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A man with sunglasses leaning on a railing wearing a teal shirt with Cobu branding on it

COBU

Project Duration: June 2018–September 2018
Studio Services: Branding // Print Design // Website Design

Cobu, formerly known as Doorbell Communities, is a Boston-based tech start-up with the mission of bringing people together in their own apartment complexes. They’ve built an application that both activates the community within the building, and unifies them through community manager-led activities indicative of their neighborhoods. Aside from the tenants, Cobu targets the property managers as well; leveraging the ability to maintain longer tenant stay, and providing more value to the property through enhancing the quality of tenant lifestyle.

Around the time they, as Doorbell Communities, engaged with us, they had a starting logo that wasn’t really suiting their intended direction anymore. At that point they were also grappling with the name, looking for something simpler yet meaningful. While they ultimately came up with the name Cobu (literally “Community” and “Building” in one word), they engaged with Santoro Design to help build a brand that would scale and would last. What resulted was a brand that not only would serve to do both, but would also rally and unify the team like never before.

Two young women laughing while drinking at a bar
A bearded African American man in a suit smiles while walking outside

BRAND STRATEGY

Among all things, a strong brand is made from the inside out. When we first engaged with Cobu, a short but rigorous Discovery Phase consisting of a survey and workshop exercises revealed that the mission came from somewhere personal; the backstory featuring the CEO’s mother and her moving to a new place, only to feel isolated in her new home. As a start-up, their objectives were simple: multi-family property managers install the Cobu application within their complex, tenants download the application, and from there they’re able to take part in community-building activities in their new neighborhoods. Through this, Cobu strives to create an environment of inclusion and, ultimately, a new definition of “home.” This and many other insights came through in commentary amongst the entire team, in numerous spirited conversations.

BRAND IDENTITY DESIGN

Tackling the identity system after the Discovery phase and brand strategy was a challenge, but a welcome one. We knew we needed something that would appeal to tenants, feel welcoming and even fun, but it also had to appeal to the multi-family property managers who would leverage the platform, as well as investors. From an initial exploration of post-modern design styles, numerous logos were explored, sketched, and tightened up for presentation. The chosen concept, featuring a playful handshake within the “o,” was iterated on until deemed perfect by the team. From there, a logo family created for maximum flexibility was put into place, along with typography and a dynamic and lively color palette. Additionally, a suite of custom icons were explored for the various features of the Cobu application.

Various logomark sketches for Cobu
A logo for a company called Doorbell Communities
The logo for the company Cobu, with the mark at the bottom
The full logo for Cobu in white on a blue gradient background
The badge logo for Cobu on a red and blue gradient background
The pictogram for Cobu on a red and yellow gradient background
Various custom icons created for the Cobu application
Various business cards for Cobu falling in a dark blue background

Brand Implementation

With the identity system now in place, brand materials such as business stationery and a fun array of launch apparel and swag was created, further unifying the now invigorated team. A suite of stock photography was carefully curated and organized, as well as a system of photography treatments featuring the color gradients. For the brand launch event, we needed everything to feel cohesive, well-done, and fun.

A suite of branded stationery and devices for Cobu
A teal water bottle with Cobu branding on a white background
A stack of business cards for Cobu on a blue and yellow background
A man with sunglasses leaning on a railing wearing a teal shirt with Cobu branding on it
A woman with sunglasses leaning on a railing wearing a teal shirt with Cobu branding on it

WEBSITE DESIGN (PROPOSED)

Shortly after the branding scope, we proposed a new website design that would best showcase the new brand, its mission and the value of the Cobu application. With a simplistic user experience and minimal but inherently colorful design, we aimed to create a sense of welcoming for users visiting the site.

A laptop displaying the Cobu website on a blue background
A hand holding a smartphone displaying the Cobu website on mobile
A group of friends hanging out during a sunrise
"Working with Santoro Design was a great experience for our team. Chris put processes and systems in place to help our team connect over design, conjure meaningful conversation around brand, communicate more clearly the needs we wanted our new designs to meet, and collaborate to get to our goals. We love our brand and have Chris to thank!" Kim Vortruba-Matook, Director of Brand & Content

CONCLUSION

Whether it’s moving to a new city on your own, or branding your company with a new name, big changes can be scary, but with the right people around, it’s a challenge worth facing head-on. Since the end of the branding, Cobu has seen extensive growth and positive change, with an expanded team and new partnerships with apartment complexes across Boston. We’re extremely proud of them as they continue to grow in their journey towards success, but most of all, as a beacon of hope for any person looking to start a new chapter in their lives, but afraid to meet new people.

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