Table of Contents
  • Brand positioning map
  • Tone of voice map
  • Conclusions
  • Top professional builders
  • Top regional dealers
  • Secondary TA segments
  • The main customer insight
  • Values
  • Target audience insight
  • Brand positioning
  • Slogan
  • Tone of voice
  • Brand Goals
  • Messages
  • Retrospective
  • TA touchpoints
  • Primary element
  • Modular typography logo
  • Typography
  • Principles
  • Colors
  • Photos and Videos
  • Comparing before and after
  • Visual identity formula
  • Mockups and an actual implementation

Have you ever considered why some businesses make successful and outstanding brands while others do not? I've been thinking about it all my marketing career. At first, if some brand I've been working on hadn't launched, I felt that it was my fall and took it personally. But over the years of practice, I understood that the process is much more complicated and depends on many factors.

Looking back, I considered what factors influenced the brand launch and visualized some funnel with the most problematic points that could ruin the process. Looking at the picture, I have mixed feelings because I see every brand strategy that has not been implemented for one reason or another. In my experience and subjective opinion, all those steps must be executed to reach the brand launch step.
Here, I will tell you a complete story about the company that successfully passed all these steps and was brave enough to stand out in the conservative construction market.
Agate ("Агат" if written in the Cyrillic alphabet) is a construction materials supplier. It is a family company with a 30-year history led by Vladimir Markov and his daughter Barbara. The firm successfully passed through two financial crises thanks to its human-centric approach, which its owners have been applying to clients and employees.
Barbara asked my colleague Den Lazarev and me to do a customer experience research and develop a brand strategy to update Agate's brand positioning and communication messages. After that well-done work, we made a deal for a flexible visual identity design.

Because the market and the business seemed very conservative, we feared owners would not accept radical changes. And from our point of view, they desperately needed those changes. So, the first challenge was to make that business transformation and adopt brand positioning to the target audience's needs. That is why we decided to move very carefully, step by step, starting from the workshops series, which helped us explain to the core team what modern marketing and branding are. I was convinced that being in the same context with a client's team is crucial for a successful business transformation.

The second challenge appeared when I took a task to design a flexible visual identity. It was my first work in that field, and I struggled a lot because I needed more experience. I was learning on the go, and thanks to my teachers, whom I will mention in the Gratitude chapter, all went well. I had another opportunity to see how important to learn in practice. I practiced art direction because I worked on some design projects, like packaging design, but making a visual identity for Agate gave me a deep understanding of the whole process.
Brand positioning map
Den and I started with a competitive analysis to see the whole picture of what is happening in the market. I analyzed competitors' communication channels, messages, and visual identity. As a result, we came to the client with three filled frameworks.

  1. Brand positioning map. It allows us to understand what benefits competitors make their accent and shows a helicopter view of their brand positionings.
  2. Tone of voice map. It allows us to understand competitors' brand characters and choose the tone of voice that is more appropriate for us.
  3. Conclusions table where all conclusions are separated into two parts: strategic (connected with the product) and tactical (connected with a promotion).
We can see that competitors base their brand positioning on functional benefits. It shows us excellent opportunities to differentiate in the market. The question is: how? What is essential for the customers in that market? We knew that customer research would help us to find answers to that question.
Tone of voice map
After analyzing competitors' tone of voice, we understood that most of them communicate with their clients in a very corporate and formal way.
To understand customer needs and create personas, we conducted 35 empathetic interviews, during which we asked current and potential clients open questions. As a result, we discovered drivers, barriers and the main customer insight.
"Most of all, we value
humane relationships
and humane service"
The Agate's first visual identity elements was created in the late 80s using the handcrafted method. One painter, the name of whom no one doesn't remember, designed the logo and first advertising materials on paper using pencils and markers.
Because the construction market is quite conservative, many companies use their visual identity for years and change nothing. But even for Agate, the fact that its identity is outdated was evident, and it didn't match the corporate culture and new target audience generations.
Also, the current visual identity wasn't designed for many modern promotion channels​​​​​​​. Therefore, updating it according to the new brand platform and the rapidly changing modern world ​​​​​​is necessary.
Setting the task
Before starting design work, I ask myself many questions to specify the task. What kind of identity can it be? What graphic techniques can be used in that specific project? Will the client's team be able to implement a visual identity in real life? What are the brand touchpoints with the target audience? Answering those kinds of questions helps to avoid unfocused and unuseful work.

So, according to the brand strategy, Agate’s visual identity had to broadcast a human-centric approach, friendliness, and positivity. It has to be simple to implement because the client doesn't have a large design department. It also has to stay actual for an extended period because the company has no budget to make rebranding every year or two. And finally, it has to have an extensive usage range according to those brand touchpoints:
Primary element
Well, to cover all these touch points, visual identity must be universal and scalable. And I decided to use a simple geometric form as the identity's basis. What geometrical form is most friendly? I chose a circle. And what if dividing the circle shape into elements and rearranging them after?

This solution showed me an enormous potential to create graphic combinations. The brand can use modules to form sets and create graphical compositions or patterns.

Let's create more sets and play with them!

Modular typography logo

I experimented with dozens of versions, using different options and combinations...

...and finally, I succeeded! I loved how the logo looked (quite friendly and simple) and saw a potential to create a whole alphabet based on the same letters' parameters. I used the same forms as in graphical modules, but also edded a rectangle to connect modules together.

The logo modules can change color depending on the context.

Also, the short version of a logo can be used if appropriate.


I presented results step by step, and after the logo was done, business owners and I decided to extend our work and create a unique Cyrillic alphabet based on the same principles. Here is the result.

The font is appropriate for the brand to show its character.

But a regular Montserrat font will be more suitable when the task is to deliver information.

Because one of the touchpoints between the brand and its customers is events, numbers are also needed to communicate dates.

Three principles
The design system was becoming very wide, and I thought of fundamental principles to help designers manage it. As a brand manager, brand director, and marketing director, I faced brand books and design guides filled with restrictions. While working on Agate's visual identity, I didn't want to create the same.
The goal was to inspire the company's internal design team to experiment and develop new approaches using the flexible visual identity. So, I wrote down three main principles that help manage the system but do not limit its flexibility.
1. Variability

We can create an infinite number of such graphical sets

and are free to use any combination in any context.

2. Order

For the design system to look harmonious and for modules to fit together correctly, it is necessary to use a modular grid.

3. Proportionality

Observing the proportions of modules and modular sets relative to each other is necessary. The size of any set of modules must be even when designed. After the design phase of modular compositions and patterns, they can be adapted to the layout size as long as they are proportionate with each other.

Observing the proportions of modules and modular sets relative to each other is necessary. The size of any set of modules must be even when designed. After the design phase of modular compositions and patterns, they can be adapted to the layout size as long as they are proportionate with each other.

Modules can also be combined into simple illustrations and mascots, such as these monsters, that can be used as children's merch for employees' kids.

The firm brand's dark green color was no longer aligned with the brand's positioning and character. So I refreshed the brand’s primary color, making it brighter and more digital, and I also added cheerful and friendly colors like yellow and orange to the palette. However, I encouraged the brand and design team to use not only their "firm" colors but also colors appropriate to the context and colors of the brands with which they are collaborating.

When we develop a brand strategy and visual identity, we should think not only about how to differentiate but also about how to collaborate.

Imagine that Agate collaborates with Baskin Robins to make an ice cream fest. Should we split our billboard into parts and use both brands' firm colors? I don't think that this is an excellent idea. Let's try to adapt our identity to the BR corporate style​​​​​​​.
Photos and videos
We decided to make employees a central part of Agate communications and suggested abandoning using stock photos to make communication as open and human as possible. Thus, clients and partners meet the same people through different communication channels — online and offline. We also made short videos to make employees look more vivid on the website.
before and after
Visual identity formula

Well, now the final visual formula looks like that:

Mockups and an actual implementation
1. Events

This event is for construction professionals,

where Agate presented their visual identity update.

2. Warehouse
Modules signs can also be used as an internal sign system for warehouse workers. Construction materials can be marked with stickers, tapes, stamps, etc. AI scanners can be programmed into the same sign system.
3. Office Attributes
4. Navigation

The company already uses modules as department icons.

5. Merch
6. Children's Merch
7. Buildings

Finishing the case study, it is significant to mention the impact the work has made and will make in the future. Why I haven't named the chapter "results"? Because, in my opinion, "results" mean finished action. It sounds like there will be no more effects from work. Like, it's over. I think that a brand strategist like me makes an impact, not a "result." Take a look at these points:

First, the client came not with a well-formed request. They came with a question "it seems that something is wrong with our marketing, what do we have to do with that"? Instead of saying directly what was wrong after the brand audit, we offered to do it together by conducting a series of workshops for the core team. So, at that stage, we got a shared understanding of the marketing and branding base and the deep team's engagement. They decided whats wrong on strategic and tactical levels, not us as "professionals." It shifted the approach from working ON the client to working WITH the client. What impact will this approach have in the future? The business will be much more effective when the core team has a shared vision of where and how the brand should move.

Second, when a client sees the market's helicopter view and sees their brand from the outside, willy-nilly, he wonders why they must be like others. Little by little, the doubt creeps in that everything they’ve done before hasn’t been as good like it could be. That's precisely what happened with the Agate's team. By educating the core team and showing them case studies, we helped them become more confident in their path and courageous to differentiate from competitors. Therefore, they were ready to accept new ideas when I presented them with the first versions of flexible visual identity. I'm sure this experience will allow them to look at things from a new angle and accept disruptive ideas in the future.

And finally, the client got the connection between their culture and their brand. It means that all their marketing actions will be connected with their goals and values. It gives a deep sense of every employee's work. It will allow the brand to communicate freely using a comfortable tone of voice because it is natural and connected with the mission and core values. Moreover, it empowers the brand to be recognizable and understandable by key target audience segments.

Those points are the long-term shift in business growth, which is not connected with a business facade, but its base. That is why I love my job so much. It is not about making a pretty picture, it is about understanding human beings and helping them to change their mindset to benefit all humanity.

I want to thank people without which the creation of such work would be impossible. First is Johan Debit from Brand Brothers Studio, who inspired me with his works based on modular typography.

The second person I want to appreciate is Dr. Martin Lorenz, who just blew my mind with his Flexible Visual Systems Book. He owns TwoPoints.Net design studio, and I highly recommend all his courses which will give you true systematic thinking and overturn your thinking about design. Dr. Martin creates exceptional visual identities (including identities based on modular typography). Join his Patreon page and participate in the global flexible visual systems designers community! Let’s promote a flexible design as a universal language all humankind understands!


The third person is my good old colleague Denis Lazarev who made the customer experience part of the job and shared the strategic part. It would be tough to cope with such tremendous work without him. He also helped me with educational workshops for the client and led all communications.

​​​​​​​And finally, I want to thank the Agate team for their engagement, openness, and courage in implementing the visual identity. You are one of the most beautiful companies that I have ever met!