What the Dropbox rebrand tells us about the company's future vision

At the beginning of the month, Dropbox announced it had undertaken a broad rebrand of the company under the tagline: "The world needs your creative energy".

The accompanying blog post, written by Dropbox CMO Carolyn Feinstein, goes on to say: "Dropbox isn't only a place to store your files. We're a living workspace where people and ideas come together.

"But while the way people use Dropbox has changed dramatically over the past ten years, our brand hasn't. That's why today we're excited to tell the story of our brand and unveil a new look for Dropbox. The design reflects our passion: building tools that help teams find focus, stay in their flow, and unleash their creative energy."

The rebrand includes a new colour palette, a squished Sharp Grotesk typeface, quirky illustrations and a new logo. "Our old logo was a blue box that implied, 'Dropbox is a great place to store stuff.' The new one is cleaner and simpler. And we've evolved it from a literal box, to a collection of surfaces to show that Dropbox is an open platform, and a place for creation," the company explained.

The relaunch was overseen by a broad conglomerate of Dropbox's own design team, as well as no less than five outside agencies: design and brand studios Collins and xxix, digital type foundry Sharp Type, London animation studio Animade and digital brand company Instrument.


It's important to note that the Dropbox product, essentially a cloud-based file storage and sharing facility, as well as some productivity tools, remains unchanged at this time.

Design principles

The relaunch, as our friends over at Digital Arts pointed out, was met with pretty widespread derision from the design community. This is pretty damning when the company is quite clearly going after that demographic of creative workers who, if the Twitter replies are anything to go by, just want a simple, fast, file storage solution, not a design brand.

Dropbox has always had a unique visual identity, with its corporate blog posts setting the standard for enterprise technology with their clean design aesthetic, snappy copy, GIFs showing product features and high-quality illustrations.

Now the company is going one step further, as it looks to become not just the file store for creatives, but the platform where all of their work lives.

Read next: Dropbox vs Box: What's the best cloud storage for your business?

Dropbox was founded by current CEO Drew Houston and his cofounder Arash Ferdowsi when they were fresh-faced MIT graduates in June 2007. The private company has since become one of the giants of cloud file storage, and has been busy establishing a presence in the lucrative enterprise market and launched a worthy rivalry with the incumbent in the space: Aaron Levie's Box.


The big question around an expensive project like this though is always: why though? Well Dropbox, which has been rumoured to be targeting an IPO for years now, is facing increased competition from file sync services at giant technology vendors like Apple's iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Amazon Drive and its old startup rival Box.

The company will be hoping that a rebrand and a new direction, going after that elusive creative class, will help it carve out a niche in what can be a pretty staid and bland corporate space: enterprise file storage.

As Feinstein wrote in the opening of her blog post: "I'm constantly inspired by the way people use Dropbox. Musicians create and share compositions. Showrunners iterate on scripts. Set designers turn sketches into scenes that transport us to new worlds. Medical researchers coordinate data with their teams to develop vaccines."

It's pretty telling there that four out of five of the examples she uses are from creatives.

The problem is, cloud file storage has become commoditised and Dropbox has to compete on price with the giants of the industry. Carving out a niche is all well and good, but these customers still pay the same for their storage as a massive enterprise customer does per seat, meaning scale is the key.

Unless Dropbox is planning on launching some value-added features off the back of this rebrand, it could prove to be a pretty hollow exercise.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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