What’s a Brand Hack?
Brand Hack brings the incisive thinking of agile development to the advancement of new brands. Tools are built in eight-hour bursts, so the brand’s expression in the marketplace is as nimble and responsive as its owner.
The Mapkin Brand Hack on Tuesday, October 30th, at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square was yet another thrilling and unique experience. Mapkin’s co-founders—who hail from Nuance’s iOS development team and MIT Lincoln Laboratory—have a phenomenal product but have struggled to tell the right story. Mapkin has all the functionality of a great GPS app but adds a personal layer to the experience of getting from point A to point B.
Mapkin’s users see their route in a totally new way—just the route itself, with key cross-streets and significant landmarks along the way. But the journey doesn’t stop there. People can also create their own custom maps, adding personal landmarks and points of interest, even recording their own turn-by-turn voice-overs. This enriches the space between origin and destination, and helps us enjoy the journey and not just the destination.
In approaching Mapkin’s vision, creative director Ben Spear considered the product as an answer and worked backwards to determine the question—if the question at hand is “how can people enjoy the journey?”, Mapkin becomes a very strong answer. This lends durability to the vision as it will allows Mapkin to assess changes to its strategy or product over the full life of the business. If their product changes or new features are added, they can assess the value of those changes and features in how well they help answer this core question.
Brand writer Angela Gaimari carried this concept through to Mapkin’s pitch. The concept of “copilot” figured heavily; humanizing navigation. The tone and cadence are familiar, friendly, invitational, all factors that will help Mapkin’s audience perceive the value in enjoying the journey.
Designer Ben Whitla’s identity succeeds on many levels. In the literal, it shows a map which, like Mapkin’s name, conjures the category right away: this is about navigation. We see the map as if it’s unfolding (a characteristic that was coordinated with Angela’s tag-line “the journey, unfolded”), communicating that the app expands a simple GPS-navigated journey into something fuller and more experiential.
Ben’s palette is a direct reflection of the app’s key qualities—qualities we look for in a good copilot.
Ben chose the logo’s font for its unique quality; the letterforms of Neutraface No. 2 Inline are divided, like a road. Proxima Nova is at once human and geometric, with the flexibility and ease of Helvetica but none of the boredom.
Portrait artist Allana Taranto (who also kept us all on schedule as project manager), equipped the team with individual portraits for use with LinkedIn and other professional social networks. From left to right: CEO Marc Regan, CTO John Watson, and Alex Kinney. Jake Wasserman, Mapkin’s fourth team member, was stuck in London due to Hurricane Sandy. Allana will do a second portrait session once he’s back.
Allana chose to shoot their group portrait in a landscape (not far from the CIC) that incorporated several key visual signifiers. The new architecture, old architecture, and scaffolding all serve the idea that landscapes are rich and changing.
Angela extended her pitch language into copy for a single-page marketing website, providing people with a brief, two-sentence description of Mapkin, the app’s key features, and biographical information about the team.
Erik Weikert’s responsive website design is a culmination of the identity, writing, and portraiture. As of the writing of this post, Mapkin is hard at work coding the site, and until it’s up you can view it in static form here.
The browser and mobile sites, unfolded.
Erik’s design for Mapkin’s retina iOS icon.
Angela supported her writing approach with suggestions for in-app tone of voice.
Ben Whitla’s business card designs.
Pictured above, from left to right: Ben Whitla, Erik Weikert, Marc Regan, John Watson, Alex Kinney, Angela Gaimari, and Ben Spear. Not pictured is photographer and project manager Allana Taranto.
As the day wrapped and everything delivered, Mapkin, Brand Hack’s creative team, and the community at CIC all agreed that the work—extending from core vision to communication tools—will be instrumental in attracting the company’s first batch of users. Brand Hack will continue in the short-term to assist in the web build and get the business cards printed, and look forward to Mapkin’s continued success.