In 2005, OpenRoad introduced their intranet solution (called ThoughtFarmer), which aimed to challenge common intranet conventions by making the experience more social. With growth, however, issues started to arise. They lacked a clear identity, and limited marketing resources meant too much reliance on word-of-mouth. Additionally, some customers didn’t understand or believe in intranets due to previous experiences. This frustrated the team at ThoughtFarmer, which had seen how people used—and loved—their software.more
Our Discovery process led to a number of pivotal insights related to audience and positioning. In particular, many intranet providers seemed biased to male C-Suite executives, and employed marketing approaches focused on bravado and one-upmanship.
ThoughtFarmer’s audiences were more diverse, so we advocated a less conventional approach centered on ThoughtFarmer’s core offering: helping companies work better. From there, our creative concept focused on the theme of growing organizations in healthy fashion. This involved exploring agrarian, ecological, and organic motifs to develop a tactile and inviting system that extends across all of their collateral.
From the tradeshow booth to the website, ThoughtFarmer’s values and offering are now completely aligned. Additionally, their presentation is fresh, enlivening, and notably different from competing products. This is a result of clear analysis, honest discussions, and some brave moves on the client’s behalf. They understood the need to remedy how they articulated their promises, and can now move forward with a defensible position, clear messaging strategy, tight value proposition, and a rich and adaptable identity system.
While many software companies concentrate on the cold, technical nature of their products, we encouraged ThoughtFarmer to embrace a more personable and tactile approach. In doing so, we believed they could effectively position themselves as a clear alternative to their (often much larger) competitors, while finding a place in their customers’ hearts.
The ThoughtFarmer mark builds upon the hand-crafted sensibility found in their materials, by integrating playful leaf-inspired cursive elements. The mark works independently, or in tandem with their icon and tagline. Additionally, their icon helps identify the product in small areas like smartphone launch screens, and in web/desktop application icons.
Every element in the ThoughtFarmer identity is built from two key forms: a seed and a line. These are moved, sized, rotated, and reorganized to create a wide variety of agrarian icons, elements, tools, and lifeforms. Pictured above (from top left, clockwise): presentation folder, letterhead, greeting card, envelope.
At the heart of ThoughtFarmer is software that helps people collaborate. This core notion is presented from their very first introduction, in the organization’s bright and friendly business cards, which all showcase lifeforms working together. These illustrations, and the large colour fills on the backs of the cards, all use hand-crafted textures to convey a sense of care and craft.
While unlikely to wear a traditional uniform, the people at ThoughtFarmer do attend events that require them to represent the nature of the company. This led us to create a series of simple items they could use to showcase the team spirit, without feeling like corporate drones. From hoodies and caps, to t-shirts and messenger bags, these items help send a cue that these are people you’d like to meet.
Pictured are two of three ThoughtFarmer founders (Gord and Chris) setting up at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, in Boston. In tow they have their new trade show booth, presentations, screens, collateral, and uniforms. Those feeling particularly spry were invited to join them at a ThoughtFarmer sponsored conference run, the next morning.
The bulk of people are introduced to ThoughtFarmer through their online presence; therefore, a great deal of attention was paid to their website. In this setting, the familiar illustrations continue to tell the story, alongside deeper text, video content, white papers, and a number of helpful resources.
Throughout the site, content is organized to be easy to scan, engaging to read, and visually interesting. This is achieved through an in-depth content strategy, consistent syntax, and visual standards for image treatment. From pages with pricing information to case studies, the ThoughtFarmer brand remains in tact, and compelling, to visitors.
A great deal of discussion and debate went into how to organize information, shape the presentation, and engage interested parties to act on the call to action. The nice part with a site like ThoughtFarmer’s, is that it rarely feels like work to go through. Plain language, large text, bright colours, and useful content cut down—rather dramatically—on the yawn factor commonly associated with technology websites.
We continue to grow and adapt the ThoughtFarmer system on an ongoing basis. In the above example, we see a recent eBook produced by the organization, and designed by smashLAB. The 65 page digital booklet tells informative stories to those using intranets, and is available as a PDF or iBook—offered through Apple’s iBookstore.
"If you want a design agency that challenges your assumptions, stretches your thinking, and introduces ideas that are powerful enough to impact your bottom line, smashLAB should be on your shortlist."