Hey 👋there! You may have noticed we launched a shiny new brand. Here’s a little bit about how we got here…
Why the change?
It has been a year+ since our brand had been given any major love. Where we were a year ago looked pretty different from today.
A year ago, we had 18 employees and 4 buildings in one city. We did a company-wide standup on Mondays.
Today, we are a team of 40+, operating 11 buildings across three cities, and working toward our fourth. We look out at a pipeline of thousands of units and are excited about where we’re headed.
It was time for our journey to self-discovery.
Our old brand didn’t match with how we saw ourselves, and more importantly, how our members saw us. We used language internally that didn’t reflect how our members talked about us. Inconsistencies in the delivery of our experience were becoming noticed and we care deeply about the quality of our members’ experience.
Change comes from within
To start, we looked inward: conducting interviews, surveys, and group sessions to really understand how the team collectively related (or didn’t) to our brand, and how we thought we were doing when it came to delivering our brand experience. We found two useful nuggets in this research:
Understanding the landscape
Then, we broadened our research to answer “What do our customers, prospects, and stakeholders think?” — to see if there was alignment (or not) — and even broader, “What do people who’ve never heard of us think?” We closed out the first diamond by converging on these insights:
- Members come to us for convenience, and they stay for the community.
- There’s still a lot of opportunity in resetting the tricky relationship between landlord and tenant.
- Rarely did members or potential members reflect back to us the brand language we were using (values such as “authentic” or “hygge/cozy”).
- When members were asked what set us apart, they echoed what we learned in our internal research. About half of them replied that we were different because we were more deeply focused on the end consumer.
“You don’t feel like another number, it’s much more friendly here, and a lot of humanistic effort goes into [it].”
Starcity Member, Los Angeles
Our new brand promises one simple thing: Starcity is the neighbor you can count on. What does that mean? In Starcity’s history, time and time again we proved to have a natural inclination to do things that a typical landlord would never do. Same-day expediting a passport to LA for a member who left it at home, providing free housing to those affected by the California wildfires, being the emergency contact for a member that had no next of kin, taking a member to the ER when they broke out in hives and didn’t have their epipen, and creating a community center for the first legally recognized transgender district in the world. The list goes on, and we don’t say it to brag. We say it because we feel deeply that’s how we would want to be treated; it’s who we are.
Our new brand values and personality celebrate this, and drive that point home:
An experimental, collaborative process
Our design process was two parallel streams of work:
- The first involved the broader team in ideation of archetypes, concepts, and themes to inform and provide a feedback loop for…
- A second, design-only workstream that went deep into conceptual explorations, mood and aesthetic, emergent themes, and visual design.
For the first workstream, we conducted a few creative workshops with the broader team based on archetypal theory and learned which archetypes we aligned with as a group: Starcity was a Caregiver. Knowing that no one person fits perfectly within 1 of 12 boxes, we took this information into our conceptual phase to really unpack it.
We went into the second diamond eager to conceptualize what being a good neighbor meant. A small brand squad assembled, comprised of designers (brand, product, and interior) and key stakeholders (CEO and CPO). After many rounds of mood boards, visual designs, experiments, proofs of concept, and feedback, we converged on a few methods of expression that helped give body and spirit to the brand values and personality we arrived at.
We used Juxtaposition to compare/contrast ideologies in the Starcity universe.
Nostalgia’s power lies in its ability to tap into a place deep in a person’s heart and history.
Locality connects the dots between people, places, things, and time.
The design process was profoundly inspiring, and in addition to our brand evolution, our small but mighty team of three transformed as well. I’m really proud of how we pushed each other creatively, built on top of each other’s ideas, and made creative breakthroughs as a group. We arrived at a result that is just as pleasing as the journey, and cemented our dynamic of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
The road ahead
The journey till now — deep creative work, collaborative sessions with the broader team, and rallying the company behind our new identity — has been a blast, but has largely been the easy part.
Winning hearts and minds
Throughout this process, I made the offbeat and unpopular analogy that it felt like we were starting a religion. We created a vision of new shared values, and started on the campaign to win hearts and minds.
Cult analogy aside, we’re beginning the hard part: making sure we deliver on our promise, at every touchpoint to every person in our sphere of influence. It’s a much longer endeavor, filled with roadshows and launches and training and campaigns, wrought with risk and failure and challenges. But we’re taking a new approach that’s emerged as a consistent pattern to many other endeavors at Starcity, so why not our brand? And that is: a constant loop of learning, improvement, and evaluation.
Brand as product
My background is in product design. I’ve UI’d a million things, UX’d probably more, researched this and that, and double-diamonded my way through countless teams and projects. It’s a process I love to follow as much as break. At Starcity, I’ve seen the company through not two, not three, but now four new marketing websites and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the only constant is change. Why should our brand evolution be any different? Our plan going forward is keeping our ear to the ground and being rooted in our values, but flexible in our approach.
Keep up with our brand journey! We’ll be evolving it in real-time as we learn more, adapt, and improve.
I’m very proud and humbled to be behind this team. You haven’t seen a trio like this since the Musketeers, the Stooges, or the Chipmunks. Follow us on Dribbble.
Krishi Patel is our brand designer, steward of quality, and resident true crime enthusiast and ornithophobic.
Jia Gao is our product designer, mystic of the stars, and the fastest designer this side of the Mississippi.