FUELing Up

20 years ago, John Moes and I started a design experiment leveraging our experience as a marketer and a creative. Opening the doors to this new venture took us on an uncharted course.

Everything we knew had to be thrown out to allow for a new way of thinking. Our reputations left at the door, we wanted to challenge the status quo of marketing communication.

We had instantly become an unknown quantity as a team, despite our previous years of experience within our own individual careers.

We set out with no playbook and really no sense of who we were or what we stood for, other than this notion of leveraging the power of design to create effective branding.

All we knew at that time was that our design work made our clients successful and they wanted more.

We had the name FUEL from the start, but there was no core foundational brand strategy to inform the logo or expression or messaging. Without a brand strategy, we had a challenging time articulating our story and instilling trust or belief in our offering.

We started fumbling around within our own studio walls, but we didn’t have the capacity to understand how to articulate our own brand, or lack of it. We were just too close to it at the time. Too busy doing the work for our clients and still carving out our new path.

When downtime allowed, we would throw uninformed logo ideas at the wall. Eventually one finally stuck — not the way to develop a meaningful identity/brand.

Above Image: A collection of past collateral demonstrating 20 years of FUEL brand evolution.

Here we were convincing companies that identity/branding work is a valuable business asset, yet we struggled to solidify our own. How was it possible that we couldn’t do for ourselves?

The ability to see our own brand clearly was not yet realized. For this reason, building a meaningful brand for ourselves remained out of reach.

We needed to prove that our idea of leading with design was a winner by continuing to help our clients be successful. Perhaps most importantly, we needed to mature as a company, fully leaving our individual pasts behind forever. Only then would we be ready to develop the pieces of our own brand playbook.

When you stand so close to your own creation, it’s beyond challenging to be objective and let go of preconceived ideas, especially if you don’t follow your own brand development process. Building a brand is impossible without looking at your company holistically. Believe in the process; it works.

The FUEL logo has been with us for most of the past 20 years and served us adequately. Finally at 20 years it was time to put ourselves through our own tried-and-true process — the one that has made our clients wildly successful.

Stay tuned for January 12th, 2022 for the unveiling of the FUEL of the next 20 years.

—Bill Bollman

Bill Bollman
Creative Director

Bill Bollman is FUEL’s Creative Director. Before co-founding FUEL in 2001, he worked for Horizon Communications, JW Morton and Basler Design Group. Bill studied Illustration at Hawkeye Tech in Waterloo, Iowa. An expert in the “old ways” of hands-on print production, these skills influence his work in the digital world to this day. His work throughout his career has been featured in international publications including Graphis, How International Design, Communication Arts, and The One Book as well as numerous design annuals and reference books.

Hometown: West Union, Iowa
Involved in Design and Marketing since 1988
Interests: Fitness, Travel, Movies