Building a Brand: The Product

It was just one month after I started my business that a friend of mine connected me with a client who would quickly become the single greatest source of ongoing work for me… a little operation out of Birmingham, AL known as Axletree Media.

Not exactly a household name, but their products have helped hundreds if not thousands of churches across the nation establish a viable online presence. So in November 2011, I began working for Axletree in creating the first set of designs for a new product in development… what they planned as the "Lexus" of their product fleet. Their mainstay product, named E-zekiel, is basically a collection of pre-designed web templates paired with a very basic back-end content management system (CMS) that users can employ to get a website up quickly. The goal with the new product was to not only take that a step further, with a more robust, streamlined CMS and more engaging template designs, but also to offer an entire collection of branded materials beyond just web that a church could use to better communicate to its audience across a variety of media channels.

What if there was a single platform from which a church could create a consistent brand and communicate via web, email, social networks, text messaging, and even printed materials such as worship guides, brochures, and business cards, all consistently branded while never having to employ a designer or hire an agency?

The answer to that question is Thrive, and it's what I've been working with Axletree Media to develop over the last year and a half. What follows is an extensive look into the design work that went into establishing this new brand from inception to marketplace execution. This will likely be a three-part post as we take a look at the building of the Thrive brand, starting with the product design itself, followed by the creation of the logo and brand, and finally looking at the design of the website, the portal through which the product is promoted and sold.

I'm so proud of the working relationship I have with the great folks at Axletree and humbled by how they have put so much trust in me and my work from the very beginning. They've always encouraged me to explore and push the envelope with every design to help achieve a great product that will hopefully help a lot of churches communicate even more effectively.

The Product

Thrive helps churches maintain a consistent, branded voice while supplying the tools to communicate in a lot of different ways. They say you're not to judge a book by its cover, but so many people do this when it comes to choosing a new church home. Before a person ever sets foot in the door, it's highly likely that they've already made the decision whether or not to visit based on that church's professional appearance online (or lack thereof). The Sunday service then either solidifies their assumptions or shatters them, so it's crucial to make sure the materials they are being handed on a Sunday morning resonate with their initial impressions to aid in solidifying their growing appreciation that "this church has it together." Thrive was created to help pave the way past these all-too-common hiccups in the "get-to-know-ya" stage of trying out a new church.

Over the time I've worked with Axletree, I've had the pleasure of designing six unique collections (called "themes") of branded templates that can be customized to any church with their specific branding, colors, and messaging. First up, here is an example of the key elements of one of these themes.


Digging deeper, the website design for each theme includes six different page templates that can be used to display a variety of content, such as blog posts, sermon podcasts, events, and photo galleries.


To view the designs for the other themes individually, click on the name of each theme below:

A lot of work went into each theme. The following slides show a top-level overview of what was created for each one.


As is so often the case, a solid brand is nothing without a solid product. Without trying to be a step-by-step guide on brand creation, this first post of three shows how important starting with a well-conceived product is to achieving brand success. In my next post, we'll take a look at how the Thrive brand began to come alive with the development of a logo and various brand elements.