Zenn founder, Steve Reid, has been fascinated by design and art from a young age. On a visit to a sneaker shop when he was 8 years old, he became enamoured with the Adidas logo, as well as the company's “brand with the 3 stripes” tag line, and beautiful box packaging. 35 years later, this obsession with design is as strong as ever. Steve has been a professional creative for more than 25 years, helping companies like Qantas, CommBank and the NRL to bring their brands to life.
Steve's passion for branding led him to create Zenn. It's a web-based application with a vision to change the way people create a look and feel for their businesses, without needing agencies. Building a brand identity has traditionally been something only trained designers were capable of. In Steve's early years, it was almost impossible for amateur designers to produce something that looked professional. The available tools were either expensive and complex, like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXpress, or not fit for purpose, like MS PowerPoint or Word.
These days there is much more variety. Some tools have taken the world by storm, not least Australia-based Canva, which allows people to design anything from wedding invitations to concert flyers. Canva is now valued at over $40 billion, has more than 60 million users across 190 countries, and expects to exceed $1 billion in annualised revenue by the end of 2021.
Despite the proliferation of such tools, however, Steve is adamant that there remains a significant gap. Sure, there are platforms for creating graphics online, but 90% of design is still done by professionals. When we dug deeper into why, we found that, while most people know good design when they see it, not everyone can produce it - even using the latest software.
Zenn attempts to plug this void. It's an intuitive platform that enables anyone, without training, without needing to be creative, and without relying on expensive agencies, to produce their own brand. Instead, the software is configured to capture a user's inputs through a simple workflow and series of questions. This removes friction for all users, regardless of their level of artistry. It also ensures the key requirements and preferences are fully understood, replicating the approach design experts take with their clients. Only by asking the right questions can the platform propose design options that align with the user's vision and sensibilities.
With the inputs captured and analysed, the software proposes a series of different visual styles, which include core design elements like logos, typography, colour, spacing, and texture. Users are asked to select or modify their preferred options, before the software extrapolates the chosen theme automatically, creating a family of consistent, editable materials. Outputs can include generic collateral, such as business cards, brochures, and invoices, or graphics for industry-specific materials like online advertisements, flyers, party invitations, or event tickets.
So, unlike existing platforms, which allow creatively-minded people to design their own materials, Zenn helps anyone, even those who don't consider themselves designers, by creating the materials for them. Using Zenn, anyone can create their own brand from scratch, extrapolate it consistently across a wide suite of materials, and avoid the cost of using an agency.
Zenn was the second venture to receive a $100,000 term sheet from our fund, DQinvestments. Development has begun on the first iteration of the platform, which will be rolled out to a pre-vetted audience of founders and small business owners. Watch this space, or get in touch with me if you'd like access to the Beta.