Industry Feature: The Birth of New Brand- Tips from a Creative Director on Design & Strategy

Neel Singh is a Vancouver-based designer, creative director and brand strategist who developed the brand identity and creative direction for U RISE, a personal training business for certified personal trainer and health adviser, Gary Dhillon.

The U RISE brand demonstrates how graphic designers must consider not only a range of applications, but also the client’s brand strategy when designing a logo. The logo for U RISE in itself is effective- with a subtle gradient in a stylized “U” shape with rounded curvilinear corners.

U Rise Logo designed by Neel Singh
It takes more than great design to develop a brand’s identity, though. In an interview with, Singh provided further insight into the development of the U RISE brand identity.

“Remember a brand never starts with a logo or an identity. If you are asked to design an identity for a client, be sure they clearly understand who their brand is, why it matters and what its message is,” says Singh. “If a client can’t clearly and simply articulate their focus, you’ll find that designing an identity for them usually proves to be a difficult, annoying and sometimes an impossible task.”

Before setting forth with designing the U RISE, logo, Singh considered the brand’s message. Originally dubbed “Shape Your Body Fitness,” Singh worked with design partner Johnny Milkovich and the client to develop a name that was more representative of the brand’s core purpose, values, targeting and positioning.

“U RISE’s laser-sharp focus on the individual differentiates its position from the abundance of trainers who facilitate group classes such as boot camp and MMA training,” he says. “U RISE targets the time constrained professional who is looking to achieve optimal health and a better lifestyle.”

Memorable, easy to pronounce, and relevant to the brand’s message, the team developed the name U RISE to differentiate itself in the market (after several rounds of elimination and scrutiny). Incorporating a deeper meaning, the brand’s values are associated to the letters RISE: Rev, Individualize, Sweat, and Elevate, which are used as guidelines to conduct training activities.

U Rise Sketches by Neel SinghU Rise Sketches by Neel Singh

Singh provided more insight into the conceptual thinking behind the visual elements:

“The logo and visual identity were created to have a strong focus on the ‘U.’ The primary colors consist of the soft reds [which] function to create energy, and the grays evoke trust. The ‘polished’ feel indicates professionalism and high quality of service,” he says.

Singh outlines the visual elements that make up the brand identity system in an Identity Creation and Usage Guidelines document, which dictates everything from scale and proportion of the logo and logotypes, to color palettes and typography.

“Typography, color palette, color schemes, photographic style and patterns were created out of the visual DNA of the logo. The verbal style and vocabulary were developed to speak directly to the individual,” he says. “An identity guideline document was created to assure correct usage and consistency.”

Talk about planning! Check out some sample pages from the U Rise identity guidelines below:

U Rise Personal Training LogotypeU Rise Identity Creation and Usage GuidelinesU Rise Identity Creation and Usage Guidelines

No matter what the project is, Singh compares brand strategy to a play’s storyline- you can’t jump into production without it.

“The logo, shapes, colors, patterns, type, icons, photos, language, etc., that an identity consists of has to represent and communicate the brand,” he says. “If a brand lacks a message, how do you accurately communicate it through visuals and words?”

Singh encourages designers to take the lead if a client doesn’t have a clear vision of its own identity or message.

“[An] issue that arises often [is] when a client doesn’t understand their own brand. They’ll take you around in circles making you design, re-design, and re-design again to try and create something that represents those jumbled ideas in their head,” he says. “In any case, don’t lose control in this situation – you’re the designer. Create an identity that captures the essence of the brand and accurately communicates it. Think about how you can get the target market excited about the brand through your designs.”

U Rise Logo White BlackU Rise Logo Standard

U Rise Business CardsU Rise Business Cards with Spot UV Coating asked what advice Singh would give to aspiring professionals.

“Stretch yourself,” Singh answers. “As a designer, stretching yourself will help you develop and advance your career. Reach beyond your comfort zone to take on challenges and tasks that you have no prior experience in.

Since the start of my design career, I’ve been proposing ideas to clients that consist of tasks that I have not done before. Sometimes small tasks, sometimes large. No matter what the outcome has been, I’ve always learned something new. Stretching myself on a project has taught me new ideas and skills to implement on the next project.

Stretching has several benefits:

- You’re forced to learn new skills that will expand your repertoire as a designer.

- Idea generation isn’t stifled by your current skill level.

- Your portfolio consistently becomes more advanced.

- You’re forced to reach beyond your comfort zone.

- It keeps the projects exciting and interesting.

- You learn new ideas from new failures.

If opportunity presents you with the chance to take on a new (and intimidating) task, accept the challenge. By stepping up you’ll develop your skills and gain new ideas. You’ll build a reputation as a smart and fearless designer. If you fail, you’ll only get smarter. Have confidence in your ability to learn, as much as in your ability to create. Now if you’ve stretched yourself to the point of becoming overwhelmed with too many uncharted tasks, use this as an opportunity to collaborate with, and learn from someone with relevant experience.”

Below, check out how the logo and visual elements that were incorporated into the ad campaign, “This is about YOU,”  which launched the brand in Dhillon’s local area, and the U RISE website, (designed by Jamie Milkovich under Singh’s creative direction).

U Rise Website

U Rise Website Splash Page

Photographed by Johnny Milkovich, the campaign focuses on speaking directly to the individual and creating awareness for U RISE. The ads have proven successful as they attracted several new clients and captured the attention of others involved in the fitness and health sector, says Singh.U Rise Ad CampaignU Rise Ad Campaign

Visit Neel Singh’s website for more examples of his work at You may ask Singh additional questions by chatting with him on Twitter at @neelNUMIQ.

The elements that make up the U RISE brand guidelines reflect the amount of details necessary to build a cohesive brand. Students majoring in Graphic Design/Branding at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising develop similar brand identity systems in the Applied Branding course, where they design logo and brand identity systems for imagined companies. These Graphic Design Students also design licensing style guides in the Graphics/Licensing course, developing original characters, patterns, logos, elements, color palettes and typography choices to define usage guidelines. Get more information here.

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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