Remote Redesign: Launching a New Brand for Selman

I’d like to say that we all emerged from the desert, collectively shaking off the final waves of a peyote trip, and the true meaning of everything became vividly clear.
Johnny Selman
By Johnny Selman

Well, it wasn’t like that.. But we did walk away from dozens of video calls with a sweet lightning bolt logo. Here’s the story: 

2020 was a humbling year on many levels. It was an existential reckoning for a lot of folks, including myself. The year brought on a sharp decline in business for us, which led to a flurry of hypotheticals—the “cone of uncertainty” that precedes a hurricane. We managed to keep the team largely intact and tightened the belt where we could. Then the phone stopped ringing… So what do you do with idle hands? 

You give the devil the finger. 

It was pretty clear to me that if we were going to come out the other end of this abyss in one piece, then we needed to not only tighten all the screws but figure out what the machine actually does. 

We sharpened our focus on the positioning of the company. 

Defining the positioning of a brand is something that we do for companies all the time, but it’s something we’ve never really done for Selman. Going into the pandemic we called ourselves a full-service creative studio. That certainly didn’t set us apart from the bazillion other design studios in Brooklyn. 

What is our vision? What type of projects do we want to work on? What is our expertise? What is our area of specialization?

We said “Hey, we do a lot of social impact projects! That could be part of our positioning.” And the devil said, “I’ve never met a Brooklyn design studio that didn’t work on social impact projects.” Well shit… 

After weeks of reflection, we narrowed in on something that we truly can hang our black shirts on. We’ve worked with the Google Creative Lab on over 500 projects for almost 10 years. We are professionals at thinking systematically and working faster than hell. We are experts at creative sprinting. 

The entire team at Selman contributed to the rebranding efforts. We all worked on the head-to-toe makeover from a generic studio to a specialized sprinter. We focused on defining and articulating our process. We worked on making that process repeatable and quantifiable. (Insert training montage, kinda like from Rocky 4 but with designer-y stuff like lifting Wacom pens) 

We came out the other side with the confidence to have a simple lighting bolt S as a logo. And the devil said quietly, “Well, it is a pretty fucking cool lightning bolt.”

Another thing lockdown changed was the tectonic shift of the office. The office was no longer a place, it was a collection of places and bedrooms and basements. It became clear as the days became months that Selman is not a place—Selman is people. We turned our efforts towards the wellness of our team and the giant conundrum of how to retain culture from a computer screen. 

When thinking on how to do that, I came up with a wacky idea to push folks out of their comfort zones a bit. If you know me, you know that I hate dancing. So what better, than a dance challenge? We called it Flashdance Friday and each month a new team member would show a video of them dancing. Could be a recreation of an iconic cinematic dance scene or it could just be some interpretive bone-shaking. I felt I had to start this silly ball rolling so I went first. Here’s my interpretation of a family favorite from Love Actually. 

In the interest of privacy, we’ll keep the reveal to just my awkward moves. But, there were some EPIC dance videos from the rest of the team!

Every incremental step of growth that I’ve taken with the business has felt like a giant leap of faith. 10 years ago I moved from a desk in the corner of my house to a small room in a coworking space. Now, again, I'm moving from a desk in my house. Yesterday we opened the doors to our new office in Gowanus, Brooklyn. My goal with the new building is to make it a hub for creativity. A place for true collaboration and innovation. I couldn’t be more excited for this next giant leap of faith.


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