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The dslx rebrand journey

I wanted to take a moment to explain the dslx rebrand and the team’s journey from A to B-rand.

It’s an interesting journey—especially when you’re building a brand from the ground up, or are considering a rebrand in the earliest years of your business. 

The truth is, we start our businesses not having cemented A Thing. We build a “brand” by pulling vocab together, running keyword research, whipping together visions like cream, and hoping that it will all serve us once it’s in the pot.

Sometimes we cook the perfect bake first time around, other times we totally miss and it’s soggy bottoms all ‘round—forgive us, Mary.

Actual footage of Mary Berry being disappointed in my soggy bottom

In fact, sometimes our business evolves, adapts, or altogether pivots so much that we should no longer be baking at all.

dslx has had a slice of all of the above, and now we’ve evolved into a brand to match. This is how we got there. 

TL;DR 

  • The original mission of dslx was to empower dyslexic writers to write. I never want another dyslexic writer to be told they can’t write. 
  • Today, dslx content is turning businesses into brands. The new dslx brand mission is to empower all diverse people. 
  • We took a 6-step process to a complete rebrand: discovery workshop, mood boarding, logo development, logo mascot & web iterating, brand booking build, and the rebrand announcement campaign
  • The most important factor in our rebrand was that we were acting on our mission, vision, and values

Where did the dslx brand come from? 

I built dslx off the back of what I knew and could relate to. 

I’m dyslexic. 

dslx = dyslexia.

I was told by many that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) pursue a career in writing. I never want another dyslexic writer to be told they can’t write. 

The original mission of dslx was to empower dyslexic writers to write. 

The original dslx black and white monsters.

The monsters you see all over our site? They spell out ‘dyslexia’—so there are eight of them in total. They represent the monsters I felt around me as a child in the classroom. Those monsters would loom over me when I was asked to read aloud, or they’d hang on my shoulder if I was asked to write something on the board at the front of class. 

These monsters would pull my eyes from a paragraph I wanted to read, lead my hand astray on the page as I tried to carve out words, or squeeze my head when I wanted to concentrate on the lines of text in front of me. These monsters represent what once held me back. 

When I went to Falmouth University, I received the guidance and support I needed as a dyslexic writer. Over my four years of studying there, I learned to love these monsters. I learned how to work with them—how to feed them after midnight, and how to piggyback off of them towards my success. 

Now I realize how they make me unique: they push my mind to think and write differently. Today, they work with me. And upon launching my business, I wanted to celebrate them. 

I also wanted others to see my monsters and acknowledge their own; to relate to their unique struggles and traumas, and think: I am not alone. My monsters are what make me, me.  

The dslx brand was brought together by a collection of freelance talent:

  • The monsters were sketched by a yogi I met on a retreat
  • The logo was designed by an intern from one of my previous jobs
  • The website was designed for free by the free website guys—I won a free website design off the back of an ad

Everything was done on a budget, with a loose idea of the direction I wanted them to go in, but without a clear destination in sight. I kind of spun around in circles, eyes clenched shut, pulled to a stop, and said, let’s go that way; these are my tools.

All I knew was that I wanted to spark feeling within those who came into contact with dslx. This branding—this hopeful spark—brought me to today.

Why go through a rebrand now?

Well, it certainly wasn’t going to be in 2023! 😅Tech layoffs holding hands with the content recession had me clawing at the walls—but that’s a blog for another day. 

Fast forward two and a half years from dslx’s birth, and the business has grown. It has taken a beating (hiss, boo, hiss 2023), but dslx stitched itself back together, and Frankensteined itself into a more resilient monster. Today, it has direction; it’s walking a new path. And I can comfortably say that dslx has a clear destination in sight. 

What was once a content agency for B2B SaaS brands is now that and so much more. 

dslx has evolved into a mother brand, and dslx content (the content agency) now sits under that brand. 

Our branding needs to represent this shift. The look and feel of the brand need to be adaptable for the new pathways we intend to walk. And, there are a few of them!

Here’s how we’ve already evolved:

dslx content is turning businesses into brands. 

The new dslx content mission is to empower all minority writers to write. 

The new dslx brand mission is to empower all diverse people to embrace their monsters. 

The thing that’s tying it all together? That’ll be our vision: to live in a more diverse, inclusive, and accessible world where all people can share their stories.

Our goals at dslx are to: 

  • Continue serving B2B SaaS businesses on their mission to become loved brands
  • Support the freelance writing community in honing their craft via the dslx writing academy 
  • Become a platform for minority voices to share their stories 
  • Self-publish a collection of children’s stories teaching children (and their parents) to understand, identify, and embrace their diversity, starting with neurodiversity
  • Become a publishing house for minority writers: guiding, editing, and publishing work of unheard voices

This means that dslx will grow new pillars to support our mission and vision: 

  • dslx content ✅
  • dslx academy ✅
  • dslx talks ⏳
  • dslx monster club ⏳
  • dslx reads ⏳

The names are a WIP, but the idea is realized and we need a brand that can evolve according to our goals. Realizing this, our rebranding journey began. 

Curious about the dslx academy?

Of course you are. Take a look at what it’s got to offer, perhaps it’s exactly the upskilling tool you’ve been looking for!

The dslx rebranding journey (and a 6-step process to rebrand your own business)

With our mission and vision defined, and some money in the bank, we were ready to invest. 

I reached out to Karina P, who I’d worked with before. I admired (and still do!) her work and passion for brand representation. 

Funnily, we used to clash heads quite a lot in the previous company we worked for because we were both so passionate about how the brand was perceived. That’s the type of person I wanted to work with on this: someone exceptionally talented and exceptionally passionate—the two don’t always come in the same boat.

I wanted someone who would challenge my ideas, question my concepts, and break down my box to welcome newness. 

Without further ado, here’s our step-by-step rebranding journey with Karina, and her team, in case you’re looking to do the same: 

1. Brand discovery workshop 

We kicked things off with a mind-blowing workshop. I don’t want to showcase all of Karina’s branding secrets, but I’ll show you a selection of slides (with her permission) and tell you why they were so useful to us. 

The workshop started with an agenda—which I loved—and intros. Karina took the time to check in on how we were feeling before she did anything else. 

What caught me off guard was the first slide after the check-in: 

First part of the brand discovery workshop we did where each person in the team expressed what they wanted to get out of the rebrand.

Why is this effective?

  1. This made me sit up, and let me know I’m going to be called upon during this meeting—I needed to pay close attention.
  2. This helped Karina better meet our expectations before she’d even intro’d branding. It’s a great general tactic for anyone who’s running a client-facing presentation.
  3. I was able to express my fears, my wants and needs, and understand what the team was hoping for too. 

Karina went on to explain the importance of branding and set the mood for the three-hour workshop. 

Maya Angelou's quote that says: "People may forget what you did, they may forget what you said, but they'll never forget how you made them feel."
A graph showing how brand narrative as the bigger concept, with identity system inside and core identity at its center.

She then went on to unpick some of the brands we know and love, as well as a brand she’d worked on before, helping us to understand how a mission and vision are conveyed in a brand's look and feel—specifically the logo. 

Important: everything on the dslx rebrand journey evolved from the new logo. 

Karina then asked us two questions that I think would be useful to ask yourself if you’re rebranding: 

  1. What’s propelling your business forward?
  2. What’s holding your business back? 

* * *

After a 15-minute brain break, which is something I always plug into lengthier meetings with my team and was happy to see Karina does too, we went through brand attributes. 

How to define your brand attributes

Pinning down brand attributes as a small team is really eye-opening; you get to see how other team members perceive different areas of the business. It’s great to enable you to understand how your brand is perceived internally, and I’d suggest that any small team does this—regardless of whether you’re planning to rebrand or not.

This was our larger list, which we eventually had to narrow down to one per category:

The brand attributes the dslx team found for the brand. It's a table divided in six columns: culture, clients, voice, feeling, impact, and X-factor.

You can imagine what a task it was. I say time and time again that writers need to kill their darlings, but this was a massacre. We ended up with this: 

The final list of brand attributes the dslx team decided on for the brand.

Which Karina weaved into this: 

The dslx brand statement created based on the brand attributes. It reads: "dslx provides content services to those scrappy/innovative B2B SaaS companies in a commited journey with a inclusive voice. Helping them feel confident and connected. X-factor: delivering cupcakes."

Yep, she moves really fast. 

It was so enlightening to finally understand who dslx content was. It’s something I’d tried to define over the years to no avail. 

—----

🧁 What’s the cupcakes thing about? 

You may have noticed our mention of delivering cupcakes in our ‘X-Factor’ category in an image from the brand workshop. Let me explain: a key pillar of communication for everyone at dslx is to deliver cupcakes. Both internally and externally, we aim to deliver small, beautiful, bite-sized pieces of joy—leaving someone happier than how they found us, like a cupcake. 🧁

—-----

We then focused on attribute clustering to put it into narrative form, and this is where I think we finally started deciding on what we wanted dslx to feel like. Remember this next visual, we’ll come back to it when you see the new website. 

Brand attributes in narrative form. A graph that shows an arrow going from voice, to feeling, to impact.

Fab, we now understood how we wanted dslx to feel, at least in words. The last section of the workshop was running through the famous 12 brand archetypes. This is a classic branding tactic, and one that (despite being so dated) still works exceptionally well in the early stages of branding.

Aligning with brand archetypes 

If you’re not familiar with the 12 brand archetypes, they are: 

  • Outlaw: a rule breaker, craves a revolution
  • Magician: a visionary, mystical, creates magical experiences 
  • Hero: courageous, bold, inspirational, looks out for people
  • Lover: intimate, passionate, romantic, and seductive 
  • Jester: light-hearted, joyful, silly, and mischievous  
  • Everyman: down-to-earth, relatable, reliable, strives to connect  
  • Caregiver: protective, caring, and nurturing, very generous  
  • Ruler: controlling, stern, a little intimidating 
  • Creator: creative, imaginative, driven to build new things of value
  • Innocent: happy, purely good, optimistic, and often youthful  
  • Sage: packed full of insights, thoughtful, a mentor and specialist 
  • Explorer: likes to travel, take risks, discover new things and adventure
A dslx graphic displaying the 12 brand Archetypes
The 12 brand archetypes shown in a circle with their characteristics. Highlighted are: Innocent, sage, hero, and everyperson.

Can you guess what we picked? Shall I tell you? Oh, I don’t know if I should tell you. Okay, I’ll tell you. We settled on: 

  • Innocent 
  • Sage 
  • Hero
  • Everyman (which we changed to ‘everyperson’)

Fun fact: our new monsters evolved from these four archetypes. I’ll remind you of them when I share the monsters later in this article, let’s see if you can assign them correctly. 

Uff, that was a long section, but, it was also a long workshop and probably the most important step in this entire rebrand journey. We were aligned in language, and our words were our foundations. Now it was up to Karina to align us visually. 

Go, Karina, GO! 

Karina AKA Pikachu at max power

2. Brand mood board: aligning the brand with the visuals 

Two weeks later, Karina booked in another call with us to present a visual brand mood board. The mood board included a variation of logo drafts for us to decide what we liked, what we didn’t, and what we wanted to Frankenstein into something new. 

Karina kicked off the meeting by showing us this brand personality pyramid which I think showcases so clearly the importance of your foundations when you’re building a brand of your own. All too often, businesses jump to tone of voice guidelines and the look and feel of their visual brand to convey what they represent. But, it’s those brands that are built out of the behind-the-scenes traits—values and beliefs, culture, and attributes—that weather storms and stick. 

The brand personality pyramid. With values and beliefs and the bottom, then culture, then attributes and benefits, then actions, then tone of voice, and at the very top look and feel.

As a reminder, here are the four brand archetypes we settled on during our initial workshop with Karina, and what relatability those archetypes delivered.

The four aligned brand archetypes for dslx: everyperson, innocent, hero, sage
Showing the main attributes of each brand archetype the dslx team chose for the brand.

Karina delivered three logo variations. Here’s the tea:

One of the first logo proposals Karina sent to the dslx team. It's "DSLX" in all caps, with a squiggly line under and a quill as one of the lines in the X.

This was a big no for us, it was too similar to our old logo and the quill just didn’t feel modern enough, although I liked the idea of it being such an iconic symbol of writing. 

What we did like was the organic feeling of the squiggly line underneath the logo. And, that’s important to know when working with designers on branding: a detail as small as a line type is still valuable feedback. 

We took the organic, innocent, almost child-like feeling of the squiggly line, mentioned we liked the idea behind the quill but didn’t actually like the quill, and ditched the rest. 

The second logo Karina showed the dslx team. It has straighter lines, dslx is in sentence case, and there's a little eye inside the d.

The birth of the eye! We quite liked this design, and it was a strong competitor for us. However, it didn’t resonate strongly enough with the ‘everyperson’ and ‘innocent’ archetypes. I also found myself trying to spot images in the inverted version much like you can with the FedEx logo and the figure-ground design principle it uses.

🗣️ “Let’s keep the eye!”

The third logo Karina showed the dslx team. It's DSLX in caps with very square and straight lines.

This one missed the mark for a couple of reasons. 

  1. The X gave us Underarmour meets Tetris vibes
  2. It felt too hero and not enough of the rest of the archetypes
  3. It defeated our accessibility goal by being difficult to read, especially the D

In this meeting we started discussing a logo style and color palette that we liked, and why we liked it. 

One of the deciding factors for this step was influenced by dslx’s original mission: to empower dyslexic writers to write. The website had to be friendly for dyslexics. This meant we needed to pick colors, fonts, and styles that were easy to read for the dyslexic community. 

I’ve seen too many websites that trade accessibility for aesthetics. And, although I’m never going to judge those brands for doing so, I believe many don’t know any better. As a brand that stands for inclusivity with the neurodiverse community, I had to make sure we were practicing what we preach. 

Once we’d narrowed down a color palette, font, and general style (all of which evolved but didn’t pivot) Karina was off again and we sat like that scene out of the Simpsons. 

The Simpson's family on their living room. It reads: "now we play the waiting game".

3. Logo development 

At this point, we knew what we didn’t like, and we had a vague idea of what we did. Karina heard our cry for a more playful logo and we asked her to try and incorporate the monsters a little further. 

Karina showed us this: 

dslx logo renditions
Another logo proposal by Karina. This one shows the d and x from dslx with eyes. The d also has a mouth.

And my Canva-deprived self showed her this: 

Ray's drawings of what he thought the logo could look like. When presented as a unique logo it shows the d and x coming together to form a monster with two eyes and a smiling mouth.

She was herding cats. 

We went through a couple of rounds of logo creation in which Karina played with the brief and also threw new ideas into the ring for each rendition: 

Another variation of the logo. This time adding blue-green and yellow colors.
Another variation of the logo. Perfecting the eyes and smile on the D.

We started getting closer to a finished product: 

A Slack conversation between Ray and Ella saying positive comments about the new logo variations.

Until we eventually cried BINGO!

A more refined logo that has curvy lines, it's in sentence case, and has an eye inside the d.
The final logo grid and shapes used on our website

The bubbly letters felt charming, warm, and curious—they sparked the feelings we’d discussed at the beginning of our journey. Plus, we were in love with being able to play with the eye in future motion graphic designs.

A big decision we took at this step was to remove the eye for the permanent logo, and only use it in playful transitions or graphics. Essentially, removing the monsters from the logo. Why? We went back and forth and looked at a lot of brands that incorporate characters into their logos, and brands that kept their mascots separate. 

INTUIT MailChimp's logo and mascot.
Michelin tyre's logo and mascot.
Hootsuite's owl mascot logo.
Android's robot mascot.
Duolingo's logo and owl mascot.

We decided that keeping the monsters separate from the logo would give us more room for monster growth and expansion, with the logo remaining consistent throughout. 

4. Logo agreement, mascot, and web design 

That’s it! We agreed on the logo. 

Of course, if you’ve seen our logo, you may realize it evolved a little more in the coming weeks—the quill idea has come back into play in the final version. After that, there were some smaller tweaks as fonts and colors emerged for the website, and the logo was adapted a little to fit them. 

We also moved on to the really exciting stuff: upgrading our monsters! For this task, Karina partnered up with an exceptionally talented illustrator: Polina

For example, this little monster has gone through quite an evolution. 

One of dslx's first monsters.
A variation of a dslx monster, that was eventually evolved
One of the first variation's of the d dslx monster.
A first draft of the dslx website, the visual applies oranges and blues, and an eearly version of a dslx monster
A first proposal for what our content writing opportunities homepage would look like.
The about section showing the team with a special dslx touch. To do this, Karina asked the team what their hobbies and interests were and she used these for the adding animations to each of the pictures.
the final dslx brand put into one graphic which we used in our announcement animation
The final frame of dslx's rebranding announcement video. Shows our new d monster at a desk with a laptop that has the new dslx logo, and some frames hanging on the wall showing some new graphics and also the old dslx's monsters.

We wanted our monsters to still pertain to their reason for being: spelling out dslx, and living true to my experience as a child. But, like me, they were ready to grow up a little.

5. Final tweaks & building a brand book 

At this point we were ready for the brand book. The dslx brand book lays out the logo usage guidelines, color palettes, typography, visual style, and the dslx characters. 

One thing new at this stage that we haven’t discussed yet is the fonts we chose. The typography needed to be clear for our dyslexic community, yet still hold enough character to fulfill our archetypes. 

In the screenshot below you’ll see three fonts. Two of these have since changed, as we felt they didn’t hit our clarity and charm goals:

  • Sherika → Obviously 
  • Modak → Softi 
  • Jacob → a custom font that remained the same and was an ode to how dslx v1 first came about, by leaning on those around me. I wanted something charming, yet clear. That type is my 9-year-old cousin’s writing. He’s called Jacob.
a first rendition of the dslx brand book on figma
A screenshot from Figma showing one of our brand book's proposals.

From there, we finalized all of the monsters and were able to design and build the website with confidence. Our team partnered even more closely with Karina at this point, knowing full well the website will be such a strong reflection of what we’re able to create. We needed the copy to reflect all of the hard work we put into building the brand elsewhere. Luckily, we’re the perfect people for the job. 

I’ll leave you with a dump of behind-the-scenes so you can see the reality of how we got to the end result

More variations to our content writing opportunities landing page.
Variations of our website.
Variations of our website.
Three pathways one of the dslx monsters could have gone down in early stages of development
Sketches showing some proposals for the s monster.
A finalized sketch of the s monster.
A screenshot from Slack in which the dslx team brainstorms headings for the new webpage
Ray's Slack message to the team providing proposals for the headline for dslx's homepage.

Website callouts you may have missed 

I’d like to highlight a couple of things on the final website that I’m particularly proud of, and that I think help dslx step closer to our vision.

  • dslx is interactive: the website is playful, and packed with interactive easter eggs. I wanted every interaction to ring true to our value of delivering cupcakes. 
  • The copy: it’s sharp, witty, and playful. We wrote for people and monsters above bots. It’s given our creativity time to shine, and won us clients via word of mouth. 
  • The usability: it’s entirely dyslexic friendly, from navigation to typography to contrasting colors. Everything has been considered to make this site accessible. 
  • The logo: embeds the initial idea of the quill! You can see the nib of the quill in the fold of each letter of dslx.
  • Soft edges everywhere: I’ve never been a fan of boxes, and creativity stems best when you’re out of them, so we eradicated right angles wherever we could.
  • The blog champions writers: this was a huge must for me. Every writer is front and center of their article, and the editor too—they do tons of work to get a piece publish-ready! Writers have bios at the end of their articles, and badges depending on how we work with them. For example, dslx academy writers get a badge, in-house dslx writers get a different badge. In the future, we’ll gamify this further depending on the courses you’ve taken with us or the length of time you’ve been writing for us.

6. The rebrand announcement campaign

Lastly, it was time to put together our launch campaign. For this, we partnered up with a very talented motion graphics designer, Leonardo, to build a beautiful motion graphic unveiling the announcement: 

I’d never worked on a motion graphic before, so this process was really eye-opening to build: 

A V1 prototype of the announcement campaign of the dslx rebrand . graphic animation video moodboard
Storyboard for the dslx rebranding announcement animation.
A v2 prototype of the announcement campaign for the dslx rebrand - graphic motion video planning
The second version of the storyboard for the rebranding announcement animation.

We also sent out a newsletter to our subscribers. As a code of conduct our subscribers always get news before it goes anywhere else. It’s just one of the perks to subscribing! 

A rolling screenshot of the dslx rebrand announcement newsletter

That’s our rebrand. Time for yours? 

That’s everything on our rebranding journey! I hope you found this post insightful if you’re thinking about rebranding yourself, or are just curious about what life is like behind-the-scenes at dslx. 

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who was involved in this project; the extended dslx team were absolute champions, and I’m so proud of the end result. Two heads are better than one, but when you’ve got 6+ heads, things just get out of this world (in the best of ways). 

What’s next for dslx? We’re focussing on the academy, building out a line of merch for neurodiverse people, and will work on our first series of children’s books later in 2024. Onward, upwards, and everywhere in between! 

Thanks for reading, 

Ray

I am the text that will be copied.