Eight years ago my neighbor, Chad, and I launched the Pray Catholic Novenas mobile app.

The app’s purpose was simple: to help Catholics pray novenas.

When it launched, it had around fifteen novenas, and a few were “locked” and could be unlocked if you shared the novena with a friend.

I kept adding novenas to the app, and pretty soon users of it were telling us that they had run out of friends to share the novenas with, and could they just send a contribution in to support our development of the app.

Old Pray App Icon
The Old Icon

So we switched to an in-app purchase model, keeping the app free, but to unlock all the novenas, you had to become a patron of the app. Original yearly price to do so was $4.99, so about 42 cents per month. (We still have patrons who’ve been with us for many years who are grandfathered in for life at that price.)

When we made the app, we got a logo through 99Designs, a site where digital artists compete to make a graphic for you. The logo has served us just fine but isn’t particularly evocative of novenas or prayer or the Catholic Faith specifically.

We also quickly came up with a name and called it, Pray: the Catholic Novena App. That name has also been fine but lacks a distinctive “brand” name that is recognizable.

Over the years the name was shortened to Pray Catholic Novenas, but in the Apple App Store, for various reasons, it has shown up as Pray Catholic Prayers. So we have some “brand confusion,” the lack of a strong, cohesive brand identity, that in subtle and overt ways makes it difficult for people to recognize us.

Similarly, for the color scheme I think that the burgundy looks regal and a mixture of the penitential purple of Lent and Advent with the red of martyrdom. But that color, and the complementary blue that we put with it, is quite stark and, I would say, doesn’t look up-to-date with more modern apps.

Enter &OAK

Providentially, my friend Alex had left a corporate job to begin his own brand design agency, called &OAK.

He and I started talking, and after discussing it with my technical partner, Chad, we decided we wanted to make the investment to hire &OAK to do a new brand design, an overhaul: logo, style, colors, fonts, presentation.

We met with Alex and his team for an all day strategy session, and they drew from us what we saw as the real heart of the app, the personality of our users, and our core values and mission.

To come up with a new name for the app, they recommended that we poll our audience, and we did. We have a dedicated and loyal group of app users, and they came through with a large amount of feedback.

Mary Help of Christians
Mary Help of Christians

We gave them five names to choose from, and their responses favored one of the names by a large margin. Interestingly, the name that they chose was not the one that I thought they would. Many of our users want to keep the name the same–and I sympathize with this, having grown attached to it over these eight years–but the fact is, we need a distinctive name.

We are continuing to work with &OAK as they brainstorm designs, and they are making a “mood board” to get our feedback on it. A mood board is a visual collage of images, colors, fonts, and textures that should evoke a “mood” or emotions, and we will then see which ones match the tone that we want to set with our novena app.

Group Prayer

The rebranding is coinciding with the largest feature that we’ve added to the app in a long time: group novena prayer.

We will plan to launch this feature after the rebranding is live, but briefly, it will allow you to invite others to pray the same novena, for the same intention, within the app.

Currently you can do this informally by sharing the novena that you are praying with a friend, but even if they start praying it, there is no connection between you two within the app. So it feels like you are just two people praying your own separate novena, and the only way to stay in sync with them is by messaging them outside the app to ask whether they are still praying it, what day they are on, and so on.

The new group prayer feature will bring you together with your faithful friends and family to pray for the same intentions with the same novena, all from within the app.

Of course, the default behavior is that you pray a novena individually, not as a group, and each time you want to make a novena a group prayer, you will have to intentionally opt-in to do so and invite people.

I tend to fall into complacency with things, and for me, the Pray Catholic Novenas app has been “good enough.” People like it; they use it; it does what it says it is supposed to do. Why change anything?

But &OAK and my technical partner, Chad, are savvier than I am and pointed out that things stagnate if you don’t continue to invest in them.

That said, with the new brand design for the app, we want to capture the feel of both traditional Catholic ideas and modern design. We don’t just want modern–think the Headspace secular meditation app, with its pastel purples wavy lines and cartoonish images–and we don’t want just Baroque and Gothic architectural patterns. We want a intuitive synthesis of the two, and &OAK thinks that they can do it.

So stay tuned. I’ll share more with you as the rebrand is in progress, and request your opinions on the ideas as well!