January Makes a Case for Total Brand Overhaul

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    Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin and her team at January believe that a modern and strategic brand is a visual articulation of a strong business.

    “Design should be a pillar in your business model, not something that’s just icing on the cake,” she says.

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    This view on design has served Chamberlin and her team well. For five years, the STL-based design and consultancy firm (formerly known as B/C Designers) worked with startups, B2B businesses and larger entities alike in helping to show and tell their stories better. If you’ve ever admired Greetabl‘s website, the The Better Fish or the Normal Brand logo, you now know who is responsible.

    “It’s not just design expertise that our team brings to the table,” she says. “We start by thinking about target demographics to inform our strategy and design decisions—based on the consumer, we’re able to carve a space in the market for our clients to stand out and thrive.”

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    One such client, Greetabl, worked with B/C Designers on a redesign, relaunch of its product offering, website and overall branding late last fall.

    “The best clients have respect for you and you for them, and [they] value your insight and expertise; so collaboration was enjoyable with the Greetabl team. Through the process we really understood and honed in on our target demo. The business model, design, product and digital platform all work together seamlessly to create a beautiful and effective brand experience.”

    Two weeks ago, B/C Designers made an announcement that ushered in a new season for the firm.

    “After 5 years, 91 clients, 7,231 design files and loads of lessons learned, B/C Designers is making a re-entry with a new name, brand, and a refined mission and methodology,” said the founders in their announcement.

    With their own design and business expertise, Chamberlin and her co-founder Elizabeth Leesmann decided to pivot their business, leading with a consulting and strategy angle. Thus, January was born.

    “With January comes a sense of newness, refresh and opportunity to set goals and refocus our intentions for the year,” said the announcement. “This fresh perspective is what we bring to each project we work on.”

    “Our old name put us in a box,” says Chamberlin. “When we named B/C Designers it was just the two of us. But as we grew and our philosophy shifted, we felt it was time the name evolved into something that reflected more who we are now.”

    Chamberlin points to this as a lesson for any startup struggling with communicating what they do. She points out how important it is to constantly evaluate where you are on your journey and how that is reflected externally.

    For January, it wasn’t until a mid-flight Slack session that things came together.

    “I was flying to New York and was Slacking with Elizabeth who was like, ‘Let’s just do it, let’s find our name now.”

    The co-founders went back and forth for a bit before January was suggested. By the time Chamberlin landed in NYC, they’d bought the domain name and reached out to notify their lawyers.

    “I know the name January doesn’t say “business and design”, but it’s open to interpretation and has a sense of optimism and freshness,” Chamberlin says. “We didn’t want a corporate name, or one that made us feel like a small boutique firm. We wanted to retain our personality, and evoke a sense of curiosity for those who heard [it]. January evokes the sense of fresh perspective that comes with the new year—this is what we bring to every client.”

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    For Chamberlin and her team—a small but mighty powerhouse of female millennial talent and creativity—January symbolized what the company already was internally.

    After being known as one thing for so long, one might grow attached to the old, and a little sad even, to rebrand completely—but not the January team.

    “Instead of being sentimental, you need to consider your business goals and make choices that will propel you forward.” says Chamberlin.

    Moving forward themselves, January has a number of clients, including Arch Grants winner Babyation, a revolutionary breast pump helmed by Sam Rudolph and Jared Miller.

    “We work with them in a holistic way, far more than just branding and positioning,” says Sam Rudolph. “They are truly an extension of the executive committee, so much so that we often find ourselves asking “What would January do?” Their work product, effort and ability to see the big picture are unlike any agency we have encountered anywhere in the country.”

    January is currently helping a handful of startups launch in the next few months, and have a physical product of their own set to debut next spring. No, absolutely no hints were given on what that might product entail. But, based on how well things are going so far, we think this fresh start is only the beginning.

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    Mary writes for EQ and previously contributed to ALIVE Magazine and worked in the digital marketing field as an account manager. A central Illinois native, she got her news-editorial journalism degree from the University of Illinois and then moved to St. Louis so she wouldn’t have to be around as many Cubs fans. Then she married one.