Making Waves: Dave Rax launches major rebrand for yacht rental giant SamBoat
Creative director Dave Rax walks us through his first big project as an independent after leaving Koto: a global brand redesign for SamBoat.
First launched in France in 2014, SamBoat is a platform for boat and yacht rental. Having quickly transitioned from a small startup to a global operator with over 50,000 boats and chartered yachts, they needed a new visual identity to match their ambitions.
They came to Dave Rax, an independent designer and creative director who had recently set up his own practice, following nearly seven years with Koto, working across both London and LA.
The brief was to reshape SamBoat's online and offline brand through a full brand refresh and a new digital toolkit, equipping them with a refreshed brand system and establishing them as the leading peer-to-peer boat rental platform.
"Part of the challenge was the need to appeal to both ends of the market spectrum, from experienced skippers and seasoned sailing enthusiasts to novices and first-time day-trippers alike," Dave explains. "We needed to create a brand that inspired people to partake in an activity previously not seen as accessible to all – whilst maintaining a leading voice in a growing marketplace."
The result is a visual toolkit and brand identity that engages a sense of adventure and escapism while unlocking the emotional connection with the ocean and the joy sailing offers.
Symbol and colours
At the heart of the new identity is a new symbol, The Helm, which represents the spirit of the SamBoat business. "Through its nautical forms – a boat wheel, compass and abstracted sun – it captures the adventure, discovery and escapism boating provides," he explains.
When it came to colour, Dave wanted to break away from the kind of predictable and samey palettes that typify the business. "We wanted to maintain some level of blue in the brand – after all, sailing and the ocean is at the heart of the business – but injecting it with a more meaningful and vibrant palette," he adds.
"This resulted in a core set of colours referencing the tints and tones of the ocean. This was complemented with a supporting set of colours, which played into the experiential side of sailing – reflecting a palette of sea, skies, and sunsets experienced on the water."
Graphic elements and system
As a peer-to-peer platform, SamBoat needed to flex in tone, whether speaking to a seasoned sailor, encouraging a newbie to unleash their inner explorer, or addressing an experienced skipper listing their boat.
"To achieve this, the visual language features a range of graphic elements that can be used in isolation or combined in various compositions, bringing texture and dynamism to the brand," says Dave. "Nautical graphic elements, technical wave reports and the ocean's bathymetry all inspired this fluid visual language, evoking a sense of escapism and discovery."
As well as the graphic elements, the system includes a large icon library. This was developed to bring to life the product experience through the use of low-fidelity icons, as well as larger, more playful, high-fidelity iconography, which can be used across marketing in more expressive ways. "These assets depict all manner of boats, destinations, experiences and everything in between," says Dave.
When it came to typography, Dave opted for Grenette by Colophon for headlines, Cadiz by Luzi Type for body copy, and a customised form of Spezia for the wordmark.
"Grenette is a soft, modern serif that allows us to speak confidently with a trusting tone, still packed with character and personality," explains Dave. "Cadiz, meanwhile, is a clean, geometric workhorse typeface best served in product moments and supporting copy.
"Both choices share similar qualities and proportions across their letterforms, allowing the two typefaces to harmoniously sit alongside one another and creating a distinction within headlines when combined. It results in a friendly, distinct tone throughout our use of typography."