As tech people at CBRE, the world's largest commercial real estate company, we had an identity problem. In Part 1 of this post, I explained how we found a solution in the idea of building. Now I'll explain how we grew that idea into a visual identity.
Our new identity's job was to express our team's purpose and personality, and to do it through ideas connected to our work and our world. We started with a list of things most important to us, associations we wanted to bring to the new brand.
Minds primed, we assembled a moodboard from the visual worlds of real estate, architecture, and graphic design. We picked references that felt optimistic, angular, and futuristic, tones that would help our identity signal that something new was happening at CBRE. And we gave that message an exclamation point by choosing neon green as our brand color, an electric counterpart to CBRE's mossy green.
Then we started sketching. Blueprints inspired our first experiments.
Maybe a construction site could be a metaphor for building technology.
It was a fun idea, but our team's feedback exposed its problems. The metaphor was murky: software, which is never finished, is quite unlike a building. And we didn't want anyone to think we were CBRE's construction division. Could we keep exploring the overlaps between real estate and technology until we found another idea to play with? And everyone liked the little people — could we keep those?
We returned to our list of ideas with fresh interest in the first two, real estate and technology. Their intersection was our address. But they felt like very different worlds — one established, one disruptive; one besuited, one in a hoodie. How could we bring them together?
When we looked at them side by side, bringing them together felt easy.
That discovery — and hours of vector drawing — gave us the image that would anchor our brand. The circuitmap is a single graphic that fuses our two worlds, concisely explaining what Builders do.
Color and imagery locked, it was time to choose a font. One auditioner was a standout. MAD Sans looked the part: it's technical, friendly, and a little odd. But because its faceted letterforms are drawn from architects' CAD software, another place where of tech and real estate overlap, it was also a perfect conceptual fit for this role.
If it looks a little weird, that's on purpose. This technical-but-unfinished quality reflects the maker spirit that animates every Builder. It shows our understanding that software is never done (and is always somewhat broken). And most importantly, the willingness to adopt an unusual voice signals to recruits that CBRE might not be what they thought.
With our choices of color, imagery, and type, we had expressed what we do. But now we needed an element to represent for us, the Builders.
The robot from before was promising, but Builders are not identical automatons. We make technology, but we've always done it with humanity and humor, diversity and individuality. So to represent us, and our collaborative spirit, we created a family.
As soon as we met, these Builders felt much more familiar. They've become our unofficial mascots, and their hard hats have become our somewhat-official logo.
To show how all this came together, we created some sample materials we could use to explain the idea to our decisionmakers.
This was the hard part. We did not expect CBRE to swallow this neon green pill at all. That's why we made it so zany: rejection was likely, so we might as well have fun with the idea. But each time we made our case to a stakeholder, we found ourselves met with understanding, enthusiasm and permission to move ahead. Up and up the chain we went. Before long, it was time to present to Bob Sulentic, CEO of CBRE. He turned out to be the most enthusiastic of all, happily endorsing the project. The conversation even led to his visiting our office to inaugurate the brand:
Approval in hand, it was time to launch the brand. First came the inevitable swag:
Next, we updated our presence at campus recruiting events:
This was an instant success. Before, as CBRE, students walked right by. But they were curious about CBRE Build, stopping to say they'd been pulled in by all the radioactive green.
Around this time we moved into a new office, which got the full CBRE Build treatment.
And of course, we had to throw a party.
The Builders helped us set the mood…
…And it worked. (Don't believe the empty room; it was late!)
The best part has been seeing all the ways our team has made the brand their own. We've had neon green cocktails, Builders 3D printed and handmade from felt, a Build-a-Builder papercraft workshop, an enormous Builder hard hat, and all kinds of charms and ornaments laser-cut in-house.
That's how we made CBRE Build. We discovered a scattered set of identity problems, defined the qualities our solution needed, expressed those qualities visually, and iterated until we and the company approved.
It hasn't been long, but early signs point to success. Our recruiters are reporting an uptick in interest, especially with college students. CBRE is spreading the brand to its tech offices around the world — there are now Build offices in Dallas, Seattle, and soon, London. And for us, the Builders, there is a sense of having found our place as tech people within CBRE. It took over a year, but when someone asks us where we work, we Builders can now answer with easy confidence.