The Brand & Identity of MasterClass
Building a unique brand like MasterClass from scratch is a thrilling and intense process! From the start, I was excited about the potential to position MasterClass quite differently from other e-learning platforms. I learned from my work in creating The Disposable Film Festival that a brand has a great potential to elevate the experience of consuming its content. In my work in establishing the visual language for YouTube, I realized what a luxury it is to create a brand with an opinion. At YouTube, we would always talk about being an agnostic platform for the world’s content—showcasing both news-worthy protest videos and the cutest of cat concertos. With MasterClass, I was empowered to create the opinionated opposite—a luxury experience, consistent with the site's high-quality content showcasing the knowledge of seasoned masters. The design of everything I did for MasterClass supports this unique and elegant educational proposition.
I have a bunch of techniques I like to use to articulate a brand. Here are the results of one I call
“This but not That”
Pinpointing the MasterClass brand
Classy but not snobby
Clear but not simplistic
Wise but not know-it-all
Aspirational but not unattainable
Luxurious but not frivolous
Insightful but not academic
I also think it’s important to take these attributes a step further and show how they are infused in the product design:
Each MasterClass will:
- build core skills to develop a student's craft
- develop critical thinking skills to enhance a student's critique of the subject
- inspire students with high-quality examples to reinforce the subject as an art form
Unlike other online education sites, each MasterClass will:
- be priced for the everyday learner to afford
- contain timeless knowledge that will be applicable next month as well as next decade
- encourage ongoing educational moments through feedback of students’ creations
In understanding and prioritizing attributes for a brand with such high aspirations, I felt driven to recreate my own version of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I've used this pyramid organization to help several other companies visualize their brand as well! If you find it helpful for your brand, I'd love to see it!
The creation of the identity itself was a crucial building block for this elegant branded system. I see the MasterClass M as the rays of two spotlights about to come together to form an even-more vibrant glow (if I dare to go poetically overboard on my own logo—akin to the blinding light of an aha moment?!?) but like all good logos, I’ll leave it open to the viewer’s interpretation:
Here’s a quick snapshot of the evolution:
I also collaborated with the talented motion designer, Justin Hamilton, to bring the logo to life:
Site-wide, we visually accomplish our brand’s goals with the use of big crisp photos that I got to art-direct and stylize, clear typography and cinematic video. I made many subtle choices with the branded palette to avoid any assets feeling default or templated. In compiling my collection of the brand work that I've done over the last two and a half years, I found a brand summary statement that I wrote before we even filmed our first class: “MasterClass is a highly-produced, curated collection of online classes in the arts & sports taught by the world’s finest experts.” Sums it up, huh?
I must add: one of the COOLEST parts of creating this brand has been hearing these attributes and brand-speak boomerang back to me in the form of student feedback and interviewees applying to work at MasterClass! Maybe even more thrilling, and definitely more surreal, is that in the first year of this brand being out in the world, it has already been majorly parodied: on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Funny or Die with Kevin Bacon, and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I never thought I’d be so thrilled to see a logo I created mistreated!