Studio Mast photos courtesy of Brandon Lopez
As 3sixteen enters our 17th year of business, we are thankful that the core values we founded the brand on continue to inform the way we run our company. We’re still independently owned and operated. We still strive to make the best clothes that we can, using materials that inspire us and last long. We still place a high value on our relationships with vendors, suppliers, and customers. We still want to make clothes in the USA.
Certain things have to change, though. Today, we’re launching a new brand identity that we’ve been working on together with Denver-based graphic design firm Studio Mast for the better part of 2019. And while we still love all the elements of our old branding - specifically, the signature and the pickaxes - we felt that a refresh was necessary.
3sixteen’s been using the same primary script wordmark for almost 15 years now and while we recognize that significant brand equity has been built over this time, it also presented some challenges that were too difficult to overcome. The greatest of these was scalability; to put it simply, the logo degraded when the size was reduced past a certain point due to the thin lines. Another concern we wanted to address was legibility. Although the script was clear and readable for us, we recognized that customers over the years - especially those who had no previous interaction with the brand - found it hard to decipher. The highly stylized “3” (our favorite part of the signature) - sometimes read as a flourish and our brand name would be thus mistaken for “sixteen.”
Both our - and Studio Mast’s - first inclination was to rework the script logo to try and preserve the look and feel that so many customers both recognized and loved, but we found it difficult to overcome the hurdles with slight tweaks. So we sought to solve these problems through a completely new logo, bringing to consideration all of the influences and inspiration points that have brought 3sixteen to where it is today.
Travis Ladue of Studio Mast shared:
“When developing the wordmark, it was important to keep the essence of class and charm of the former script. Its form was built to maintain the heart of who 3sixteen is and to establish where they want to go. A wordmark that takes cues from the past and pushes into the future, echoing the craft of 3sixteen.
Structurally, the wordmark’s flared ends and thick-thin stroke weight harkens to pen nib lettering, a trade of the past that has not quite been forgotten. This historic charm is balanced with modern form, cuts, and modifications that balance the visual position of the typography establishing it as a timeless piece.”
As for the icon, the pickaxe graphic is near and dear to us. Our good friend Jeff Hamada (who also designed the signature logo) came up with the crossed pickaxes as an ode to the working class and the humility and effort that they put forth each day into their jobs. That’s how we viewed ourselves then: a small, scrappy (and broke) company that had to use our ingenuity to earn a place for ourselves in a sea of investment-backed brands. Over the years - especially during the Americana movement - brands left and right began to co-opt the crossed “anything” logo approach and we didn’t want our brand lumped into what felt like lazy and uninspired design after a certain point. The pickaxes meant something to us, but it meant something different to people who were encountering the brand for the first time. That’s why we felt that a change was in order.
Studio Mast spent two months digging into our brand and trying to understand our history, our motivations, and our influences. They developed an extensive brand questionnaire that was filled out by every team member, and distilled the responses to core values that they sought to communicate in both the new wordmark and the icon. For the icon, they drew inspiration from mid-century Swiss design and developed a chunky, stylized graphic that embodied our company’s values. The icon is made up of three interlocked “s” letters (3s) while also representing the interlocked communities and relationships that are central to our brand, while simultaneously indicating forward motion and ever-growing potential. Lofty ideals for sure, but hey - we like to aim high.
A new company that launches today would likely hire a design firm to develop a comprehensive package that would include a wordmark, an icon, and a graphic system that would map out how to implement all the new identity work. We’ve never had an agency set design standards for us to work off of; back in 2003, we were a graphic t-shirt brand coming up with ideas and printing them onto t-shirts. Over the years, we collaborated with designers (amazing ones, to be sure) to try and put things together in a way that made sense to us; but what resulted was a piecemeal brand identity that was started by one, and built upon by others. In other words, we just did what we had to do. Working with Travis and Jake at Studio Mast this past year to put together a cohesive system that communicates better was an eye-opening experience for us. We were floored by the thoughtfulness and intentionality that go into this work when done holistically. Dieter Rams said that good design “makes a product understandable” and that’s what we are seeking to achieve with this rebrand effort.
We wanted to share a few notes on how the rebranding will be rolled out. We’ve obviously applied the new identity online and via social media outlets, and you may have already seen it on the tags of some late 2019 releases. There’s no good way for us to update all of our existing clothing that is out in the world and on our warehouse shelves, though. We thought about sending everything back to the factory and attaching new trims to them, but came to the conclusion that it’d be extraordinarily wasteful given that these garments have perfectly good patches and flashers on them already. So while it may not be as impactful to flip a switch this first week of January and have our new identity showing up on all our garments, we feel that this is the more environmentally responsible choice. Over the next few months, as stock sells through at retailers and is replenished with new runs, you’ll start to see the rebrand show up all over. We appreciate your patience and understanding throughout this transition - and as always, your feedback is welcomed and appreciated.
We’re excited for the road ahead, because we feel without a doubt that our new identity represents us more accurately and serves both our brand and you - our valued customers - better. While our logo may have changed, we’re still the same company with a passion to craft beautiful, long-lasting, and well made garments that can be worn and appreciated by you for years to come. Thanks for coming on this journey with us, and we look forward to seeing - together with you - where this new identity takes our brand.