How we created a consistent brand from scratch through a challenging discovery process

Habitat Creative Company
6 min readAug 14, 2023

In the competitive world of fintech, establishing a strong and memorable brand identity is crucial. Layer2 Financial, a fintech startup, approached us with the goal of creating a unique brand, an engaging website, and an innovative product in a short amount of time. Despite facing several challenges along the way, we were able to deliver exceptional results and help Layer2 stand out in the crowded market.

Layer2 homepage design

Translating Complexity into Visual Language

One of the first challenges we encountered was finding a way to visually represent what Layer2 does. Unlike traditional online banks, Layer2 provides ready solutions for fintech businesses to build their own products. This meant that we couldn’t rely on familiar visual assets such as banking cards or UI designs.

To overcome this challenge, we had to think outside the box and come up with a direction that would be both relevant and unique in the oversaturated fintech market of 2022. We made it clear from the start that we wanted to avoid cliché purple gradients on dark backgrounds.

We see 2 design concepts for a web page. Both are executed in light grey and light taupe colours on white backgrounds. They have a 3D inspired visuals. They look elegant and techy.
First iterations of the website design concepts aimed to find the style

Understanding Client Vision and Finding the Right Style

Another major hurdle was aligning our style choices with the client’s vision. Initially, following the client’s desire to stay close to the existing design, we skipped our agency’s usual brand discovery process, which starts with style finding step. Instead, we jumped straight into creating website concepts based on their current website design.

However, after six iterations of concept design failed to match the client’s vision, it became clear that we needed to try something new.

Our business analyst suggested using brand archetypes as a tool to uncover the brand’s personality. After analyzing Layer2’s positioning information provided by the client, we identified two archetypes — Ruler and Magician.

A black image with 2 round visuals showing us a older man’s and female inher 30’s faces. They are located in opposite diagonal corners of the rectangular. Between them we can see 6 rounds. Next to man we see a round with ‘Ruler’ written in it, next round says ‘Control’, and the third ‘Provide structure’. These three rounds are located on vector connecting the man’s and woman’s faces along with other 3. From the woman’s side we see the rounds saying ‘Magician’ ,‘ Power’ and ‘Leave legacy’.
Chosen brand archetypes for Layer2 — Ruler and Magician.

For each archetype, we proposed a unique style direction backed by thorough research on potential users of Layer2’s solution.

  • The Ruler archetype led us towards a minimalistic and serious stylescape with muted tones — a safe option with a SaaS look.
  • On the other hand, the Magician archetype inspired us to take risks with a futuristic and brave stylescape featuring black backgrounds and 3D elements, unlike anything else in the market.

During a presentation call where we showcased both stylescapes and explained how they aligned with the archetypes and brand personas, the client surprised us by choosing the bold Magician-inspired direction over our safer recommendation. The team initially expected the client to opt for a more serious style direction given all the prior experiments failed. We celebrated that the client chose the bold direction and proceeded with designing the brand assets and website with enthusiasm.

You can see how the Magician’s style direction translated into brand and web design at our website and Behance case.

Website concepts, based on the Ruler’s and Magician’s brand archetypes and stylescapes

Logo Enhancement and Unexpected Choices

When it came to the logo, the client had one already. However, we saw room for improvement and suggested tweaking it while working on stylescapes. The logo had a simple symmetrical icon and a type part. We focused on refining the cutout symbol within the rectangular shape. Instead of using a basic “+”, we proposed a more sophisticated symbol that became a key element of the brand’s website.

Lessons Learned and Future Strategies

This project taught us valuable lessons about embracing experimentation. As a result, we developed a strategy to present clients with two options in future projects — one that is safer and industry-related, and another that takes more risks while still maintaining relevance. This allows us to invest in our creative ideas and dreams while making sure that our clients are satisfied.

The Value of Brand Discovery

The brand discovery stage proved invaluable in this project as it laid a solid foundation for all subsequent design decisions made by our product team and web designers. It allowed us to create a consistent brand story that resonated with users’ pain points while standing out from competitors.

The value that Layer2 received was a cohesive brand identity capable of effectively communicating its story across various channels.

In conclusion, overcoming challenges during the discovery process enabled us to create a consistent brand from scratch for Layer2. By utilising brand archetypes, exploring unique style directions, enhancing their logo, and taking unexpected risks, we achieved remarkable results. This project reinforced our belief in the power of experimentation and the importance of brand discovery in creating impactful and memorable brands.

Designing a Complex BaaS Platform Amidst Fast-Paced Startup Demands

At the same time, our product team has been helping the client with designing an intuitive Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) platform. Unlike our typical approach of starting with a comprehensive discovery stage, we needed to skip it and dive straight into the details due to the fast-paced character of the startup.

With no context to rely on initially, we relied on the client’s sketches and wireframes to design the screens. For each specific task, we took the time to analyze the associated business processes and brainstormed how they would translate into the design. Communication was essential for collecting context and grasping the details of the product.

One of the key values we brought to the project was our ability to work without a full context and still grasp the intricacies of such a complex product.

Our intuitive BA and UX approach allowed us to envision concepts and design decisions that aligned perfectly with the client’s vision.

However, we realised that such an approach does not yield a 100% understanding of the project and creates considerable stress. Thanks to this experience we understand the full value of the Discovery stage and made it a compulsory part of the design process.

Layer2 product design

Take a look at Layer2 Behance case and check out the website case.

Contributors

Alina — Art director. Participated in brand design, storytelling, and website design.

Roxy — Senior web UX/UI designer. Participated in brand design, storytelling, and website design.

Dima — Middle UX/UI designer. Led the product design and took part in Web design.

Anna Hnap — Team Lead. Mentored and helped with the product design.

Vasyl — BA and PM on the project.

Vasya — Logo designer. Responsible for logo refresh.

Valerie — Motion designer. UI animations.

Serge — Senior UX/UI designer. Helped with product design.

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Habitat Creative Company

Habitat is a full-service design agency from Ukraine, specializing in branding, web and product design. Our mission is to make human habitat - a better place.