Active Pixels

Your company identity needs to be understood and appreciated by the target market.

When that market is graphic designers, the pressure is on to make sure it’s right!

Key IssuesResults
  • Create an identity that is appropriate to the target market
  • Create an identity that portrays a more established businessthan is actually the case
  • New, more appropriate name
  • Highly distinctive company identity
  • Greater acceptance within the market place
  • Target turnover met within first 6 months of operating

Business: Active Pixels
Design Company: Phelan Barker
Business Type: Web development
Employees: 1 plus freelance developers
Founded: 2004
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Business Background

It seems only fitting that Sean Ronan’s fledgling web development company is located in the shadow ofthe former factory of Marconi – pioneers in early mass-market communication.

Working for 15 years in e-commerce with BT, a self-confessed “techie” at heart with a good eye for a sale, when an opportunity arose to escape the corporate confines of BT and setup his own business, Sean wasn’t slow to take it.

In March 2004, Active Pixels was born (although it was originally called Jamella – we’ll get to that later).

Ever since the mid 90s’ website development had ebbed and flowed between the design sector and the IT industry finding a comfortable home in neither. Over the past few years though, production responsibilities have started to split with design companies taking charge of the creative side of things, subcontracting the “nuts and bolts” side out to specialist suppliers.

Sean did consider offering a complete web service to end-clients but he realised his own creative limitations and so it’s the latter half of this settling (but still growing) market place in which Active Pixels operates, offering all manner of technical web services to the design industry.

Identifying the need for design

Keen to absorb as much business start-up information as he could, Sean spotted that Business Link forEssex were due to run a half-day design management workshop on Business Image for start-up businesses and thought it worthy of attending.

It was during the course of this workshop that he came to acknowledge that his own identity wasn’t right.

Given that his primary market were designers, it was important that he portrayed an image which they would appreciate – after all, it’s a business that exists on aesthetics. He realised that a design company is more likely to respect and trust a supplier who themselves, demonstrably buys-into the concept of professional graphic design.

“I was impressed with all of the companies I met but Phelan Barker stood out on account of the fact that they spent more time asking me questions about my business than they did talking about theirs. I felt that this approach suggested that they were more likely to develop an identity with greater depth and integrity than I could perhaps hope for elsewhere”.

The Process

Review of current identity

At the Business Image Workshop, the feedback Sean received on his company’s then existing image was that it didn’t represent the image that he wanted or was appropriate. The name “Jamella” (based upon his two Children’s names) and the style he had chosen were not that of a professional technology based company but were perceived to be something to do with children’s clothes or toys.

He was convinced that he should reconsider the name when a local hairdresser was found using the same name!

Develop an outline design brief

Sean was challenged to write out a brief for a designer, explaining the business strategy and how this needed be expressed in the design.

One-to-one with Design Management Adviser

The brief was developed with the Adviser challenging Sean to consider the wider issues of the business identifying those elements that would help to inspire the designer.

Meet the designers

Sean took the opportunity to meet with several designers, reviewing their portfolios and assessing their suitability for the work.

The Rationale

Phelan Barker’s first approach was to assist Sean on his business name. Working together, they drew up a whole list of single words that described both Sean and his company, laying them out on his kitchen floor to see what looked good. Sean eventually picked out “active” – because he’s an outdoor, active type of chap plus the websites he works on have a high level of interactivity – and “pixels” as that’s effectively what he works with. Together as Active Pixels they work even better at describing the nature of the business.

Sean works with a number of specialist developers and was keen to come across as a bit bigger than that to potential clients. The designers developed an identity using four colours – a little more expensive to print but creates a farmore grand image.

Key to the design is the grid of squares – representing pixels. They are displayed in such a way to mimic activity. They are also highly distinctive – so much so in fact, that Sean has had the design applied to the roof of his Mini Cooper!

The outcome

“I’m exceptionally proud of my identity” states Sean. “It has given me added confidence in that I now fit-in visually with my target market and feel that it endorses the values I attach to what I do and how I do it”

“I love the name too. It’s immeasurably better than what I had before and there’s no way I could have known that without having gone through this process”.

They SayWe Say
Be part of the process Designers need honest feedback and regular interaction with their clients to develop an excellent creative solution. Get involved, visit their studio, throw ideas into the pot – it is after all your identity.
Trust the designer This may seem at odds with the first tip but you need to know where input stops and direction begins. Designers are highly skilled, highly trained individuals who take pride in their reputations. They are highly unlikely to suggest something that will damage this.
Set a budget Very important you should never select a designer based upon a quote but more what that designer can do for the budget you have available.Think about what you can spend and discuss this with the designers before any work commences. Remember to allow for the cost of printing though. Sean’s design used four colours, which would have cost more to print than 2 colours – yet the cost of the design process would have been the same.
Use the process to develop the business The design process often forces you to take a few steps back to see how things stand and so it’s an ideal opportunity to consider the wider picture. It was this approach that allowed Sean to realise his company name wasn’t right and select an appropriate alternative.
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