How&How Helped Hotjar’s Branding Go From Tinder Look-A-Like To a Strong Identity System

Posted inBranding & Identity Design

Hotjar is a technology service that allows teams to see how users behave and feel most strongly about. The technology is powerful, but the brand had an identity problem as their old look was reminiscent of Tinder’s. So, with the help of How&Howthe brand focused more closely on their audience, vision, and purpose to create an identity system that was more aligned with their mission. The result is an identity system that’s inclusive, playful, and trustworthy through the use of strong typography, quirky illustrations, and gradient patterns. The look is professional and well-defined while still bringing a touch of individuality.

Hotjar had an image problem. Their iconic ‘flame’ looked a little too much like Tinder’s, and user feedback had told them their brand was ‘too startup-y’ and not inclusive enough. In the years since it was founded in 2014, Hotjar had enjoyed exponential growth and their brand needed to catch up. Now an essential tool for millions, their industry-leading product allows companies to understand how users behave on their websites—allowing them to see what they need, and measure how they feel. 

We were approached by Hotjar to collaborate on their rebrand (including animation and illustration packages), and to design and build their new headless CMS website. We wanted to craft a brand for the future. One that took into account three hugely important factors: their Audience, their Vision (to put people at the centre of every product) and their Purpose (to inspire change through empathy).

Combining these three into an icon that had to work primarily—and most importantly—at 16px by 16px (the most visible touchpoint of the Hotjar brand), was a complex design problem to solve. Starting with an expressive line to represent the user journey, we then duplicated it to show the human connection and support the product gives. Adding a gentle curve helped to suggest heat from the iconic Hotjar flame, as well as the H inherent in the company’s name.

As the product shows the full spectrum of human emotion—from angry clicks to happy, contented browsing—we developed a design system structured around effervescent lines, and ponderous orbs or ‘auras’. In this emotion meritocracy, no feeling is superior to another—as all help to offer better understanding of the user’s journey and experience. Lines therefore can have a combination of happy curves, and angry jagged ones. 

Our colour palette was inspired by the two component warm and cool colour-sets in a flame. This also helped to convey the warm and cool emotions visualised in the product itself. Ambit by CoType Foundry was chosen due to its friendliness and distinct ‘curls’ which mimicked the expressive lines of user’s cursors browsing websites. 

The Hotjar website is the primary sales channel for their product, so a digital-first approach to the brand was essential. From colour choices to brand assets, each element was considered for accessibility, file size and motion behaviour. As Hotjar’s primary audience comprises of digitally-savvy product teams—and their product is about helping these in turn make better products—the website we designed and built had to be both functionally and aesthetically as robust as we could make it. Consistently hitting 100s on our Lighthouse scores was a must. We also implemented a dark mode option (favoured by the target audience) to aid in energy efficiency and give the user control over their preferred viewing mode.

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