February Eighteenth two thousand sixteen

Case Study: CMYK 4.0


How do you update your logo without losing your identity?


We think of branding as a living, breathing organism, and as such, sometimes branding needs to shed its skin to reveal a shiny new one underneath. Our core values remain the same – a passionate dedication to providing you with the best, personalized digital solutions and services. But as we grow and expand, our branding and image does as well, evolving with the current interactive trends, styles and our creative vision. Our mission with our rebranding (CMYK 4.0) was to create a better visualization of where CMYK is now and where we want to go.

The Problem

We encourage all of our clients to think about refreshing both their branding and digital presence every few years. And we practice what we preach. A refresh helps a company re-evaluate its core values, mission and identity, as well as investigate if they have outgrown previous brand tenants, taken on new ones, or have moved in a new direction. All of these movements and adjustments are completely natural in the lifetime of a company. Just as your business does not remain static, your branding and digital presence shouldn’t either.

The CMYK Solution

We approached our brand refresh as we would for a client. Starting with an in-depth investigation, we captured where we started, what we had been through and where we wanted to go. In the process, we dug deep into the CMYK vault to find some gems from our early days, like this and this. We also were reminded of our amazing clients, inspiring projects and diverse portfolio which made us who we are today. Throughout the entire exploration, we were able to clearly identify thematic threads that always ran through the CMYK brand, from the early days, through our expansion and until today. After a visioning workshop we were able to identify those themes as: bespoke, clever, surprising, detail-oriented, confident and human.

After looking at where we have come from, we wanted to survey where we are today – not just how we see ourselves but how our clients and operatives see us. So we asked them. Through a series of surveys, we were able to gather candid opinions on how we are seen. Some of it was incredibly flattering (great customer service, clever, imaginative…awww, you make us blush!). Some, not so much (cheap, cheap and cheap. Good for tacos, not so great for a creative agency). But by getting a full picture of how we are viewed, we could better communicate how we want to be viewed, and make corrections accordingly.

The next step was to forecast where we wanted to go. Was it more experiential design? Data visualization installations? Cutting-edge interactive design? A digital petting zoo? We brainstormed and refined, and refined again and again, until we created a clear roadmap of the future of CMYK. Armed with this information, we were ready to start the design process.

Hold up you say! We did all of this before we even got to the design process? But it’s just a logo! Here is the ongoing misunderstanding about branding. It is never just a logo. The process is what separates ok logos from great logos. The process helps us understand the narrative and reasoning behind each design choice – from palette to font choice to aesthetic. In order to make design choices that are the most authentic to your brand, we use this process to unpack, uncover and illuminate the heart of you brand. Sure, then we make it pretty. But there is substance to the best logos, not just a veneer.

So back to our process. Taking all of our learnings and our key themes, we looked at what other people – brands, companies, media, fashion, artists – were doing. We took the industry pulse, both interms of style and interactive. Then we created mood boards in different styles. . All of the mood boards included all of our themes, weighted differently. Some were more playful, some more elegant. We prioritized the mood boards, selected the two we wanted to see more exploration from.



Black & White

As part of this exploration, we decided to drop “Operation” from our name. It had served us well but it was time to let it go. At the inception of the company, “Operation” spoke to our initial ambitions of creating a vast network of agents and operatives who we would tap into for different missions. Our agent and operative network is still integral to our business, but we are a nimble organization that can generate complex solutions without the clunky overhead of a big agency. By shortening our name to “CMYK” we are better able to convey this agility.

This exploration included fonts, colors, and actual logo lock-ups. By the time we started this stage, we knew who we were and how we wanted to represent ourselves so well (thank you, process!) that we could easily identify the design that worked. And we refined them again. And again. And again until we had our new logo.


This new logo embodies the CMYK spirit. It conjures up the elegance of architectural design and the playful interlocking pieces of a puzzle. It is both sophisticated and youthful. It looks like the calling card of a creative firm that is going to provide damn good digital solutions. And don’t worry, even with our sophisticated new look, we’re still weirdos.