Crafting a brand identity
and online presence for
a publishing icon

In August 2020, acclaimed publishing executive Molly Stern was gearing up to launch Zando, her new independent publishing platform. Stern’s previous endeavors as publisher of Crown include bestselling titles like Gone GirlEvicted, and Michelle Obama’s Becoming, so she knows a thing or two about the importance of a big debut. Rather than relying on bookstores and other traditional avenues to promote releases, however, Zando would connect authors with high-profile individuals and brands to serve as publishing partners and promote books to their core audiences.

Before launching Zando, Molly Stern published Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Evicted and genre-defining bestsellers such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. She was also the editor of Michelle Obama’s Becoming, the bestselling memoir of all time.

Stern called on GDP to develop a brand identity and online presence for the platform. Zando required fresh visuals, a fleet of brand assets, and a built-from-scratch website that was as singular and arresting as the fresh publishing concept itself.

GDP worked closely with Stern on all of the design elements: a logomark; a colophon; and the related material for imprint partners, social media icons, web design, and distribution concepts. Given the far reach of so much of Stern’s collaborative work, the iconography needed to suggest not just the world of books but film and TV as well. Her goal was ambitious: to spark meaningful cultural conversations, reach a new audience of devoted readers, and upend the bestseller list. And the launch needed to stand out during a pandemic and economic crisis.

Stern is used to working closely with writers and requested details on the interests and passions of the GDP team as a way to get to know her creative cohorts better. In a series of conversations she also shared details about her tastes—her “obsessions,” she called them. All of this helped us get to the core understanding of what Stern was hoping to achieve aesthetically.

Zando is named after the initials of Stern’s children—literally, “Z and O.” We crafted the colophon using elements of those letters from the nameplate that we designed.

The logo we crafted, with its abstracted Z and bright red dot, captures the boldness and vibrancy of the venture itself. “The design is intended to demonstrate that Zando is a publishing partner that does things differently—nimble, future-thinking, and deeply committed to bringing stories and ideas out into the world above all else,” says GDP partner and Head of Creative Allie Fisher.

We also crafted an announcement website, bespoke and built from the ground up in time for launch. It includes engaging interactions, while still leaving room for new page templates and modules as Zando grows and scales. The team used Lottie, a web animation tool developed at Airbnb by some of GDP’s own designers, to create a custom animating colophon introduction to the site. 

Zando received appreciative coverage from outlets like the New York Times when the platform launched in the fall of 2020, and its look drew acclaim as well. “There are almost too many amazing qualities to name where the GDP team is concerned. They have a mighty expertise and a strong point of view, but they listen closely and openly,” Stern says. “GDP’s collective ability to translate my inchoate but also highly specific ambitions for the Zando identity resulted in a remarkable collaborative experience. As a result, Zando’s visual identity became something only GDP could have conjured. It’s both striking and adaptable. It’s a beacon and a source of pride for all of us at Zando as we grow our company.”