A CLIENT’S HEROIC IDEA AND THE BRAND WE BUILT TO SERVE IT
ASTERRA Website & Rebrand
ASTERRA Website & Rebrand
Utilis was launched in 2013 to commercialize a technology that its co-founder first developed to search for water below the surface of Mars. On Earth, this new technology would have a more immediate application. Using satellite data and a series of patented algorithms, Utilis would locate treated drinking water leaking from utility pipes buried under soil, concrete, pavement, and forest. And it would do so over an area of more than 1,350 sq miles at once without puncturing the ground, making it the most significant advance in underground leak detection in over 80 years.
Initially, Utilis tasked VSSL only with creating a name for its products, which had expanded beyond leak detection to other applications and industries. We knew that doing justice to this project and technology would require a deep and detailed exploration.
And we examined everything, starting with the basic science behind the technology. We interviewed professionals from different industries and developed personas based on real people and conversations. We evaluated competing technologies and brands. And studied Utilis’s founders like biographers to learn their language, motivations, and ultimate goals.
The wider perspective we gained let us see a much bigger picture than imagined — one of saving resources, saving the environment, saving the planet.
In the end, we did more than name a product line. Our process of deep exploration helped us build a platform broad and solid enough to rebrand the entire company. And Utilis seized on it.
It became clear to everyone that the name Utilis, with its utility-industry association and less-than-obvious pronunciation, would not be enough to tell a story as grand as the one that emerged. And Utilis decided that the new name would not be for just their products but would be the new brand for their entire public presence.
BUILDING A BRAND FOR A CREATOR, EXPLORER, HERO
ASTERRA. “From the stars, we find water beneath the Earth.”
Building the new ASTERRA brand began with the name, drawn from a Greek river god, the Latin plural for stars, and Terra, on which we all live. The name ASTERRA exemplified the Heroic Explorer and Creator that are this client’s archetypes. And it led us in a direction, pointing us to just the right level of grandeur in visuals and language, and letting us come back to Terra to speak in practical terms and images.
Positioning the ASTERRA brand began by creating a vocabulary to express their brand voice through their mission and vision, core beliefs and brand pillars, and theme or tagline. It was a critical first step in developing a language and tone that was real and believable, yet also aspirational. And that established how the client wanted to be seen and wanted “to be famous for.”
A Bold and Bracing Look
The ASTERRA look began with the logo, which begins with a starburst icon. The name follows in heroic all caps, with the crossbars of the ‘A’s removed, so they become arrows pointing upward.
The ASTERRA primary colors, Space Black, Deep Blue, and Clear White, create a high-contrast primary palette. The secondary and tertiary colors were added to correlate to the products and provide a more technology-driven aesthetic. Animated gradients are used to represent interactivity.
The font Inter was chosen as ASTERRA’s only typeface. It is slightly condensed, very geometric, and has a tall x-height for excellent legibility at small sizes. It is also variable weight, meaning it offers an abundant variety of weight options.
Photography is meant to simulate the experience of the technology itself as it looks down at the Earth from an aerial perspective.
Illustrations and Icons
Illustrations and iconography are used sparingly and intentionally. ASTERRA is not a brand that relies on icons as a design crutch, so the icon set is limited, geometric, and simple.
The ASTERRA Brand Guide
The Brand Guide assembled all the new brand elements in a single, handsome, easy-to-use volume. Consistency is essential to successful brand building. The ASTERRA Brand Guide answers all questions on using the brand assets, how to refer to the brand and product names, and how to speak and write about the company, including the all-cap ASTERRA. It also offers examples of how to apply the elements correctly to ensure that their brand is represented well across all channels.
An Entirely New Website
The new ASTERRA website was produced through a collaboration of strategy, copy, design, and technology. As the destination where the world would first see and experience the new ASTERRA brand, the site was created to perform a number of tasks, including welcoming people who already knew Utilis.
The most important job of the new site was to separate ASTERRA from the rest of its industry, accomplished by declaring “An Entire City at Once” to describe its 1,350-sq-mile “eye-print”, a term we coined for their radar coverage area. It’s one of the things that makes ASTERRA unique in the world, and so is the first thing they say.
The website elaborates on their technology and specific products; on applications by industry; the company’s leaders, history, awards, and mission; and it organizes learning materials. A contact form is included on nearly every page of the site.
The website was our first opportunity to apply the full brand strategy to one of the largest externally facing touchpoints. Extensive use of black with subtle hits of color in text, buttons, and photography created a bold, modern, high-contrast web experience that evoked ASTERRA’s roots in space. The change in the website’s appearance from a white to a predominantly black design was exactly the transition they needed to signal the dawn of a new brand. The products were color coded and categorized by industry so that anyone visiting the site could understand what ASTERRA does and which industries they serve.
Hover and scroll effects and subtle micro animations throughout the site provide a user experience rich in unexpected moments. We also created a dynamic resource library to host articles, videos, and other thought-leadership content.
Collateral, Video, Conferences, and Events
New digital and print collateral assets were created, and we updated existing materials to the new brand standards. We developed a long-term video strategy and have already completed the first projects. New branded booth and conference materials were also created, along with a fun collection of items for their major brand launch event, which we also helped produce.
RESULTS OF THE PROJECT
The new ASTERRA brand has the look and sound of a heroic creator of advanced technologies that this company truly is. And with it, they are confidently reaching out to new customers and industries to tell their story of preserving resources, protecting the environment, enhancing public safety, and supporting a more sustainable planet.
Please check back for additional case studies on ASTERRA’s continuing brand development.