Paste values only — building a brand in excel


Each quarter, some poor soul submits a report to EIOPA. The European regulatory body for the insurance industry.

The overlap in the Venn diagram of financial solvency and romantic rhetoric is precisely 0.0%. Financial solvency is dry.

Now imagine there is some software that generates reports for this mundane corporate drudgery. We’re into paper-cut torture territory.

There’s more. The software is Excel-based. So paper-cuts from sheets of data, ready to be cut.

To talk about, it’s boring; to do is painstaking. Weeks of building spreadsheets, inputting data, tallying and exporting columns. Weeks of sitting at the same desk, the same computer, the same 3 cups of coffee and one Earl Gray at 4.30 pm, and the same surprise every day that it’s gone cold, far too quickly. Don’t you dare yawn!

When it’s the end of the quarter, do it all again. Welcome to the world insurance reporting. Click, click, boom.

One of our favourite clients provides software that serves this sadistic need. They assist with financial solvency. They’re called FS Assist.

A rebrand for FS Assist was a challenging prospect but also an opportunity to create something bold. To stand apart. To change an industry’s thinking. Users of their product were uninspired by the prospect of looking at dull, lifeless screens after looking at a dull, lifeless welcome screen and website.

Like most great ideas, this one came from simplicity and was staring us square in the face. Most people see numbers when they look at spreadsheets, we see the grid. Designers eh?

Could we use the rectangular cells of a spreadsheet to design the logo for a company whose software is Excel-based?

It turns out we could. By stacking an F on top of an S, we were able to craft a really strong monogram that referenced methodical process and sharing. Two things at the core of this process.

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The cells are little bricks and the process is one of building. It practically designs itself, if you know where and how to look.

We then positioned some complementary type beneath to draw the eye vertically and horizontally along the mark. This mimics the scanning of rows and columns your eye has to do gazillions of times per day, if you’re lucky enough.

The very cells that make Excel spreadsheets are at the beating heart of this brand. More than that; they are the brand’s DNA. They infiltrate everything to define a grid and entire design system.

We pushed the narrative of repetition and building further and were led to architectural imagery which portrays two things: the simplicity of building something permanent one unit (or cell) at a time, and the reassurance of structure. Saturated overlaying colour gradients energise the work and command attention (in a world of corporate cornflower blue).


Now when users interact with FS Assist’s software, they still scan and alter hundreds of cells each day. The difference is they’re reminded that they’re building something logically, methodically, mechanically, one part at a time.

We’ve celebrated the process. We’ve confronted the painful and answered tough questions to find a fit.

Off the back of this rebrand, the company has launched a new slew of new digital products. They’re named Slate, Glass and Iron; building materials that reinforce the process, permanence and what the data means, to those who depend upon it. Also, they’ll be publishing white papers to consolidate their position as market leaders.

We are all influenced by these quarterly reports from insurance companies, BTW. CEOs, CFOs & CDOs look to FS Assist’s products and data to make important decisions about investments that affect us all.

Our job was to present the information beautifully. Clear information equals confident decisions, equals making FS Assist’s clients’ lives simpler.

Also, clear information equals good mood. Hard-to-decipher information equals frustration. Glass, in particular, helps with this.

Changing how people think starts with influencing how they absorb information. Not quite so boring after all…

See more of our thinking on this project, or get in touch if you’re interested in producing white papers or brand strategy.

Al Walker