If you’ve been hanging out at our website or perusing through our archives, you may have noticed Tearsheet looking a little different.
In a nutshell, here’s what we’ve changed:
- A more colorful color scheme
- A rounder-looking logo
- New typography and images
- A whole new website layout
It’s not what we’d call a rebrand, per se, but rather a refresh – Tearsheet after a spa day, if you will.
But even a brand refresh isn’t easy…creating a new us while still staying true to, well, us, is a challenge.
For this story, we’re diving into the behind-the-scenes of Tearsheet’s journey towards this newer look.
A quick history of Tearsheet
Once upon a time – over ten years ago – Tearsheet wasn’t a publication. Rather, it was a one-person show consisting of one weekly newsletter and one weekly podcast, run by Tearsheet’s founder, Zack Miller.
Back then, fintech was still in its infancy – as in, no one was even using the term ‘fintech’ yet. New tech companies challenging incumbents were popping up, especially in the investing space, but no one was there to consolidate all this information.
“There were all these incredible entrepreneurs tackling these incredibly big problems unseating the incumbents in finance, and there wasn't really a way to understand what was going on. So in my mind, when I started writing about these companies in a weekly newsletter, and hosting them on a weekly podcast, that was sort of a solution to that,” said Zack. “I also had this idea that we were building a community of like-minded people who are also interested in these things. It was like bringing a spotlight on these people doing something that no one was really paying attention to yet.”
Slowly but surely, through hiring new writers, Tearsheet began producing more content, converting it to publication status. And that meant it needed a website.
The site’s first redesign in 2016 came about as a way to make the reader’s experience easier, while still sticking to Tearsheet’s main goal as a publication: bringing the facts – without all the fat.
“A lot of the B2B media trade publications, especially those founded circa 1990 or the early 2000s, tended to have this kind of wide magazine style, with just tons of content and pop-ups everywhere, and it just wasn’t a very good experience,” said Zack. “What we wanted to do was to create something more resembling a consumer experience, even though it's for a business reader.”
According to Zack, that meant redesigning every aspect of the website, from layout, to font, to color scheme, in a way that valued simplicity and authority. For example, the early dark blue Tearsheet logo had to do with the sense of security and trust that color has a history of representing in the financial world.
“We had gotten great feedback over the years that even though our website was a bit long in the tooth, people really appreciated how clearly everything was laid out,” said Zack.
But since 2016, Tearsheet has managed to grow even more arms, including reaching its 500th podcast episode, producing five new podcasts and eight new newsletters, and launching three new conferences.
Tearsheet’s brand refresh comes about as a way to reflect the publication’s growth and development. Moreover, it speaks to the changes we’re seeing in the industry at large.
“Part of what we've always stood for as the brand was yes, we understand the challenges, but we also have an eye towards the future, and towards shaking things up, because things are changing – they change slowly in our industry, but they are changing,” said Zack.
The thinking process behind the refresh
The mastermind behind Tearsheet’s brand refresh is Kajal Gala, founder and UX director at Design Rocket, a design firm that has worked with companies like Skift and FutureAdvisor.
According to Kajal, the first step to refreshing a brand often involves a process of immersion. In Tearsheet’s case, that involved several sessions with members of the team to hear how they perceive the Tearsheet brand.
“This step gives us the clear understanding that we need in order to really be able to create an authentic brand direction,” said Kajal.
Immersion involved reexamining Tearsheet in a way that highlighted its values, personality and goals – almost as if it were a real person. According to former head of studios Rebecca Cohen, this process was not unlike a therapy session.
“We really had to confront who we are, and be honest not only about what we've been doing well, but also not so well, and asking ourselves who we want to be,” said Rebecca. “And that was a hard question because you think you know the answer, but when you're asked to actually respond in real words, it's a challenge.”
What started out as seeking a facelift for the company ended up with looking for a face, says Rebecca:
“It wasn’t just a facelift in the end – it was also figuring out who Tearsheet is and who Tearsheet wants to be into the future, and then making sure we’re representing that visually.”
A challenge Kajal noted that appeared throughout the brand refresh process had to do with figuring out how to pair two seemingly contrasting components within the brand: being established and being forward-thinking.
“One of the hardest design challenges in this project was balancing the idea of representing a very well-established company that has been around for many years with incredible leadership from Zack with the innovative and future-thinking content and analysis that is being done today. We paid very close attention to visual design choices that could best say the full story,” she said.
In Tearsheet’s case, juxtaposition was the name of the game. And you can spot it throughout the changes we’ve made to our brand.
The color scheme may be the most noticeable change in our brand refresh. Our punchy dark blue has been replaced by the more rebelliously paired orange and bluish-purple.
Making the blue a bit more on the purple spectrum, said Zack, helped make the brand feel more playful, while also paying tribute to the authority Tearsheet has managed to build as a publication.
The orange, meanwhile, added contrast to the mix, which could help draw people in, since there aren’t a lot of brands with those colors.
“It's memorable. It's not the same color palette you'd see elsewhere. It’s able to convey the heart-punching, impactful resource that Tearsheet is, as well as its openness to what's unfolding in the future,” said Zack.
A rounder-looking logo
Less immediately apparent, maybe, is our rounder-looking logo. While the T and the S are still reminiscent of the older version of the brand’s logo, there’s now some roundness to the edges, which helps denote a sense of looking towards the future, a potential that Kajal picked up on while working on the project: rounded corners allow for playing with the shapes to frame certain images. Looking at the T, for example — the crossbar and the straight leg can be pulled apart and used to frame other images.
“It’s a way of saying, 'We're looking through Tearsheet to look out into the future of finance',” said Zack. “And we have a lot planned there for our imagery, but the logo itself provides that fun, accessible way to be able to convey that thought to our readers, even if it's not conscious.”
The abstract shapes that you can create from the T and the S, says Rebecca, also help create this sort of Tearsheet signature throughout consumers’ touchpoints with the brand.
“These big, chunky shapes are then able to become these abstract patterns that represent Tearsheet,” she said. “It creates this nice cohesiveness.”
Typography and images
The typography and images chosen for our new branding make the experience reminiscent of a real-life newspaper, with real-life images and more print-age fonts like Merriweather and Sarabun. This part was especially important to Rebecca.
“Our very name, Tearsheet, is a nod to an analog time in finance — the tear sheet was a one-page performance summary brokers would rip out and share with clients,” she said. “Keeping our visual language reminiscent of the tangible paper-in-hand is a direct cue to our honesty, integrity, and relevance.”
But while the typography and images remain very newspaper-like, the combination with the aforementioned use of abstract shapes gives Tearsheet a more modernized flavor.
“It echoes this desire to still be reminiscent of the days of print and interacting with something in real life, but also being digital and seamless.”
New website layout
Looking at the old website, said Zack, there’s a bit of a blog-quality to the whole homepage. You could click on the story of the day, maybe explore our library and check out our announcements, but there wasn’t a lot of categorization.
At the time the website was launched, this format made sense – Tearsheet was still in its beginnings, and there wasn’t a lot to share just yet. When Tearsheet did start producing more, the team found the old website wasn’t expressing the full breadth of what Tearsheet was offering.
“We wanted a website that could convey to a new reader all the great resources that we have going on,” he said.
Our above the fold section, for example, now showcases categories that better express what Tearsheet is all about, including latest news, hot topics, conferences, Tearsheet Pro, awards, and podcasts. That podcast button, specifically, speaks volumes. Today, Tearsheet’s podcast network covers a range of topics, including payments, lending, green finance, and marketing, as well as our recent five-episode Steez podcast, focused on the Gen Z consumer.
“We’re the largest de facto financial services podcast network out there,” said Zack.
Then there’s the section on the homepage called ‘Opinion Makers,’ which brings notice to the range of influential voices Tearsheet highlights through its coverage.
“Tearsheet isn’t just about telling our own stories – we're helping tell the stories of others,” said Zack. “We help our readers identify who the voices are in the industry they should be paying attention to. And we wanted to call that out on the homepage.”
Finally, there’s Tearsheet’s subscription products. For the team, it was important to find a way to make our free content easily accessible, but also showcase what the subscription products offer to those readers who want to go a little deeper, including receiving discounts to conferences and accessing the publication’s entire library.
“We’re read by most of the top firms and venture capitalists who are active in the financial space,” said Zack. “And we wanted to highlight that content as well, to give an incentive for people to stick with us.”
Tearsheet has come a long way since its days as a wee newsletter and podcast. For Zack, that fact is reflected in how tied he feels to the personality of the brand. “[In the past,] I had the brand ‘Tearsheet’, but it was still me. And now it's much bigger than that.”
Part of the goal of the brand refresh is to show readers, new and returning, just how far the publication has come since its infancy, with both quality and quantity at its peak.
“We want to give our readers a reason to come back, and maybe, if they haven't read us in a while, realize just how much more value we’re able to offer them now.”
As we return to in-person conferences, our brand refresh also plays a role in terms of events. According to Shabih Zehra Rao, director of global events at the company, the new look helps the events team better display what both the conferences and Tearsheet are able to offer.
“Our events basically display Tearsheet's persona. They are sort of the front-facing component of Tearsheet to the industry,” said Shabih. “The brand refresh goes hand-in-hand with this. It adds more to Tearsheet's persona and complements the professional yet future-focused outlook that the events display.”
Our new look means that our creative team is inevitably stacked with work. For Hasaan Akhtar, creative director at Tearsheet, there’s a sense of nostalgia mixed with the sense of progress.
“It's very exciting as it gives us an opportunity to look at old stuff we put out and realize how far we've come in our journey to become a leading media company in the fintech space,” he said. "The visuals feel outdated now, but I believe that's how it's supposed to be. It's a great indicator that we're evolving over time.”
Tearsheet’s brand refresh has a bit of a bittersweet quality to it, though. While we’re saying hello to a new look, we just recently said goodbye to Rebecca Cohen, our head of studios, who played a major role in the publication’s development.
“I'm excited to keep reading Tearsheet after I'm no longer there. There’s still so much work, but this is just the beginning.”