Brand New

Today, we are launching a new visual system for Pioneer Square Labs.

We launched the black and white “PSL” mark last year, and today’s refinement marks a maturing of the brand. We’ve squared off some rounder adolescent years, extended the system, shaken some inconsistencies (yes, we’re pretty sure that only we noticed) and explored a more rich color palette that embodies what we’re all about.

If I had to write a creative brief explaining our new brand, it would read:

Every human is made up of the same space dust: the basic elements in our universe that form life (and everything else). And yet, we are all unique. Companies are the same: a unique combination of basic elements that come together to form something special--almost magical.

As a brand expression, we took this concept of molecules and broke them apart into individual forms and shapes — the building block composition of company creation.  PSL is an amalgamation of these building blocks and each shape represents a piece of the "puzzle" and hopefully a solution. As we kill 90+% of our ideas we live in a state of constant flux, flexing in and out of creation and destruction.  We attempted to further our brand and express this.

Every person on the PSL core team gave input on attributes, values, and where we live on the "spectrum" in relation to other groups solving problems in the world. An essential part of our design process is to forensically collect and synthesize information. We do this process with all of our spinouts, so we decided to apply it ourselves. Although the company attributes change over time, facilitating these conversations early in the companies life sets a values-driven tonal focus with the founding team.


The Typeface

Aeonik is a beautiful large familied new typeface that was the first collaborative font family by masters Mark Bloom and Joe Leadbeater. It has modernist roots, human-friendly characteristics, and details that reference early Grotesques. Structurally, it works for both display and text usages. We first gave it run for the PSL Ventures annual meeting and fell in love. Bonus: the thoughtful ligatures and alternatives characters nourish added optionality for usage.

The Palette

An important tenant of our identity, and thus our visual identity, is to be deferential to founders. Our brand lives in the background and serves as a vehicle to hold many other brands over time. It is not a diva in the spotlight, but a supportive and solid foundation. With this in mind, our palette is neutral, but with a bit of personality. It has its own thoughts and opinions but does not seek to over-shadow.

Sitting in the middle of Pioneer Square, the historic center of Seattle were early pioneers gathered to start their gold rush journey — it makes it a fitting home for PSL and all the neighboring startups.  Pioneer Square was the place where dreamers flocked and pickaxes became the true gold mine.  Fittingly, we lifted the color palette directly from the streets, trains, and buildings that we walk by and through every day.

Brand Extension

We used the modality of the PSL logo shapes to oversimplify and visually communicate our lunar-landing sky-high process from ideation to spinout (five steps in all). We took the chemistry of the PSL shapes to express each of these steps.

1 — Ideation

All ideas are welcome ideas. The more, the merrier. As our values state: "We are a meritocracy. The best ideas can come from anywhere." We get excited by whatever is possible, whether it is birthed from one of our ideation workshops, or through an entrepreneur living through a problem and dreaming of a better way.

2 — Validation

We dig. We flip over rocks (lots of them). We plant seeds, build fake plastic trees, and talk to as many people as possible. We don't know if an idea can grow with light or wilt back to where it came from. We must feel strongly that our hypothesis is correct and find the appropriate evidence. Nine times out of ten, we don't. We continue to search.

Inspired by the X-Wing fighter trying to lock in on the Death Star, we also aspire to create big bangs for the good of the universe.

3 — Creation

As we form conviction around a new idea, we feed it, and it grows. We swarm and accelerate toward an MVP. Like a mason laying wet concrete, we help pave the road and bring the right materials for a skyrise building.

4 — Spinout

As the company becomes its own entity, we help with initial capital, fundraising, product building, and recruiting. At this point, we are working fast and furious and pour everything we can into helping the founding team.

5 — Scale Up

We share DNA with all our companies. As the company scales up and reaches escape velocity, we support companies through their journey into the universe.

Of course, we are describing all of this in a very abstract manner. For more information on the nuts and bolts each step, check out the PSL Studio webpage.

Design thinking and process is an essential part of PSL. We experiment with how we can use it new ways to validate new ideas, create beautiful design system and lay strong product foundations for the companies we help create.