonshots - Google Driverless Car
 
 
 
 
Google Squared Moonshots - Google Project Loon
 
 
 
 
Google Squared Moonshots - Google Glass
 

We are Squared

Using the new frame and message in combination allows for countless executions. International launches are a great example, evoking the sense that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.

 
Framing Locations Concept - Google Squared Rebrand

Identity system

Google’s design philosophy runs throughout the new Squared identity, bringing consistency and authenticity to the brand.

Colours

 
Google Colors - Google Color Palette
 

To do this, we limited ourselves to using only the core Google colour palette. This helps to keep our messaging focused and congruent with the company that made it all possible.

 Typography

Google Font - Typography

Open Sans is the sole font of the new Squared brand. Ubiquitous online and versatile in print.
 

 

Iconography Google Material Design System Icons Pack

When we first launched the new identity, we used a set of simple open source icons. When Material Design was unveiled at Google I/O ’14, we updated our branding to use the new System Icons.

 

Identity guidelines

 
Google Squared Brand Identity Guidelines

To hold all of this together and give the new identity focus, an ultra-simple set of brand guidelines were created. They feature all of the standard do’s and don’ts you would expect, but also include easy to follow practices for Typography, Photography, Visual Language and Tone of Voice, helping Squared stay consistent around the world.
 
 

 

Collateral 

Communications were drastically simplified across all of the Squared properties. Non-essential copy was either removed entirely or shortened for clarity, making way for clear and concise information with an upbeat tone.
 
Communication, Google-style.

 
Brochure Before & After Rebrand - Google Squared Online
The new logo and colour palette is used to create continuity throughout our materials.
Google Squared - Curriculum Design
 
 
 
Google Squared - Think Outside
 
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Think Outside T-Shirt
 
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Hip to be Squared
 
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Hip to be Squared T-Shirt
 
 
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - We are Squared
 
 
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - We are Squared T-Shirt
 
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Welcome to the revolution - Tagline
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Welcome to the revolution T-Shirt
 
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Personalised Student Notebooks
 
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Revolution Manifesto Poster
 
 
 

Invitation

 
When I created the conceptual rebrand back in 2013, I said: “Being invited to join Squared should carry with it a sense of occasion. It should be a personalised experience, akin to being accepted to your dream university or gaining admission to an exclusive club.”
 
This idea featured invites via both email and post. In reality, students are invited to Squared via their companies and receive a confirmation email before they join. With this in mind, we needed to avoid having the email feel cold or empty, so we brought the sign-up tasks to the forefront.
 
This is typically participants first contact with Squared – it’s where they tell us all about themselves. Making it feel welcoming while also allowing it to be exciting and even a little nerve-wracking was important.
 

Note: Confidential information has been replaced with dummy text.
Google Squared Welcome Email Template
 

Website 

Like the original Squared branding, the website for Squared Online (a distance learning version of the programme, powered by Home Learning College) was conceived when the project was much smaller and scrappier and the site was in serious need of an overhaul.
 
Despite this, application volumes for the programme are incredibly high, so the new site needed to be both visually aligned with the new Squared brand while also making it as easy as possible to apply to join.

Google Squared Website Design Process
 
A new structure and style guide was developed to established Google standards, using the same visual cues as other Google landing pages. We focused on simplifying the site by cutting unnecessary content and providing a fast, fluid and clear application process.
 
 
Website Wireframe Sketch
 
 
Google Squared Online Website - Before & After Rebrand
The new landing page even features a shot from Google+ Hangouts on Air, a product that Squared Online students use almost daily to collaborate as they go through the programme.
Google Squared Website - Responsive
 
Now fully responsive, the site pares content back even further on mobile, making it lightning fast and showing only the essential information needed to learn more or apply to join.
 
 
 

 

 

Advertising

Squared’s bold and direct tone of voice lends itself well to advertising, showing the project for what it really is: a new movement in career learning.
 
Note: The ‘google.com/squared’ URL is used for illustrative purposes only and is not currently active. 

 
Google Squared - Square Billboard
 
 
 
 
Google Glass Billboard - Google Squared Welcome to the revolution
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - NYC Vertical Billboard
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Times Square Billboards
 
 
 
 
Google Squared - Underground billboard
 
 
 
 
Google Squared Welcome to the revolution - Building Billboard 
 
 
 

Welcome to the revolution.

Global launch

When I first met the Squared team, it was comprised of just 3 incredibly passionate and hardworking people operating within one country, but the work they did and the people they inspired (myself included) paved the way for something much larger.

Global Launch 2014
 
 

Since the rebrand was implemented in April 2014, Squared has expanded globally: launching in Google Singapore, New YorkHong Kong and Germany, educating thousands along the way and becoming the foundation for an even larger international education initiative.

 Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter, here.

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