VASCO – A WordPress Theme that Works Like a Branding Assistant

Recently we launched Vasco, a WordPress theme for travellers that want to go from casual Instagram posts to giving deeper insights about their adventures back to the community, through a blog. In this project, our tiny design team split the process: George did the market research and wireframes, while I gathered bits and pieces from the daily life of travel aficionados and worked my way around to get the essence out of them.

It always feels like bird-watching when I start digging up for users’ wants and needs. Learning by observing rather than asking is a method I usually practice and enjoy conducting. It takes away the bias I could introduce from the way I ask my question, or the client’s tendency to give a “right” answer.

What would make Vas­co a traveller’s new favorite fla­vor of blogging theme?

So for my next number, I’ll pull out of my hat objects that a trav­el­er encoun­ters in his uni­verse:

Next thing you know, I was break­ing these ele­ments into shapes, col­ors, typog­ra­phy, graph­ic ges­tures. Started with making my own stamp using Webdings and some monospace typeface to resemble the old stamps on envelopes. Tried to recreate some old cameras’ labels. This gave me the idea that I could dabble more with coloured backgrounds…then mix-and-match­ing them and iter­ate as far as I could.

First iteration

I started to see that the stamp is here to stay, as they were easy to integrate. Coloured backgrounds seemed to be good highlighters for some images, so I tried to continue using them further. This phase ended quickly, as I felt I had to move to another board and keep only the elements that were a solid “yes”.

Second iteration

The bottom-right iteration was a step where I took a slight leap and started using other shapes than rectangles. In this case, some random blob that I drew with the vector tool.

At this phase I was throwing in all the information I gathered since then: signatures, stamps, decorative waves that I’ve seen on envelopes, Polaroid frames, overlaying as much as I could – like the moment when you throw in your luggage all the things you had in mind for the trip. Stamps are still here, but I shifted a bit from using solid backgrounds. I didn’t stop until I got a composition that felt complete and even exaggeratedly crowded. After that, I could pick whatever elements from the “basket” and group, erase or multiply them as much as I could. The bottom-right card is a pillar in what is yet to come and mostly because of the weird blob in the background of the picture.

Third iteration

More iteration with more focus on colour palettes taken from the photograph.

While in the previous iteration I didn’t mingle too much with colour and solid backgrounds, this time I started using palettes inspired from the photo. Noted. I started using various display fonts instead of the cursive one I had on a signature previously, especially ones that had a marker feel. The last cards have settled the idea of a drop cap that looked just like a stamp in the background of the elements.

Fourth iteration

Keeping in mind the idea with colour palettes from the picture itself, I tried extracting colours from different images and grouped them around the composition. This way I found out that five colours would clutter the image too much, but three feels like it doesn’t distract that much from the actual subject. In the meantime, on the top-right card I was trying to figure out what other shapes can be added to the composition. After discussing some of my recent boards and pointing out the circles and triangles, George referenced the blob I created on my second iteration. And this is the moment pieces started to fall into place.

Fifth iteration

This step was like picking up every element that I pinned in each phase of the design: the stamp, the drop cap in the background, the blobs, colours inspired by the picture, the number three and overlapping items.

Results

Besides, all the elements that we have come up with are used all across the theme: in the footer, on the single page, in different widgets of the theme and so on. All in all, it’s like branding kit (more details on why is this a branding kit)

It was a short(ish?) walk in the shoes of our per­sona and a road we were con­fi­dent to take while pol­ish­ing Vas­co. Tak­ing inspi­ra­tion from the traveler’s lifestyle, we explored how clas­sic motifs like post­cards, stamps or vin­tage cam­eras would fit into a blogger’s dig­i­tal pres­ence. It was impor­tant for us that every­thing we pro­posed was linked to the trav­el­er, so this was a direc­tion that we real­ly want­ed to delve into.

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