I was brought on as PLA Media‘s in-house designer in the summer of 2014. The company made its name in the music industry (it’s founder, Pam Lewis, discovered Garth Brooks… if you’ve ever heard of him); however, they were looking to expand and diversify their client base and update their image.
PLA has a 30-year history in public relations and marketing, but not in design. It wasn’t until I came on that they offered full branding and website design as a service; therefore, putting their best foot forward on these fronts had not been a top priority… until now. The company’s own branding needed a facelift.
The goal was to develop branding that paid homage to the fact that PLA was a Music Row legacy, but exemplify that they were here to stay for the next 30 years. Or as I coined it: “Throw it back, but keep it contemporary.”
Completely re-branding a company that’s been around for 30 years isn’t a small task. Once I had established the logo, type, colors and textures, I developed a brand style guide to keep consistency throughout the project. Of course, implementation requires designing everything from business cards to the website completely from scratch.
To put it bluntly, PLA’s logo needed updating immediately. It may have been created on Paint. Anyway, “anything would be better than what we have now” isn’t really my mantra, so it took some work to develop the new concept.
I can’t tell you how many different logo concepts I played with. Developing concepts around a specific brand isn’t easy, but it becomes much more difficult when that brand’s business model involves working with an eclectic mix of other brands. Sure, PLA was forged in the music industry, but they also represent museums, restaurants, authors, small businesses… you name it. Also, public relations and marketing are pretty broadly-defined fields. I kept in mind the idea of “keeping it contemporary while throwing it back,” but wanted to keep it relatively simple. Finally, I stumbled across PLA’s original logo from 30 years ago, and had some inspiration.
Forged in the music industry
PLA MEDIA ORIGINAL LOGO
Throw it back
Keep it contemporary
I new I wanted color. I was using words such as “integrity,” “creative” “award-winning” “passionate” and “intellect” to drive my mind’s eye, so I decided to look at some color psychology to find the perfect mix.
RED (#6a292b) PASSION, STYLE, EXCITEMENT
YELLOW (#fea31a) FRIENDLINESS, INTELLECT, WARMTH
BLUE (#336a7e) CONFIDENCE, SINCERITY, INTEGRITY
The website development actually happened before completion of the style guide. This was mainly due to timing and an anxiousness to roll out the new look. Consequently, the design of the site informed some aspects of other material. For example, I liked the look of a permanent outline around the site (obviously – this one has it too). This made its way onto collateral material, along with the gray background color.
Every website’s goal is to inform and/or promote. PLA’s goal was to do both, not just for the company, but for its clients as well. All this information can get lost very quickly unless properly presented. Firms who offer services to clients rely on word of mouth and recommendations to obtain business, so PLA wanted to include quotes and testimonials from their clients all over the place. They also wanted to convey that they work with a plethora of different industries.
Given the amount of information, and also the fact that I used three main colors in the logo, I had one word in mind when creating the site: “clean.” It’s difficult to make a site look good with three bright colors, so I made those secondary. I wanted the front page to give all the information a visitor might want, but with the option to get much more information on the rest of the site. There may be a real name for this technique, but I call it the “teaser one-sheet homepage.” It follows the golden rule of giving informative speeches and presentations: “1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them. 2. Tell them. 3. Tell them what you just told them.” There may be a lot of information to disseminate, but it’s not difficult to locate or navigate.
The master function of the site is the typing text. We used this in lieu of a slider at the top of the front page, and again to highlight the types of clients PLA works with. This served a couple purposes: First, to look badass; and also to disseminate all the information we wanted while keeping the clean look. It also works thematically. After all, PLA is a public relations and marketing company, which means they type… a lot.