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Blog & Portfolio

  • Writer's pictureGabriella Mikiewicz

Portfolio highlight: Building a brand for a community of internationals discovering Norway

Unlock Norway is a passion project I started in March 2023. Let me take you on a brand-building journey from idea to deployment.

I knew I wanted to start sharing information, tips, fun facts, and more related to life in Norway, specifically targeting internationals. But I was worried about starting a brand new account from scratch, and whether I would be taken seriously without the social proof of a lot of followers.

Instead of posting through my own name and account, I decided to create a brand that would allow me to really specify my niche, invite others to join the content creation process and team down the line, and generate a sense of professionalism that would be useful for a brand new account just starting out—all while (hopefully) maintaining a small semblance of anonymity.

Unlock Norway is my Oslo-based passion project for internationals to discover a different side of Norway

What's in a name? (Hint: a lot)

First things first, I had to come up with a name for this new passion project. Unlock Norway came from several rounds of brainstorming, asking friends and family for ideas and feedback, and researching into competitors and keywords.

I knew I wanted to have 'Norway' in the title to help with searchability/findability (which has definitely benefited me from the very beginning). I also liked the idea of using a verb in the title which, in the imperative form, would give people an idea of what they can do when following or joining such a community. Instead of 'Unlocking Norway', for example, 'Unlock Norway' is less about me and my actions, but rather puts more control into my audience's hands.

The phrase also implies that Norway is somehow 'locked' or closed, which has been something I've felt, and I've heard similar things from others. Calling this project 'Unlock Norway' also gave me the opportunity to think about the symbolism of the name, and how I can use that in the visual identity.

Branding quick guide

See more of my branding work:

I have an idea, I have a name... now what?

The next step in building the Unlock Norway brand was to start thinking of its visual identity.

I started by imagining all the possible places that Unlock Norway could show up: Instagram and LinkedIn for sure. I've always wanted to print stickers... The logo might be used on posters or flyers, too. I should have a website eventually, so I need to think about that as well. All of these are important considerations when designing a brand from scratch.

I spent some time looking through color pallets, browsing Pinterest, and seeing what competitors or similar projects in other countries were doing. One idea occurred to use blue and red, the colors of the Norwegian flag, but I didn't want to be too ~patriotic, and I considered what would happen if I moved and wanted to start this project in another country.

I knew I wanted something bold, modern, and fun; something that would pop and draw attention but maintain a sense of professionalism to build trust. I first chose the yellow/greenish/neon color as my first choice, then built around that. I added a light purple which is pretty, modern, and gentle compared to the harsher look that the neon color provides. Dark blue and dark green were necessary to add enough contrast with the purple and green/yellow. And off-white, because I don't like designing with white. But that's for a future blog post...

Once I had an idea for a color pallet, a name, a list of fun fonts I liked, and a visual concept of playing with the word 'unlock', I turned to doodling logo ideas. I tried everything from drawing a little lock logo and using keys in various places, until I got to this final iteration where the K and O join together to make a key. And I have to say, I really like it.

Designing for Instagram (feed posts + reels)

Designing for social media (more coming soon)

Instagram is continuously changing, being "inspired" by TikTok, and one of the trends that I've noticed most over the last few years is that the platforms are moving toward unpolished and authentic visual identities.

See more of my social media designing work:

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