Established in late 2018, CBRE Build is a group of technology and design teams within CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm with 80,000 employees across 450 offices worldwide. CBRE Build has teams in New York, Dallas, Seattle, London, and Delhi (India) with engineers, designers, managers, and researchers that develop technology for CBRE, like an application that helps determine the right amount of office space needed for a client, or a visualizer that makes real estate market statistics accessible. In a nutshell, it’s a startup within CBRE, dedicated to modernizing the company by making product and software development a core competency. With an emphasis on creating an attractive brand for recruitment purposes, CBRE Build created its own identity in-house.
Minds primed, we assembled a moodboard from the visual worlds of real estate, architecture, and graphic design. We picked references that felt optimistic, angular, and futuristic, tones that would help our identity signal that something new was happening at CBRE. And we gave that message an exclamation point by choosing neon green as our brand color, an electric counterpart to CBRE’s mossy green.
I’ll start by acknowledging that this is a somewhat odd entity to cover on Brand New with it being an internal “department” within a company but since the company is so large and the resulting identity so… unconventional, I thought it would make for a fun project to highlight.
In principle, the logo is a fairly straightforward approach that pairs CBRE’s wordmark with a quirky display font, Colophon Foundry’s MAD Sans. I say “straightforward” because this is one easy way of paying respect to the corporate brand while signaling that this is something unique and different. The word “Build”, in a font that looks like a raw prototype, or a 3D object that still needs sanding, is a good metaphor for the kind of work this entity does, which is providing CBRE with sturdy tools that become part of a bigger range of tools and processes. Also, it’s a groovy font. And, lastly, its choice is supported by the identity and the concept behind it: blending real estate and technology.
We returned to our list of ideas with fresh interest in the first two, real estate and technology. Their intersection was our address. But they felt like very different worlds — one established, one disruptive; one besuited, one in a hoodie.
That discovery — and hours of vector drawing — gave us the image that would anchor our brand. The circuitmap is a single graphic that fuses our two worlds, concisely explaining what Builders do.
The two themes come together, literally, in the brand illustration… a mashup of a circuit board with a street map. On its own it’s weird for sure but it’s part of a loose and fun attitude that permeates all the elements and applications that don’t abide by most typical standards.
Color and imagery locked, it was time to choose a font. One auditioner was a standout. MAD Sans looked the part: it’s technical, friendly, and a little odd. But because its faceted letterforms are drawn from architects’ CAD software, another place where of tech and real estate overlap, it was also a perfect conceptual fit for this role.
If it looks a little weird, that’s on purpose. This technical-but-unfinished quality reflects the maker spirit that animates every Builder. It shows our understanding that software is never done (and is always somewhat broken). And most importantly, the willingness to adopt an unusual voice signals to recruits that CBRE might not be what they thought.
With our choices of color, imagery, and type, we had expressed what we do. But now we needed an element to represent for us, the Builders. […] So to represent us, and our collaborative spirit, we created a family. As soon as we met, these Builders felt much more familiar. They’ve become our unofficial mascots, and their hard hats have become our somewhat-official logo.
The clunky style of the brand illustration extends into individual “Builder” characters that reflect the team members of CBRE Build and, just like people, they come in all shapes and sizes. On the surface these 3D drawings are not exactly attractive or cool or hip but they have a care-free attitude that is a welcome respite when most brand illustrations all look the same. I think one of them is doing Gangnam Style and it’s everything.
The print applications are kind of harsh and maybe too much of a one-note approach, all at the same volume, but when you see the before and after comparison of the booth below, I think it highlights how effective this design is in creating an identity whose number one goal is to demand attention and attract potential recruits.
Overall, I think this is amazingly effective even if it isn’t “great” by traditional standards. I even like the crummy application photography — there is a refreshing lack of pretense to this project. This is something that gives a voice to a group inside a huge corporation and highlights that what they do is different from any preconceptions people on the outside (or even on the inside) may have about a group of tech people inside a real estate behemoth.