Creating the right identity
When I began sketches for the Explorescape.com logo, getting the structure right took several passes and didn't come easy (Fig 1). While it was frustrating, ultimately I created something that I'm proud of. What helped especially was having an accountability buddy to pointedly say, "That's bulls**t. You know you can do better." This type of supportive honesty has always been key for me in doing great work, whether a work buddy is saying it or I'm talking to myself while "Eye Of The Tiger" plays in the background.
About the typeface
To carry the explorative and fun-to-use character of the product, I employed Gotham Black and Gotham Thin for the company name and domain extension (".com") respectively. Gotham has always been a great typeface, but after President Obama exclusively featured it in his own logo and campaign materials, it's been a hit. It wasn't hard to choose the less common Gotham Black. I had used Gotham Bold on a previous project, but when I mocked up "explorescape" in Gotham Black, it seemed like the right thing to do. And I rarely regret doing the right thing.
About the colors
An issue we noticed immediately when we were approached about the project is that we couldn't figure out how to say it right. Was it "Explore escape" or "explore 'scape" or uhhh??? So I used a two-tone approach to the logo to give direction to the viewer on how to correctly say "explorescape.com". As for the colors, I chose a burnt sienna and sky blue to evoke exploration and a sense of "skies the limit" respectively.
Oh! There are easter eggs
The logo features a pun and reference to the escape key on a keyboard (Fig 2), and an "E" in the getaway house (Fig 3).
Crafting a simple experience
BRAVOR wanted Explorescape to be easy to use and cater to a specific user—the explorative vagabond always on the go and seeking new adventures. We stuck to the basics and made it so that visiting users could view and book properties easily, and we allowed property owners to post property information and add photos easily.
We researched and used Airbnb (a preferred service I use for trips), HomeAway, and VRBO to see what was working and what wasn't working with their products. From our work on a previous project called Clarus 3, a provider search, including an immediate action when landing on the home page is an effective directive for users. We made the rental search prominent by featuring it immediately underneath navigation and before secondary features. The rental search asks the user where they're going and when to kickstart their next adventure. We also saw that including featured rentals and featured vacation packages could help the user that didn't know where they wanted to go make a decision or inspire ideas for their next adventure. Furthermore, we also included a list of popular destinations to provide an alternate path to explore.
Designing the adventurous interface
BRAVOR's only visual direction from our stakeholder was to make it look like [this competitor]. We weren't a design production company at the time and knew that the product could look even better than a copycat app, so we set out to create something fun that evoked a sense of adventure. Following the lead of the logo we created, we brought forth the primary palette of the burnt sienna and sky blue and introduced some signal colors ("urgent" red, "not quite urgent" dusk yellow, and a permissive lime green).
Given our stakeholder's intent, we planned for advertising as well. One thing that always is a buzzkill for a great design is the usual way to pay for the product to continue existing: ugly advertising. In hindsight, we would've figured out a better way to solve this issue.