Originally published on March 25, 2021
What Does a Snake Brain Have to Do with Mental Health?
Earlier this year, we rolled out a new look across all of our channels. That new identity included updated book covers, website designs, and logos. In this post, we’ll dig into the last of those items and discuss the thought process and meaning behind what we call our new “snake brain” logo.
With any good branding effort, one of the first things you want to do is brainstorm all of the emotions you want your new or updated brand to convey. We can do this in a multitude of different ways, but one of the most common ones these days involves creating a mood board.
A mood board is really just a fancy name for a collection of pre-existing ideas, concepts, and images that you feel capture the overall essence of your brand. For example, if we were creating a sports brand, we’d obviously want to submit some pictures of athletes. However, we’d also want to provide images that convey our desired tone — what lies just beneath the surface. You can catch a glimpse of our mood board below.
If we’re going for a laidback sports brand, then our selected images should make that clear. The same notion applies whether our brand is going to be intense, uplifting, or something totally different — the mood board is where we make these feelings known and get them out in the open. Don’t be afraid to submit anything that conveys the brand with even the slightest accuracy. You can always decide not to consider it once you start whittling down ideas.
Luckily, with “Get Out of Your Head,” we weren’t starting completely from scratch. We had a brand already, thanks to our first book, its cover, and our blog — it just wasn’t as uniform and thought-out as we wanted it to be. Thus, we knew, on some level, the direction we wanted to take things. We wanted the visuals to be raw, honest, and a bit aggressive. Our old “brain boxing glove” cover drove some of that sentiment.
Behind this decision were two key reasons. The first was simply that we felt that “raw, honest, and a bit aggressive” reflected what the brand already was — a real and, at times, unsettling representation of the difficulty of living with anxiety and depression. Sure, we certainly could’ve represented the brand with peace signs, rainbows, and unicorns, but that didn’t feel like “us” at all.
The second reason behind this direction choice was that it seemed like no one else on the market was presenting themselves in this sort of fashion. Everywhere we looked, we saw mental health brands associated with tranquility and calmness. Yes, we thought, those things are important to strive for when dealing with mental illness, but, in our opinion, they don’t speak to the elephant in the room — the real, and often terrifying, foes that live in our minds.
Once your team has submitted all its mood board ideas, the next thing to do is group all the content based on themes. There are no right or wrong answers here — the idea is just to see if you can identify common threads between several of the ideas. These “buckets,” if you will, will later serve as high-level directions that will inform how you’re going to stylize the brand, visually.
With our brand, we kept coming back to the themes of aggression, energy, and rock music. Again, while many brands in the space convey peace and happiness with their messaging, we didn’t want to sugarcoat anything. We wanted to present anxiety and depression in their truest forms — difficult battles that require strength, energy, and maybe even a bit of aggression to approach and overcome.
Once we’d settled on some themes we felt fit the brand, we then jumped into potential concepts. You can think of “concepts” as more concrete applications of the themes you just came up with. For us, we thought that the concepts of “tamable beasts,” “getting out / breaking free,” and “punk / spunk” would work well for us. The picture below shows these three themes in their most nascent forms, before we dug into them any further.
So, as it applied to our process, we tied together one of our chosen concepts (tamable beasts) by applying the themes of energy, aggression, and punk rock to some sort of monster-looking creatures. These creatures took a multitude of different forms at first, but we quickly settled one of of those, specifically. More on that in a minute.
While our other two concepts were also strong, we ran a bit low on time and decided that we could later revisit those if we didn’t like the way things were going with this “tamable beasts” idea. This was more of a “gut feel” than anything — though a design team will certainly help with ideation and decision making, it’s really up to the founding team to call the shots. You should (and likely do) know what the brand should feel like. Don’t hesitate to express that.
The more we looked at our “tamable beasts,” the more we grew to like the look of something that was on our mood board originally — a spiraling snake. That snake reminded us that the mind can often feel a lot like a serpent. It coils, tightens, and sometimes attacks. However, if we can learn to tame the snake of the mind, then we can, hopefully, also learn to overcome anxiety and depression more readily. As this idea quickly gained steam, we sketched out a ton of snakes — most of which you can see below.
The more we iterated, the more we felt like this was the right direction; it was exactly what we wanted to convey with the brand. We didn’t even feel like we needed to try out other concepts — this was it. For us, it was both a visceral thing and a rational one.
That is, when we looked at what would become the final representation of the snake brain, we just thought, “Wow. Raw, rugged, real, and in your face. That’s it.” But, every decent brand should also pass a more thought-out critique as well, and we felt the snake brain did that too. To us, it represented the idea that the mind can be a terrifying place, but that with a bit of fortitude and energy, we can tame it once more.
And so, after iterating a bit on fonts and colors — a process I won’t really go into detail on here — we finally decided upon the branding you now see across our websites, books, and social media posts. While it’s definitely different from other brands in the space, that’s okay for us — we have a specific message to get across, and we don’t feel we need to fall in line in order to present it.
When looking at our logo, we think you should be both uplifted and a little scared. Emphasis on the little there; a tiny bit of fear can propel us into action, while too much of it overwhelms us. The mind is no different, after all — it can be both a wonderful and horrifying place, depending on how we use it.
If we feed the snake brain positive and uplifting thoughts, it will in turn lift us up and make us feel that we’re ready to take on challenges. However, if we feed it pessimistic and gloomy thoughts, it will tighten its grip on us and make us feel anxious and depressed.
That’s a key theme of not only this new brand identity but also all of our content. And that’s exactly what you aim to do when updating or creating a brand — unify the messaging both visually and symbolically, across all channels and product offerings. We think we were able to achieve that, and we’re excited to share it with you. You can look forward to seeing a lot more of the snake brain across our channels in the years to come.
Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoyed this one as much as we did.
If you want to dive further into the lessons and strategies behind our brand, check out some more of our recent posts below:
Or, if you want to check out our first book on anxiety, you can find it on Amazon via the link below: