This post is pulled from our Friends & Family newsletter, emailed to our early supporters in March of 2020. Enjoy this archive!
I am writing to you from San Francisco where we are in day six of a complete county-wide lockdown. COVID-19 has caused a lot of anxiety, and it will no doubt continue to impact many of you physically, financially and emotionally for weeks to come.
We sincerely hope that all of you and your loved ones remain healthy and are able to work safely from home. It is not an ideal time to write our newsletter given the circumstances, but we decided to proceed forward nevertheless, and hope that it can perhaps be a welcome distraction for some during these difficult times.
Thanks to all who wrote us helpful feedback about Part 1, and please keep your comments coming. I will be more concise for Part 2 and focus on the journey of finding our brand name and our visual identity.
Finding our First Brand Name: Per Se
We received advice from other brand founders that finding a brand name can be very challenging. To help us in this important task, we connected with Ricardo, from LaCursive, a copywriting and naming studio based in Montreal.
After giving him directions on our brand pillars, he provided us with a series of possible names. Tigran and I instantly fell in love with “Per Se”, which in latin means “intrinsically” or “with respect to its inherent nature”. The sound of it was elegant, and its meaning fit well with the minimalists foundations of our brand identity.
We received the green light to proceed with Per Se as a brand name, after a quick trademark search from an IP lawyer revealed that it was available in both the US and Canada.
Establishing our Visual Identity
Once Per Se was chosen, we then kicked off the creation process for our logo and brand visual identity with our Montreal-based design team (more on them later). We started by giving them high-level directions on the pillars of our brand and on what we were looking for aesthetically. Of the few options that they presented to us, we selected two mood boards that the designers then used as inspiration to create the visual identity of our brand
The first mood board that we selected was inspired by the concepts of mindfulness, slow living and imperfection. This theme would play off softer, irregular shapes that would remind you of the beautiful imperfections one can notice when admiring the human body. We would incorporate line drawings into the visual identity and purposefully make them a bit more abstract and unisex. The earth tones in this color palette would subtly hint at the beauty of diverse skin tones.
The logo associated with this first theme was dainty, with a certain quirkiness to it. Observe the sensual leg of the "R" for example, seemingly appearing to rebel against the norms, akin to a sexy leg peeking out of a long dress.
The second theme was a different variant on the concept of imperfection. The color palette was somewhat cooler, and preeminent to the visual element were grainy textures evoking the surface of a rough stone.
The logo that would accompany this theme was bolder and stronger in character, purposefully more contrasting against the textured background.
Overall, we decided to pick the first set of mood boards with the second logo.
The first visual identity exploration truly resonated with me. Since my early teenage years I have been passionate about drawing and painting female figures, and I instinctively connected with the curvy shapes and warm earth color tones of the mood board. I also loved the aesthetics of the androgynous line drawings; I felt as though they celebrated our individual uniqueness.
As for the logo, I immediately loved the second one. Its bold lines conveyed strength in character and confidence that would nicely complement the lines, textures and colors of our chosen theme.
Trademark Search Mishaps
About a month after creating the logo and finalizing the initial work on the visual identity, we found out that there is in fact a beauty company that owned the US trademark for "Perse Professional". Our first initial trademark database search didn’t pick it up because in this version it is written in one word. Unfortunately, it turns out that the USPTO website search tool is not as sophisticated as Google search to account for these variations, and thus both we and our IP lawyer missed it.
This particular trademark of Perse Professional was no longer actively used for commercial purposes, but after consulting with two different lawyers we nevertheless concluded that it was too much of a risk to pursue with Per Se going forward.
This was heartbreaking for us, especially since we were emotionally invested in this particular name. Yet, in a lot of ways, we considered ourselves lucky in our misfortune as we discovered this issue before having ordered and produced our final packaging. The consequences of such a mistake for a consumer brand can be catastrophic, which is why we advise anyone who is considering starting a consumer products or services company to be very careful in these seemingly innocuous steps of the brand creation process.
Coming up with another name
We devoted the next few weeks to obsessively searching for a new name. Countless hours were spent diving into books of art, history, mythology, literature, and other sources, seeking inspiration. Each strong contender that we both liked was already trademarked in our cosmetic category in the US. The overall process dragged on and was hampering our progress on other fronts, but we didn’t want to settle for a name that didn’t spark joy, and thus we carried on.
Then, as is often the case with such creative work-streams, an unexpected Muse appeared in the form of my long-time friend Alexandra Harfouche. Alex is a professional interpreter who does live translations of conferences between French, English and Spanish for a living. On one particularly rainy morning in New York, Alex and I were catching up over the phone. As I was imparting to her my name search frustrations she suddenly said:
“How about Minori? I think it means “Less” in Latin”.
I immediately knew that there was something there, and got very excited. The more I thought about it, the more it just felt right. It was easy to pronounce, elegant, soft and importantly it was related to minimalism in a very obvious way.
A few days later, in the midst of a very challenging workout class, a second fortuitous realization occurred which sealed the deal in favor of Minori. When broken in its two equal halves, Min and Ori, you get the beginning of the wordsMinimalist and Origins. That secondary meaning was perfect in so many ways!
As mentioned in Part 1, my initial drive was born out of a desire to create a minimalist-inspired brand catering to the natural makeup look. Moreover, minimalism and mindful consumption, as key pillars of our brand identity, drove our product development decisions, guiding us to create only the most essential products in the most beautiful universal shades. Finally, in my personal life, for the past few years, I have been striving to be a mindful consumer and limit my purchases and my personal belongings to the essentials that truly spark joy. In so many ways, Minori has its origins in minimalism!
We filed for the Minori trademark early April and successfully passed all the steps of the process by fall of 2019!
We asked our design team to create the new Minori logo based on the same principles of the chosen Per Se logo, and it turned out absolutely stunning! I love how strong and grounded it feels. It still has some elements of "imperfection and quirkiness" - notice the tilt in the letter "o". The letter "r" was kept from our original Per Se logo, and it's a really nice reminder of the path we went through and of the mistakes we learned from!
See the photos below on how our designers were custom creating each letter.
Meet our amazing Design Team
The beautiful visual identity explorations and logo design I showed you above is in great part the work of Leonardo Studio Design. They are an incredible Montreal-based design team of two women in Montreal that do amazing work for consumer brands. Marie-Andrée (on the left) is the main designer and Stéphanie (on the right) is our account manager.
It has been extremely beneficial to work with a female design team. They understood my vision from the beginning and brought it to life in a very organic way. If anyone reading this newsletter is ever looking for a designer, I would be happy to share more details about our experience in working with them!
As we speak, Marie-Andrée and Stéphanie are currently working on designing our secondary packaging (the boxes that will hold the Minori products). I am very excited to see their different proposals. Later this Spring, they will also art-direct our product photo-shoot which will require building a custom set and custom props. I will share with you behind-the-scenes photos of the photo-shoot once we complete that step!
One last thing: if you don’t already follow us on instagram @myminori, we would love your support! Follow, comment, and DM me! Tell your friends to follow along! I post daily and will be giving more frequent updates in our IG stories.
Once again, our thoughts are with all of you; stay vigilant, stay safe.
Anastasia & Tigran