Lyft’s Poppy, Colorful New Look, Signature Font and Icons Are Meant to Energize the Growing Brand

VP and creative director Jesse McMillin explains the thinking

Lyft has expanded its color palette beyond its signature pink, white and black. Lyft
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Lyft has a new look. The company created a signature font, icons and expanded its color palette—adding “a dynamic secondary palette,” according to Lyft vp and creative director Jesse McMillin—as a way to energize and elevate the growing ride-sharing company.

Created by the company’s in-house creative team, the new look is part of a broader strategy to refine how the brand goes to market at a time when the company is growing. And the team isn’t done—evolving the brand’s look and feel to make sure it is modern and relevant is a continual project.

The point of the new work is to protect and elevate the brand while “finding all these new ways to make ourselves more sophisticated, more dynamic and to bring energy to who we are as a brand,” explained McMillin, who joined Lyft from Virgin Airlines four years ago. “To me, that leans into things like our visual identity, the colors, design principals and personality, our tone of voice and how we show up in the world or our digital experience.”

Instead of moving away from the company’s signature pink, black and white color palette, the design team worked to come up with lots of dustier pastel colors, that would accentuate those foundational colors to make sure the brand could be as visually interesting and dynamic as possible.

“We send hundreds of emails everyday,” said McMillin. “If we’re doing that and we only use these three colors we might not have enough of a dynamic quality to make sure these things are brought to life, to make sure they are interesting and relevant to the particular pieces of communication that we’re sending.”

To create the refreshed look and feel the creative team cooked up three main brand principles as well as a comprehensive brand guideline, something that’s been in the works for the last seven or eight months. “A lot of it was looking at, how do we elevate and bring to life who we are as a brand and create a whole new cast of characters, so to speak, to give a broad range of people the tools that they need while not losing that core of who we are?” said McMillin.

The first brand principle is to keep it simple. “If you’re a designer that’s something you’ve probably heard your whole life, right? A lot of times it’s more about the things you remove and how much you strip away than what you actually leave,” said McMillin.

The second is to have contrasts. “Dynamic contrast are important to the things we make,” said McMillin. “The two founders of the company are two interesting, and very different, people. It’s the space where they were able to come together and find that harmony with each other that really allowed Lyft to be born. … Also drivers and passengers coming together. Two sides of the equation of the service we offer. We wanted to reflect that down to two different and really interesting colors as a way to present information, this dynamic contrast and finding the harmony in things you might not expect to go together but things that actually go very well together.”

The third, is that Lyft is seeking to maintain its rebel spirit and continue to be “irreverent, fun, playful,” noted McMillin, who added that that was “seen in the really early days of the brand with a wild icon like the pink mustache put on the front of the car.”

Visual identity for a digitally-native brand like Lyft is crucial. “As a user of our service most of your interaction is with the digital experience we’ve created,” said McMillin. “When you get in the car a lot of times that’s something that we don’t necessarily control or curate to the same degree that we would with what’s happening in the app.”

Still, the company is aiming to not only have a particular visual aesthetic but to have an emotional connection with consumers.

He continued: “Everything we’ve done creatively as a brand is to accentuate that fun, irreverent, human quality, energizing, colorful, any of those types of words might be the way we present a digital experience, an ad out in the world or even in your inbox. Hopefully we’re doing that type of stuff there. Then when you get in the car and your driver is a little bit more friendly than the average form of transportation you might be taking that feeling is consistent through those things. Ideally, if we’re doing all of that well the feeling you have using our digital experience is reflected in the experience you have in the car, even if it’s just you arrive on time and your driver was really friendly.”

As for the new custom font, Lyft Pro, the in-house creative team based it on an existing font, Sofia. “Typography, like most designers will tell you, is a really important part of any visual language,” said McMillin. “One of the reasons why we really liked [Sofia] was that the letter forms, it’s a very modern and contemporary feeling. It’s sans serif and has a clean, modern feeling.”

Evolving a brand’s look and feel is something the Lyft team will work on continually, noted McMillin. “This is something that you’re constantly looking to refine and make sure the things you do are flexible enough to continue to grow,” he said. “What we’re excited about is that this has a real point-of-view and it’s going to inform a lot of the work you’ll see coming out from us in the coming months and years.”

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.