Why every design project ends up redefining your brand

redefining your brand

Just recently in the studio, we’ve been throwing around a new theory:  that every piece of creative we work on is actually ‘a brand project’. Our theory is that every time we complete a piece of design it advances a brand in some way. That’s a punchy claim, but the more we started thinking about it, the more it just happens to be true. Rare is the piece of design that we do that is without any sort of innovation. Equally unusual is collaborating with a brand that has guidelines so exhaustive that every eventuality has been considered. In fact these gradual ways of redefining your brand aren’t a problem but actually, we believe, positive incremental changes that should be embraced. With a creative brand guardian overviewing the work, these could be seen as investments in the future of the brand.

 

Brochure design and your identity

We love designing for print. In today’s seemingly all-digital world, great new design briefs are are rare beast. However, we’ve long felt that the positive impact of a physical (in this case printed) object on a client can be significant. Whether long-standing or a new prospect, telling the story of your business in a tactile, personal way cannot be under-estimated.

When thinking about the layout of a brochure, ensuring there’s space for a brand’s key messages to cut through is primary. We love full-bleed images as well as spare, clean pages which unpack, step by step, what you do. Brochure layouts should reflect your branding, usually in terms of use of imagery and tone of voice. These are all elements of your identity and an approach to layout that improves on existing marketing materials is part of this story of evolving a brand overall.

There’s always an interesting moment when it comes to applying the logo. Should it be on the front or back? Is it in a single colour or white out? Or… maybe it isn’t even printed at all. In our work with lifestyle management and personal shopping firm Thadeus London, we created a brochure that used a blind emboss of their identity. It moved the brand forward subtly, creating a new way of presenting the business. It’s a light touch for sure, but a great example of how redefining your brand can be achieved using techniques or styling, not necessarily an overt redesign.

Brochure design for Thadeus London applying a blind emboss to the brochure

 

Websites and how they affect typography

When we started designing websites, there were just six universal typefaces. I remember having to be endlessly inventive with the combinations and ways we used these six. Creatively, it was a somewhat frustrating exercise. With the advent of webfonts, all that has changed and the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Every brand can have their own typeface on their website. To say it’s a revolution isn’t an understatement. Webfonts have meant that a real continuity of branding is possible across every primary aspect of business touchpoints.

If used well, the web gives type an incredible forum to breathe and be appreciated. I’ve always felt that using great type in a considered way, allowing not merely readability but also an appreciation of the design of the letterforms, is central to good design, irrespective of the platform. But seeing the ways in which type is used, often particularly on the pin-sharp screens of mobile web layouts, has been wonderful and often deeply satisfying.

In terms of online typography and our clients – one of our largest projects recently was for ORIS, a German manufacturing brand. It’s a piece of work we’re really proud of, in particular because of the way type is used on the site. Working with Brownfox, a foundry based in Berlin, we used a special cut of their typeface Formular. Our design represented something of a rebirth of the ORIS brand, as I’ve discussed when the project launched, but the use of type was a decisive departure from everything they’d used before.

As such the website project was central to a rebranding exercise, thinking anew about the way the brand uses type and seeing the choice of typeface as fundamental to this exercise.

Mobile web design for ORIS, using the typeface Formular in the headers across a number of weights.

 

Presentation decks and an evolving colour palette

In the last six months we’ve had more instructions to work on presentation decks than in the last six years. In the past, I had always considered PowerPoint as a deeply inflexible tool and – drama alert – as the place where good design goes to die. For starters, in many cases a designer finds themselves back in the afore-mentioned desolate land of the six typefaces. It’s like the last fifteen years of webfont tech never happened. However, I enjoy a challenge and given it’s what our clients want, we’ve decided to tackle this previously moribund sphere with renewed vigour. It was time to see if we could upturn our own preconceptions. I wish I could share more of this here, but for now these projects have a strict embargo.

Somewhat unexpectedly, we’ve had some really good experiences thinking anew about the way we tackle these jobs. When a PowerPoint (or increasingly Google Slides, an app we really rate) deck is approached as a piece of considered design, say, in the way that we might tackle a website or print brochure, that’s a good first step. The second is to appreciate it’s a media all of its own. The rules of good design apply, but often a print rather than a web design approach makes for a successful layout. Then, if we are talking about rules, what about brand guidelines? A slide deck will invariably test us, particularly when it comes to its use of colour.

Yes: colour. A careful deployment of colour is central to good design – and ideally a sparing one. A frenzy of differing tones is rarely ‘on brand’ for the corporate entities we work with. Yet, for a slide deck, we don’t need one or two. Even a secondary palette of three or four tones is usually insufficient. When it comes to laying out a detailed information graphic, particularly one sourced as supplementary data from a third party that needs restyling, we need options. And they need to stand out from one another.

To achieve this, we have to create a set of up to eight or ten tones, ideally complementary with the brand palette or tones thereof. This work sounds straightforward but as anyone who’s ever studied a Pantone book or colour wheel will tell you, it quickly becomes very contentious. The bottom line is that once design is underway out a slide deck, we will almost certainly have had to look anew at the colour palette.

In my view this (and each of the three examples I’ve cited) is a good thing – as a business you have many more options and within the context of a single project have continued refreshing and redefining your brand.

 

Sample deck slides for AlgoMe Consulting – using new graphic approaches and colour to evolve the branding

 

Best practice for redefining your brand

In our work we invariably are asked not to redesign an identity, but instead find ways of evolving it. If you’re interested in a project of gradually redefining your brand, we’d love to hear from you. Either email us direct or call on 020 7351 4083.

Our award-winning design work for Thadeus London

Our work for AlgoMe Consulting

Our website for ORIS

Our work in brand, icon and logo design