Canopy

overview

Personalization comes at a steep price. In 2018, I was part of a team challenged to create a brand experience for an early-stage content recommendation startup with a vision to create a better, safer way to enjoy the internet.

studio

Language Dept.

Roles

Research, Naming, Strategy, Visual Design, Frontend Development

tools

Dropbox Paper, Google Drive, Draw.io, Balsamiq, Sketch, Zeplin

tl;dr

I researched and shaped verbal and visual language for a content discovery startup. In addition to branding, I designed and built the first iteration of the company website to attract investors and talent.

Canopy

Finding the good: positive and private personalization through machine learning

Bryan Whitman, Canopy’s founder, departed from Spotify to invent a new technology to experience the internet and personalization without giving away your data. Through the use of machine learning and differential privacy, the 'new way' shields users from becoming vulnerable to data misuse, hacking, manipulation, radicalization, and hate speech. Our challenge was to develop an identity and creatively communicate the sophisticated on-device technology in an uncomplicated way that can instill trust, attract users, investors, and a dream team to make it all possible.

Getting to the good stuff
Along with the studio principals, I developed a questionnaire to uncover the brand essence. We aimed to understand why this company needs to exist, its founder and key employees’ values and beliefs, and how they align with the brand values. After collaborating with the team to synthesize our research and define brand attributes, I wrote key components to the company mission, vision, and positioning.

How can we communicate our vision and sophisticated technology humanly?

After developing the verbal brand language, we began exploring the possibilities of Canopy’s visual expression. Using brand attributes as a north star, we gathered inspiration to form a mood board, narrowing within categories: organic softness, unexpected textures, modular variations, selective focus, and revealing intersections. The team then experimented with crafting forms by hand. This departure from the digital world helped the final mark ultimately have a more organic, human feel.

A glimpse into process
Views of our Canopy mood board and an opportunity to make with our hands to inspire the final digital output.

A softer way to evoke trust and technology
The Canopy color system was created to feel more welcoming and less 'digital' than your average security or privacy company. The decision to keep the primary colors blue still drives home the feeling of protection while being balanced out by calm secondary colors that maintain comforting lightness.

Final wordmark and logo
Designed by Sarah Asip

Applying the visual system: design through development

The visual language is built around revealing and concealing. Artful, illustrative strokes create layered, personal landscapes, and viewfinders. Color and typography add warmth, while motion adds surprise and infinite layering possibilities. When considering the brand's attributes and its visual system, I aimed to create an uncomplicated site that feels warm, trustworthy, and informative to investors, talent, and curious visitors. With a tight timeline of just two weeks to build, I also had the opportunity to utilize my frontend development skills.

A nod to nature and the Canopy layer
I built a javascript-based wave animation to bring in the organic brand feel and subtle reinforcement of the protective privacy layer users recieve with Canopy's technology.

How it all goes down: a short story
Storyboard created to illustrate how Canopy's on-device machine learning and how it brings the good stuff to you without your data leaving your phone.

Animation in situ
A view of the final amination alongside brand copy written in collaboration with Canopy's copywriter.
Motion design by Jessie Lankford and Rachel Shim.

Who's on board?
Showing and listing the founding team members was intentional in celebrating each individual and being transparent about who's a part of the company.

Good news: the Canopy brand in the world and into acquisition.

Armed with their new brand, site, and guidelines, Canopy raised 4.5M in funding. Additionally, the team expanded after attracting talent from companies such as Instagram and The New York Times. The visual language was applied to the Tonic UI, an application that recommends a selection of personalized content to read daily. In April 2020, CNN fully acquired Canopy, including talent, IP, and other assets.

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