How a unique collaboration created a new graphic ID for SQLI Digital Experience

What does an agency recognised for transforming the digital experiences of some of the biggest brands around the world do when it wants to revamp its own brand and design? It collaborates with some of the best creatives in the business.

Almost two years ago, Redbox Digital joined the SQLI Group to form a formidable partnership in the digital sphere. They weren’t alone. Over the past number of years, big hitters across Europe, such as Osudio, Star Republic and Wax International – each with major digital experience and different strengths and specialities in the industry - were doing the same.

So, when it came to SQLI reworking its own brand and identity, it was able to pull together a formidable creative team from some of the latest agencies to join the group, led by the marketing and communications director, Christine Julien.

Blandine Pietra, who was SQLI’s creative lead on the project, said: “Instead of choosing an outside agency, we wanted to involve some of our subsidiaries and make it collaborative. We have some amazing talent and experience across the group, so agreed it would be exciting to have the creative directors from each brand, work together.

“In the same way these agencies have joined SQLI to combine their skillsets and work on major digital projects together, we wanted to do the same with our own project.

“It was important to have a new identity that could bring everyone together: to merge us as one and allow us to carry the same flag and have the same DNA, as we moved into the future.”

In January 2021, a formidable creative team was assembled including, Paul Lewis, creative director from Redbox Digital, with main offices in the UK and the Middle East; Eline Cottyn, creative director from Belgium agency Wax International; Daniel Georgsson, design director, from Swedish agency Star Republic; and Daria Pernak, from Osudio, based predominately in Germany and Holland.

Blandine continued: “Everyone had tasks relevant to their skillset and experience. Paul managed the storytelling side; Daria and I managed graphic elements like the colour pallet; Daniel managed the typography; Eline managed the animation and video. I also managed the process and brought it all together.

“It was great for us to work together like this. As a designer, working with all these specialists with different ideas and ways of operating, was really interesting. It motivates you.”

The new name SQLI Digital Experience was agreed upon, keeping SQLI, but adding an extra, fresh element that would encapsulate what the brand was about and the direction it was heading. From here, it was a case of working towards designs, wording, colour schemes, video and animation, and typography, that could be consistent throughout the online and offline branding and publications of the group.

Blandine said: “We worked closely together for three months. The first one was an icebreaker as we didn’t know each other, but after that we worked separately on mood boards, picking words and visuals that inspired us and worked on the colour palettes and other design elements, presenting our ideas to each other each time.

“We focused on words that brought about a ‘human’ side. ‘Digital’ can be a cold word, but we wanted to tell a story that explored values like humanity and looked at the relationships, the people and vibrancy of the group.

“From here, we agreed on areas that we thought interesting to continue to work on and go away and work on these areas further.

“My part was the graphic element and colour palettes as I like to experiment with colour and design. I worked closely with Daria in Amsterdam.

“Paul is good at storytelling and so he came up with the acronym for the story behind SQLI - based on latin words: Senti (to experience); Quaesti (to question); Labora (to immerse and analyse and Inspira (to inspire).

“Bit by bit, it all came together.”

Surprisingly, for a team with such diverse backgrounds, agreeing on design elements was not too difficult.

Blandine continued: “We pretty much agreed on everything. It was a really collaborative experience. The only area that was a challenge was in the colours. It tended to be the male members wanting minimal colours, greys, blacks and pastels, with the female designers preferring bright, pop colours.

“In the end we decided to go for a more minimalist feel - using minimal splashes of colour on the website and for presentations and documents, but bright, bold colours on social media – we felt we needed a design that captured attention, particularly on our social channels.”

The designers put their final decisions into a presentation that was shared with the directors of the group.

Earlier this year, after everything was signed off, SQLI took the first steps in integrating the new look into everyday use. New guidelines are now in place about how to use the new logo; which typography should be used and when; when to use certain colours and combinations that shouldn’t be used; how to make the best use of imagery. Email signatures, white papers, video and PowerPoint presentations are all included in the new style guide.

The company is pushing out the brand ID through its social channels, before the branding and design is rolled out further to the group.

Despite working together through the lockdown remotely and with so many offices involved, the project proved a positive experience - paving the way for further collaborations in the future.

Blandine added: “It was less intimidating and easy to work together remotely. Sometimes I would be connected to my team and we would create something live together and it was a really easy and fast process to work like this.

“The whole project was really successful. We didn’t know each other at the beginning, but now know each other really well, our strengths and weakness, even.

“We have created something we can be proud of, that unites the group and that can and will be adapted as we grow.

“This is our first collaboration, but it has set the foundation for working closely again as we continue to evolve.”