How an American Software Startup Chose an Indigenous Australian Marsupial as the Logo of a Chinese Mobile App
I know, right? Truth is better than fiction, most of the time.
But, indeed, that second blog title is the more colorful description of the actual process from 3 years ago, when I oversaw the creation of the logo and name for Appconomy’s first mobile app in China.
NOTE: The brand design example in this post is drawn from a larger presentation – Brand Element Basics – that is available on Slideshare.
Here’s what happened.
Our first app was designed to be an “every man’s” version of the Starbucks loyalty app, primarily for small-footprint, food & beverage (F&B) locations, like small tea shops or food stands, but also for other retail merchants, like jewelry stores or mobile phone kiosks.
It is very common for Asia-Pacific mobile apps to have mascots or other anthropomorphic features (like eyes or hands) integrated into their branding.
So, we began by studying and evaluating the branding of various competing apps that were broadly in our category, as show in the example below.
From that initial survey, we chose a lengthy set of shape/color/font combinations, each with one or more referring sources.
We had already gone through an initial app naming process, settling on the working name of “Jinnang.”
A jinnang is a special kind of man-purse, if you will, that is a key element in Chinese fairy tale that nearly everyone in China knows, kind of like the magic beans in Jack-in-the-Beanstalk, from Mother Goose in the US.
From the large set of options, we worked through pros and cons and down-selected to a smaller set of concepts that we wanted to further develop.
For the next round, we focused more on shapes and narrowing in on simple, unique, original imagery.
To help, we kept to a mostly black & white palette, to keep attention on the core visual composition.
As you can see, by this stage there were 2 macro-design concepts emerging, with one purely emphasizing the magic purse and another incorporating cute animal mascots.
The kangaroo was a natural option because of its pouch, which was kind of a built-in jinnang, and because it had friendly, yet strong character attributes.
And, it was a mascot that was still available, unclaimed by any other major software competitor, as far as we could tell.
Next, we undertook yet another round of narrowing on images, with the addition of color and fonts to the options, to give them full character.
At this point, it was TIME to CHOOSE a final concept!
Winner: the kangaroo!
From there, we advanced to a round of micro-tailoring of the concept elements, e.g., mouth, headwear, neckwear, color and more.
As you can see, we made him skinnier and gave him better posture, in the process!
Eventually, we settled on the finalized logo, both symbol & wordmark.
You may have noticed that, in the process, between the 4th round and the 6th & final round, the brand name changed from Jinnang to Jinjin.
The simple rationale was that “jin jin” was easier for English speakers to say and, as a meaningless set of morphemes – similar to the “goo goo or ga ga” of babytalk – it would be easier to trademark.
There’s more to it than that, but I’ll save that story for another time.