rebranding a classic
Redesigning of the My Utmost for His Highest product and digital properties.
Digital Art Director, UX Researcher
Heather Brewer: Project Art Director, Print Design, Research
Amy Cerra: Creative Director
Aubree Berg: App design
McKenna McIntyre: Web design
Sam Carbaugh: Brand research and design collaboration
Amy Crowder: Brand research and design collaboration
My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and compiled by his wife Biddy is recognized globally as one of the most influential and popular titles in Christian literature. 2017 was the 100th anniversary of Oswald's death. To commemorate the occasion and to present it relevantly in the marketplace, it was determined that a rebrand was in order.
The existing designs, both print and digital, had not been updated in quite some time despite the title's popularity. As a result, there was a very fractured marketplace presence that worked against the strength and recognition of the product. I was privileged to work with Heather Brewer and Amy Cerra alongside the design team to help chart a strategic course for the redesign.
Brand presence at before redesign.
Update the brand mark and title treatment.
Update the book covers and interior.
Update the app and website.
Unify the brand experience across the breadth of product channels.
Due to the various aspects and channels for this project, I am breaking pieces out for explanation. The research and design work, however, was handled collaboratively, transparently, and nearly simultaneously to ensure a final redesign that was unified and comprehensive.
Heather began the research around the redesign of the book. Since this is continually a popular title in bookstores and online, she leveraged her knowledge of book purchasing behavior and sales statistics to begin crafting a new direction for the cover design. A lot of attention was placed on the color palette and title treatment. You can read her excellent write up of the process here. I worked with Heather during this process to ensure we would be able to connect the updated digital presence to this work on the book.
Since the rebrand effort was going to be the first time that a mark was going to be used strategically across print and digital channels, we spent time researching how to maximize the effectiveness of the new mark.
Early explorations of brand mark and edition color palettes.
One of the challenges that has existed, especially for the digital channels, is what version of the product should be presented to users. Because it was compiled almost 100 years ago, the language can feel outdated. An updated edition was released in 1992 and since that time both versions have been maintained in the marketplace. At the time of the redesign there was a website, daily email, and app for each version and we needed to know if that was the best model to move forward with. Looking into the numbers allowed us to see that the updated version was far more popular and the ratio of classic to updated readers was increasing annually.
For the digital experience we were focused on the web, app, and email channels. We reviewed the demographics and site behavior for the web. We also reviewed annual app install statistics and user feedback to help us understand marketplace behavior and preferences.
As we reviewed the digital usage, especially for the web experience, we noticed that most users were repeat visitors and the bounce rate and time on site indicated they were coming to read the daily message and leave, not great for the SEO of the site but very helpful for guiding us in determining how best to design the experience around the user. I researched many competitive digital products as well as other properties that put a lot of focus on optimizing the UX around a great reading digital experience.
Digital reading experience research.
I can't put it better than Heather so I'll just quote her.
The previous icon was a place-holder that didn't represent the message of Oswald Chambers or recreate successfully when applied to print. We needed something that looked good digitally, but could hold its weight on a cover. The imagery of a path and a mountain show the journey Chambers' inspires his reader to take toward greater faith, accountability, and leadership over the course of a year.
Previous and new branding and title design.
Previous and new branding and cover designs.
One of the first digital decisions that was made was to unify both of the existing editions into one, a single experience that offered both classic and updated editions. This solved a number of challenges for us in that the trajectory of the user preference was on a path to make the classic edition too costly to maintain as a stand alone option. It also helped us put more visual focus on the new brand mark and remove the confusing red and green colors from the digital experience. They work well to distinguish print editions but served little to no value digitally.
Now the user has one location for My Utmost for His Highest and doesn't need to be concerned with purchasing the correct app or navigating to the correct site. Both experiences give the user the choice of the preferred edition.
Previous and new app reading experiences.
Previous and new web reading experiences.
Previous and new email reading experiences.
Working on print and digital channels so close together also allowed us a rare opportunity to coordinate the reading experience across channels. While I focused digitally on simplifying the page and presenting the content in a quiet and non-distracting experience, Heather was able to accomplish the same for the book interior.
Finally, we are able to present the entire brand as a cohesive package. Though there are unique aspects to each channel to optimize those individual experiences, the overall brand has a consistent look, feel, and voice and will be much more recognizable externally as well as for existing users who may move between channels.
"My Utmost for His Highest was a complex and risky project because it involved a diverse suite of products and is a perennial bestseller. It included several printed products and digital mediums. Jeremy's leadership and expertise were invaluable in helping the team understand the design challenges of the digital experience. He led creative brainstorming and the development of the icon now used on all My Utmost for His Highest pieces. Jeremy was able to cast the big picture vision for the brand and execute across digital outlets to create a seamless and positive user experience. He played a vital role in this highly collaborative and successful endeavor."
– Heather Brewer, Art Director
"The My Utmost For His Highest rebrand was a unique, design driven initiative that drew all design disciplines together both in the exploration process and in the implementation process. Due to a marketing vacuum at the time, Heather Dean Brewer and Jeremy Culp rose to the challenge of solving a brand alignment issue that had been allowed to linger for years. Their focus on the legacy brand and the customer experience allowed for collaborative and dynamic exploration and discourse, and in the end, an engaging and simplified user experience. By enlisting the full design team’s research and testing expertise, real time user feedback made it possible to pull this all off in a condensed time frame as well. While the brand’s social channels may vary due to marketing over-site, the full brief and guidelines developed by Jeremy, Heather, and their teams stand as a guidepost for the overall brand experience."
– Amy Cerra, Creative Director