In the Summer of 2014 I finally decided to get off my butt and record the first batch of interviews which later became Breaking Walls. I knew that my friend Lina Gonzalez had just been to London on a half-work, half-play adventure, and I knew she was working a day job that wasn’t the direction best-suited for her passions. That’s not to say it was a poor job, she was just a poor fit for that specific role. Lina was a perfect interviewee for EP02's topic “How To Stay Creative When Your Surroundings Limit It.” I reached out to her. She was very into the idea of the podcast. Throughout the course of the interview it became apparent to both of us that not only did our parallel yet perpendicular passions and personalities make for great friendship, they also made for a great creative partnership. After we were finished recording the interview we spoke about the things we wanted in life and what we thought The WallBreakers could become. Sparks flew and a partnership was born.
Looking Back to Look Ahead: The previous version of The WallBreakers was dying a slow death. The internet is saturated with Tumblr and WordPress sites like Boooooom, This Is Colossal, and Design Milk that eloquently write about other people’s creations. I love those sites, and they had established a voice long before The WallBreakers existed. My voice was drowning. That wasn’t what I wanted. I was trying to keep The WallBreakers at status quo for as long as possible until I could figure out where to take it next. The Breaking Walls podcast series was the first big step in that direction. This community needed to evolve. Lina walked in like a breath of fresh air and our synergy was so immediately evident that we got to work on rebranding the community within a few days.
What could this new version of The WallBreakers be? What would make people want to come to The WallBreakers 2.0? After much brainstorming (and post-it notes!) we decided the community needed to help give its members “tools for a breakthrough career.” We came to this because so many professional creatives leave college having no idea who they are and what they want to do next. For most that really only changes with trial and error. If we don’t know what we want or how to get it, how can we improve our situation? We have all worked a dead end job or two and while we all learned something from it, if there was a way that Lina and I could help educate people as to what their passions were and how to find them, we could in turn create a more mobile, inspired community.
Laying The Groundwork: The new community had a few lynch pins. One of my struggles with writing for the previous version of the community was the kind of content I was publishing. There was no rhyme or reason to it. That’s not a recipe for holding an audience's attention. Lina and I sat down and thought about how we could have the community's content evolve organically. Did you know that every month has a major event built into the calendar? These calendar events also mirror the passage of time. We begin the year anew and end with taking stock and looking ahead. As the seasons change, so too do our interests and how we feel about our place in the world that surrounds us. What if we got to the heart of each event? For instance, February’s major event is Valentine’s Day. Sure, that’s a commercial holiday, but its core value isn’t. Valentine’s Day is about love, and love is about vulnerability. We can’t love if we’re not willing to be vulnerable. All of the content produced in February centered around ways to improve our comfort with being vulnerable. Each month, the overarching theme changes based on a major event within the month.
The best part about all of this is that because I am taking an active part in the content, my own life mirrors the calendar we have for the year. We basically set up keyframes that will guarantee personal growth. How awesome is that? We’re all in this together.
Design Explorations: The WallBreakers community originally launched on February 1, 2012. Our goal was to relaunch the community on our third anniversary. This gave us a short timeline to work towards. We needed to get moving!
The Original WallBreakers logo was a swinging wrecking ball. The color scheme was a deep yellow with black. Looking back now, the site was visually overbearing. How could the emotional tenant that a wrecking ball in motion evokes be communicated in a less blunt and more sleek, streamlined way?
The first thing we did was take a look at sites that inspired us either with their visuals or with their content. We took a look at places like DesignWorkLife, TeamTreehouse, Good, 99U, and Behance. We made sure to think about layouts, scalability, UX, and UI. Next we took a look at different logo and trademark inspiration. LogoPond is a fantastic resource to do so. We then took a site audit of the previous version of The WallBreakers site, taking stock in both the positives and negatives. Afterwards we put together mood boards.
It turned out that the yellow and black didn't need to go after all! Yellow was a great signifier for my personality, whereas teal was a wonderful color for Lina's personality. I think it's important to remember that life is a lot like a hand of poker. It's not always prudent to throw the entire hand back, sometimes we only need to draw two cards (#deepthoughts).
Following our explorations we began to put the bones together for the updated community. Our many post-it notes yielded great information for both a site map and a user interface experience. As we worked on this, we also began to come up with different logo explorations. We settled on a type treatment that we could easily reproduce regardless of the setting. Like a good parent, the logo needed to be impactful, yet loving. We wanted it to feel strong and breathe well at the same time.
By using a knocked out logo with a colored drop shadow, it allowed us the ability to place our logo on various site headers for our revolving monthly content. A variation of number five on the left was our winner.
Another major branding element we incorporated was the idea of crashing waves. Bruce Lee once preached to "be like water." Water can be powerful and destructive when necessary, but it can also be serene and serendipitous.
By the time the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2015 we had a finalized logo, a site design, and put together a coherent site grid and style guide to share with other creatives. The month of January was spent writing content, connecting with artists to feature, recording video content, reaching out to the community to be a part of the launch-day welcome, Q/Aing the new site, and tying loose ends.
Before I could think about what the WallBreakers could become, I first needed to understand what it was. I've been fortunate enough in my career/life to have taken part in multiple communal branding efforts. At the onset of brainstorming and early in the branding process it always feels like a massive undertaking, but by being present, taking things one step at a time, and being diligent, that on-time project launch euphoria always gets experienced.