Interview with SLO Cyclist: Their New Brand and Why It Matters
We’ve been a brand consultant for online cycling magazine SLO Cyclist for a few years now and have helped them through a gradual rebrand, which was capped off earlier this year by the unveiling of their new logo. We were privileged to be able to sit down with SLO Cyclist editor-in-chief Bek Maples earlier this month to talk about the rebrand—or, to put in their words, how we helped them go from “meh” to modern.
SLO Cyclist: A few years back, I showed up to my friends’ graduation in full kit. Lycra bib shorts, jersey, cleats, helmet. Although the kit was black and white and sporting the logo of our shared Alma Mater, it didn’t quite fit in with the afternoon’s dress code. Heck, I was on a ride. I stopped in because I wanted to support my friends. But they didn’t quite see it that way. To them, I was putting my bike rides above the importance of their accomplishments. But I learned, and I’ve applied that lesson not only to some really sweet apology letters, but also to SLO Cyclist.
So, with the help of design mastermind Tony de la Riva, we’ve decided to start taking things more seriously. That means our old look is getting sent out to Goodwill (except for the funny. The funny is staying), and we’re moving up. We want to share a little of the thought behind the new look, so we sat down with Tony to discuss the importance of branding and what that means for our readers.
The Importance of Branding
SLO Cyclist: What was your first impression of our old look?
de la Riva: Before, it was definitely cluttered—not clean and modern, or reflective of SLO Cyclist’s personality.
As for the old logo, it just wasn’t worthy of a brand like SLO Cyclist, which has such a high profile and so much positive visibility. It stuck out like old brown work boots on a black tuxedo. It was just out of place.
SLO Cyclist: We agree. We were totally just cheaping out on everyone. Our new look really fits us, though. How were you able to capture who we are so well?
de la Riva: Talking to the client is the heartbeat of the process. We all need to know what our strengths and weakness are, and I really take a lot of pride what I do well, which is thinking the right way about what design is and how it works.
Listening is really the key thing. When I hear the client talk about their product and what their brand is all about, that’s what gets the fireworks going for me. Images start shooting through my mind of *exactly* what you want your brand to be. I think that’s why I find that my process yields such good results so consistently. It’s because nobody knows your brand better than you, so I just use your own understanding as my springboard.
“Talking to the client is the heartbeat of the process. Listening is really the key thing. I think that’s why the process yields such good results so consistently.”
SLO Cyclist: True statement! You definitely took the time to listen to what we were looking for before even starting your design. How did you get from concept to a first draft?
de la Riva: The coolest part of design is uncovering what’s already there in your mind. Most of the time clients feel like they don’t know what they want. In reality, though, they almost always know exactly what they really want—but it’s kind of buried in a fog. My process provides a framework that allows us to clear that away and identify pretty much exactly what it is that you’re looking for.
It’s kind of like an archeologist—the bones are already there in the client’s mind, and my job is to dig them out and put the pieces together.
SLO Cyclist: At the end, we only had a couple super minor revisions to the new logo. Talk about your revision process.
de la Riva: Well, the typical approach to design is three versions and 20 rounds of revisions—but that approach is based on guessing, not listening. And I think that’s the wrong approach.
What I work hard to do is turn that approach on it’s head by really listening to the client up front before the work ever begins. It’s sort of an 80%-20% split. The listening—and not the revisions—makes up the bulk of the work, so that creating and revising (if revising is even necessary) is a relatively simple process.
The Difference a Great Brand Makes
SLO Cyclist: We know the rebranding opened a lot of doors for us, and made folks in the bike industry start taking us more seriously. The response has been tremendous! What would be your advice to readers who are considering rebranding their business?
de la Riva: Well, I’d say do it right, and don’t be under the illusion that there are any shortcuts. We all know instinctively how much presentation matters. Unfortunately, we just don’t apply it consistently to our businesses.
For example, no one goes on a first date wearing that stinky old shirt with the mustard stain on the collar. No one goes to a job interview with messy hair, shorts and a tank top. But we *do* use ugly logos and bad design for our businesses, yet it somehow never occurs to us that we might not look the part. It’s deeply rooted in human nature: presentation matters.
What many business owners don’t understand is that if it’s going to be good, you have to make a serious investment in one of two things: time or money.
You’re either going to have to spend a lot of time learning how to do good work on your own, or you’re going to have to pay someone who can do it twice as good in half the time. But there are no shortcuts. The world is full of failed businesses and brands that don’t matter because someone tried to take a shortcut and thought they could be the exception.
So spend meaningful time, or spend meaningful money. If you go cheap, you’re going to get what you pay for. If you look cheap, you can’t be surprised if no one takes you seriously or wants to pay your prices.
SLO Cyclist: We think you’ve got it right. We wasted plenty of our own time cheaping out. Thanks for helping us make a serious impression! Any special offers for our readers?
de la Riva: Sure! Any SLO Cyclist reader who’s seeing this interview can contact us for a free 30-minute brand analysis—plus a special discount on any services. Just shoot me an email.