A new logo, created to show how serious we are about our brand philosophy
As a result of brand integration, NEXT has now been reborn as “LIFULL.” As part of this change, we have also created a new logo. It is a symbol that leaves a lasting impression, based on a simpler design than previously. Everything was overseen by corporate creative director Yosuke Watanabe and designer Yoko Mori. We talked to them about the background and process involved, including how they interpreted LIFULL’s brand message and translated that into the final logo.
- Concerns about the existing linear logo, and action prompted by a passion for design
- Capturing our brand philosophy, with a focus on “every” rather than “FULL”
- Presenting the finished logo after a process of trial and error, and receiving a round of applause in a management meeting
- An ulterior motive of showcasing LIFULL’s creative talents to the outside world
- Embodying the ideas behind the logo through individual employees
Concerns about the existing linear logo, and action prompted by a passion for design
LIFULL has been used as a brand name for NEXT subsidiaries, so there was already a logo. Although the logo had been designed and implemented with a view to rolling it out globally, it was also based on a more general design concept. In light of the company’s policy of creating a wide range of services and starting up “100 companies in 100 countries,” we began to feel that there were limitations to the existing logo in terms of functionality.
Just as we were trying to find the right time for a redesign, we began to push ahead with brand integration at the start of 2016, and decided that the name of the company would change in April 2017. Although we were suddenly presented with the ideal timing to redesign the logo, we had very little time to prepare. I went to talk to the head of planning, with the suggestion that we should just fine-tune the existing logo for now, then aim to spend some money on improving the logo after a year or so.
I was given the task of fine-tuning the logo. As I got started however, a number of issues gradually became apparent. In particular, the logo itself was designed with an emphasis on the main brand. There was a serious issue with using it as a service logo, because that would make it impossible to distinguish between different services. As it was clear that this would result in a loss of identity, I felt more and more with every passing day that it would be better to radically alter the logo design.
It was already August by this time, so we were in a situation where we were running short on time. I knew I couldn’t just ignore this however, so I made up my mind and came up with a logo based on a completely different design system. I then went to talk directly to CEO Takashi Inoue. He said to me, “I understand where you’re coming from, but I can’t give you the go-ahead just like that.” That was a perfectly reasonable response. After Inoue had given it some thought however, we did end up reviewing the logo as a result.
That was how it happened. It was tough coordinating everything, but it was that passion for design that prompted us to take action in the end. We talked to outside creative agencies about producing an actual logo, but they all said no because the timeframe was too tight. We somehow managed to get a talented creative director to come on board in an advisory capacity, and decided that we would basically design the new logo in-house.
Capturing our brand philosophy, with a focus on “every” rather than “FULL”
From that point onwards, I spent every moment, whether awake or asleep, thinking about the logo. I was determined that I should see it through to the end, because I was the one who had brought it up in the first place. I came up with around 50 drafts during those first two weeks. I kept on churning out ideas, then picked out the ones that met the brief and looked flexible enough. The final stage of the design process was then to refine the end results.
The logo needed to embody our brand philosophy, so I thought long and hard about the words “Make every LIFE FULL.” “Every” and “LIFE” just seemed like ordinary words, so I decided that I should focus on the word “FULL.” I gave that idea a huge amount of thought. I had ideas such as something getting bigger, or water filling up. It was then that I had a chance to listen in to a discussion between Toshiyuki Konishi from POOL inc., who worked on the concept behind the LIFULL brand, and CEO Takashi Inoue. They both felt that the word “every” was important too. They talked about exploring what people need, and tailoring things to each individual, rather than doing the same for everyone. That conversation made a real impression on me.
Moreover, the state of “FULL” changes depending on your point of view. If you draw a circle to represent FULL, there could also be another kind of FULL outside the circle. It felt like, the more I tried to express the FULL as a concept, the more the meaning of the word became weak. I tried focusing on the word “every” instead, and decided that it would be better to express it in the sense of “focusing on the individual.” That led me to come up with a draft entitled “Letter L Focus.” I created a symbol that looked like it was enclosing something, using the “L” of LIFULL as a motif. The size of the enclosure could be easily varied, and elements representing different services could be placed in the middle. When I came up with that idea, it felt like I had started to crack it.
Creating a logo that offered a degree of freedom was actually one of the design themes. The vast majority of logos are bound by strict regulations regarding their usage. As well as the fact that people don’t like being bound by things, if you have to use a logo in line with a manual, you tend to use it without thinking too. Even though it’s a symbol of your philosophy, you end up become disengaged every time you use the logo. That feels like the opposite of being creative. I can’t help feeling that’s a bit strange.
Although we still intended to set out general rules, people would be able to change the logo as they wish, and come up with new ways of using the white space. Using the logo like that would make it more personal and give people a better understanding of our philosophy. I kept talking about designs like that with Mori and our advisor. Using the initial “L” from LIFULL was a brilliant idea that also tied in with everything we had done up to that point.
Presenting the finished logo after a process of trial and error, and receiving a round of applause in a management meeting
Having decided on a direction, we refined the design a number of times before finally finishing the logo and taking it to a management meeting. We gave a presentation while showing sample versions, explaining the thinking behind the logo in line with our corporate message, and outlining the free nature of the design and how that would tie in with different uses of the logo.
When we finished what we had to say, a round of applause broke out. Apparently that’s the first time there has ever been applause in a management meeting! The reception was positive when we unveiled it at a companywide general meeting too. We had a number of people coming up to us and saying, “That’s brilliant!” Even colleagues who are usually quite critical were congratulating us in earnest and saying, “That’s really well done!”
Obviously, the thinking behind the logo was always intended to tie in with our brand concept. There are no unnecessary embellishments from a design point of view, and the logo on its own really does capture our brand philosophy. That’s probably what clinched it.
Ordinarily, I don’t suppose most people read a company’s corporate message, unless they’re genuinely interested. That’s why corporate philosophies tend to have limited appeal when they consist of words alone. I think that this design effectively complements that through the logo. Combined with the logo, it feels like this makes our corporate message more convincing. I guess that’s why the logo has gone down so well.
An ulterior motive of showcasing LIFULL’s creative talents to the outside world
This project has reminded me just how hard it is to get a job done without the understanding and support of those around you. I’m not just talking about the design team either. We received support from divisions throughout the company, from admin to legal affairs. It was thanks to their support that we were able to finish the new logo in such a short space of time.
The logo also serves as the public face of the group companies that our colleagues have built. I have always been eager to do anything I can to support this company, which my colleagues have all worked so hard to set up. As we ended up creating the logo in-house on this occasion, I think my feelings towards my colleagues really helped motivate me in my work.
Personally, I think it means something to get people inside the company to handle corporate design. It gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at the company’s way of thinking. The fact that the logo was designed by employees has a positive effect on other people within the company too. I know we had time constraints to deal with, and had to produce the logo in-house, but I think part of me really wanted to do this!
My current job basically involves managing creative staff within the company. I also work with HR to promote creative people, products and activities outside the company. I try to showcase the company’s creative side, and work with a whole host of people to help generate new value. Essentially, I’m saying, “Look at all the interesting people we’ve got here at LIFULL. Wouldn’t you like to work with us?” That was my ulterior motive when working on the logo too. I was trying to ensure that the quality was good enough that we could effectively showcase ourselves to the outside world. I think it was a real success in that respect. I hope we can provide more opportunities like this for in-house designers and engineers in the future. I want everyone to feel motivated about their work too, so I hope we can keep on working to improve quality throughout the company.
Embodying the ideas behind the logo through individual employees
There were times during this project when I felt I was fighting against the words “Make every LIFE FULL”! The more I thought about the meaning of those words, the more I questioned if we were getting it right. I love those words though. As the logo is based on that same message, every time I see the logo from now on, it will make me think about what we are currently focusing on, and that is what I want to do. I’d like to think we have a corporate culture in which we’re always thinking about new ways to offer solutions. I hope we can continue with that attitude in the future.
Personally, I felt like I had really achieved something when this project came to an end. Obviously this wasn’t just the result of my own hard work, and I know there were countless coincidences along the way too, but if I had mapped out an ideal scenario when I first got involved in the company’s branding, I think we have got fairly close to achieving that. This has given me a glimpse into a new world. Looking ahead, I hope we can all take things to the next level, and truly embody the LIFULL brand message in our services and creativity. There is still a long road ahead, but I’m excited to see what we can achieve in the future.