Borealis Identity

Resource Professionals Come Together

In 2007, a group of individuals from the resource industry wanted to offer a higher level of carbon offset than what was currently available on the market. Through their collective expertise, they could fully integrate their value chain, and guarantee a level of quality and accountability few others could. As a new venture, however, several considerations came into play: few clients; low visibility; potential negative perceptions from their partners' backgrounds (lumber, oil and gas); a less diverse offering than their competitors; and a lack of credibility in an increasingly competitive landscape. more

"Just Don't Make it Green!"

During our initial survey of the marketplace, we noticed many groups seemed either well-intentioned but amateurish, or heavily steeped in "green" rhetoric.more Borealis was concerned about sustainability, but we advised them to acknowledge that they were a profit-focused business.

Given their unique offering, collective experience, and ability to oversee the entire lifecycle, we decided to shape Borealis like a quality boutique outfitter. The finished identity system plays off their name, using an optical illusion of sorts to convey the phenomenon found in the breathtaking Aurora Borealis.

Reliable High Quality Offsets

Throughout our planning, several words came up repeatedly: dependable, professional, refreshing, and vital. We believe the end result conveys just that. Borealis' website and brand assets establish a starting point to capture attention in an over-saturated green market. Their value proposition is now clearly articulated through effective messaging and design, and they are equipped to begin real discussions with suitable clients.


Companies selling carbon offsets tend to utilize quite similar approaches in promoting their wares. For Borealis, it made sense to position in a more distinct way; doing so would allow us to differentiate their offering from others’, convey a sense of credibility, and leverage their evocative name.

The Borealis palette and mark are informed by a more stark, fashion-like sensibility than anything from the world of sustainability. There are no soft, touchy-feely textures, nor are there images of windmills and happy people in the sunshine. Instead, a base of navy, cyan, and white are all brought to life with bold hits of magenta. Meanwhile, the wordmark uses simple, functional uppercase type, which we left largely unaltered.

Anyone who has seen the aurora borealis would agree that it’s a spectacular sight to behold. In a way, this is less about the color, and more about the magical vibrations it creates in the night sky. Sadly, most visual representations of this fail to convey such magic. In this system we play with a group of concentric circles that seem to dance on the page, all in an effort to convey the physical sense one experiences in the presence of this phenomenon.

Borealis letterhead
Borealis business card
Borealis mailing labels
Borealis presentation slide
Borealis report information and templates
Borealis water bottle

Pictured (from top left, clockwise): presentation folder; business card; mailing envelope; logo on water bottle; templates with report information contained; standard presentation template (PowerPoint).

The Borealis website uses an incredibly simple grid system to organize content, in which text and images indent as one moves through the site. This allows users to easily situate themselves in the website and move back and forth at will.

From a usage standpoint, this simple overall design approach helps users make sense of information quickly. Additionally, considerations like the shorter line-lengths help maintain overall legibility, making the information easy to scan and assimilate.

On a visual level, the site employs a very simple background treatment, which most users may not even notice. It’s a subtle shifting of color that mimics the beauty of the aurora borealis. These kinds of details aren’t uncommon in smashLAB projects. For most, they mean little, but for some they can be rather delightful little surprises.


  • Assessment and competitive analysis
  • Brand strategy and corporate identity system
  • Creative concept and design direction
  • Website design, development, and CMS integration
  • Front-end design and Flash animation

Key Benefits

  • Provides a unique position among competitors
  • Avoids rehashing tired green clichés
  • Demonstrates high level silviculture experience
  • Lends credibility and stability to the startup
  • Provides easy method for content management


  • Clear set of brand standards
  • Custom wordmark
  • Content managed website
  • Proposal and presentation materials
  • Other marketing collateral


"smashLAB's design process was invaluable in reinforcing the positioning and differentiation of our brand in the marketplace. Our customers know we're different before they even pick up the phone."