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Branding So Puzzled Puzzle Company

Branding So Puzzled Puzzle Company

My wife and I decided to start a new business last fall, a jigsaw puzzle company.  It was something way outside either of our respective wheelhouses but we slowly moved forward, learning along the way, and after months of planning we have our first series of puzzles available for sale.

The one thing that wasn’t a concern going in was branding.  I’ve been drawing up logo designs and such for my own projects, fake projects, and other miscellaneous endeavors for years.  I’d surely be able to pull something together for the new company.

Right?

Well, like everything else, it was a bit of a journey, and it actually started long before we decided to make puzzles.

We’ve always been puzzlers but during the pandemic we really got back into it and by early 2021 we had started a blog to document our completed puzzles.  We called the blog So Puzzled and it lived at sopuzzled.com.  We also registered social media accounts with various “So Puzzled” handles, all different because due to availability.  Eventually we realized that @WeAreSoPuzzled was available everywhere so we switched our social media to that and registered wearesopuzzled.com to redirect to the existing site.

The original So Puzzled blog logo was just a take on the “confused” emoji with puzzle pieces replacing the eyes.  Jenny typically uses purple for her projects and I often use blue, so one eye was purple and the other blue.

The original logo for the So Puzzled blog.

Fast forward to fall of 2023.

At this point we’d been seriously talking amongst ourselves about starting the puzzle company for awhile and we were referring to it as “So Puzzled Puzzle Company.”  We moved the blog over to wearesopuzzled.com (with sopuzzled.com redirecting, so it was like nothing had changed) in preparation for sopuzzled.com being used for the business.  But we knew we wouldn’t be able to get the @sopuzzled social media handles so we were a bit hung up.  We thought about using @sopuzzledco and calling it “The So Puzzled Company” but neither of us particularly liked that.

Eventually we realized that “Get So Puzzled” is a nice call-to-action and all of the relevant @GetSoPuzzled social handles were available, so we snapped those (and getsopuzzled.com) up and decided to move forward with the So Puzzled Puzzle Company name.

I wanted to build the brand around a strong monochrome wordmark.  It seemed like a lot of puzzle companies used a puzzle piece as the focal point of their logo.  It makes sense but we needed to differentiate ourselves and, as a new company, put the focus our name.  We couldn’t just literally say we’re a puzzle company, though (I’ve ranted in the past about my dislike of strictly-literal logos).  With that in mind, I put together a mark with puzzle pieces in the negative space of the O, P, and D in “So Puzzled.”  The letters were designed to have strong serifs that evoke the feeling of being able to latch together, kind of like puzzle pieces.

The “So Puzzled” mark is flexible enough that it can be used as part of a “So Puzzled Puzzle Company” mark, a “We Are So Puzzled” mark, or on its own to represent our (begin epic voice) overarching puzzling empire.

There was one problem with this new SPPC wordmark: It really didn’t work well as a circular social media icon.  So I deconstructed it further.  If the negative-space puzzle piece represents the “Puzzled” part of the name, then we can get our point across with just the “So” from the wordmark.  I started with that and added a roundel-style “So Puzzled Puzzle Company” around it, giving us a social media icon that implicitly says what we are and explicitly says who we are.

The So Puzzled Puzzle Company social media logo.

Theoretically, after we’ve had more time to build brand recognition, we might be able to abandon the roundel elements and just use the “So” text.  We’ll have to see what happens.

By the point that these icons were created, we’d started networking a bit and really needed business cards to be able to hand out.  We went with a heavier-weight paper to reflect puzzle pieces and, as we’d already decided that our puzzles would have a linen finish, we went with linen for the business cards as well.

The front design was easy.  Wordmark across the top, contact information at the bottom.  Relatively standard setup.  We decided we wanted a QR code on the back (pointing to getsopuzzled.com, where we had a linktree-style contact page).  To make it more visually interesting, I created a puzzle pattern graphic, figuring I could re-use it elsewhere later.  The puzzle pattern featured black pieces and white edges and the QR code was dropped on top of it.

In addition to personal business cards, we eventually added a “generic” business card for situations where we might not want to advertise our email addresses and phone numbers.

As we talked more with potential manufacturing facilities, we got information on what our box designs would need to include and moved on to designing the product boxes.  This process was a bit more collaborative.  Some of my original ideas didn’t make it to the final design, nor should they have.

On the front I wanted the puzzle design to take up as much space as possible and I wanted to include the company wordmark but I didn’t want to have to lay the wordmark over the puzzle design.  To accommodate that, I did a kind of “notched” design for showing the puzzle art.  The top-left and bottom right of the puzzle design aren’t shown, leaving room for the company logo and puzzle details, respectively.  The notched design also kind of resembles a modernized puzzle piece so it’s appropriate.

The sides of the lid all feature the puzzle name, number of pieces, and a slice of the puzzle design.  Two sides note the puzzle dimensions.  I wanted to have some part of the puzzle visible from all directions and showing the whole thing would have meant using a relatively tiny rectangle.  Using just a slice of the image allows it to be larger.

The sides are designed such that one long and one short side have a design suitable for laying flat while the other sides are suitable for standing vertically, to account for the different ways a brick-and-mortar store may need to display the box.  To make space for this, two of the sides use the So Puzzled Puzzle Company wordmark while the other two use the round social logo.  I really wanted to keep the social logo off of the box but Jenny convinced me that it’s the best use of space.  And she’s right; not only is it the best use of space but it ties our social identity to our product.

The back features another version of the puzzle image plus space for blurbs about the image itself, our company, and various pieces of “fine print.”  Between some sections is a “divider” image featuring a puzzle piece as part of a horizontal (or vertical) line, which we figured might be reusable elsewhere.

With a boxed product, we would have to have a way to ship the boxed product.  We briefly thought about having custom shipping boxes made up but decided it was more cost- and space-effective to leave the free USPS Priority Mail boxes an option.  Instead, we had custom packaging tape made up as a way to extend our branding to the outside of the box.

The tape features a repeating pattern of the company wordmark.  The text is flipped on every-other occurrence, meaning it views the same from either side of the tape.  Additionally, I brought back the puzzle pattern from the business cards (this time with white pieces and black outlines) to serve as a border on the tape.

SPPC’s custom packaging tape.

As we prepared to ship the first batches of puzzles, we realized that we wanted to include a coupon code for a future purchase on a card inside the shipping box.  We also had some cases where we wanted to include a personal note.  For these, I designed a coupon card and a note card.

The coupon card is white with a black/white double border.  The company wordmark is at the top, followed by some thank you text and the coupon code.  The note card features the SPPC wordmark at the top and the aforementioned puzzle piece divider at the bottom.

One of my favorite parts of this effort is how we’ve been able to carry elements from one project to another to create a cohesive identity.  What was intended to be a social media avatar also ended up on the box, building familiarity between our social presence and our actual product.  The puzzle pattern from our business cards reappears on our packing tape.  The divider from our box art is re-used on our note cards (and will probably make its way onto our website).

This is the most complete branding effort I’ve ever done.  It’s one thing to draw up a logo and slap it on a website.  It’s another to consider how it will be used in so many different formats.  It’s been a lot of fun and I think it turned out pretty well.

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