Branding a Laundromat

By Bill Kenney

Recently, we had the pleasure of taking on a branding project for the Savannah Soap Co., a unique laundromat here in Savannah.

Laundromat 01

Branding a laundromat proved to be a unique and interesting task that provided challenges and opportunities for our creative expression. In this post I wanted to document all the the steps of the project including thought processes, version creation, color and final applications. Enjoy!

How it began

In February of 2010 we received an email from an existing client who explained the new project he was starting. He indicated he wanted our input on the entire process, including branding the company and developing a new ExpressionEngine powered website. The client explained that he was developing an eco-friendly Laundromat using state-of-the-art technology. My initial thought was “Really? A laundromat? Where do I start?” After meeting with the client and discussing the project at length, I was intrigued by the possibilities and challenges of this new project. With nothing but a name and business concept to work with, we hit the ground running.

The Concept / Direction

I knew this was going to be a stimulating project because the client asked for a feel that was both vintage and modern. He wanted a design that was evocative of a well-established company that had been around for years, utilizing the historic values and setting of Savannah. But, he was also looking for a modern feel to combat the standard drab perception of a laundromat. Ultimately, the goal was a look acknowledging the company’s core service as a laundromat, while injecting invigorating aspects indicating that the experience was unlike any other laundromat.

“It was also important to make sure the brand felt like it belonged in 2011.”

This store was going to have a wide variety of eco-friendly retail and was using machines that, until now, had not been featured in a laundromat in the United States. A term frequently used in our initial discovery stage was that laundry at the Savannah Soap Co. was going to be “an experience” that defied all expectations. This was to be a laundromat where you could eat off the floor, a laundromat where you didn’t mind waiting on yours clothes because of the ambiance, a laundromat where you could drink freshly brewed teas and would be waited on when you reached the front door. This store would defy the negative connotation of the word “laundromat” and allow customers to enjoy the overall experience that was going to be (and now is) The Savannah Soap Co.

Getting people to rethink laundry was a key assignment that was paramount throughout the process. We knew that laundry is something that no one smiles about, but our approach was to append “until now” on that thought. Another key that directed us was the consciousness of scale. This is a brand that is going to grow and evolve into numerous products and services, so we knew the final solution was going to have to translate across many platforms from print to digital.

Sketches of initial ideas

The Mark

In the first few rounds of design we explored versions that were contained logos (in the form of badges or seals). A couple of these options had real promise, but due to their complexity we chose not to move forward in that direction.

The next iteration was something very minimal, for easy application in all media. We looked into the idea of a simple and clean typeface logo. This thought process arose from our initial research, where we reviewed brands from the 1940s and 1950s. Such simplicity would convey the aged feel and not limit the use of the logo for any treatments. We began to move strictly into typeface applications. The client really liked the idea of a single typeface that would express the clean, sophisticated feel of the company, while touching on the heritage and old world values that were to be an essential part of The Savannah Soap Co. brand.

Badge style logo conceptsAnother badge style logo concept

As mentioned earlier, we wanted to be conscious of the future evolution with this brand, making sure not to pigeonhole the brand with any icon or visual reference that would not be representative as the business evolved. Using some kind of clothing or washing machine icon over the typeface was the obvious choice, but that was neither the look we were going for, nor a timeless solution. It needed to be clear in message and scalable to stand the wide array of options that may come as the company expands. So to avoid that we chose to stick with only the typeface.

Ultimately we decided to use two main typeface choices for the mark. The main line would be the company name, and this would be followed by a sub-line which included a description or qualifier. It was at this point in the process where we made a significant decision. We chose not to use the word laundromat in the mark. While it wasn’t an easy decision, we were of the opinion that the word laundromat carried to much negative baggage, which would ultimately keep the viewer from receiving the full benefit of the brand treatment. We instead decided to use the term “Fresh Laundry” to describe the service. This brought an entirely different feel to the treatment.

As we developed it, we realized The “Fresh Laundry” area of the mark could be changed to accommodate or represent new products or services launched by the Savannah Soap Co. in the future. For instance, if they were to launch a baby line in the future, it could then read The Savannah Soap Co. / Happy Baby.

Early type face choicesFinal type face choice

Typeface

There are two fonts used in this mark. The main font is Koehler Sans (by Jeff Levine) and it brings the aged, established look. In the discovery stage we reviewed a lot of old newspaper articles and signage from the 40’s and 50’s. The exploration of typeface in those time periods was key to the selection of Koehler Sans. The alternate font is Twentieth Century (by Lanston Type Company). This font is used to balance the vintage look of Koehler Sans with a more clean & current feel. Being able to utilize both font selections helps give the typeface foundation needed to accomplish the vintage and modern feel needed throughout the brand.

Style guide font sample

Color

Color helped take the classic idea of a laundromat and give it a new-age feel. The primary color we decided on was an vibrant apple green. Environmental consciousness is large part of everything they do at The Savannah Soap Co., so a green (PMS 375) was an obvious choice. The secondary color we chose was a fresh baby blue (PMS 306), which paired very well with the green and enhanced the new-age feel with bold and current color choices, providing both a soft and clean feel. These color choices helped bring the brand to life and are apparent on all aspects of the brand, including print collateral, signage and architectural elements.

Style guide color sample

Extending the Brand

With the use of the Twentieth Century typeface and short key terms we were able to achieve strong, clear and engaging messages. The terms CLEAN. GREEN. SMART.SAFE. are used on the business cards, packaging, marketing materials and web presence. Those terms are used to drive home the overall message of the store and what the customer can expect when they walk in the door. Clean represents both the cleanliness of the store and also the quality of the wash your clothes will receive. Green is directed towards the eco-friendly aspects, state-of-the-art machines and packaging materials. Smart also touches on the eco-friendly aspects combined with the fact that you save money by choosing them over your old, inefficient household machine. Safe is describing the solace you feel in the store as opposed to most fearsome laundromats. Safe also describes the quality of the products used on your clothes - they are “safe” for your fabrics and for your skin. Another small extension of the brand is the icon sets we used to signify the different services they offer. The icons created simple visuals to help identify those services.

Sample ad for laundromat
Poster for the revealing of the new store

Paper roll graphic
Wrapping paper for Wash, Dry & Fold service

Sample label design
Label for clothing packages

Sample ribbon designs
Ribbon treatments for packaging

Photo of designed paper roll in the store
Clothing paper roll

Photo of label machine in store
Wash, Dry & Fold labels

Photo of designed ribbon wrapped around small gift box
Ribbon for packaging presentation

Screenshot of The Savannah Soap Co website
The Savannah Soap Co. website

Final Product

Photo of various products showcasing logo and brand in action

The completed logo successfully accomplished the goals at hand. A clean and vintage looking typeface that can applied to just about any medium at any scale. It is also a mark that can be applied to new products and services over the years and still represent the brand. We look forward to the evolution of this brand in the coming years and are excited about the possibilities it holds.

A Happy Customer

“The talent, expertise & passion of Focus Lab, LLC throughout the branding of The Savannah Soap Co. was second to none. The final product is now an essential part to the success of my new business venture. I would highly recommend them to anyone in need of their services.”
—Michael Wine, The Savannah Soap Co.