Dropbox rebrands with new focus on being “a living workplace”

Dropbox has revealed the biggest change to its branding in 10 years as it moves away from file sharing and towards online tools to rival iWork and Google Drive

Dropbox was founded in 2007 – two years before WeTransfer launched in Amsterdam and five years before the release of Google Drive. Since then, the number of file sharing sites and workplace apps has grown exponentially. Google Maps co-creator Bret Taylor founded Quip in 2012 (the same year that Google launched Drive), Microsoft launched OneDrive in 2015 and Facebook has been running beta versions of its business offering, Workplace.

Dropbox still has a huge following – it hit 500 million registered account users in 2016 – but Google Drive has surpassed this with 800 million. On the file sharing side, WeTransfer continues to grow (it reached 100 million monthly users last year) and has built a strong following in the creative industries through showcasing work from artists, designers and photographers on its homepage.

At 10 years old, Dropbox was beginning to look dated alongside its rivals. Its logo was uninspiring and functionality was limited compared to platforms like Google Drive. Earlier this year, the company launched note-taking app Paper (a competitor to Google Docs) and SmartSync (a feature that allows users to access files stored in the cloud via their desktop) for paying customers.

Today, the company revealed a major overhaul of its branding to reflect its new focus on “building tools that help teams find focus, stay in their flow and unleash their creative energy”. The company has worked with New York agency Collins – the team behind Spotify’s recent overhaul – and with ad agency 72andSunny to create a “brand anthem” film.

The film features trippy visuals – from kaleidoscopic imagery to psychedelic illustrations and CG graphics – and voiceovers pondering what creative energy means.

With footage of Dropbox users doing amazing things (the ad features set designers, storyboard artists and a medical research team as well as a charitable enterprise); an uplifting soundtrack (Woodkid’s Run Boy Run – which has also featured in ads for Cancer Research, O2, World of Warcraft and Assassins Creed), and an empowering message (“The world needs your creative energy”), the aim is firmly on making users feel inspired.

This approach seems to be having the desired effect among people who have viewed the ad on YouTube. One comment reads: “So cool! Never expected Dropbox to leave me feeling inspired!” while another reads: “Definitely makes me look at Dropbox as a creative resource.” There was also some confusion – with one viewer posting: “Music and video the best. But don’t understand. It’s Dropbox?” – an indication of the platform’s previous image problem.

Dropbox’s visual identity has also undergone a makeover. In a blog post announcing the rebrand, VP of design Nicholas Jitkoff and creative director Aaron Robbs said the brand’s logo has been reworked to reflect Dropbox’s new positioning as “a living workplace”. Its box symbol has been simplified and now appears in a range of colours alongside a new word mark.

“Our old logo was a blue box that implied ‘Dropbox is a great place to store stuff’. The new one is cleaner and simpler – and we’ve evolved it from a literal box to a collection of surfaces to show that Dropbox is an open platform and a place for creation,” they explain.

The blue and white colour palette has been replaced with contrasting shades to create a more vibrant platform. The homepage features burgundy and light blue while the brand film shows dark green paired with yellow, red with pale green and orange with lilac.

New typeface Sharp Grotesk includes 259 fonts. Jitkoff and Robbs say this gives the brand “lots of versatility, allowing us to “speak” in a variety of tones…. In a marketing campaign, we can dial things up to provoke and inspire creative energy. But in our product, where people need to concentrate on their work, we can dial it down,” they write.

Dropbox has also introduced some playful illustrations to accompany notifications on the website. “We’ve used illustration to bring to life our product and brand since Dropbox started over 10 years ago,” explain Jitkoff and Robbs. “Our new illustration style picks up where our earliest style – loose, handmade, witty – left off. We create rough sketches using graphite, then pair them with colourful, abstract shapes to bring the creative process to life. Our style is inspired by the moment when you first have an idea, and serves as a reminder that the canvas is only blank until you make the first mark.”

CMO Carolyn Feinstein says the rebrand aims to reflect the changing ways in which people are using the site. “Musicians create and share compositions,” she writes in another blog post. “Show runners iterate on scripts. Set designers turn sketches into scenes that transport us into new worlds. Medical researchers co-ordinate data with their teams to develop vaccines…. But while the way people use Dropbox has changed dramatically over the past ten years our brand hasn’t.”

Jitkoff and Robbs say that research revealed Dropbox’s users regularly feel overwhelmed and unable to produce their best work due to distractions from various notifications and apps as well as cluttered inboxes. The company’s new branding is a response to this, with the brand positioning itself as a one-stop-shop for people to make, store, share and collaborate on everything from concept art to important documents.

In keeping with this idea of collaboration, the brand has paired creatives from different fields to produce a set of collaborative artworks that will be rolled out over the next few months. Two collaborations have been revealed so far: US illustrator David McLeod’s work was paired with designer and artist Davy Evans’ and UK illustrator Lynnie Zulu’s with photographer Alexandra Gavillet’s.

Artwork by Lynnie Zulu and Alexandra Gavillet
Artwork by David McLeod and Davy Evans

Dropbox says users will begin to see its new look roll out across the platform over the next few weeks. The company will also be launching a global ad campaign.

It’s early days but the new branding is confident, bold and much more inspiring than before. Dropbox has been slow to adapt and innovate in the past – leaving it lagging behind competitors – but its new positioning indicates a change in direction.

The platform still faces tough competition – not just from Google Drive but the many other platforms that allow users to edit and share files as well as Microsoft Office and Apple’s iWork. But it stands a much better chance of luring people away from these platforms with its additional features and more dynamic design. Consumers today don’t just want a service that works – they want one that surprises and delights and is a joy to use – and it seems Dropbox has finally acknowledged this with the launch of its new look.

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