My time at Polaris Alpha was a fantastic experience highlighted by the creation of a beautiful brand. As the Director of Design, I was able to stand up the first corporate UX/UI team. Admittedly, I didn't know what I was doing, but I knew it was important and felt that it was necessary to keep moving in the right direction. Ultimately, we created a design library, user personas, started A/B testing (ask me about pizza lunches), gathered and applied user research, and started moving to iterative to dev cycles.
All of this in the midst of a merger that combined three teams geolocated across the country.
I BELIEVE NIKE SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT THIS
Just do it.
Change is hard at a company that has always experienced success by doing things a certain way. It's even harder if the person who is pushing for that change is not really sure what he is doing. The winner of the "he gets an A for effort category" goes to Jay Bustamante!! For his part in bringing about the first UX/UI team that was an actual company resource!
Below are some screenshots of CACE, the first project we touched as a unified team.
Unfortunately, our merry cross-functional group had an expiration date. Less than 7 months after our formation, we were acquired by Parsons and our team was sent in different directions. We were able to impact a few other products, but not in the ways that I had hoped. Below are a few more examples of the what we did do.
Building a brand.
Polaris Alpha was formed when Intelligent Software Solutions, EOIR and Proteus Technologies merged when acquired by Arlington Capital Partners.
ISS + EOIR + PROTEUS 4EVER.
After much deliberation, the name Polaris Alpha was agreed upon by the leadership.
To my surprise, rather than have the logo created internally, one of the members of the executive team crowd sourced a logo. The rationale behind that decision was that we had 3 different teams coming together so to not show favoritism, the logo would be created externally.
This was the winning logo.
SOMETHING NEEDED TO BE DONE.
I managed to set up a meeting with the CEO to discuss the decision. He informed me that the logo was approved, and we would be moving forward. I needed a way to convince him to give us a chance. At this point, I knew that the leadership team was having a hard time combining personnel on org charts, so I proposed that he give my team 48 hours to come up with something better, if what we came up with was not a substantial improvement, I would remove my name from design leadership contention.
He agreed, with requirements. We needed to keep the star and the swoop elements. 48 hours later, my talented team came up with this.
The logo was immediately approved by the CEO and unanimously approved by the executive team. A short time later I was named Director of Design for Polaris Alpha.
Time to get to work on a brand.
Meet the kite(s)!
After several meetings, we not only came away with our mission, vision and core values but also the first big challenge of the Polaris Alpha brand. How do we shuffle all of our capabilities under one cohesive structure while paying homage to our individual pasts?
We had expertise, products and capabilities within:
C2 (air defense)
Etc (other stuff)
After countless hours of digging through the archives of 3 disparate companies, I found this concept developed by the legacy ISS company in the early 2000’s.
This was a solid concept with a tidy way to sort and categorize our efficiencies. What it desperately needed was a rebrand.
With our newfound company being called Polaris Alpha, I came up with the concept “From Terra to Alpha”. I took the list and assigned new, branded names and icons to each.
Surface became Terra
Ocean became Mariner
Public Safety became Populus
Etc (unknown) became Noctis
Cyber Security became Cipher
Machine Learning became Cerebrum
C2 became Strata
Space became Alpha
I loved this brand idea. I mean, I really loved it.
I really felt like it checked off the requirements, it allowed us to group our organization is a way that made sense, it tied to our history and it was beautiful. I firmly believed that we crushed it.
Then, as quickly as the kite concept took off, the wind stopped and
THE KITES FELL.
Through a series of meetings with executive leadership, the concept died.
Cause of death was two fold. Naming and Structure.
Names were considered too abstract, more literal names were preferred. This was easy to overcome
The naming structure conflicted with Polaris Alpha's structure as a company. This caused a lot of conflict and ultimately was the biggest reason this idea didn't work.
I needed a new approach.
A STELLAR IDEA.
We needed a way to create groups that lined up with the structure of the company. We also wanted to find a way to use the work we already put in.
It started with a few dots, putting dots on the kites. The initial idea was to focus on technology, so the kites with dots turned into nodes. As we put the nodes side by side to look at the set together, we realized that if we made the connecting dots a little larger, they looked like constellations.
With the theme of Star Trek playing in my head and later playing during creative team meetings, it was time to explore where our new constellations would take us.
As we started pinning items to our wall (literally), our constellations started to take form. Domain capabilities started to get stars assigned to them, sometimes with entire solar systems worth of solutions. Viewing our customers as travelers through space, we created a navigational concept for our website and the hierarchy of everything just fell into place.
While every resource you can find will tell you that after establishing your mission, vision and core values you need to establish a brand guide, its rarely the case in the real world where the company is expected to conduct business immediately.
MAKING THE BRAND
I have to admit, creating this brand guide was one of the best working team experiences I've ever had. Every single member of my team played a big role in the brand creation. I simply came in with some inspiration, and it just took off.
Unfortunately the brand guide was never finished. About 2/3 of the way through our brand book we got a notification from leadership asking us to stop all work, Polaris Alpha had been sold. Below is what we were able to achieve before the work stoppage.
As is usually the case when you work for a corporation, there are tons of assets that I could share. Below are some of my favorites, each for their own reason.
Below is an image gallery of beautiful artifacts my team created for Polaris Alpha. It's work we were all very proud of and ultimately caught the attention of a much larger company that made the ownership an offer they couldn't refuse.
Within 5 months of launching our new branded material, Polaris Alpha was the top hit on Google for the term "constellation", pulling up imagery that we created ahead of actual constellations.