With Antagonist, as we elaborate in this piece, we’re going on a journey towards a new, ethically-motivated media house with a digital-first approach.
The importance and increasing leverage of the ever-growing plant-based market of a post-Trump, mid-pandemic society is proof that the consumer is the final decision maker, and now more than ever, we as consumers are more aware and more willing to make use of that power.
Creating a brand that would be able to house all this ambition, it turns out, was a challenge.
”Creating a brand fit to house all of that ambition would be a challenge.“
With Antagonist, we’re building an alternative, discerning voice in the vegan media space, with a focus on the digital realm, married to best-in-class design and quality journalism.
Tina Tenkmann is the CEO and Creative Director of branding, content & venture studio Very Good Looking in Berlin, Germany. The pure-play vegan agency is dedicated to support and help building vegan brands and businesses. A perfect fit.
“What unites us is our mission-alignment, we want the same things,” says Tina. “We want to create positive change, and so VGL operates as Antagonist’s partner agency and, at the same time, acts as one of the project’s investors. Developing Antagonist’s brand and design language is one of the tasks we collaborated on from the very start.”
The most important thing, Tina and her team figured out early, would be being approachable. “Antagonist creates content that might not always be easy to ‘digest’ for the big audience it’s made for, so implementing a light-hearted note into the design concept was very important. For every conceptual decision, we asked ourselves: Is it fun enough? Does it make me feel good?”
The team worked on, as Tina puts it, “making the antagonistic ideas inside the brand visible. We wanted the branding to be a cheerful counterpart to the often deep and thought-provoking content that we were to expect from the editorial team.”
Tina’s first focus were colors: “Trying out various color palettes helped creating a discussion about how the brand should look and feel. We went for bright and happy colors in the beginning but toned it down during the process. The brand’s main color now is a bright yellow, that resembles that of a classic text marker. A symbol for urgency and importance, for something you might want to read twice, has become a key motif throughout the visual concept of the brand and we use it to highlight headlines or color-code imagery.
”The name holds a lot of depth — it can use a bit of decryption.“
The logo Tina and her team created, is “a clear, ‘no fuss’ word mark,” as she puts it, accompanied by a just as straight-forward, simple icon. “Antagonist is a strong and bold name, which, again, holds a lot of depth and meaning and we felt it could use a bit of decryption to strike a balance. We chose Segment as our logo type, a modern and open typeface that’s very confident and decisive when used in a bolder font style. It unites the two components of Antagonist’s tagline #radicalkindness in terms of how the brand is implemented into the logo type.
Eduardo Àlvarez, a multidisciplinary Designer and Art Director, took on the translation of the brand development into screen concepts and, at the end, a working, editorial website. “It was my first project in collaboration with creative studio Very Good Looking,” Eduardo says. “After learning about VGL, I was excited to start working together, as their vision aligns with mine, especially in regard to what well-done design can achieve in the world.”
Tina sets the scene: “Figuring out a solution for the content-heavy website we were expecting was definitely a nut to crack. Since Antagonist was formed out of very aesthetic print magazine, we had trouble to wrap our heads around how to translate that thorough editorial background into a new website fit for an evolving media powerhouse. It seemed very complex in the beginning — but we sorted it out.”
”It has more of a raw feeling and is less ‘overly-colorful internet‘…“
With Edu’s help: “The main challenge was how to most effectively use fonts. With so much information to display, you really want to create hierarchies by using different typefaces, sizes and styles, while keeping a tidy layout on all kinds of different devices.”
Meanwhile, “Antagonist has more of a raw feeling and stays away from the too-poppy and overly colorful internet yet is a good mix of a fresh yet serious approach. This shaped the framework and limited the range of elements I could use when creating new screens, something that’s actually been helpful.”
What made Eduardo’s job even easier: The photo selection. “I like how much the design leans into quality photography. I think the internet as a whole leans too much into a stock-y feeling. Antagonist matches great articles with high-level photographs, making the experience richer and more enjoyable.”
Tina agrees. “Thanks to the expressive imagery of staff photographers Brix & Maas, Antagonist has this uniqueness and edge that played a major part in the visual concept. They have a tendency towards a more dark and mystic style, very energetic. In creating the brand, seeing how their style matched the brand name perfectly, it was never a question to match their imagery. For us, it was all about — in the best interest for the brand – finding a worthy counterpart, striking that balance again.”
“Cinematic and classic, but also a bit dark and rich in symbolism.”
Aglaja Brix and Florian Maas, the photographer duo in question, agree. “I would describe our style as cinematic and classy, but also a bit dark and rich in symbolism,” Aglaja says. “Generally, we aim to tell a story and try to embed more layers to it than you can see at first glance.”
“For a long time, we felt that the vegan and ethical media sphere severely lacked quality in terms of the photography and the overall look, “ Florian adds. “When we saw fashion editorials from the sphere for example, they looked exactly like the stereotype a lot of people still have in their heads: Low quality, plain and uninspired. So, for Antagonist, we’re working against that, doing the opposite. We’re building an aesthetic that revolves around high-quality imagery.
Looking at the balance the creative team tries to strike with their visual work, the same can be said about the wording around the brand. The tonality of Antagonist, how the brand sounds, expresses itself, chooses to communicate, has been in the works just as much.
”If we’re going to make veganism cool, we got to create things that people who give a damn want to spend time with.“
“If we’re going to make veganism cool, we’ve got to create things that people who give a damn actually want to read and spend time with,” Editor at Large Cort Cunningham sums up the challenge. “A lot of that comes down to our voice. We want Antagonist to be accessible, but with an edge. We’re not afraid to speak up about the things we don’t agree with, and to be a little cheeky while doing it. I mean, we want to have fun with it, no?”
Yes, we’re here to provoke,” Creative Director Eric Mirbach, who’s been shouldering a lot of the concept work around tonality in a wordsmith-tag-team with Cunningham, adds. “But in the best sense of the word. Provoke thinking.”
Now an often a bit overlooked, but unbelievably vital part of the equation is figuring out how to translate all of the above into a social media concept that shows all of the brand’s strengths and brings across the combined creative value, but is performance driven at the same time.
“One of the challenges of working on Antagonist’s social media, again, is definitely finding that right balance,” Social Media Manager Ielyzaveta Kachanova (Liza for short), newest addition to the team and another Very Good Looking associate, explains.
”The Antagonist brand might be radical in its decisiveness, but never ever lacks kindness.“
“The vegan community, especially online, can be overwhelming and conversations can be heavy and, frankly, negative at times. That’s due to the difficult issues that need to be tackled, of course. That’s all very understandable, but makes it even more important to yes, of course incorporate the high-quality and thought-provoking content, but infuse it with un poco fun and some easy-going posts in between.
We can all use more of some light-hearted, not overly serious stuff, so we try to sprinkle it in here and there. I believe we need to learn how to address serious things with a cool and fun attitude, you know?” Liza summarizes.
Or, in the words of branding officer Tina Tenkmann: “The concept of #radicalkindness brings it all together: The Antagonist brand might be radical in its decisiveness, but never ever lacks kindness.”