Brenna Voogd

The power of three


This post took some time to get up. Partly because it was Christmas and things got busy, but mostly because we wanted a “deeper explanation” for why we chose our new logo. Why squares? Why this arrangement? What does it all have to do with our company and new positioning? We wanted to deliver an insightful idea like we do for our clients. But our new brand isn’t fully established yet. FKA has only been around for a couple months and we were already asking a lot of a logo that’s barely opened its eyes.

We’ve been telling our clients for years that a logo’s meaning rarely happens overnight, it comes from the context you give it over time. And we needed to subscribe to this same way of thinking when it came to our own logo.

Let’s talk about Starbucks for a second. “Starbuck” was Melville’s first mate in the book, Moby Dick. The company’s founders just liked the way it sounded, and the logo was originally designed to reflect the seductive nature of the sea (whatever that means). The point is, there was no point to it. As far as we know, a classic tale has nothing to do with building a coffee empire. It took Starbucks years to build up the association between their visual identity and what they’re known for. Today, their brand is so recognizable they’ve been able to remove the wordmark from some of their material, leaving only the logo as an identifier. And that’s why we don’t have a grand explanation for why we decided on this logo.

Not yet, anyway.

What we are ready to share is the awesome design that went into it. It started out as 3X3 square grids, and we removed three squares from each grid to form the letters “F”, “K” and “A”. The number three is pretty significant. Three creative ideas for presentations. Three parts to a story: beginning, middle and end. Three phases of life: birth, life and death. Three parts to our agile marketing approach: Act. Analyze. Adapt. And, like our name, the logo was inspired by the three key components of our culture: Fun, Knowledgeable and Ambitious. It’s simple and straightforward, but far from plain. And because of its composition, we can play around with colour, animation and white space.


These animations are also part of what inspired the look of our new website.

As with our approach to marketing, this logo is adaptable. It’s inspired a lot of interesting ideas because of the flexibility of common, simple shapes. In fact, we’ve started seeing our logo everywhere. In plaid shirts. On office buildings. Even in our bathroom floor tiles. Its versatility and simplicity give us an endless buffet of options for using it. And that’s how we know it’s the right choice — it can evolve as we do.

We wanted a logo that people would remember and associate with our company. And this design does that. It’s unique, it’s logical, and it’s something we’re proud to have as the face of FKA.

We never did figure out the deeper, cosmological meaning behind it. But that’s okay. It stems from the culture of our agency.

And over time, it will take on who we are and what we do — gaining greater meaning along the way.


Jeff McLean

Saying goodbye to the Starburst identity

We’ve done the research and developed our brand attributes of fun, knowledgeable and ambitious. We’ve clarified our positioning and started to articulate our differentiation, basing it on our Agile approach to marketing. FKA has been selected as our new name, and your newsfeed has been filled with our blog posts. Now, the next step in our rebranding journey is developing our new visual identity.

As you know, the elements of our new brand were constructed through a collaborative process involving the entire agency.  But when it came to creating our logo, the task was, understandably, left in the talented hands of our design team – comprising six of Edmonton’s finest graphic designers and creative thinkers. This was a unique opportunity for the team, offering a clean break from our existing identity. We weren’t trying to modernize or evolve our current logo. In fact, incorporating elements from the existing Starburst Creative identity wasn’t mandatory. This was an opportunity to create something new.

Each designer was set loose – given the freedom to work independently in developing a series of logos and branding expressions. They had one mission: To create an agency identity that demonstrates to clients, employees (current and prospective) and the marketing industry at-large that our agency is embracing the future of marketing through constant evolution, optimization and reinvention.

From the get-go, we knew this wasn’t going to be easy or straightforward. We have ambitious goals for ourselves and the work we do, and this logo needed to reflect that.

Adding to the already daunting challenge of creating a new identity was the timeline –  the team was only given a week and a half from the initial briefing to the presentation of finalized concepts. But, when our designers were ushered into the boardroom to present their concepts to management, we were thrilled with what we saw. The execution and depth of insight of each designer’s presentation was impressive and innovative, leaving the management team with an equally arduous task – actually picking one.

Read part two of our logo decision process to see how we landed on our final choice.

A selection of our logos.

Kevin Newcombe

FKA Website Rebuild — The Team Page

We’re rebuilding our website, starting with the most important part — our team page, where we showcase our talented crew.

Our focus began here for a number of reasons. The first being that our people are our strongest asset — without them, we don’t exist. It’s also one of the first places viewers go when they visit a company website. And it’s the page on our site that has seen the most change over the last five years.

Today, we have departments that are bigger than our entire agency was back then. We’re growing and changing, and so should our website. When we first built our team webpage, we had a total of six staff. Our layout worked really well for a team of that size but not so much for a team of close to 30 now, which is continually growing.

The tactic for our rebuild is a lot different than our usual approach. Typically, we start from scratch with a blank slate. However, we’re currently working with an existing website and there are a lot of challenges that go along with that. This includes stickhandling minuscule technical changes, like removing aspects from the old site while building up the new one. So, we need to be careful that we’re not removing too much at once in a short period of time.

We have to stop, analyze everything we’re doing, then slowly slide out the new site, while stopping again to ensure we’re not breaking anything in the process.

Reaching optimal loading speed

One area of critical importance is speed. Forty-seven per cent of visitors expect a website to load in less than two seconds and 40 per cent of visitors will leave a website if the loading process takes more than three seconds. That’s a big objective. And we’re tackling this by taking our learnings from recent web projects, analyzing what worked and what didn’t and then acting on that.

One way we’re accomplishing this is using the srcset attribute — a method that provides several source images along with hints to help the browser pick the right one, which helps reduce the load speed of the website and its images.

Applying a collaborative approach 

Another unique aspect about this particular web build is our team taking a much more collaborative approach to the work. Quite often developers and designers work in silos — designers design and developers develop.

For example, a few weeks ago we sat down with Jenelle, our lead designer for the team page, and discussed our overall goals at a high level. Then we dispersed, spent some time creating sketches and building ideas on our own and ultimately came together to share those ideas and move forward. As developers, this was a great help because it allowed us to see the big picture — empowering our team to make critical build decisions.

Taking a different track when it comes to JavaScript

We’re also attempting to build this site with as little JavaScript as possible.

Since most modern browsers auto-update themselves and become more uniform in how they run JavaScript, there’s less of a need for libraries such as jQuery. jQuery works well if you are building a project with a large amount of front-end code, like a robust site or application. However, if you’re building a small to medium library like us, Vanilla JS is a more suitable option at this time for this particular project.

Think of it this way, jQuery is akin to buying your dream home while Vanilla JS is akin to building it. Building it yourself means it has exactly what you want and none of what you don’t want — there isn’t a single brick wasted. That’s not to say we don’t utilize jQuery for other projects and don’t intend to in the future. It’s simply our approach at this point in time for the outcome we’re trying to achieve.

Sure it involves a bit more work, but if you haven’t figured it out yet — we’re not not afraid of a little elbow grease.

Kiri Wysynski

So what do we mean by real time?

We are obsessed with optimization.

We optimize ad structure, copy, creative, tactics, strategy, landing pages and brands based on results. We iterate on our work and take the learnings and make it better.

At least, this is what we do for our clients.

Our need to rebrand came out of a realization that our brand didn’t quite fit who we were as an organization anymore. We had spent time reiterating processes for honing our clients’ brands but we missed fully maximizing the opportunity to optimize our own company as well.

As a result, we started to discuss what Starburst should look like versus who we had become. This led to not only discussions about our brand and internal culture but also about our own processes.

As we reflected on all of this, one concept was apparent and continual—that we optimize and iterate while also encouraging our clients to do the same.

In many ways, Starburst was already becoming an agile organization—we’ve just chosen to accelerate this process.

What does agile mean?

Agile is a way of thinking about project and team management that comes from software development. It’s broken into many different ways of practice but at its core are four main values:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Response to change over following a plan

So what does that mean for an ad agency?

We interpret those agile values as follows:

  • We understand that people drive success. Tools and processes are what we use but they won’t determine the success of a project.
  • It’s better to show a client that something works by delivering relevant solutions that meet their needs than to write about it, discuss theories and create documentation.
  • We involve our customers throughout the process. Not just at the beginning and end. We consult with them and treat them as part of our team. And we expect to be treated as part of their team. Customer insight and feedback is valued.
  • We understand that things will change in the course of any project. We work with our teams and clients to incorporate change versus fighting against it.

So how does this affect our rebrand?

There are lots of things we need to get done—from logo development and website changes to our business cards and all the things in between.

And honestly, we’ve been talking about doing these things for almost a year!

Now we need to start doing—prioritizing action. So we’ve begun taking the steps to iterate on our brand, collateral and website. Doing chunks of work each week.

And the key is that we don’t think it should stop once things seems to be okay or “ready for a launch.”

In many ways, this goes against traditional marketing where we do everything and launch a big campaign all at once.

But this isn’t really the way marketing works anymore. We need to be flexible and adjust in response to the changing digital and marketing landscapes.

We are going to be working on our brand and website each week from now until our official “launch” and then continually after that—iterating and optimizing ourselves.

This means that you will see changes to our website each week. We expect that it might look a little mis-mashed at times. We will also be working on our collateral and will show you sneak peeks for that as well!

We will keep you informed of our progress along the way. In fact, you can watch it on our Trello boards here.

Additionally, we will be documenting our progress in blog posts on this site so you can see a bit about what we are doing and how we are doing it. This will include design, copy, development and process related posts. 

We’ll be posting weekly on what’s going on, what we’ve accomplished and what we are learning. Stay tuned!

Rob Jennings

Excuse the mess–we’re rebranding.

The name of our agency is a bit of an inside joke. Serious creatives in the advertising business hate starbursts. I don’t like starbursts either. And I thought that was pretty funny in 2008.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Starburst would grow from a one-person consultancy to one of the largest independent agencies in our market with 29 employees (and counting), national clients and a second office in Toronto. Sometime in the past nine years I realized that we had outgrown the name. About four years ago, I started to take seriously the idea of changing it. I consulted with some of my team members. I even registered various domains when ideas came to me or others on the team.

And then nothing happened. Well, a lot happened. We expanded our services, took on new clients and started growing at an impressive rate. (Our compound annual growth rate for the past five years is 38.2%.) I told myself we didn’t have time to work on our own rebrand and the project was shelved before it had a chance to take off.

When we moved into our new office in early 2016, I told our interior designer that I didn’t want to install any signage at reception or elsewhere in the space. “Let’s wait until we have a new logo,” I said. I was certain that moving was the catalyst we needed to roll up our sleeves and actually get to work on a new brand.

And still nothing happened. Until September of 2016, when I boldly declared that we would start work immediately on a new brand and launch it to the world in just eight weeks. We’d become our own worst client: “Start. Stop. Start again. Stop again. Wait… okay now rush.”

In the first week, everyone in the agency was engaged to identify the attributes that defined us collectively: ambitious, most of all, but also knowledgeable and fun.

In the second week, we explored our positioning: we take an agile, always-on, constantly updated and continuously optimized approach to marketing that prioritizes doing and learning over researching and planning. Act, analyze and adapt—then repeat for best results. It’s an approach we’ve honed by working closely with fast-paced retailers that demand a quantifiable return on their marketing but it’s bigger and broader than that—the principles are sound and it can be applied to any organization.

Then, in the third and fourth weeks, we started to working on names. From there, we short-listed two names: Charter and FKA.

This is Charter.

Meet FKA.

We were getting somewhere, right? But then something totally awesome happened. We were approached by two different companies to develop two new national brands.

One was a rebrand for Canadian Direct Financial, an entirely online bank and a division of Canadian Western Bank, one of our amazing clients. The other was a new brand for a company taking on disrupters like Casper and Endy in the highly competitive online mattress category.

Both projects were bigger than anything we had taken on before. Both brands needed new names, visual identities, websites, collateral and big budget advertising campaigns. More importantly, both needed to launch in the first half of 2017. Something had to give. Our rebrand was put on hold again.

Olive is Canada’s better-made bed-in-a-box.

Motive is the national online bank for serious savers.

It’s been an outstanding year. We’ve all been very fulfilled by the work and we’re proud of the results. Our brains have been steeped in branding—which brings us more or less to today.

We’re kicking off our rebrand project again. But this time, we’re doing it differently. We’re going to put our money where our mouth is by taking an agile and iterative approach. We’ll edit and optimize along the way. We’re not going to hide our process or our work then reveal it when we think it’s ready. Instead, we’re going to open it all up to the world by sharing it in real-time along the way. It’s ambitious—but that’s who we are.

BTW, we’re going with FKA.