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Category: Graphic Design

Stonebridge Talent Branding

September has been a really productive and busy month – perhaps businesses are getting their ducks lined up for the winter months or perhaps it’s a general vibe of wanting to get things done after the summer. Whichever it is, I am in design heaven, with different tasks and challenges each day.

This project was just completed. The coach, Terence Perrin, is a start-up with many years of experience in talent coaching under his belt. He wanted to use a pre-designed logo from an image library (I am never a fan of this but his budget constraints didn’t allow for more, and at the end of the day what’s most important is to do a great job for a client within their budget). So instead of starting with concepts from scratch, I scoured the market place for an appropriate icon which we purchased and I adapted to make it work for him. It did however remind me of why it’s best to invest in a bespoke brand – even if just for the fact that only your brand will have that particular image. Of course with something as local and personal as coaching, it won’t have such a big impact if someone on the other side of the world uses the same icon, but I’d always strife for uniqueness.

I setup a website in a web builder that came with his domain name, same reason and even more restrictive than I ever imagined – again, if you can, it’s well worth investing in a product that is future proof for a business that’s evolving and changing. I like a challenge though and hopefully the result is still effective in terms of message and brand identity even if it was pretty limited in what one could do.

Add a flyer to the mix and we’ve delivered a nice little start-up collection for a start-up business. Fingers crossed it will be an exciting time ahead for Stonebridge Talent!

Luxury Holidays in the UK – Can I book now please?!

We’ve been working with Luxury Vacations for more than 12 years now – rather shocking how time flies!

The team have always been amazing in a graphic design sense, appreciating and demanding good design for all their marketing material. Over the years, the brand has come to life in many ways and recently we are focusing on completely re-vamping all the digital material.

We are now at a stage where more and more of their fantastic tours are in brochure form, giving clients the choice to read it online or even request a printed copy. Thanks to digital print and much faster website speeds, the options are all there for customers. And from a design perspective, it all helps to create a rounded brand image that resonates with overseas travel agents and visitors.

Brochure Design

Layers of Deception Book Cover design

Layers of Deception

This has been a great project. We’ve been working with Leo James, a UK crime author, to create his latest book cover design for his crime thriller Layers of Deception. We created a ‘layered’ composite including elements from the story’s location and content. It’s definitely a challenge to give a visual overview of the content of a novel with limited space and considering the even more limited attention span of people browsing book shelves.

Layers of Deception Book Cover front and back

Layers of Deception Book Cover pile

book design, graphic design

Carter Wong revamp for British craft beer is just the ticket

British craft beer brand TicketyBrew has unveiled a refreshed identity with design by multi-disciplinary studio Carter Wong.

Restoring impact and structure
Having quickly expanded to include more than 35 flavours the brand had begun to suffer from a series of tweaks to its overarching visual identity. To restore impact Carter Wong refocused TicketyBrew’s messaging, stripping the brand back to a simplified identity with a more contemporary look and feel.
The range was then segmented to provide structure, splitting the portfolio into a Core Range of 11 beers and a Limited Editions range of approximately 26 more unusual flavours.

Stripped back design
Carter Wong retained the original colour palette for the Core Range but reduced the volume of written content on the wraparound label for a cleaner feel. Each flavour within the Core Range now has a number to help distinguish between the products, with a stamp design to celebrate where the beer is made and touches of bright colours to appeal to the latest trends.
Across the Limited Editions range, a patterned background in vibrant tones creates standout to differentiate from the Core Range, with four patterns on rotation and colourways chosen based on the individual flavours.
Where the Core Range shows a stamp of origin in a contrasting hue, the Limited Editions have the year the flavour was introduced. With new flavour profiles released every 4-6 weeks, a newly-introduced digital print approach enables TicketyBrew to amend and print new versions quickly and easily.

 

Engaging a more informed consumer

Sarah Turner, Managing Director, Carter Wong, says: “Since the launch of TicketyBrew in 2013, the craft beer market has grown considerably and as a result, the average consumer is more knowledgeable about their options. Once fit for purpose, the TicketyBrew brand had begun to lose impact as the craft beer category became more competitive.

“We retained the core brand identity with its wrap-around labels and perforated tickets with hidden glass shape but refined the core messaging for an evolved marketplace. The updated design sets the brand apart in an increasingly crowded sector, with added flexibility to introduce new flavour profiles as it continues to grow.”

Je ne sais quoi

It may just be the French way of life, but…
Compare the pretty standard wheelchair priority sign with that for pregnant ladies and mums. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a flirty depiction of a mother with child in a supermarket – mini skirt, high heels, coquettish hand on hip, leg hoisted up on the stroller.
From my own experience with three boys, the typical picture of a mother with impatient kids at a checkout is a rather different one!
Mind you, it may make the men look twice and remember to let mums to be and mums that are go ahead in the queue 😉

In app twist

A lot of apps are very visual these days but we still do have to write things. I'm not even starting to talk about how awful the spelling mistakes are in news apps.

I started using this clever little Instagram grid helper and was actually really surprised to see a typo on the one page that contains instructions. How on earth?!?! The trouble is, it reflects badly on the brand and sows a seed of doubt about the quality. It's easily avoided.

(Last time I checked it was following, not 'follwoing'…)

One of my friends works for a large corporate and I like this footer – 'this email has been typed on a phone and may contain errors'. I like that somehow – it's expressing the frustrating downfalls of predictable text, Siri and other clever tech that's almost but not quite there yet.

As a brand manager, typos are details that should not be overlooked – we may all be accustomed to the quirks of instant messaging and high speed Comms but in my mind it's this attention to detail that will differentiate a brand in terms of quality and expertise.

brand management, differentiation, grammar, typography

Ups, I forgot to mention…

…. the name of my product!

Don’t walk up too closely to this banner stand in the local cinema. What looks like a standard ad for Doritos quickly becomes a giggle when you see that the actual ‘new flavour’ had been forgotten (unless this is a new way to style roll up banners) and had to be stuck on with paper and the perhaps slightly uninspiring line ‘Have you tried Chilli flavoured Nachos ??’
I won’t even mention the typography (or lack of).


And why would a triangle have a thinking bubble? Perhaps it is a dream cloud and the designers found themselves in a little bit of a nightmare…

Nice idea, sack the art worker 

When the agency placing this advert for the saucy fish co got a copy of the magazine on their desks they must have had one of those moments…
How can this happen in today’s tech savvy world? Get a discount for the next one! What a shame.

looks good at a glance, but look closer!

print technology taking the bisuit

bloody bleed!

Thank you for saying thank you!

When it comes to feedback from clients following the ‘go live’ of a web design or the distribution of a brochure, catalogue or marketing campaign, usually no news is good news. Feedback is usually given during the concept phase and and the ensuing design and print or web development management success is (understandably) expected. That’s why it always feels special when you get an unprompted compliment after ‘go live’ or ‘go public’ – and even more so when it comes in the form of flowers and kind words.
I think most creatives will agree that whilst we all need to earn money, that’s not really why we are trying to do the best job… it’s the process of finding a solution and how it is perceived by the client and the public.
So, thank you to APP for being more than a super client!

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graphic design

BMW – Beautiful Marketing Opportunity Wasted

BMW-Brand-advertising-franchise
What were they thinking? This amount of words from such a brand is leaving me speechless…

Hands up everyone who thinks that this is a yellow pages ad from a small business with the BMW logo stuck on… I hope I am not the only one that feels this is way below the usual brand aesthetics of BMW, brand managers cry your eyes out.
Upon closer inspection I realise of course that this is a franchise advert – but I still don’t understand why that implies you can throw any typography style out the window. They may however have gotten a decent discount from the media agency backed up by brand guidelines because there must be a paragraph somewhere that states that the type should be completely visible after the ad has been stuck on, and not like in this sample missing a letter right in the middle of the sheet.
BMW-Brand-advertising-franchise-error
We know how it happened, but that still doesn’t make it right.

Located at a prime spot in our town, this seems such a wasted opportunity – although I wonder how many target market drivers go past the local Aldi… It does blatantly highlight the difference between brand advertising and franchise advertising where the bar still seems to be set much lower and price dictates quality of design.
Whatever the motivation  behind this, in my mind the brand would have been better off with just the logo on a white background.

Oneustonsquaredomainname

Nice brand name execution, shame about the brand domain name execution…

Oneustonsquarebranding
Clever use of colour to highlight the location name

The jury is out on this one… What looks like a really slick and simple branding concept for One Euston Square (which forms part of a pedestrianised southern approach to Euston station) has been flawed by an in my mind over keen design of the small print. Whilst the logo works beautifully with the detail in the letter ‘q’ featuring a square, this is lost in the domain name oneustonsq.com perhaps for legibility reasons.
However, because of the colouring going hand in hand with the brand logo itself, the missing square somewhat weakens the brand concept and leaves the thought in my mind that they may have been better off leaving the web address as a ‘normal’ piece of information that is not treated as another interpretation of the brand identity concept.
This very ‘square’ element has been nicely reflected on the website where information is displayed in square shapes adding consistency and continuity to the brand logo.
Oneustonsquaredomainname
Perhaps better left alone and simply displayed as a domain name
since they didn’t show the detail of the square in the letter q.

It’s hard as a brand manager to always know where to draw the line between graphic interpretation and sheer practicality and it’s by no means easily definable.
Lumejet S2000 product name typography
The product logo is a sans serif type, but for this brochure spread it was
vital that the name fitted into the concept with both the colour and typography.

Looking at it the other way, a client I am working with at the moment was really concerned about using their product name in a playful manner on a ‘fashion spread’ advertising their product because the typography is designed to go with the content of the pages rather than be an advert for the brand per se.
We did explore the subject and came to the conclusion that the brand should have the confidence to use the name of their product in different styles since there is good reason to do so (rather than compromise the message) – but it really is one of those things where you have to assess on a case by case basis using both gut feeling and common sense.

Brand Managment, brand message, Design, graphic design, Logos, typography

How (NOT) to Advertise a Fleece Blanket

It’s one of those lovely finds my husband brought back from a business meeting – well, the photo that is, he wouldn’t have dared to get the product looking at the packaging!
I guess I may have been in danger of mocking him… have a look at the picture. Anything striking you as odd? Perhaps we are not getting this but why would you use a picture of a summery dressed girl with a laptop on her bare legs (if you’ve ever held that type laptop on your skin you’ll remember how hot it gets) advertising a cosy fleece blanket – which incidentally has not been treated with fire resistant chemicals and can thus not be used on soft furnishings, such as the sofa the lady is lying on?!!??!
I wonder what Alan Sugar would say to this packaging (‘does it show the product?’…) To me, it looks like a churned out product line not really caring about any brand awareness and purely targeting a ‘cheap buy’ at a motorway station, so never mind the apparent packaging inaptitude – it’s just a lovely sample of ‘what not to do’.

Brand-Packaging-Design-Mistakes
Not hot enough? Need a blanket? Don’t use it on a sofa though!

 

Branding, Design, Funny, graphic design, packaging

Which Came First – The Chicken or The Chicken?

I know that when you really look hard, everything has been done before in some way, shape or form, and the challenge of creatives is to come up with new and innovative ways to use a set number of visual devices us people are familiar with to communicate in an engaging manner, but it does strike me as strange when a big brand like McDonald’s uses literally the same device as another big brand (albeit in the pet food market) to advertise one of their key products.

mcdonald's brand advert
What does it say about the brand – apart from ‘hey, we like the Whiskas campaign and thought we do the same!’

Looking at the advert for McDonald’s chicken burger, I am not convinced that it actually works as a brand or product advertisement. It is neither here nor there in terms of emotion and message. Surely if you stuffed your face with a chicken burger in a delightful frenzy, the packaging would look worse for wear with eager fingers dipping in?
Whiskas product advert
Cat food origami… a bit different… but quite sweet.

I know that you can’t always avoid repeating visual devices, in this case origami, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as such, if executed in an innovative way or used to tell a new story, be relevant and fresh.
tissue brand advert
Folded message. Not really unfolding well.

Looking at this ad for Colhogar, I am not sure the connection with tissue paper for runny noses is really evident. And if you ever tried to actually make origami out of these type of tissues, it is nearly impossible and frustrating because of the softness of the paper (now here is a thought that might actually show a benefit of the paper to the consumer who might prefer the message of ‘too soft to be stable’ for their noses).
greenpeace advert
Missing something.

This Greenpeace advert is another origami example, the connection being the ‘wasting paper kills more than just trees’ but the visual execution is somewhat missing some warmth or depth.
bancoMatoneparrots
This bank’s strapline is ‘multiply your money’ but it beats me why they used birds instead of animals we naturally associate with rapid breeding (rabbits, anyone?).
brand advertisement
Sport artificial leather to stop animal slaughter – sorry, lost on me!

I also don’t quite get this advert for Rexiine House. I don’t even know what the connection is to their brand, what they do, why I should care. Perhaps this is simply an unlucky find because they are an indian company and won’t have exposure here.
The adverts below for Western Union also use origami, but I do like what they have done with it. Unlike the ‘multiplying’ advert, they used the essence of the bank notes themselves to create a connection between money transfers and the human aspect as well as the distance and cultural differences. It shifts the brand message from being a financial transaction to being a human interaction. Nicely done.
western union advert western-union-money-transfer-faces-1
I wonder how the McDonald’s chicken burger campaign will work for them. Perhaps they have planned a whole interactive origami media campaign with in-restaurant tutorials and bespoke packaging with instructions to bring the rather unsubtle copy of the Whiskas adverts to a better live… but why do I doubt that?

advertising, brand advertising, graphic design

Spot the Brand

Spot the Brand
Unless they are trying to promote eye tests, this seems to be a rather very poor brand application on the site of a mighty big van. It is also a good example why we test a logo during a brand identity design process, and why there are brand identity design guidelines that help avoid such failures.
Colour and legibility go hand in hand and there is no doubt a bit of an art to finding the perfect mixture. It’s another tool for communicating a brand’s values – and a very emotional one.
Sadly, the only emotion this van evokes is that of frustration and strained eyes.

brand advertising, graphic design

When Thinking Backwards is a Step in the Right Direction

fitflops-covering-beach-with-logo
What are they saying?

Imagine a vast landscape covered with your logo, visible at every step. Would be nice? Meet fitflop, the brand who had the chance to do just that, but decided not to.
fitflops-beach-branding
Turns out, they are saying nothing at all! What a pity, ’cause they could have had their logo plastered all over the sandy beaches of the world…

Their fashionable take on flip flops with a ‘special’ sole has been present on the UK high street for a while now and has become another summer shoe brand alongside Crocs .
On the bottom of their shoes emblazoned in large letters is their logo in a distinct type. It seems that nobody in the product design department saw the potential of the beach shoes spelling out the brand message on Britain’s sandy shores and overseas. Instead, they leave a rather uninspiring ‘golftit’ or just a jumble of what could be letters.
It seems such an apt carrier  for their brand message (beach, sand, sandals, big letter logo…) I can’t believe no-one jumped at this opportunity!

Brand Strategy, Branding, graphic design, typography

Wilkinson – A Big Brand Let Down by Poor Typography

They have seemingly filled the gap on the high street left by Woolworths. Wilkinson has become a household brand in the purest sense – whether you need a bucket or some baby wipes, some wallpaper or gardening tools, they stock a wide range of household goods at a cheap price compared to the more specialised retailers (Boots for baby items, B&Q or Homebase for DIY, the usual supermarkets for household goods.)
It makes sense to highlight this versatility in a marketing campaign and even more so on their delivery vans for the mail order side of the business. But whilst their online appearance seems to be professional, with attention to detail (such as this 404 not found page design), their lorry advertising is just plain awful.
It’s not only the forced justified type that causes huge gaps between some of the words and looks dubious, it’s the inconsistency in the use of the singular or plural that follows no rule or reasoning. It’s a nice concept, but the execution lets it and the brand down big time.

wilkinson brand identity
A clean, simple logo…

Wilkinson-truck-typography
… spoilt by poor typography.

Wilkinson-truck-typography
Jarring even in the dark..

Wilkinson-404-fun error 404 message
That’s better! Makes you want to get to an error 404!

The concept has been visualised by other stores in a more sophisticated manner. John Lewis’ tissue paper shows outlines of all sorts of products, and Bob Gill did the concept of visualising ‘we do all sorts of things’ many, many years ago in a poster that showed the goods of a department store arranged to a nearly out of context graphic with the interest kept by ignoring the actual scale of the items and arranging them, no matter what their real size, next to each other.
It may be that the back of a van does not make or break a brand, but poor typography does reflect on the professionalism and attention to detail of any business (even if Wilkos could have done worse – they could have used Comic Sans)….

Brand Identity, graphic design, typography

Permanent Advertising and its Pitfalls

It probably seemed a good idea at the time, but I wonder if the brand owners of this advert expected their advert to be overshadowed by nothing less than another building! Made me smile anyway…

Brand-Advertising-Problem
What came first? The chicken or the egg?

advertising, Funny

A Logo is a Logo is a Logo…

They famously sparked the usual rebranding debate in 2010 when Waterstones changed their logo from the traditional serif W to a rounded sans serif. It was linked to a campaign ‘feel every word’ – and the typography that ensued always struck me as uncomfortably familiar to Unilever, rebranded by Wolff Olins.

Waterstones rebrand 2010
Feel every word… I feel the world ‘familiarity’

Waterstones Logo 2010
Familiar concept? Compare it to the Unilever brand…

Unilever branding
Plagiarism is a form of flattery…

Early this year they have undergone a backward revolution, I suppose, by abandoning the sans serif FS Alberta Pro back to Baskerville and by dropping the apostrophe. Perhaps it got a bit crowded in the logo marketplace when even Tesco adopted that visual type style.
Tesco welcome typography
Another Unilever inspired brand visual…

It’s an interesting decision by the brand owners, and a somewhat brave step to go ‘back to the roots’.
Waterstones brand evolution
From brand evolution to brand revolution – and back again…

They did however still keep that very Unilever style, now on the new old type.
VentureThree rebrand of Waterstones
VentureThree sticks to the Unilever branding approach…

With all this happening, one can excuse the shop owner of the bookstore chain for struggling to keep up with the latest brand guidelines! This Birmingham outlet seems to believe that if in doubt, stick them all on the shop front – something for everyone…
Waterstones-brand-confusion
Brand confusion? If in doubt, stick them all on!

Perhaps the brand guidelines never made it up to Birmingham, or perhaps there is a hidden message here – but it makes me smile in disbelief that such an established brand can allow a clash of identities…

brand guidelines, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message, Brand Strategy, Brand Vision, typography

When a Brand Identity Gets a Second Meaning – Let’s Hope by Chance…

Brand identity chilled ambient
Waiting for your food? Chilled ambient and the ‘wheel of doom’ from apple…

They have everything going for their brand identity. Clean, clear type and colours. A bold message. A modern feel. Shame that the first thing I associate with their logo is not anything to do with food and transport / logistics – it’s simply the feeling of frustration and losing time watching the famous Apple pin wheel rotate on my screen.
What is a shame is that exactly this association of waiting is less than appropriate with a delivery company of any type.
Apple Pin Wheel Icon
Looks familiar? What a shame about the implied association which seems to be a bit ‘off brand’ message!

Apart from that… I like!
 

brand design, brand identity design, Funny, Logos

SME Branding Lesson #20 – Function Over Form or Form Over Function?

20120724-074444.jpg
I’m on holiday – thus the rather sporadic and short entries – but I always look out for anything branding related that can help my SME clients.
This one is a tricky one – it’s a design issue for sure but one a brand manager has to handle. Does your brand identity have to be forced onto every object even if it distracts from its clarity and even destroys its legibility?
Brand guidelines generally contain rules on how not to distort, change, discolour or deconstruct a brand icon or name – but perhaps we need to add another rule and send it to supermarket giant Sainsbury… How not to space out your brand name or website address!
Especially if people won’t consider your business a household name (yet) clarity is paramount and designs such as this example from Sainsbury can do more harm than good.
Sometimes it’s perhaps better not to feature a name or logo if it is confusing and detrimental to a brand – or find a different brand vehicle, pardon the pun…

brand management, graphic design, SME, vehicle design

Take a Bite of These!

Land Rover Survival Guide
An edible survival guide. What more can you ask for when stranded in the Arabian desert (other than perhaps a car that took you back home?)

Talking of large brands hesitant to try new things in this economic climate, Land Rover Dubai had something else in mind. Their survival guide doesn’t just explain how to survive in the Arabian desert, it also offers the reader to truly digest their information – with the nutritional value of a cheeseburger.
It’s just nice to see a big brand that stands for adventure be adventurous and communicate with their brand essence written all over it. It’s a simple idea but wouldn’t really be suitable for many brands. Use it for Land Rover, and a bit of marketing magic happens.
I think this is what I am struggling with when brands suddenly venture into areas that don’t seem to gel – I am still coming to terms with the Kelloggs handbag. Any news on that one?
Banksy Bunting
Bunting at Turnpike Lane. Just simple and clever.

Another really nice piece of creative is the latest Banksy design – assuming it is him. Ready for the celebrations, it’s just a simple and sweet statement that makes me believe in the power of creativity.
Whichever way you look at brand communications and marketing today, there is no real reason why advertising, social and print can’t be extraordinary. It may be a step in the dark, but a mixture of understanding what a brand is about and great creative ideas to get the brand personality across to the nowadays pretty demanding consumer usually pays off long-term.
 

brand management, graphic design, marketing

SME Branding Lesson #16 – Business Cards – Your Brand Message Exposed

I am working on quite a few corporate identity projects at the moment and the question keeps coming up as to what should be on a business card and how vital a good design is these days for a small business.
So here are some thoughts on the origin, relevancy and importance of the business card.

A brief history of the name card

With a history pointing back to the 17th Century, business cards, or ‘name card’ as they were first called, have been a consistent part of communications. Originally used to introduce the owner as a ‘calling’ visitor, the cards were designed to be just big enough to fit in the palm of a hand and to announce the arrival of its owner ‘in all his glory’.
Whilst name cards were tailored for the individual, businesses used trade cards to advertise where their shops could be found in cities such as London (where at the time there was no formal street numbering system available.
The arrival of printing methods also meant the change of the card design from woodcut or letterpress to lithography and subsequently to include tints and colours. Whilst very popular in those days, come the 19th Century (with new technologies and a wide-spread distribution of newspapers that allowed businesses to display their services more lavishly and prominently) businesses preferred to place adverts, leading to the decline of the trade card industry.
Especially in the US, a distinction was made between calling cards and business cards, one serving social etiquette, the other trade and the promotion of products and services.
Today, we are probably still most familiar with business cards promoting brands – though individualised for the representative – though the availability of off-the-shelf printing solutions such as Moo or printed.com allow greater accessibility of affordable custom print services for those who want to promote their own personal brand.

So how do you start?

If you are looking to promote yourself or your brand, there are a few vital pieces of information that should be found on any card. But whilst you may be tempted to stick everything on there, and possibly everything on one side, it is one of the biggest design challenges to create a clean, clear and legible layout on 85mm x 54mm or thereabouts.

  • Who are you?

This is easy – kind of. You want your brand identity clearly displayed as well as your name and professional title, should you brand use titles. Sometimes the use of lengthy acronyms is more off-putting than useful. It all depends on who you are trying to reach with the business cards. If you are a doctor, surgeon, lawyer or any professional where titles signify the level of experience and the specialism and you are targeting people who understand and value the expertise these titles imply, then by all means include them.
Sometimes however, a brand will benefit from steering clear of the use of titles to create a more accessible, friendly, non-differentiating culture amongst its staff and brand ambassadors.

  • What do you do?

Business cards offer the opportunity to visualise an ‘elevator pitch’. As such, the ‘what do you do’ part needs to be concise and memorable, avoiding endless lists of buzz words relating to your industry.
Also beware that once you write down certain areas of your business, people tend to assume that this is all you do so you may miss out on inquiries relating to those areas you did not mention.
A clearly defined brand essence and core brand message will help to get people interested enough in your brand to engage and find out the details on a website.

  • Where do you do it?

Depending on how you operate, you may or may not include a physical address here. These days, every business should have a thought-through and well-designed web presence that contains these details for those who need them.
However, it depends on whether you are operating from multiple sites, whether you are a local consultancy looking to attract visitors to your offices, whether you are selling a product and really only want web traffic.
Think about what you want to ideally happen when someone picks up your card and is interested. That should dictate how much you disclose about your whereabouts and also how you would like to be contacted.
If online and social media is your aim as a communication platform for engaging with your clients, this would mean the inclusion of relevant icons and perhaps a QR-code. These are constantly evolving and you can now include little brand icons within them to make them more your own.
These are probably the most important pieces of information to include on a car. What will make your card different from others and thus more memorable and valuable for your brand is the consideration of the following:
Format (Size)
Whilst the common size of the business card is practically dictated by wallet and business card holder sizes, there is some flexibility in width and height you can play with. I would never suggest to go too crazy as it may backfire – unless of course you are making a statement and have a solution in mind so the size becomes an asset to your brand.

Unusual size Business Card Sample by Catalyst Studios
This elongated format still fits in a wallet but stands out not just by the material used, but by the size as well.

Shape
As mentioned above, there are certainly restrictions to the shape of a business card which needs to remain practical or may just end up in the bin with all the other uninteresting print material. However, even subtle elements that make the shape special and relevant to the brand can really make your business stand out.
One or more rounded edges, a cut-out bit, a rough boarder – look at your brand essence to see if there is some element that can be visualised by an alteration in the shape of your business card.
Shape Business Card Example from Couldbe Studios
Who says round edges are all you can do? If it works for the brand, an unusual shape can greatly enhance the brand message.

The use of type
There are cases, where you want a lot of information in a small space. That does not mean it has to look busy or cluttered. The challenge of the designer is to find the right balance, the right size and the right fonts (which is why business cards are usually part of the brand identity design development, where type faces and colour palettes are defined).
Luxury Vacations Business Card Design by Essence Design
Even if you have quite a lot of information to display on a card, using clean typography and leaving plenty of ‘white space’ will ensure legibility and that the type does not take away, but adds to the brand identity.

Use of colours
Colour greatly affects how people perceive your business. They are of course part of your brand identity and but a business card gives the opportunity to make bold statements and to use colour in an innovative way. Double sided cards come to life with one side displaying a contrasting colour. Sometimes, less is more and the subtlest shades create an amazing effect that supports your brand message.
CathyPhillips Business Card Design by Essence Design
Here is a sample of a brand ID for an interior designer. Keeping the colour scheme cool and contemporary and printing two coloured business cards at a time reflects the nature of the business as much as the hand crafted logo design and paper choice.

Variations
When working with a printer who either accommodates variations of colours or designs or sets up a job bespoke for you, there is always the option to include different colours, patterns, backgrounds or content on a business card set to create a versatile, collectible feel. It’s something worth considering especially for B2C customers.
Fish Restaurant Business Card Design by Essence Design
This restaurant has a quirky, colourful interior and the business card set reflects this by coming in two distinct variations.

Brand essence
It always creates some magic when you can visualise the brand essence of your business. A tire company with a tire profile across their card. A nitting shop with a needle effect. A visual on the name, such as this example with ‘Hidden’. Once you know who you are, you can play with it to great effect.
Brand Essence Business Card Design Sample by Hidden Design
In this example, the company played with their name ‘hidden’ and created a fun and memorable design.

Paper and material
The material a card is printed on can be as simple as plain paper or as crazy as a bit of wood – if it fits the brand, innovative materials can really bring out the brand message.
There are thousands of specialist papers out there, and companies such as Fedrigioni, GFSmith and Robert Horne work closely with designers to achieve the best creative solution. When it comes to the ‘printability’ of the stock, I would always recommend to work closely with a printer to ensure the design will translate well into print. Sometimes, a ‘wet proof’ is the best option where by the actual paper, inks and print finishes are used on the actual press to create a proof. It’s expensive, but especially if you are using experimental papers and printing methods, it can save hundreds of pounds later if something does not go quite as expected.
Other materials, such as rough card board, Priplak (polypropylene), soft plastics or even wood can be utilised to create a unique feel and special effect for the brand.
Meethalfway Business Card Design by Essence Design
On this example, we simply used a matt laminated card that avoids fingerprints and is sturdy enough to give the card longevity as it is meant to be kept in the wallet for future reference.

Printing methods and print finishing
Two colour Pantone, full colour CMYK, screen print, blind emboss, thermography, UV spot varnish, silk or matt laminate, gloss UV, emboss, die cutting, foiling – the list is extensive when it comes to available printing methods and print finishes. Some simpler print finishes, such as laminates, are now often part of the printing press setup and thus available even on the cheap printing websites. For everything else it is good to find a knowledgable, passionate print partner
Anam Cara Business Card Design and Folder by Essence Design
In this sample, we used copper foil to enhance the visual of this alternative therapy brand.

What else is there to think about?

You could say that that’s enough – but I wouldn’t stop there. Think about how you will hand out the business cards. How does the container look that you pull them out of? Which side would you ideally present first? How do they fit with the other brand collateral? Are you proud to hand them out? What does their appearance say about your business? Do they look cheap? And if so, is that ok for what you do? (A charity has to take a different approach to a luxury good retailer.)
Business cards are one of the smallest print materials every brand should call their own – but they are also one of the biggest opportunities every brand should make their own.

brand message, business cards, graphic design, print finishes, printing

SME Branding Lesson #11 – Be Straight in Your Communications

Tesco Pet Insurance Brand Communications
Brand communications that lost them my loyalty and custom.

I received a letter from Tesco pet insurance about the renewal of our policy. The letter suggested an upgrade of the policy and mentioned just on the side the new monthly fee. It was more than double to what I signed up for. I did the ‘usual’ shopping around and found a cheaper offer – with the same or nearly the same benefits. I called and spoke to a chap to cancel the policy and he mentioned that I did have the ‘save 50%’ special offer last year. Sadly, by then my mind was made up.
Why do I mention this?
In my mind, the brand communication went wrong in a few ways. The letter of renewal arrived late and gave hardly any time to consider. It mentioned nowhere the reason for the dramatic increase – e.g. the special offer from the last year – or any reasons why I should renew. It was written in typical lawyers talk mixed with marketing speech and fact I had to hunt down where the actual monthly costs were displayed (ok, so I am blind to right hand column advertising on google and facebook) made the whole experience annoying.
The Tesco brand positions itself as great value for money – their policy communications did not get that brand promise across.
What would I change?

  • Be nice to your existing customers! They have no real reason to stay loyal other than being happy with your product and service – and with the way you treat them. Whether you are a small business or Tesco, customers today expect to feel valued and not just like sheep led along…
  • Be upfront! Explain your charges, why they occur, why they increase, what the benefits are. You can always use the psychology of feeling loss much more than feeling a gain and highlight what the client will miss out on if they leave. Most importantly though, don’t try to hide any money issues.
  • Be creative! How nice would it have been to have received a letter or some other form of communication from Tesco a couple of months before the anniversary, perhaps something pet related, telling me ‘thank you’ (especially since I never made a successful claim) and told me about the new fees well in advance with reasons why and future benefits of staying on. (No claims policy comes to mind!!!) Even some clubcard offer relating to pets would have made a difference and not cost them much.
  • Be flexible! With rate increases comes frustration. Try to find a solution that keeps the customer happy and keeps you as their service provider. Perhaps you can tailor the service to match their budget even if it means they lose some benefits. They may prefer that to moving company. It’s at least worth a try.
  • Stay nice. That’s the only thing I can’t complain about Tesco. The chap on the phone remained nice and friendly and did not try to persuade me as I have experienced with other insurances in the past. If someone has made their mind up and wants to leave, let them go. They will be more likely to keep you in good stead than trying to convince them with more sales banter.

I shall await the new brand experience offered by Tesco’s competitor! Perhaps it will make me stay another year.

attitude, brand management, Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

Homebase Rebrand – Rebel Without a Cause?

This week saw the launch of the new homebase brand, designed by Design Bridge. The result was received rather lukewarm with a hint of disappointment at least by the design community.

Homebase_logo 2012
"Initially the brief asked us not to change the logo, but as the project developed it became clear that the logo required an evolution to reflect the creative look and feel and tone of voice that we developed for the brand." (Design Bridge)

Most agree that it is certainly an evolution instead of a revolution – if rebrand is indeed the correct term for this logo development.
Homebase Logo
Flat and one dimensional. And now much better – apparently.

I wonder if we are missing some information here. Why did the company feel the need to change the graphics? Some speculate that Homebase is attempting to better align itself with the newly acquired Habitat brand.
If they are trying to position themselves as the duller, more conventional brand of the two, perhaps that’s a job well done – but I don’t feel that this logo change alone is going to actually change the perception of the brand sufficiently enough.
It was perhaps not the wisest move to make it a big piece of PR as the usual comments of those just looking at the result will inevitably be along the lines of ‘I could have done that in five minutes’ and ‘how can they spend money on this’.
Tropicana rebranded packaging
Where is the brand name? And what makes this look any different from supermarket's own brands?

Perhaps they were trying to avoid a branding disaster of the scale of Tropicana. Like so many others, the brand, owned by Pepsico, intended to bring their classic packaging design with the widely recognised straw-in-an-orange image into the 21st Century.
However, they seemed to have forgotten that a successful rebrand involves not just the design of a new logo or packaging identity, but includes re-evaluating and adjusting a company’s goals, brand message and, importantly, company culture.
Instead, they rolled out completely new packaging without any other evidence of re-positioning and with the added flaw in that their consumers did not recognise the new packaging as Tropicana’s because too many elements of the design had moved.
The original branding for the Tropicana carton
The straw, the orange, the brand name bang in the middle. It was familiar and it worked.

The packaging  was no longer familiar or easy to spot on the supermarket shelves. After lots of complaints and plummeting sales, the company did a u-turn and went back to the old design, proving the power of the consumer and that we are all creatures of habit…
Changing things too much certainly won’t be  an issue for the Homebase logo. Which brings me back to the question ‘Why do it at all and so publicly?’
Design Bridge says, ‘Across all touch points, we have injected depth and light to move from flat, primary colours to a more natural and optimistic palette.’
That may be so – but did they have to plop it in yet another circle? I really wished I could see the creative cleverness in this – but then again, retail has its own science behind its success and this may be just the right mixture of keeping the brand identity close to its past whilst adding some new elements to ‘play with’ in different touch points.
It remains to be seen how the brand is rolled out across the website and company literature and perhaps it will complete a new picture Homebase and is going to paint.
In the meantime, I am afraid it looks like yet another rebrand without a cause – be it because it was death by committee, fear of bold change or lack of inspiration. I wonder what B&Q will do next!

Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Logos

Proof of the Pudding – Or is it a Bun?

The Santander brand identity has been a bit of a mystery to me ever since they took over our high streets in personal and business banking. In my mind, Santander are a baker, not a financial institution – mostly because their logo looks like a hot bun fresh out the oven, still steaming.
So imagine my joy when I walked passed one of their offices with posters advertising coffee and snacks. It must be true – they really are a pastry maker in disguise!

Santander Brand Identity Design
Someone's got a bun in the oven...

They are of course a major brand and their logo, strange as it may be, is well-recognised, but for me personally, the visual identity design of the ‘flame’ logo is weak and I curse it every time it triggers the thought of some lovely home-made bread which it then inevitably doesn’t deliver.
There is a local chippy that has a similar problem – though for a slightly smaller audience… in fact, probably just for me. They use red, black and white for their shop front and signage which has the effect of visually reminding not of the UK coastal fishery towns, but of Japanese restaurant exterior and from a distance the words even read  ‘sushi fish bar’ instead.
Being a great fan of sushi and all things non-battered, it has caught me out time and time again, filling me with disappointment that the promise of fresh, unusual, healthy fish dishes is in fact that of deep fried sausages, poultry and haddock with the Nation’s favourite potatoe dish.
And whilst I’ve got absolutely nothing against fish and chips when it’s the right occasion, I feel that they missed a trick in their brand identity design – why try and be something they are not instead of celebrating the British? Until they commission a new lick of paint, I shall continue to drive past and remind myself that it’s really not that important…
 

brand, Brand Identity, Logos

More Typography

… another week, another ad. Referring back to my earlier post on typography used in a local brand identity, here is another example of a poster where typography makes me stumble.
T-Mobile chose not to separate or highlight in any way their product or package – and it reads rather peculiarly ‘You fix your kids’…

T-Mobile Brand Advert
You fix your kids - and other innovative products from the T-Mobile brand.

What difference a bit of type treatment makes to a brand message.

typography

Give me some space please!

It jars – and makes me question the brand's accuracy in terms of hair styling, too!

Nevermind the name… ‘bad apple’ perhaps not my first choice to establish a salon and retail shop for hair – but I don’t know their target market so it may be just right. (Remember the worries of dying hair blonde which sometimes reacted with swimming pool water to create a green streak?!)
Why do I not know who they are after? I am just not at all tempted to venture into the shop simply because of the signage. How sad am I. It is clearly legible despite the incorrect use of the short hyphen between their strap line. Call me a typo nerd, but these things all add up to the whole brand image in my mind, and since the use of hyphens, n-dashes and m-dashes is not super clear these days, the overriding rule should be that of legibility and aesthetics. When I first walked past, I read hair-dedicated and was intrigued how they came up with that new word until (very shortly after) my eye had caught up with the rest of the sign and felt distracted by the poor typography rather than thinking about the content.
Even if you ignore the punctuation issue, I’d still ask for a teeny bit of space on either side (or to make it into a two-liner) to let the statement talk about the brand rather than shut up any interest.

typography

Great Framework…

Whilst I will always be the first one to point out amateurish signage or posters in shop windows as detrimental to a brand, I did have to smile about this one. It’s nothing special, but somehow it just works being subtle and a bit ‘Smile in the Mind’.
I like!

marketing

Alan Sugar Rants and Builds Brands

The PR and brand management department at Lloyds TSB must have had a great morning. Lord Alan Sugar (will I ever get used to this title?) is on good form and discussing a variety of topics on the Chris Moyles show. He mentions that his money is with the ‘bank with the black horse’ which he is not allowed to Lloyds mention… oh and then there was Skype… but we are at the BBC so no brand name dropping.

Lloyds brand identity
Horse Power

Unless people are innocently confused about a brand image, this is a great example of the power of simple and descriptive brand identities. In an environment where we are bombarded with logos, symbols and brand visuals,  if all it takes for a company to be recognised is the mention of an element of the identity, the branding team can be congratulated. ‘The bank with the black horse’, ‘the swoosh’, ‘the apple’… just a few examples of uncomplicated, recognisable and versatile brand identities in the consumer market.
Nike logo
Ticking all the right boxes

Brand identity of Apple
What you hear is what you get... an apple for an apple

There is perhaps just one that can go right in with the Bradford and Bingley post and that has caused me confusion ever since it emerged on the British high streets – Spanish bank Santander.
Santander brand identity
Is it a bank? Or is it a baker? Will your money go up in smoke? I am confused.

It may be just me, but I’ve always associated them with being bakers and the logo looking like a bun fresh out of the oven.
Actually, looking at the 2010 best global brands on interbrand, there are not many that would be an easy subject in charades. But then again, we don’t usually make our brand choices based on Lord Allen describing his favourite companies and products on breakfast radio…

graphic design, Logos

Belfry Misfires Billboard Ad

The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield has a bit of a name in the leisure industry – Golf tournaments, fine dining, beautiful surroundings…
However, something must have gone terribly wrong when someone in their marketing department signed off this billboard ad.

Belfry brand advert misses the point
Truly uninspiring. On any occasion...

No matter how cheap they got it – it looks like a waste of time. Even as a small newspaper ad this just isn’t good enough for a brand name like the Belfry!
The ad is not only positioned badly (perhaps excusable if they had a special deal), the type is way to small to be read by the drive-by traffic (this is on a busy stretch of road with only a few pedestrians), the layout is more than awful and the message – well, the message reads ‘this brand does not care to communicate in a sophisticated way with its customers at any occasion’.
Sorry Belfry, but whoever commissioned and signed this off, do you not have aspirations for your brand? Is there no brand management in place? It’s a typical showcase for missed opportunities. Let’s hope this was just one occasion. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

brand management, graphic design

When the image compromises the message

They say a picture says more than a thousand words. Once more reason to pay extra attention that an image does not drown the message of a communication piece.
Anyone who has ever watched the series ‘My name is Earl’ will remember “Darnell ‘Crabman’ Turner”, innocent and fun, and very involved in the hilarious stories Earl recounts.
Oh, here is a picture.

image of the crabman from the series My Name is Earl
Has crabman started a new career in modelling for the 2011 Census?

So when the 2011 Census posters went up in Birmingham, I was amused by the choice of model and the effect it had on not just myself – rather than re-enforce the message of the Census, it did quite the opposite and those asked about the content of the poster could all but remember Crabman and his part in the American series…
Census poster for 2011 campaign
The message was drowned by the resemblance of the male model and a character from a tv series

A perhaps even bigger shame is the use of the concept of ‘paper’ changing the UK – the stethoscope just doesn’t visualise this message the same way some of the other posters and materials do. (Not sure about the football, either.)
It made me once again realise what a fine line we tread as design practitioners when choosing the right images to support, not hinder, the message intended. Especially for organisations in the public and charity sector, images are often a visual nightmare rather than a visual aid. Is it PC? Is it featuring all ages, sex, ethnicity, (dis)abilities etc without looking staged?
Some organisations I’ve worked with do prefer not to show people at all but rather use illustration or abstract images to avoid these issues, or they rely on their own photo shoots, which is usually the better option but requires a substantial amount of investment, dedication and vision. Images, like fashion, date with the seasons and mastering the delicate balance between a message and a picture working together instead of distracting from what they are trying to say.

Brand Strategy, Funny, graphic design

A Brand New Start for 2011

These days, brands are constantly exposed to external market forces, consumer opinions, loyalty issues, competition and trends – and most of those household brands have dedicated teams of brand managers, consultants and brand agencies constantly crafting, exploring, analysing and implementing to accommodate all those changes.
Brands can be re-aligned on a variety of levels. It may be purely strategic to start with, getting internal communications up to speed, auditing and understanding stake holder opinions and devising a communications/marketing plan to engage better with the target audience. You may never know from a visual point of view, but rather feel a change in attitude and media exposure resulting in a well-implicated action plan.
More likely however, a company will choose to show any internal changes with an updated brand identity design and thus gain the first bit of exposure as part of a new strategy. Usually, it’s either ‘Revolution’ – a complete re-design of the old identity – or ‘Evolution’ – a crafted update that adapts the design to new emerging communication channels, applications and emerging visual trends without completely changing the look and feel and thus potentially alienating customers.
Here are some of both from 2010.
Strapline and Sparkles
Wembley stadium revealed their new identity middle of last year. It introduced a strapline and a far more ‘flamboyant’ logo design geared to work with the ever increasing opportunities in digital and social media.
“The new identity is an important part of our long-term strategy to drive even greater engagement with our Club Wembley members, commercial partners and huge spectator base” says The FA Group Head of Marketing Simon Freedman.
“We are moving into a new stage in our lifecycle and the new identity is more reflective of the dynamic and multi-purpose nature of the stadium” says Wembley Managing Director Roger Maslin



Wembley Stadium Re-brand
The old and the new brand for Wembley Stadium

Never mind the Gap
US clothing retailer Gap introduced its new brand in October – and it went down like a lead balloon.  After more than 2,000 comments were posted on the company’s Facebook page on the issue the new logo was scrapped. Focus group testing gone badly wrong? Misjudgment of the target market’s taste? Or simply a clever marketing plot to get the brand back in the headlines? Anyone got any sales figures following this re-branding exercise?!
Gap Re-brand
The old and the new - and back to the old again for Gap

GMTV becomes Daybreak and night falls on the ratings
Curious. It was hyped up, promoted and prepared with the arrival of new presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley. Yet, just before the end of 2010 the press reports that ratings have plummeted to an all time low. ITV has apparently been left ‘shocked’ by a recent set of ratings.
The GMTV brand was launched in 1993. Off air, it has disappeared as a corporate entity, with the company GMTV Limited being renamed ITV Breakfast.
One can only guess whether the re-brand itself caused the problems the show is now facing or whether it is a combination of the show’s new setup, the presenters and the loss of trust from the original GMTV audience who may feel sold out for the sake of publicity.
GMTV Re-brand to Daybreak
More than a logo, this re-brand is about the programme itself and seems to have it not quite right yet...

Oil of Olay
Not apparent on the UK website, Oil of Olay have had their identity and ‘cameo’ changed last year. The changes are subtle enough to create a fresher visual appearance without changing the general mood of the brand. It seems ‘tidied up’ and more flexible in its use.
Olay Re-brand
An brand identity evolution with some distinct type features

olay_press_image
Press kit image featuring the new brand identity applied

Google
Maybe it was about time that the brand dropped that drop shadow. Being all about clean, functional and simple design when it comes to their applications, this seems to be a logical visual conclusion to express the brand’s values without rocking any boats.
Google Re-brand
Coming out of the shadows - the new google identity design

Dell
Dell revisited its brand positioning “while analysing why the brand value had been declining (most notably) in the past five years.”
The visual result of the re-positioning is subtle, but as their Creative Director says:  “The brand redesign was not intended to be a radical revolution, but rather a practical evolution based on our established equities and alignment to the repositioning of our brand.” Tommy Lynn, Dell CD
Dell Re-brand
The old and the slightly new brand identity design

MySpace
A curious one in my mind as I am not sure what to make of it in terms of progress in style and communicating any brand values. Apparently it is a clever visual aid to reflect the ‘my space’ philosophy but I am not sure about the execution.
Myspace Re-brand
The old one wasn't super - but does the new one say it all?

Price Waterhouse Coopers
It was a bit of a mouthful – and now it’s changed. The emphasis on a new brand reflects PwC’s desire for a more unified representation across its global network. “Our decision to make this change now is because over the last decade PwC has continued to grow and evolve and a concise consistent Brand position makes it easier for people to appreciate who we are, what we do, and how we operate across markets,” said Moira Elms, PwC’s global leader of brand and communications.
Price Waterhouse Coopers Re-brand
Long name no longer - a new brand identity for PWC

There are many more – and uncountable brand identity changes happen on a more local business level.
For further insight into how an identity design project is structured and how it can help your brand, please refer to this article on brand identity on the Reflection Marketing blog: What makes a good brand identity design?

What I find interesting is the choice of brands to opt for either evolution or revolution and the consumer reaction to the outcomes. Interesting to see what will happen in 2011! Re-brand away…

brand, brand management, graphic design

Branding – and when you have to let go…

I am not sure that you really should have to, but once you have completed your part in the branding process, there inevitably comes the point when the new brand spills into an organisation and gets absorbed by their own marketing department – for better or worse. Guidelines, you say, yes, guidelines are there for exactly that reason, but, as I found out last week, no guidelines can prepare you for the pure shock and horror induced by the ‘creative’ approach from the budget saving ‘small man down the road’.
I’ve been lucky in the sense that our client discovered what was happening in one of his departments when they outsourced some new promotional item to be designed by a cheap local design firm. Every rule laid out in the brand identity guidelines had been not just stretched or slightly twisted but torn apart and broken in an unfixable manner. How whoever designed this (neglecting all the blatant inconsistencies in grammar and type) could look at their draft 1 and find it a good match to the client’s brief I do not know – but I really am appreciating that we had the chance to take this over and start from scratch.
Branding doesn’t just happen, well, it does, in a sense, but not necessarily how you want it to. It’s a slow, delicate process and it needs time, resources and money to re-brand an entire organisation that goes beyond the initial consultancy and creative process.
We never shut the door but think that an ongoing brand management relations ship is of most value to the client, but of course budget restraints cause situations out of our control. I am not sure yet what the solutions are – we can’t lower our rates paying for highly professional and creative talent to compete with those who don’t even deserve the title artworkers – so once again it seems to come down to educating the clients to realise a false economy.
On this occasion, our client had the insight and understanding of the importance of a consistent design approach even if only for the first of each publication to set a standard to be followed, but I despair at some others who ‘diy’ with our identity designs and do more harm than good. You have to just hope their brand is resilient to the apparent drop in quality of their communications material. A very similar problem happens when a client does the internal communications themselves but outsources the externals. The discrepancy is drastic and often you wonder how bad a customer must feel when they have been called in with great looking designs to receive forms and information on site that looks more like they just started their business with a comic sans flyer template and have no idea what they are doing.
There is the argument that ultimately it is the product and service that sells and not the presentation but if we think of brands as people, we are all very much relying on our judgement of the first impression a person gives us and we continue to observe if what they preach is what they do – only then do we start to trust someone.
Anyway, I could go on… but have to actually go back to the design of above mentioned piece… so I will let go – for now.

brand guidelines, brand management, graphic design

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