Why brand matters for startups and mid-stage companies.

What’s your point?

Early- and mid-stage companies have a lot to balance, especially when considering where to invest their precious resources. It’s easy to overlook branding as a mission-critical component in those early days.

Here’s why you shouldn’t: When the future of a revolutionary idea is on the line, and you’re asking people to take a leap of faith, people need to be able to see it. Feel it. Believe in it, and in you. You need to win hearts and minds.

People make decisions with emotion, not logic.

Brands that lead with features and technology almost never win, even when the technology is revolutionary. The difference between a great idea and one that actually changes the world is quite often an emotional connection.

Emotional connections aren’t accidental—they’re built over time through intentional, engaging experiences. The world’s most impactful brands invest time, energy, money, and resources in building strong ties to the groups they serve.

What’s your point? Make it crisp. Make it memorable. Make it count.

Make it crisp:
Brand positioning helps contextualize and clarify your offering

No matter how complex, technical, or elegant your innovation is, people need to easily understand what you do and how it compares to what else is out there. When asking potential investors or partners to buy into what you’re selling (literally), it’s important to distill the technical complexities into easy-to-understand concepts for all audiences.

The Quaise logo displayed on top of a coastal landscape

Our work with Quaise Energy, an early-stage geothermal energy startup incubated at The Engine Accelerator, focused on developing crisp positioning and a focused messaging strategy that would educate, differentiate, and inspire. Overcoming misperception and skepticism of the potential of geothermal energy—including providing context for its role alongside other, more commonly celebrated sources of clean energy like wind and solar—was of paramount importance. Commanding attention for their novel technology meant the organization had to stand apart from the competitive set in both narrative and visual presentation.

An example brand execution. Quaise construction barrier and building wrap featuring the logo, an aerial topographic photo, and the headline: Energy for everyone. Everywhere.
Powerful messaging for Quaise educates the world regarding the potential of geothermal energy.

A gif from the Quaise website that speaks to their minimal drilling footprint. On an illustration of the earth, the crust is removed to show a detailed illustration of the core (3486 km, 7000º C), mantle (2885 km, 2000º C), and crust (65 km, 0-1000º C). Magnified areas of the crust appear to show the goals for Quaise's millimeter wave drilling technology: a depth of 20 km and 500º C.

Compelling communication design explains the innovation at the heart of the Quaise approach.
A set of four images, showing a Quaise power generator being delivered to a drilling location in Europe.
A truck-mounted high-voltage power supply being delivered to a Quaise drilling site in Europe.

Our work simplified and clarified a complicated technology in a complex industry, helping Quaise emerge from stealth with a compelling narrative and differentiated brand expression.

Earlier this year, Quaise closed a $21M Series A1 financing round led by Prelude Ventures and Safar Partners, including Mitsubishi Corporation and Standard Investments.

Learn more about our collaboration with Quaise here.

Make it memorable:
Brand identity and design help people visualize your dream

A strong brand identity is one of the most powerful tools to help potential investors, partners, or employees visualize your company’s mission. Clearly and thoughtfully showcasing who you are and what you stand for goes a long way.

Insight M: Methane Managed

As a strategic brand partner for Insight M (formerly Kairos Aerospace) since 2022, our collaboration began with messaging strategy and design for their pitch deck, which helped the company raise $52M in series D funding.

Four slides from the Kairos Aerospace Series D pitch deck
Before rebranding as Insight M, we created a compelling pitch deck for Kairos Aerospace, which helped secure a $52M series D funding round

“There are just a few things that without which, we wouldn’t have had a successful round. Hiring One Design is definitely one of those things.”

Gregg Rotenberg
CEO, Insight M

Next, we worked closely together on naming, identity design, communication strategy, content development, and website design.

Insight M brochure and billboard

A video capturing the Insight M website homepage

The Insight M website serves as a resource for the industry

Their strategic consultative approach and commitment to scientific rigor and measurable results sets them apart. Originally Kairos Aerospace, the shift to the Insight M name and brand not only signals their leadership in cost-effective, high-frequency aerial methane detection but underscores their role as strategic partners focused on developing solutions. The new brand—launched at CERAWeek 2024 to great acclaim—places the unparalleled insights they pride themselves on front and center.

Learn more about our collaboration with Insight M here.

Having a strong brand identity for mid-stage startups is equally as important. Metagenomi, a California-based gene-editing company, had its sights set on an IPO and knew a differentiated brand with a powerful story would help get them there. They went public in 2024, making them one of the rare biotech companies to IPO without a drug already in clinical trials.

Learn more about our collaboration with Metagenomi here.

Images showcasing the Metagenomi logo and environmental branding
Photography and statistics from the Metagenomi website
The Metagenomi logo on the left, superimposed over an image of a forest. Images from the Metagenomi website on the right.,

“[One Design had] to take a lot of disparate ideas and communications from us and try to make sense of it, quickly. This evolution is exactly what we had hoped for, and are really excited about where we’ve landed.”

Brian Thomas
CEO and Founder, Metageno­mi

Four images showing the Metagenomi team celebrating their IPO
Metagenomi went public on February 9, 2024

Make it count:
Find your clear space and command attention.

In an increasingly crowded marketplace, your brand message must be distilled to the most confident, bold claim to capture the attention of your intended audience. And, it has to stand out from all the other brands vying for the same attention.

DCVC logo letterforms animating into view.

What’s true for startups is true for venture capitalists as well. Our partnership with DCVC, a California-based company that backs brilliant entre­pre­neurs solving trillion-dollar problems, took the brand from expected to exciting. What makes DCVC stand out from other investors is the type of people they invest in—people who don’t shy away from the hard work needed to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

DCVC is Deep Tech Venture Capital. Deep Tech Venture Captial is highlighted in green.

A bold visual language and an honest approach to documentary photography supports a bold claim that DCVC is, above all else, Deep Tech Venture Capital. Their brand serves as a beacon to entrepreneurs looking to change the world; a signal that without a doubt, you want DCVC in your corner from day one.

Learn more about our collaboration with DCVC here. And grab a copy of the 2023 Deep Tech Opportunities report here.

The cover and a selection of spreads from the DCVC Deep Tech Opportunities Report
The DCVC Deep Tech Opportunities Report, an annual publication outlining insights and trends in deep tech
A grid of photography featuring DCVC portfolio companies
Documentary photography lies at the heart of the DCVC brand
The DCVC team and branding at the New York Stock Exchange
The DCVC team ringing the New York Stock Exchange bell

Branding builds the emotional connections needed for people to believe in your vision of the future.

A powerful brand is much more than a name, a logo, or a marketing campaign. It’s the expression of a set of foundational beliefs that guide everything. This is the true power of brand strategy—it serves as a guiding light for every decision, touchpoint, and interaction, creating clarity, consistency, and alignment amongst the thrilling chaos of starting a company from the ground up.

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One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

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