Branding the Intangible
Sometimes I work with clients that make products. The logos and brand identities I make for these companies exist in the real world. You can see the packaging and labels in high street shops or e-commerce stores and you can buy these products and put them on your shelves at home.
These businesses sometimes have factories and fleets of vehicles that need signage and branding. They might have stationery and business cards and brochures that need to be designed and printed. They have exhibition stands and merchandise and workwear.
When you see the logos - even if it is on a website or social media - they represent something tangible. If it is a food product you might even be able to picture how it is made or imagine how it tastes.
Other times I work with clients that offer services. The larger of these businesses have offices and teams of people. They have awards and accreditations. They have case studies and testimonials from years of happy clients.
The logos and brand identities I create for these businesses stand for something that already exists, even if it is not something you can hold in your hands. They stand for values and expertise and experience. They give customers a way to navigate through a noisy and confusing marketplace so they can discover the provider that will best serve their needs.
But the most challenging and perhaps the most interesting projects are those which are for new businesses that do not yet have a physical presence in the world and do not yet have years of credentials.
These freshly minted start-ups must give prospective customers the confidence to trust them to deliver.
Sometimes these businesses are at such an early stage the only employee is the founder and all of the accomplishments are still to come, existing only in the pages of a business plan.
As a designer my role is to help bring these businesses to life so the target audience can - almost at a glance - get a feel for what they do and how they do it.
Without an existing brand to refresh or a legacy to uphold the design process is never more important.
A common misconception is that a designer will simply start with a blank piece of paper (or screen) and wait for inspiration to strike.
But no company exists in isolation. Every business exists to solve a problem for its target customers. And those target customers have wants and needs and desires. They have expectations and budgets and pre-conceived notions - some of which may need to be challenged.
And so I start these projects, as I do all projects, by talking with my client to better understand their business and to develop a design brief.
I then create a mood board featuring many examples of design work that I think are relevant to the project brief to serve as a useful way to understand my client's preferences and to narrow down the options in terms of the style of typeface or illustration, the graphics or colour palette.
From a world of almost infinite possibility this process helps clarify a direction of travel. It gives me, as a designer, a foundation to work on.
The concepts I develop for new businesses - especially those offering services rather than those producing products - still requires a leap of faith from my client.
I can show a logo concept in isolation - or as it might appear on a social media profile, business card or brochure cover - but it is important to manage expectations. Because a new brand is like a new house - it only feels like a home when you have lived in it for a while.
A brand identity cannot make a great business. But a business can make a brand identity greater than the sum of its parts, so that it gains positive associations, memories and meanings. And this can be hugely powerful in helping build your business.
If you would like to discuss a branding project for your business please get in touch. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos taken on a trip to New York (how I miss being able to travel!)