To celebrate the rebrand to Small School, we have a special for you (only June 11-14, 2024) →

Marketing & Launching

February 2, 2023

Rescued! How I Designed & Saved Public Lab’s New Identity in Public

Kevon Cheung

Founder & Head Teacher

Before I wrapped up the 2nd year of my business, I wanted to refresh the Public Lab brand.

But I was so close … so close to getting a new logo that looked like a mustache or boobs.

This is why I’m forever thankful to build things in public.

If I hadn’t built the new brand in public, I’d have gone down a design nightmare that likely forced a redesign. And that would mean a waste of time and money.

In the end, I got a new brand identity I was very happy with!

So here I am recapping the project to show you a few things:

  1. Building in Public doesn’t have to be this HUGE thing. You can define a 30 days window to build a project in public
  2. If you don’t have a community around you yet, you can do this to grow it
  3. By being open & listen carefully, you can build up a trustworthy voice many people love to follow and support

I’ll also share the exact steps from sourcing to working with my brand identity designer!

Why it’s time to upgrade my brand identity

In the first 2 years, I did quite a bit on my own. I grew an audience. I ran 7 live cohorts. I wrote a book. I worked closely with 100+ people. I had what I called “raving friends & fans”.

And I did that by throwing things together based on my limited design skills.

These were some of the designs across platforms:

As my next goal is to become a 6-figure business, when I thought about what could get me there, having a consistent and well-thought-out brand style was one key factor.

It was hard to measure, but we human beings form perceptions based on how appealing and consistent something is. So I thought it was worth it.

More so, I didn’t think my old brand communicated my styles very well. It didn’t scream some of the things I show up with: energetic, friendly, genuine, playful, and experienced.

So yes, I was set to upgrade my brand, but why did I build it in public?

Why I decided to build it in public

The trigger came from seeing all my students at Build in Public Mastery build in public.

I felt left out. I was itching to share another new project of my own.

But, of course, deep down, there were other reasons.

1. Branding is highly subjective. I could be very wrong

Ever since launching my first paid product, I’ve known that building things inside my own head is the worst approach ever.

It is one thing that I should take a stand on my decisions, it is another thing to not collect insights from the people I serve actively every day.

If you ask me to choose, I’d go for “more and more and more feedback please” any day.

If I hadn’t listened to my community for feedback, I’d try to be smart to inject the meaning of community into the logo - a bracket to imply a space with two people hanging out.

Oops, and it might look like this:

Many people told me what they really saw. That was a big alarm.

And since I’ve associated the broccoli emoji with my personal brand since day 1. Not to my surprise, a lot of people were telling me that I should use broccoli for Public Lab’s brand and logo!

I realized - a logo doesn’t have to be smart. It just needs to be memorable.

It should also create curiosity. Broccoli does the job here.

Recently I learned about the Purple Cow concept, and I thought doubling down on the broccoli was a brilliant move to stand out.

2. You can build any projects in public

As a teacher and coach on Build in Public, I often hear people ask what they can build in public with. Most people go for software. Some say info products.

But to me, it works for almost anything.

In the super early days, you want to build a project that is beneficial to your audience.

At my stage, since I already have a community, I can be a bit more selfish and build my brand in public which technically has no value to my audience.

Also, some people think Building in Public is an extra layer of work on top of everything. I want to show them it doesn’t have to be.

A 30-day timeframe is perfect to give people a clear finish line so they can follow.

And the funny thing is - constraints and public accountability can help you get things done! I see this being the number one struggle for most creators, so this might just be the cure.

3. I always want to live up to my values

One of the mottos I live by:

“You have to walk the walk!”

Because so many experts are online selling things they don’t even do themselves.

When I do what I preach, it is an instant win. I don’t even need to try hard to sell.

In the long run, it drives up conversions and sales.

So by sharing the process of how I design my brand, I want you (yes, as you read this essay) to feel the power of being open and helpful.

If you feel inspired by my words here, it means that you can do the same to inspire others.

It is so easy to forget these basics when things get busy, so this is me reminding myself about my principles and roots.

What could have gone wrong without building in public

Before I share the process of this project, I want to reverse it and talk about what could have gone wrong.

Ahh! Actually, so many things.

  • The logo would be what the designer and I think is the best yet no one gets it
  • The logo could resemble boobs or maybe even the chips brand, Pringles
  • I’d have launched the new brand and realized it is not good enough, then gone back and redone it

Just thinking about these consequences makes me a little dizzy.

Luckily, I didn’t have to handle these.

How I actually worked with the designer

I don’t think a lot of people share the thought process and steps behind designing a brand. This is why I want to write it out.

But first, I don’t recommend anyone starting out to worry about their brands. It is not that important in the early days.

To spend time and resources on a branding exercise like this, you want to have 70% clarity on what you’re doing. You want to know your mission, styles, and what you stand for very well.

1. I sourced from Upwork

There are people I can likely tap into on Twitter with my audience, but I want a quick way to find out the portfolios and rates from different designers.

Upwork is my go-to for hiring contractors.

So far, my designer and video editor are both hired via Upwork.

2. I preferred an individual over an agency

I got a bunch of proposals. Some profiles really stood out.

There was this one person who sent me multiple 15-min Loom videos explaining his process.

But, that was actually a turn-off for me because:

  1. I found that long-winded. Can we just get to the point?
  2. I noticed he runs an agency. I’m reluctant to work with an agency because I was pretty sure he would outsource my project to his teammate

At last, I found an individual who responded quickly, wrote back concisely, and showed humility in his short Loom videos.

He is Ihor Boiko based in UkraineI love working with people that are similar to me.

Hint: this is why you want to bridge your online self and real-life self as much as possible. By doing so, you attract like-minded people and make growing your presence easier!

I was attracted by his style in previous projects! I imagined the new Public Lab brand to be somewhat along the same line.

3. We defined the scope

Usually, there is a fixed contract way or hourly rate way.

As you probably guess, I have a budget for the entire project, so it only makes sense for me to negotiate a fixed price to avoid going out of budget.

This is pretty standard practice for a brand identity project too.

The scope we agreed on included Moodboard, Logo, Colors, Typography, and some Branding Visuals.

4. Important: I wrote down all my thoughts about my brand

One thing I knew was that I hired a designer to help me execute my vision. I didn’t hire someone to tell me what my brand should be.

So … me being the super organized me, I wrote down all my thoughts about my brand before working with Ihor.

But Ihor also gave me a list of questions to help, here are some:

  1. What service(s) does your business provide?
  2. What’s the story/meaning behind your business name?
  3. What adjectives best describe your brand/business?
  4. What are a few big goals you have for your business?
  5. What makes you special? Why would customers choose your services?
  6. Why are you looking for a rebrand now?

This step was VERY important because it brought together all the observations, learnings, and feelings I had in the last 2 years serving my community.

In my mind, a good brand identity is one that reflects what I’m already doing. It shouldn’t try to create something I’m not.

Ihor made these early sketches based on my description.

We were thinking hard how to symbolize "community"!

I shared my thoughts with Ihor via Loom videos:

5. I built in public by sharing with everyone

It was a collaborative process.

So each time Ihor sent back his designs, I took my time to reflect, shared it in public to get feedback, and shared my final comments with him.

As you can see, I got super valuable feedback from the community to shape the direction. But more so, I also created a ton of conversations that brought me closer to my people.

I’ve said it a lot - a raving community lives upon these mini touchpoints.

6. We did a few iterations for each step

There was a lot of back and forth.

I made sure I listened to his feedback because if I was dictating all the decisions, what did I hire him for?

We ended up finishing the whole project within 30 days, and that’s thanks to his responsiveness and frequent updates.

We finally decided on everything from the logo, colors, fonts, to visual styles.

What’s next?

Again, it is impossible to measure.

But for the people who played a part in this redesigning process, I’m sure they have a special connection with me and Public Lab.

This is “community engagement”.

The next step is to implement the new brand all across: the website, products, social media, and more.

I was hoping I could change everything and launch the new brand with a bang. But it was utterly unrealistic with my schedule, so I decided to take one small step at a time - first changing my social media presence.

Then next, this website that you're reading from now.

For sure there are discrepancies in the branding in the meanwhile, but that’s something I’m okay with.

I hope you find this recap-style essay useful to help you look at Building in Public differently. Or if you are thinking about branding, get a few ideas on how to do it with your community.

So … did the broccoli work its magic on you yet? Is it stuck in your head? Pop in here - I'd love to hear from you.

Newsletter Signature Divider
Newsletter Signature Divider
Newsletter Signature Divider
Table of Contents

Build in Public Guide

This free guide has been downloaded over 30,000 times. In 8 short chapters, you’ll learn how to leverage this modern marketing strategy in growing your business and audience in parallel.

Download the Guide

Build in Public Guide

This free guide has been downloaded over 30,000 times. In 8 short chapters, you’ll learn how to leverage this modern marketing strategy in growing your business and audience in parallel.

Download the Guide