Stefan at work

Creating the new cyon brand: Interview with Designer Stefan

01.09.21

Original text by Tom Brühwiler on the cyon blog, translation Nothing
In June 2021 cyon launched their new brand. Besides the completely refreshed website, the cyon logo, whose “o” symbolises an orange, is certainly the most eye-catching thing about the new appearance. What were the thought processes behind it? And how was the new brand developed?

cyon logo from 2004 and 2021

cyon talked to Stefan Villiger. Stefan is an interaction designer at Nothing and has been greatly involved in the development and implementation of the new brand identity over the last few months.

Stefan, how did you approach the project? What were the specifications?

There were only a few specifications. It was clear that the name cyon and the central colour orange should be kept. Also, the fruit world was to remain and purple was to be used as the complementary colour. Additionally, only meaningful pictorial elements should be used in the logo, because the meaning of the previous “small wing” in the logo was never really clear. To be able to proceed in a goal-oriented manner, I defined guidelines with my Nothing colleague Bastiaan, who already knew cyon from an earlier collaboration:

cyon has turned 18 and is therefore of age. It’s a matter of appreciating this maturing process and celebrating these years.

With this, it was already clear that it was not about a reinterpretation, but rather a further development of cyon. We wanted to take care of the brand and from this, we derived an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach. At the same time, we made sure to handle the visual heritage carefully. These two principles determined the direction from then on, without restricting the design freedom from the outset.

And what came next?

So, the foundation was set. Now it was a matter of creating my own image of cyon. I began by sifting through all the material cyon had already produced: company descriptions, the results of a positioning workshop, logo designs and much more. This was the first time I developed a basic feeling for the brand and the values cyon represents. Afterwards I tried to get a neutral view of cyon, detached from the internal view. What was their web presence like so far? What do the social media activities convey? Can I find authentic customer feedback? With this, I further developed my basic feel. I now had my own internal picture of what cyon stands for and what makes the company tick. During this process, thoughts kept flashing up. Keywords like “trustworthiness”, “cordiality”, “joy”, “authenticity” or “openness” ran through my head. The first more concrete ideas emerged at that stage, for example that the logo may also contain a playful detail to convey cyon’s value “joy”. At this point, it is advisable to make a note of these thoughts but at the same time put them aside. This leaves enough room for further ideas to emerge.

Okay, so you have collected a lot of information. But how do you turn this into a new brand?

Yes, now it was time to get serious. The essence had to be extracted from all the information and translated into a logo. This is the time when the personal touch of the designer plays into it. I am passionate about calligraphy and typography. When collecting ideas, this passion also led to putting the typeface front and centre and deriving the other characteristics of the logo from it. One of these ideas was to transform the letter “o” into a fruit with the help of a leaf. I also defined design approaches for different variations: Sometimes with font type A and soft edges, sometimes with font type B and angular edges and so on. The combination of the “o” as a fruit and the creative approaches formed the basis for the work in the illustration programme. It went pretty quickly until the logo was mature enough to convey the design idea. Bastiaan and I were then able to clarify whether this direction would also be well received by cyon as a client.

Wing from logo turned into leave of an orange
Wing turns into leaf and transforms the “o” into an orange.

The new logo unites the previously separate fruit and logo worlds: The colour and cyon wing are transferred to the new logo. In the form of an orange, they form the bridge to cyon’s product world represented by fruit. Further conceptual thoughts on cyon’s characteristics have found their way into the logo in the form of font type, thickness and rounding of the letters.

cyon ecosystem illustrations of fruit and insects
The cyon ecosystem.

The next step was to create the refreshed fruits, which are visually derived from the orange in the logo. The fact that insects and other garden dwellers joined them was more a coincidence than a plan: Just as I was illustrating for cyon, a ladybug sat down on the glass of my balcony door – and I spontaneously decided to illustrate the ladybug. And this is where the previously mentioned garden metaphor came from: The lively, flowering garden stands as a symbol of a healthy ecosystem for cyon’s mission to make the Internet a better place.

As we all know, the devil is in the detail. What were the pitfalls?

For example, the font in the new cyon logo. It is based on the font “Sofia”, which is designed to display continuous text. So that it could work in the logo, a few adjustments had to be made, such as modifying the letter shapes or optimising the spacing.

Typefont "Sofia" unchanged and modified
“Sofia” unchanged and modified.

Another challenge is always to ensure a coherent overall composition. The aim is to achieve a good mixture of attention to detail and pragmatism. Every aspect must be considered, but without getting lost in the details. This applies to the logo as well as to the accompanying brand elements such as typeface, icons or fruit. The individual components combined should lead to a harmonious result as a whole. However, the biggest challenge I see in every project are the personal preferences. What person A likes, person B dislikes. In the best case, the logo or a new brand should be perceived positively by the team as well as by the audience and the public. Naturally, it is not always possible to meet all these people’s demands.

Is there anything special to consider when a new brand has to function both on- and offline?

The most important requirements for a logo apply to both areas: Easy to comprehend and flexible application possibilities. Be it in colour as well as in black and white, sometimes large, sometimes small and so on. Flexibility is particularly important in the online sector. Here, the logo must also function in precarious space situations, for example as a favicon (the small image that is displayed in the URL line of the web browser), or as a profile picture in social media. An element that can be detached from the logo – like the orange in cyon’s case – works wonders here. Since both cyon and I are almost exclusively active in the online sector, this area was also clearly in focus. But the truth is: I don’t remember thinking about the offline application during the creation process. The logo has fortunately been able to meet all offline-specific requirements so far.

Thanks for the exciting insights into your work, Stefan.