Refreshing Etsy's brand

Summer 2017 - Spring 2018

Leading up to the Summer of 2017, ongoing market research suggested that Etsy experiences weren't living up to their potential; that users were excited about the idea of Etsy, but their actual interactions with the brand were falling flat. This perception went deeper than product functionality; users were expecting to have an emotional connection with Etsy that wasn't being fulfilled. This insight helped to kick off a cross-functional initiative to refresh Etsy's identity and breathe new life into key touchpoints between users and our brand.

Brand expression at the time was fairly basic. We used lots of orange tones, line art illustrations, generic icons, and very little motion. Content lacked clear hierarchy, and inadequate systems for UI prominence made it difficult to map visual weight to importance. We didn't have a system that clarified when, why, and how to be expressive, so everything we made followed a safe, middle-of-the-road approach.

Leaders on the brand design team, who owned this initiative, brought me and another designer (the two of us were the extent of the design systems team at the time) into this project to become the voices of digital product as it pertains to brand expression. We pulled inspiration, created moodboards, wrote headlines, and mapped brand visions to user personas. This work took up the better part of the summer.

With initial directions in place, we partnered with an external agency to reimagine what product experiences with Etsy could look and feel like. This stage of work was intentionally very theoretical, momentarily ignoring real world constraints in order to freely explore the potential for our brand. There was frequent user research (not conducted by myself or my team) to validate that we were moving in a direction that resonated strongly with our audience.

When our contract with the outside agency was up, we had a slew of provocational prototypes that reimagined what an Etsy of the future could look like. Our next challenge was figuring out how that vision mapped to reality without completely blowing up the value of what was already out there. The design systems team (now the two of us, plus a product manager) organized a 2 week long design sprint and solicited participation from 8 other product designers around the org. The objective was to start stress-testing the vision of the brand refresh within the confines of our existing product. As part of the process, I created a preliminary stickersheet for where we saw our UI heading, creating a basis for typography, colors, buttons, and simple compositions.

I also starting writing some preliminary guidelines on how to use this new design language to aid in designer adoption.

The result of our design sprint was a collection of prototypes that reimagined our existing product through the lense of our new approach to product design.

Beyond just the visual language that represents Etsy, I looked for opportunities to make motion an integral part of all experiences. Where moving through flows and interacting with content currently felt static and choppy, I hoped to make them feel lively and fluid. This work required strong animation prototyping skills and clear spacial orientation to explain the origin and destination of various types of content.

Again, we put these more grounded prototypes in front of users to continue to gain confidence that we were moving the brand in the right direction. Inspired by positive feedback from users, the design org, and the executive team, we were ready to start figuring out a rollout process.

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