Nothing is as scary as nothing, because swans.

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A still from Urban Ladder’s new brand video

“Nothing is as scary as nothing. It has this way of making you feel small, feel irrelevant. Feel like- funnily enough- you’re nothing. Sometimes, when you’re feeling really content with yourself, it’ll sneak up on you and mock you. It’ll say, Come on Picasso, Let’s see what you’ve got. Ask anyone who’s faced a blank sheet of paper. They’ll tell you, it’s the stuff of nightmares. When your head hits the pillow. it whispers in your ear and drives fear in your heart”

Hold on now. What?

Sigh. Urban Ladder, why did you do this? Did you all sit down for a meeting and decide that your audience was young, and urban and cool, and you had to connect with them; speak to them in a language they’d understand? Did you pin up coloured post-its on your walls with words like ‘create’ ‘unbound’ ‘freedom’… ‘butterfly’ (This is what happened, isn’t it?)

I can practically see how it all panned out. Your brand was growing, and changing. (that’s great) You needed a new identity (this is true) You decided that your in-house team would handle this. (questionable, but okay) You put together a brief, you struggled, you caved- Let’s have it look more designed, you said.

So you pick a troubling humanist sans serif typeface and you (badly) pair it with a painfully kerned out lowercase serif, (please tell me who told you this was a good idea) you marginally tweak your old symbol and add a gradient (Instagram did it; good enough) and you force in a gif (because what is your brand really, if you don’t have an animated gif?) and there you go! All done. You successfully managed to make your previous meh logo look good.

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And that video. Can we talk about that  please? Because I really want to know why the first frame has a pair of feet entwined in a crumpled blanket on the floor. Or what you were thinking when you styled a glass with sharpened pencils and a feather next to a Route 66 Tin and an old Mac Book Pro. Oh and that ancient television with the animals propped up on it (seriously, who are you talking to?) Was style all you were thinking about? You managed to check all the pretentious boxes in a minute and ten seconds. Don’t think I didn’t see what you did there with that wonderful bearded hipster and the reindeer wallpaper (and the vintage phone he owns) and the other bespectacled gentleman who makes an appearance after the fake-eyelash-woman, potter, photographer, artist, origami-making-child and inexplicable butterfly-holding-lady.

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Urban Ladder. Furnishing homes with ceramic dogs (wolves?) since 1960. 

You say, “You’ll see us live this philosophy in many ways. Our new lines of products will reflect the changing sensibilities. We will launch new experiences and technologies that let every individual play designer. Also, a new look and voice that reflects our renewed purpose.” And what is that purpose exactly?

Let’s cut the bullshit brandspeak about “encouraging every individual to bring out the artist in them, hoping to inspire customers to create something new every time they look at the logo” or that “the new logo depicts the four walls of an empty room. Like a canvas, it’s brimming with possibilities” I want to know why you decided it was ok to pass off a poorly designed logo and a film that made very little sense, to your customers who actually like you. You were young and start-uppy and even though your logo wasn’t the best, you seemed sincere. We trusted you. You told stories of young people furnishing their first apartments, and families building homes together. And now you sound like every other toocoolforschool brand that thinks it’s ok to make no sense, so long as you’re hip while you do it.

You have a great product. You even have a great tag line with “Let’s Create.” And still you managed to drive all your personality into the ground.With that voice (ugh, that voice) and that trite copy, and that dried flower in an empty notebook. Urban Ladder, you could have been so much more.

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