Tony Naqvi
Experience Design

Having fun going further than you ever thought possible

The Edge

Brand & Product Design

Giving up your day job

So my mate Makki calls me up one day out of the blue and tells me he's leaving his cushy job at -unnamed big IT company - and instead is going to teach kids how to climb walls.

No, really.

Turns out he's got together with a few of his other close friends and they're opening an indoor climbing gym.

And they want me to come up with a brand strategy and identity design. OK, cool.

Adaptive design

I know about as much about climbing sports as I do about how to build a space rocket - only that it looks dangerous, and you have to be bonkers to do it. Especially for fun!

And to add to the challenge, Makki says the gym(s) will be put into school(s), however outside of school hours it will be open to the public. Which means the design system has to be flexible to work with different audiences. Oh, and bilingual too.

Great, thanks for that buddy.

In reality these are the type of jobs I love - coming in cold with no prior knowledge or experience of the product or service activity, having to create something that is adaptable to multiple audience segments, and that's just out and out awesome.

A journey of transformation

I started this project as I expect most other brand designers would, considering how to make it funky, but convey an air of safety. However during my research I spent quite a bit of time talking with the climbing sports community, and almost to a man (and woman), they said that safety was not particularly important. I know, weird right??

Most enthusiasts that enter the sport do so primarily because they're seeking two things; a fun time and a great community.

Not only that, but when asked what stands out most for them in terms of the rewards of climbing, the answer was, surprisingly, the psychological impact it has.

Turns out that not only is climbing bags of fun, it's also deeply, I mean profoundly transformative.

"You develop traits that stay with you, that extend beyond the sport"

To be honest, it seems obvious to me now that if you're into a sport that could very well land you in hospital, you have to be at least a little bit courageous and daring. And stupid.

Jokes aside, it became quite apparent that climbing affects your mentality; you do become more confident, more resilient, and more of a risk taker. And over time those traits get carried into your everyday life, making you (mentally as well as physically) stronger.

Now all I had to do was figure out how to convey that in a visual identity design that would have a broad appeal and deliver the right message.

Graphically speaking

The answer to my challenge turned out to be marvellously simple, and if I may say so, incredibly clever.

Apparently you can't lumber up to a gym and just start climbing - you have to follow 'climbing routes' - pre-determined pathways up the wall (there are separate pathways for both amateurs and pros), chosen at the beginning of each day by the instructors.

When I saw the maps of the climbing routes, I instantly saw the visual metaphor I was looking for - the map depicts the journey, beginning at one point and ending at another.

I used this idea to create a graphical device that represented the journey, with 'transformation' characterised by a gradient (the idea being the transition between colours represents the transition in mindset a climber experiences as they overcome more and more obstacles and build those character traits).

Giving it some oomph

I came up with a core brand strategy around the idea of The Edge being "the leading community climbing sports brand that helps people have fun going further than they thought possible".

For the design system, the amateurs and pros are each represented through slight variations in use of colour, typography, and the graphical device (which I nicknamed 'the cable').

So for example for newcomers and amateurs, the cable is much simpler - signifying the easier climbing 'journey', whereas for pros the cable is more complex to illustrate more of a challenge.

The cable also works well integrated into photography of climbers, as well as posed models for merch marketing, adding a dynamic and energy to the imagery.

The tone of voice is playful, and sometimes a little tongue in cheek for the pro audiences, just to unpretentiously show how down to earth and cool the brand is, and the whole thing is wrapped in a pixel-perfect grid which harmonises the placement and flow of brand assets.

Well, at least until Makki and his mates get their hands on it...

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