The Inside Scoop on The New Squarespace Circle Branding

Design Lead, Billy Sweeney, shares insights and the creative process behind the new Squarespace Circle branding...

This story is part of a mini series in partnership with our friends at Squarespace.
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For those of you who are experienced members of the Squarespace community, with three or more active websites, excitingly there is a new way to expand your services and deliver additional value to your clients. Squarespace Circle gives you access to unique perks, expert insights, and optimized support. It's Squarespace for professionals!
We spoke to Design Lead, Billy Sweeney, the man behind the incredibly slick new brand for Circle, to delve a little deeper into the creative process and understand where the idea came from for the brand...
Can you tell us a bit about your background? What made you want to get into design?
I grew up making all kinds of things: drawings, paintings, cardboard inventions, wooden devices, clay sculptures, stop motion movies, occasionally sewing random goods, and often writing music. All along the way picking up cues from my parents to make much of little, to have patience and careful attention to detail, to make things last, and appreciate creativity.
I’ve always been drawn to simplicity, beauty, and precision. I went to design school unsure of what design really was. But I absolutely fell in love with it. Crafting something deliberately to be both functional and beautiful is something that will forever intrigue me.

How would you describe the design aesthetic of Squarespace?
High fashion. Simple. Striking. No nonsense.

You recently led the design efforts for Squarespace Circle branding. What is Squarespace Circle?
It's an exclusive community of people who build websites on Squarespace. It’s a place where they can come together to support each other and learn from each other. They also get unique Squarespace perks. Like extended trials, optimized customer service, and exclusive content.
Can you briefly talk us through your creative process? How did the concept for the brand come about?
We wanted to create something that was a true sub brand. Something that could live on it's own, but at the same time feel right at home with the proper Squarespace brand. Not your typical tech company add-on, but something people could belong to and find real value in.
Once we landed on the name ‘Circle’ I began researching. First seeking out and cataloging numerous membership programs — including competitors and non-competitors — organizing their various brand assets, and studying the potential we had. I also spent some time examining existing marks with similar overtones to our mission to ensure we would arrive at something unique.
I then moved into a concept phase which was heavy on the ideation of the underlying presence of the brand. We decided to go with an idea I called “The circle in the square” — which combines a fact of geometry with a play on words and is employed to construct a mark whose form and spacing is derived entirely from geometric precision. With this foundation in place, I started sketching hundreds of logo ideas and grid structures. We bubbled a few up to the top for further revisions, and ultimately chose a mark which has a letter C surrounding a diamond. The C is of course for ‘Circle’, the square diamond is meant to symbolize the Squarespace logo, and their relationship is very intentional.
Once the symbol was more or less complete, I started drawing the logotype, which is entirely custom. Keeping the letterforms simple, it is designed to live harmoniously with our core brand typeface, Gotham, yet have a streamlined originality to it.
Both the symbol and the logotype then went through a rigorous refinement phase where I prepped them for final delivery.
I then began to work on the microsite design, and we quickly recognized the need for original artwork to launch the brand. After conceptualizing a number of directions, we decided to go with an idea I had called “Tools to create with”. Since Squarespace is a tool that professionals use alongside the rest of their tool set, it felt appropriate to have fun with this concept and bring physical objects in to provide grounding to an elusive digital realm. David Lee, our Chief Creative Officer, liked the aesthetic of a personal project I did, and we basically modeled the look and feel after it, but on a much bigger scale.
With a clear way forward, I went to work producing, shooting, and retouching the artwork while overseeing the build of the microsite and logo animation. Finally, I prepped some assets for press and social, and we hit the big red launch button.
You worked on everything from brand development, to the artwork, and all the bits in between. How long did the whole process take and were there any unexpected hurdles along the way?
It took about 8 months from project kick-off to launch — with a little more time after the fact for new and upcoming releases.
One of the overarching demands was that it was just me working on everything design related. This was an advantage for the sake of consistency, but meant that I was performing just as many logistical and admin roles as I was creating. Not to mention I was also splitting my time on other deliverables for completely different projects. It was a real juggling act.
The biggest challenge though was finding a new visual representation of a word that already has an inherent and ingrained visual connotation. Creating a logo which refers to the name of a shape was no easy task.
Another hurdle was the production of the artwork. It was a simple idea: paint a bunch of tools white, lay them out, and take a picture. But all of the logistics that went into it made for some tricky problems to solve — the biggest of which might have been staging the primary logo shot. Given the constraints, there was a lot of working backwards: setting up the rig and camera well before a single item was placed, creating a huge paper template with holes cut out of it to serve as a guideline for precise item placement, and a tight squeeze yoga balancing act to carefully position everything on the floor without bumping anything else.
Where did you find all the tools that are used in the logo?
I spent a couple days going all over town in search of interesting items. Hitting thrift stores, retail stores, hardware stores, art supply stores, and a computer parts store to curate a collection of stuff that would work well.
How did you visualise the layout of the tools to become the final logo?
It’s one of those things you can only plan so much for. A lot of the visualization happened in my head. And a lot simply came from whatever objects I could affordably get my hands on. But before seeking out any objects, I did extensive density experiments to understand the physical sizes needed. I took into account the final logo proportions, the size of the photography room I had access to, the length of the camera lens I would need, what would look the best aesthetically, and what would make the most sense conceptually.
Back in the studio, after collecting a slew of items, I explored how they could fit together — using the biggest surface I could find, the floor. I measured out the logo dimensions with masking tape to serve as guidelines. Once I found the optimal arrangement, the items were thoroughly cleaned and prepped for paint.
At the time, it was early January in Portland. It was cold and wet, and the only space available for painting was a co-worker’s tiny backyard shed. Only a fraction of the hundreds of items needing paint could fit inside at once, and they each needed multiple coats. That, along with the extra long drying times due to the temperature, required some makeshift solutions to speed up the process as much as possible. I made a dozen or so flat trays covered in wax paper to help me shuffle things from the shed out back, to the garage in front for drying, back and forth, over and over again. It was kind of ironic that to make this pristine looking all-white imagery, I was slopping around in mud hoping I didn’t drop the freshly painted tray of photoready gadgets.
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SIX-MONTH TRIAL PERIODS

This is the biggest Circle gift. Instead of a 2-week free trial, Circle members get trials periods that are six-months long so clients have plenty of time for back-and-forth before going live.

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EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

Sharpen your skills and grow your business with advanced guides, product release notes, and other members-only materials. This is especially helpful if you're looking to advance your skills and expand your business to include a web design component.

A COMMUNITY OF EXPERTS

Join the Circle Forum where members can share product support, trade tips and tricks, and provide feedback on each other’s work. Squarespace also posts product and policy updates in the forum so that members are always up-to-date on the platform.


And this is just the start... Squarespace Circle is growing and they're always listening and looking for new ways to improve your workflow and help you sell your services.

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