How Ragged Edge Used Brand To Get People To Think Brain-First With Heights
by Max Ottignon on 01/23/2020 | 4 Minute Read
The brain is the most vital organ in the body. But in an era where healthy living gets viewed as a status symbol, we’re still more likely to care about our abs than our brains.
That’s starting to change. And like most significant changes this century, it began in Silicon Valley. Founders started looking for ways to hack their brains as they would a line of code, trying to eke out every last bit of potential in search of an edge. The nootropics industry gathered momentum, with products breathlessly channeling the Limitless movie, promising instant "FOCUS MODE," "SMART MODE," or, when all else fails, "BRAIN DUST."
Entrepreneurs Dan Murray-Serter and Joel Freeman called bullshit. They wanted to re-educate the market with a brand built by experts (they’ve recruited a who’s who of cognitive science) and founded in substance. Enhanced cognitive performance comes from consistently feeding your brain the right food, and living the right lifestyle, and getting enough sleep. And they’ve developed a service to help you get there; Heights is a cognitive performance subscription that combines a smarter supplement with regular advice and inspiration.
But it’s not a quick fix. It takes time, effort, and commitment. That’s a tough sell for any brand, but like most problems, it’s easier to tackle when it’s broken down into its fundamental challenges.
With any product in the health category, the first challenge is to get people to trust what you’re telling them. For Heights, that meant moving away from the bro-aesthetic of the nootropics category, borrowing less from physical performance brands in favor of something more thoughtful.
Instead of angry reds and bold type, we used colors associated with the medical world, pairing them with calm, understated typography. And from a user experience, it was necessary to focus on measured facts, not wild over-claims. We built the design system to accommodate detail, using iconography and clear typographic hierarchy to enable the brand to deliver complex messages across every application, from the packaging through to the website.
But too much science is off-putting. It won’t carry the emotional pull necessary to change behavior. Once we’d convinced people, we needed to seduce them.
The health category has demonstrated a few ways to tackle this. Welly—Target’s first-aid brand—combines medical cues with a sense of naivety and fun, rebranding plasters as "bravery badges." Who wouldn’t want one of those? One Medical borrows from luxury lifestyle brands to create an aspirational alternative to the functional primary care category. In each case, they retain some key cues, particularly medical green, but play with the rest of their codes to create brands that draw people in.
For Heights, we gave our health-inspired colors a pastel twist, positioning the brand as much in lifestyle as in health. Soft blues and greens were used confidently and paired with photography that was carefully art directed to feel premium and aspirational. Rather than functional representations of the product and ingredients, we worked with photographer Kuba Wieczorek to create highly stylized shots—often abstract. Less clinical, more artful.
Compel People To Act
In crowded categories, credibility and aspiration aren’t enough on their own. You have to seize people’s attention. Digital channels, particularly Instagram, were going to be crucial, so we needed to find a way to cut through on carefully curated feeds.
We started with a name that functioned as a call to action, pushing the audience to reach new heights along with a brain-like logotype designed to fill any space it was in, a visual invitation to stretch your brain. It can be used as a traditional logo to sit comfortably within the lifestyle aesthetic. But where additional stand-out is needed, particularly in comms, it can be used boldly at scale to dominate layouts, or as a background pattern. Variable logos need lots of care and attention in execution, but for Heights, it meant we could keep the rest of the visual system incredibly simple and focussed, building equity into a single asset that could get applied anywhere and everywhere.
Finally, we paired the visual identity with a tone of voice designed to feel outspoken yet witty. Headlines such as "your future self will thank you," "this won’t work unless you do," and "you bring the brain, we bring the power" aimed to get the reader to stop and think.
A Question of Balance
With these three principles in place, bringing the brand to life became a simple balancing act. Which one we dialed up depended on where you were in the customer experience and the strategic imperatives of each element. Packaging could afford to focus on the aspiration, while comms would need a bolder approach compelling people to act.
Great brands can make complex and nuanced ideas feel clear and uncomplicated. But just like cognitive performance, it takes hard work and commitment to get there.