Bandit opened its digital doors in October 2020. It feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago at the same time.
When we were creating the first version of the logo, we had a shoe-string budget and a million different ideas. Forecasting a dizzying amount of iteration requests, we decided, rather than ask our graphic designer friends for help, to launch a contest on the platform 99Designs. After reviewing dozens of portfolios and unremarkable first submissions, we stumbled upon a diamond in the rough named Veronika. Her portfolio was slim, but weird enough that it intrigued us. Here are the two designs she had on display:
We requested for Veronika to join the contest and put forward a submission. A few days later, we knew she was going to be our designer. She understood the assignment and created the simple, bold design that came to be our first logo.
Veronika lives in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The situation for Ukrainians is gut-wrenching, scary, and appalling. Though it’s been a while since we last spoke, we reached out to Veronika to see how she’s doing. Fortunately, she’s safe, as of now. We also let her know how many people have been supportive of the brand she designed, which brought her a glimmer of joy. Here’s her message:
You can find resources to help support Ukraine at the bottom of this post.
ESTABLISHING OUR PURPOSE
A rollercoaster of a year post-launch, we decided to go all in: shut Bandit down and rebuild the entire thing from scratch. The original logo was solid, no doubt. But it was time to re-think a few things—all of which we’ll talk about in the section below, “Creating a New Identity.”
We parallel-pathed the development of our new visual identity with the evolution of our overarching purpose, which is defined as both a mission and vision. It clarifies who we are and why we exist. These two statements make up Bandit’s North Star. It’s the inspiration behind our brand design, voice, and messaging. It’s also the filter for future decision-making as we continue to partner, grow, and mature.
From October to January, we sculpted our mission and vision. We deliberated over hundreds of versions, constantly swapping in and out different verbs, adjectives, and messages to find the perfect purpose for what we wanted Bandit to become.
“Evolve the full experience of running.” The keyword here is “full.” There are so many aspects of the running experience, all ripe for evolution: products, storytelling, racing, spectating, nutrition, celebrations, etc. Our mission will never change for as long as Bandit exists (ideally forever). Whether Bandit is in a leading or supporting role, powering up community partners, we’ll come into the office every day and work toward evolving the full experience of running for you.
Which is slightly more tangible, is broken down into what, why, and how: “To become the world’s most authentic, community-driven running brand (what), and to inspire greater participation and passion in the sport (why) by developing unique products, experiences, and stories hand-in-hand with runners from around the globe (how).”
Our “why” doesn’t stop there, though. The ultimate reason we want to inspire greater participation and passion in the sport is because we’ve all experienced the positive ripple effect running has in other areas of our lives. Some of us in the office are transplants, coming into running from other sports. Coming from that perspective, it's apparent that running, unlike most sports, isn’t a game. Running instills perseverance, commitment, grit, patience, resilience, and focus—traits that lead you toward a healthy, successful life, by any measure. We believe the more people who run, the better the world will be.
LIVING OUT OUR VALUES
Once the mission and vision were locked in and Bandit began growing, we needed to establish the behaviors we sought most in potential hires. We started with a list north of a hundred behaviors. Different types of businesses require different personalities and traits. For Bandit, it was obvious our behaviors needed to reflect our startup origins, being deeply rooted in the community and our desire to achieve excellence.
Straight out of our strategy deck, here are the behaviors we landed on and how we defined each:
Core values are not something you can create in a silo. They’re intended to be representative of the current team and aspirational for the team you want to become. So, once the team was more formed, we literally circled up and discussed our personal values with a moderator. We asked ourselves, What's enabled us to do our best work? What are our standards? And, ultimately, what will set us up for long-term success? Values start internally, but get displayed externally in the quality of our products, experiences, and stories.
Our three core values are Trust, Empathy, and Excellence.
To trust is to empower each other with autonomy. We’re firm believers that when an environment is built on a foundation of trust, we can all feel 100% comfortable to bring our authentic selves to work. And when we can do that, we’re able to do our very best, individually and together.
To empathize is to pause, reflect, and understand. We often talk about empathy as it relates to our name, Bandit, and what it means in the running world. Why would someone run a race without registering? Having empathy allows us not to jump to conclusions. After all, the OG Bandit’s are Kathrine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb.
Excellence is where we set the bar for our performance. Everything we do has to be excellent or we won’t put it out into the world. This doesn’t come unnaturally to us. At Bandit, we’re not particularly interested in doing things fast or easy. We want to challenge ourselves to do some of the best, most difficult work of our careers. This means going big, leaving no stone unturned, and testing everything with members of the community.
CREATING A NEW IDENTITY
The journey for an evolved version of the Bandit branding began by creating a short list of criteria for what we wanted to achieve. We decided the logo, word-mark, font, and palette must all abide by these rules:
- It must be iconic, simple, and elevated.
- It must offset the inherent aggressiveness of the word “Bandit.”
- It must appeal to the cultural aesthetic of global markets.
- It must be dynamic and lend itself to creativity and experimentation.
- It must evoke equal parts performance and lifestyle.
Together with our design partners (and Greenpoint neighbors), View-Source, we spent four months discovering, analyzing, conceptualizing, strategizing, refining, and perfecting.
As soon as the initial references were nailed down and we had a clear idea of which design territories we were going to be playing in, we surveyed 60 runners in 10 different cities to gain a deeper understanding of community preferences. We rinsed and repeated an elaborate and thorough design process until we finally arrived at the new brand you see today.
Let’s start with our logo, which we named the “Current.” Whenever we need to brainstorm, we usually do it late on Fridays, when we’re borderline delirious and in a whacky mood that lends to no-holds-barred ideation. We call it the Current because it's symbolic of movement—the flow of the ocean and electricity—but also because it harks back to our design philosophy of not being nostalgic, futuristic, or trendy. We’re current—fully present in the moment.
The Current was hand-drawn by an artist, then recreated digitally (see photocopies of the original sketches in the main image above; keep scrolling all the way to the top). It’s one single stroke, but it means different things to different people, and that’s exactly what we wanted. It’s entirely up for interpretation. Some see a trail, some see a track, some see a road, some see Eastern influence, some see it all. There’s no wrong way to look at it. We appreciate its wavy architecture, its twists and turns, emblematic of the journey we all share with running.
One of our favorite designers is the legendary Dieter Rams, who established our bible, 10 Principles for Good Design. While we like to think the Bandit word-mark achieves each applicable one, the most important to us is Principle 7: Good Design is Long-Lasting. The way the word-mark is designed can work during Ram's days at Braun in the 50's, through today and well into the future. The subtle, unique curvature of the “B” resembles that of the Current, as well as several letters in our variable font, Tomato Grotesk. The ligatured “IT” symbolizes the connections we make being part of our community and embodies the message we’re all in this together.
As a brand, we view the running community's needs directly through a fashion lens. We believe clothes should be a canvas for your unique personal style and self-expression, while effortlessly moving through every aspect of life. That elevated simplicity, not necessarily tethered to a season, gender, or trend, is key.
We refuse to sacrifice fashion for function and vice versa. We're passionate about running and looking good while doing it, not to mention after. Our dedication to always taking a community-first approach to our design process enables us to create the ultimate wardrobe on and off the track.
TO THE FUTURE
We take a lot of pride in slipping into stealth mode to establish our mission, vision, behaviors, and values before creating a new product. Laying a strong foundation with intention is key to creating a brand we can all be proud of growing.
We’re currently hiring a VP of Marketing, a Director of Operations, a Production Assistant, and an Associate Apparel Designer. If you’re interested, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Ways to support Ukraine: