Creating an identity for any community is a tall order. Doing it for Vancouver's community of ever-changing and energetic startups was our biggest branding challenge yet.

Where We Started

For a fledgling not-for-profit, WeAreYVR was formed with a big mandate: use a variety of data sources to paint an accurate, real-time picture of startup activity in and around Vancouver. The goal was nothing short of helping an entire community know itself, and be known, better. With that knowledge, a more transparent, welcoming, and connected community could emerge and thrive.

We were asked to create a visual identity that could stand for such an ambitious mission, but to also provide a toolkit of website elements that could assemble into different features over time while maintaining visual cohesion. In other words, design for a website where we were unsure of the extact content or features.

What We Did

For research, we mapped out plan to gather opinions and impressions about the local startup community from groups and individuals, working through anonymous and face-to-face channels. Through printed cards leading to online surveys, one-on-one interviews, and a facilitated group discussion, we came to understand deeply the size, shape, and range of experiences in Vancouver startups, while also building up energy and attention for WeAreYVR’s arrival.

In design, we partnered with Sam Dal Monte, who participated fully in the research phase. Much of our discussion centered on the variety and rapidly evolving landscape of the startup community. Startups come in various sizes and styles, and we felt that no one form could really bring them all into the same community.

With WeAreYVR’s data-driven mission in mind, we created a logo, colour palette, typography, tagline, icon set, and highly customized web page framework based on Twitter Boostrap.

The logo was designed to change its form based on various data inputs and we created a logo generator that uses a set of variables to mathematically alter it’s shape. A second generator creates patterns of logos in almost any number, using various colours from a controlled scheme, allowing for a wide range of design possibilties and uses.

The Results

We delivered a comprehensive and cutting-edge brand to launch WeAreYVR. The identity is aspirational and honest, reflecting both the potential and challenges of the local startup community, as well as signature qualities of WeAreYVR and Vancouver itself.

WeAreYVR is here to champion startups, so its identity doesn’t assert too strongly, but instead steps aside to let other brands shine. At the same time, it carries a subtle depth that rewards repeated encounters and invites participation and play.

You can see the brand in action at the WeAreYVR website, and the project snapshots below show more of the artifacts, artwork and links to use the actual logo generators.

Although Denim & Steel don’t come across as a branding agency, their holistic process and skill in product, UX, design and development shone through, making it truly enjoyable. At the right times they were firm in their position with good feedback, and helped us get to a better place as clients. - Boris Mann

I didn’t know Denim & Steel when we started branding our community-focussed hub. Their process was a pleasure to be involved with; Todd and Tylor balance each other well and work respectfully. We ended up with a unique brand rooted in human understanding, and a team who are honest friends to our mission. - Claire Atkin

Visit Read the brand guide

Services Used

Identity Kit

Branding and initial online presence for emerging products.



Project Snapshots


Our research plan was also an engagement plan, designed to create a narrative arc of growing awareness of WeAreYVR leading up to its launch. Our collection of printed cards didn’t have any particular branding to get around any preconceived notions of the project, as its name had been in the air for a while.

Printed with questions driving people to online surveys.

Printed cards with no branding started the research process with provacative questions pointing to an online survey.

Shortly after, we conducted about 12hrs of one-on-one interviews with different members of the startup community, from founders to employees to people looking for a way in. Participants shared great insights and emotion about their experiences with the community, both positive and negative, and added considerable depth to our understanding.

Our research culminated in a roundtable consultation facilitated by Amanda Fenton, where we set out to spark discussions and surface the big trends from people both in the core of the community, and on its periphery.

Questions we used to drive the group discussion

The questions we used to frame our roundtable consultation with 40+ members of the community in our final stage of consultations and research.

The event was a real success, with many connections made and ideas shared. Most of all we were encouraged by the boundless enthusiasm that people have for their city and chosen professional community.

Our entire research report is online and publicly available. Read the full report

To take the concept of a generated or shape-shifting logo beyond just being a novelty, we needed a base form that could do everything that’s usually expected of a logo: provide recognizable identity, speak to the nature and passion of the organization, and work in many contexts. We started with an underlying or canonical shape, a standard, from which all other forms are derived.

The core logo for the shape-shifting WeAreYVR logo

Based on different inputs, or manual changes, the shape of the glyph in the logo can change in many ways.

But the range of possible shapes isn’t random; it follows rules that allow each form to express the inclusiveness and cohesion of the community, while recognizing the diversity of style and form that startups take. The exact colour of the glyph is always hand-picked, or keyed to a vocabulary of tones that correspond to different types of people and organizations in the community. The balance of data-driven and taste-driven aspects speak to the nature of the WeAreYVR project itself, which might have data at its core but is fuelled by human passion and energy.

Logo variations

The WeAreYVR logo can have many variations, but they all belong to the same brand, just as all startups belong to the same community.

Although the glyph colour and shape changes frequently, the wordmark that travels with the glyph is consistent. This interplay is crucual, recognizing the diversity of businesses that, no matter how odd, still belong to this community.

Try the Logo Generator

Try the Pattern Generator

Full Template Framework

The site templates were built on top of Twitter Bootstrap, making them familiar to experienced developers and complete enough to scale to whatever needs come up as the site grows.

We can do this for you

Maybe you like what you see. Maybe it sparks some ideas of your own. Learning about your options and what it might take is easy, and starts by dropping us a line: