Florida’s Helium Creative serves us the inside ‘scoop’ on how its flavourful rebrand project for drip pop’s stateside launch featured a website build dusted with designer sprinkles
in the science of modern marketing, the idea of ‘brand’ is more closely entwined with and intrinsically linked to an online presence than ever. Big, established and long-trusted household names feel a responsibility to push boundaries and exert their market prowess in the digital space, while for others it can really open the first window into consumer consciousness. Creative agencies have, of course, had to vastly evolve their remit to accommodate this seismic promotional shift and deliver ‘out of the box’ branding services to clients. Operating almost off the golden beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is one such awardwinning agency that applies ‘fine-arts’ sensibilities to the seamless blend of brand with design. Helium Creative create dynamic, personified, branded experiences for clientele who value an in-depth collaborative approach around the delivery of ‘unconventional solutions’ for impactful brand experiences. Typically associated with luxury real estate web projects, things were to get decidedly more diverse when Fiji Pop approached them with a delicious dilemma. Keen to introduce the US market to their frozen popsicles, or lollipops to British tongues, these five young Bolivian entrepreneurs were seeking a complete brand overhaul including a new name. Taking direct inspiration from the flavours, sensations, colours, ingredients, and story behind the products, the Helium gang set off to create a solution full of vibrancy and playfulness. Rechristening them ‘drip pop’ instead, they would go on to develop new brand messaging, identity, pop packaging, supermarket box packaging, a splash page and, indeed, a full website. “They were looking for a creative studio that saw the brand as a piece of art,” Helium begins. “Once we had the brand elements we needed to work with, the focus became building a unique online experience. With this in mind, we wanted to push the play on the different layers each flavour has, creating this dimensional playground and interaction with every user. We kept the design itself very minimal, so the focus remained on the message and the playful product.” Allowing the project brief to bring out the kid in each of them, Helium would be uniquely placed to appreciate drip pop’s appeal and spread the love.
“Dessert is always fun, especially when it’s a frozen dessert meant to be enjoyed on hot summer days,” the team laughs. “For drip pop we had the opportunity to play with food both in real life and on the computer.” Hardly a bad way to make a living, most would agree wholeheartedly. Plus that enthusiasm for the consumption of a food-based client product would, of course, reap dividends within the initial branding efforts. “From an actual melting lavapop we created a vector illustration used to further the drip identity. Hand-drawn patterns that portray ingredients are added to photographs of rich textures to represent the vibrant colours found within the lavapops themselves and help make the packaging unique pieces of art.” This critical identity work needed to happen before even conceptualizing how the web side of the project could reflect it. The team knew that understanding the new brand inside and out was crucial, not least so they could be aware of all the brand elements to use in the design process.
“To get started, we had this brand, all of these really cool textural design elements, patterns, and backgrounds, etc., and so the question became what can we do to make all of this content come alive while not becoming this crazy overload of design? Quickly the answer became all about creating that magical balance of clean, typographical design that the brand entails and contrasting it with organic and playful artistry.”
In this respect, Helium had freer rein to design something without the normal boundaries their normal commissions dictated. That freedom can, of course, be a blessing and a curse in some respects and gave the designers some thinking to do over where they couldn’t perhaps tread. “As much as we want free rein with anything, we always go back to needing those limits,” laughs Experience Designer Kelly Gedvilas. “With this in mind and from an experience standpoint, I knew I wanted to showcase all these layers into moving parts and what would elevate these parts by how the user would interact with them. I suppose when it came to limits, I needed to create something that would be easily understood by an older demographic, while still
appealing to the younger millennial and what would be attractive to both.” This formative direction was, guided by some sign-off approval from the client, with communications concentrated most at each end of the process. Helium tends to draw up a basic sitemap that signposts all the content assets required, which the client then green-lights before proceeding. “Once the client approves the content of the sitemap, we jump into designing two main pages of the site,” Kelly continues. “The purpose of this is to show them our initial ideas without designing everything up front. We share these two main pages to open up collaboration between the client and designer. This enables everyone to discuss ideas and initiate conversation of the thought process behind the design, allowing the client to feel part of their own project.”
From the very beginning, Helium was excited by the project’s potential for doing something fresh. Diving into a marketplace markedly different from their usual work, they sensed an opportunity to buck a few trends. Early market research yielded few competitors in drip pop’s space that had any leading concept, design or story within the industry. This would enable them to recognise what other companies were lacking, chiefly being any personality, life or over-arching concept. “Fortunately, we had done the initial brand development for drip pop so we were able to really tell a visual story with some great play and exploration. All of this background process set the stage for us to seamlessly create a website that mirrored the same energy as the brand foundation. Paint splatter, hand-drawing, custom artwork, quirky icons, are just a few of the brand elements that gave us the flexibility to concept a really engaging website.” For Kelly, this insider brand development knowledge could be coupled with the wider market observations and kept in mind while foraging for design inspiration. This ‘fun stuff’ would include a broad sweep of all sorts of on and offline design sources, grabbing cool references like a creative magpie. “No matter the industry, no matter the platform, this is where I dive in the deep end of Pinterest feeds, Behance mini GIFS and trending sites on CSS Design Awards. I usually get my interaction
“We had the opportunity to play with food both in real life and on the computer”
ideas for a single site easily from a compiled list of over ten sites, liking bits and pieces from each one.” Armed then with enough visual motivation, the challenge becomes focusing it to give drip pop’s online presence enough distinction from the others. In a saturated market of sumptuous frozen treats, how could Helium’s inspiration and branding work give a drool-worthy product a suitably mouth-watering website?
“For websites, I usually sketch everything on paper beforehand,” Gedvilas enthuses when asked about the visual development phase. “Everything. Navigation systems, footers, pop-ups, sort of in a Crazy-8’s fashion just to get all of my ideas out of my head. Somehow, in some way, this process helps the transition onto the computer so much easier! I can quickly reiterate from my sketches to see what translates the best and just run with it.” This project was also unique, being tied so tightly with a cohesive rebranding initiative that included product packaging. The graphics for all of the content were originally crafted for this purpose, while the team still wanted new renditions of the patterns to be implemented on the website. This would ensure that each area the customer sees, whether it’s in a drip pop location, purchasing a box of pops, or visiting a kiosk, is a completely unique experience. “There was a lot of experimentation with the layering of each pattern and flavour because sometimes it worked and others simply didn’t. All in all, however, this was a fun project to play with all of the brand elements with.” Once this frontend design work is completed and approved by all the parties involved, Helium passes efforts over to its development team. Kelly concedes that this part of the process often takes the most time, typically to ensure everything is fully functioning properly on all devices, browsers, and responsive formats. “A lot of the time, we run into complications of what works on what device, and if there are issues, we need to come up with alternatives that won’t compromise the user’s experience with the site. The ‘trial and error’ period can then entail issues being fixed on one platform and then a problem where there was none before, so it’s all about puzzle-piecing and problem-solving.”
Launch phase licked
Fixing those issues is, of course, imperative before contemplating handover and launch, with the client enjoying a final ‘sneaky peek’ before that button gets pressed. “They don’t receive the test link until the project acts and looks as a live functioning site. They test the website and once the site is approved as good to go from their perspective, it’s just a matter of going live!” Naturally, a conscientious agency like Helium wants to set its clients up for success here, handling all of the backend development and setup this demands. This live launch and handover process is therefore pretty seamless to say the least, usually depending more on the circumstance the client is in.
“For instance, if this is a client for a rebrand, we typically do a necessary introduction before launch and the same goes for a client that is relaunching under a new name. For drip pop, it was blank canvas and just a matter of putting the brand out there for recognition!” Thankfully, that attention has been a two-way street, with Helium enjoying an equally encouraging helping of recognition for the live site as the client. Honours including CSS Design Awards Website of the Day, as well as Best Innovation, Best UI Design, and Best UX Design prizes for the website, have been joined by numerous brand and packaging accolades. Such success vindicates the project’s focus on this being the start of a lasting working relationship, with ongoing maintenance of web projects something Helium’s clients can expect. In drip pop’s case, this constitutes additional updates such as adding new flavours, stores and locations, fixing any possible bugs, and keeping the site up to date. “Right now, this company is still super-new and they are finalising a lot of the framework to flush out the rest of the brand to the world,” Kelly concludes. “Drip pop has plans to sell in major supermarkets and opening kiosks in South Florida, but for the time being the website itself is serving as its marketing tool for creating initial brand awareness.”
“naturally, a conscientious agency like Helium wants to set it clients up for success”