From startup to acquisition: How we helped Tenor bring creative expression to the masses

Tenor, a startup with an early position as the leading GIF keyboard, saw an opportunity to strengthen their product position with a bold new identity and strategy. Through research, strategy, a design system for the platform, and a new brand identity, argodesign helped accelerate Tenor's mission, resulting in their 2018 acquisition by Google.

Tenor branding

The brand needed an identity open to the possibilities of broader communication features in a rapidly evolving arena. Tenor, the new name, suggests the nuance of expression through voice and tone.

Contextual experience 

We developed a strategy to ensure Tenor’s place as the premiere platform for GIFs today, and for how humans express themselves tomorrow — via haptic responses, chatbots, virtual reality, and beyond. argo designed an experience that gives context to GIFs with a broad range of content features, evolving the product into a full-featured platform that encompasses personalization, content creation, and a community of users.

Escaping the confines of the app

The new interface strategy started with two key solutions for opening up the app. Unlimited vertical scrolling opens up significant screen real estate to extend the amount of content Tenor can offer. Another opportunity to expand usage was pairing the keyboard to the native app in a nested construction. With a nested construction, the app would be where users browse, save, and create new content, empowering them to deploy the content on the keyboard while texting.

Personal touch 

Other interface strategies include personalized search and customizable categories, to make each user’s keyboard unique. Search learns from the user’s expressed preferences and from implied preferences gleaned through usage – preference for animated GIFs over movie GIFs, for example. We also identified fun new ways users could search for GIFs, like the Mood Slider that would let the user filter through different emotions to find a GIF with the right tone.

Freedom of expression 

The GIF Editor is a strategy designed to open a whole new world of creative expression, allowing users to create and customize their own content in the native app: draw freehand, add stickers, type messages, even embed GIFs inside emoticons. Creation tools would give the user more freedom to convey emotions and build a personal lexicon, and cultivate deeper engagement in the experience. The camera-first tools would reside in the destination app, for a seamless experience.

Community of creativity 

Building community around the platform is key to Tenor’s new strategy. By adding meaningful touch points beyond the keyboard, the native app can cultivate engagement with a community of users who create, curate, and share unique expressions. Attributions could put names and faces to the GIF artists, and social networks would allow a creator or curator to build a personal following—all of which is designed to promote the content, the artists, and the community around the Tenor platform.

New milestones

In 2018, Google acquired Tenor to enhance Google Images and other products that use GIFs. The acquisition was instrumental in improving Tenor’s services and expanding its offerings to more users around the world. 

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