Realigning an optometry brand to reflect a human-centred practice
Learn about how one design studio realigned a local Melbourne optometry's brand to direct the focus onto their patients, while also learning that doctors are not the only ones needing to practice bedside manners.
Over the 15 years that My Optometrist, a local Melbourne optometry, has been practicing there have been a few versions of the practice's identity. Recently, the company felt the need to address their identity again because one of the partners had a niggling problem -with the existing logo that he couldn't articulate to the others partners. Danh approached my design studio asking me to redesign their identity, and for me this was an exciting opportunity to rebrand a company and help them solve their identity crisis.
The owners came up with the name "My Optometrist" all those years ago to evoke a personalised healthcare practice. The clue is in the word "my" in the company's name, and this small word is the indicator of a personalised view of the practice and this would become the kernal for the creative direction for their new identity.
Before we delve into the new identity, let's have a look at two of their previous designs and the issues that I came across in the design of the new identity. The first version (with the orange eye) was designed with good intentions. It has character but lacks refinement, the creative naivety creates a somewhat charming appeal. While the second logo is generic and reflective of when Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop became readily available to the masses (this is a bug bear of mine ... the access to design tools doesn't necessarily mean the person wielding the software knows what or when to apply the tools - but this is another discussion point).
Getting back to solving the identity for My Optometrist ... the first stage of this design project was to understand what the client needed, what their perception of the brand was, and what are the issues with the existing identity. During this discussion the founders of My Optometrist revealed that customers felt fearful of the eye and many older folks disliked it. This led to the founders resisting the notion of any eye being used in their new identity. This could be worked around, there were other solutions to representing an optometry practice and through the design iteration we explored various options but the final outcome did come back to incorporating the eye.
Through the early stages of the design process, I was keeping an ear out for false assumptions. A good example of a false assumption is when a client says "we need neon signage for our shop" and when you ask the client "why do you feel that you need neon lights specifically?" ... and as the client attempts to answer this question the conversation reveals more about the underlying and inherent problems. Neon lights might be exactly the solution to the underlying problem, but part of a designer's approach is to uncover the assumed problems and the real problems and whether the suggested solution actually solves the real problem or whether another solution is needed.
So, did people really fear the eye? Or is it that the design of the eye in the first logo was unrefined and accidentally designed to look fearsome and alien? It's most likely that an educated designer can express the reason why this first logo made people feel uneasy - designers would say it's pretty obvious! They might even highlight some of the issues as: inappropriate use of colour, use of disproportionate elements within the eye, legibility issues and redundancy or words. These are all design principles that educated designers are aware of - how colour conveys emotion, lines are expressive with qualities such as speed and aggression, soft and gentle, and shapes can make things appear to recede or expand, and appropriate use of typography. What seems obvious to a designer is less obvious to the untrained eye of the general public.
The second logo was a different kettle of fish. The battle to get the clients to objectively see the pitfalls of this logo were difficult because they had emotionally attached themselves to this identity. It was like watching someone not wanting to part with their favourite scruffy and hole-riddled t-shirt - they were just too comfortable in it to see past the fact that this logo was not representing them appropriately. Their description of their practice - a holistic, technology driven yet patient-centric, socially responsible and locally owned optometry practice - was not being reflected in this second logo.
As a designer, when I design anything I ask myself "Is there are reason for this element to exist?" and "What does that element in the design contribute?" "Is it necessary?" and "Does the design convey my intended message? Is it confusing?" and "Can the design be used in multiple formats, spaces, and conditions?". If you separate the graphic part of the logo from the typographic component does the icon express clearly what it is? Does the choice of typeface contribute to the expression of the brand's qualities? All these need to be considered, yet the second logo showed the least evidence of consideration for these questions.
The final design (shown in the black and white version) takes into account the partners' description of the company and how they wanted to be represented. It's a solution that takes into account contemporary design, the founding partners' direction for the company and perception of the company and addresses technical issues such as the long company name. The eye is incorporated back into the typeface which creates a unique logomark.
So this brings me to the initial comment about bedside manners. Designers, just like healthcare practitioners, need a form of bedside manner when discussing design work with the general public. From my experience designers can be more direct and clinical in our approach when critiquing design work with other designers because we've been exposed to "crits" and have learnt to be robust and detached from our work to see it improve. But when it comes to working with clients they view things from an emotional level - "I like this" or "I don't like this" is often heard from clients because they haven't been exposed to design school crits . Part of every designer's toolkit should be a bedside manner which can allow them to talk to clients and gently discuss with them the merits of one design over another.