The Underscore Challenge

The Underscore Challenge

How we gave a rectangle a heart beat (and how we plan to nurture it).

With the launch of a new homepage in late 2022, SOON_ focused on a more technical side of their work, namely highlighting Product Development, eCommerce and Digital Transformation. Visual design wasn’t a focus for the homepage per se, but this is something we do and have excelled at over the years. Therefore there was always a plan to create content that:

  • Put visual design into SOON_ "shop window"

  • Exposed hidden talents within the Design Team

  • Kept us fresh

  • Engaged us with potential future employees

  • Engaged us with potential future clients

When we were undertaking the relaunch, we were keen to embrace existing elements more than do a u-turn on what we had already developed over the previous years. The SOON_ underscore had existed since the inception of the company logo, but its purpose was relatively undefined and felt like an obvious thing to embrace: it was bold in its simplicity, and defining it as a "thing" (with little more than deciding it would have a strict 4:1 aspect ratio) helped steer and focus our creative attention.

So the task was to stress test our creativity within the Design Team and see how we could play around with this rectangle. Really the philosophy was "go wild! There is no identity for this thing so let's turn over as many stones as we can and see what happy accidents we get as a result".

There was one rule: should we come up with anything nice, it would be nice to be able to post it. So a very simple template accomodated that. Incorporating any other brand elements was a bonus, but definitely not a requirement.

Simple! The no nonsense template for our Underscore Challenge

And the game began. Each week a member of the team decided a “challenge theme” (a single word or phrase), for which the rest of the team (and potentially anyone in the business) could take as a starting point to each create a piece of static/animated content within the constraints of the template. At this early stage we were just trying to get the cogs moving, so really the focus was more on keeping the momentum and enthusiasm in this brand element to see where it took us.

On your marks..!

The reward of a thing well done is having done it

Michel De Montaigne


Ideally people would be able to set aside an hour each week to do the challenge, but had to do it, and were encouraged to block out time in their calendars if needed. It was decided from the start that we would only run the exercise for 12 weeks: a marathon that required effort, but with a goal and a finish line to look forward to.

"Energy" by Ken Shaw

Deadlines fell in line with our weekly Design Catchup, and if people wanted to talk about their designs or anyone else’s they were welcome to, but likewise there was no expectation on people to explain or justify their creations (for which I'll cite Julia Cameron's 'Morning Pages').

"Architecture" by George Wood

The results are in

It’s important to stress that the exercise wasn’t to create art. Had it been, both client work and a sense of peer pressure could have had derailing effects. That's not to say that we didn't have some really great outcomes that we will be posting in months (years?!) to come. It's more that it gave us a sense that this rectangle absolutely can have a rich, multi-facted personality and that we have stumbled (often by accident) across different techniques in which we will can use to nurture that.

And if you want to see what you can come up with too then go for it! We'd love to see any results from our followers...

"Love" by Liam Devereux

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