LogoLounge Trends

I co-authored/edited this piece with Bill Gardner for LogoLounge.com, and it was picked up by Fast Company! It’s written in first-person, by Bill.

Each year, I write a report on logo trends, and I always look to the past before looking ahead. You can’t tell where something is going if you don’t know where it has been. There’s always a reason something goes viral or takes off—something set it in motion, good or bad. So let’s start by addressing the white elephant on the planet: COVID-19.

Crises often accelerate trends in society and design. It’s very reactive and rushed; if there were a 10-step program that we typically follow to get from point A to point B, we skipped steps six through nine to get there during a crisis. Next year, we’re probably going to see a lot of logos that emerged as a result—some will be brilliant, many more probably won’t be. No matter what, I believe the design industry is going to come out of this better than we were. Some firms will not recover. It’s going to be survival of the fittest. Having said that, we’ll see an emergence of little startups and uncover some talent we’ve never seen before. People will regroup, find their niche, and come out of this with a new resilience. This is a shared generational experience that we’ll never forget and hopefully we’ll all learn from. Next year’s batch of logos will surely reflect this.

Read the rest of the article here.

The Sweet (& Tangy) Taste of Success

For as long as she can remember, Brenda Lovingood has been making barbecue sauce for family and friends, slathering it on chicken wings, pork and meatballs. She had toyed with the idea of selling her homemade sauce for more than a decade, but life always got in the way. Both she and her husband Tony had full-time jobs and were busy raising their 11 children, while running a catering business on the side. “It always got put on the backburner,” Brenda recalls, “until one day I just decided I was going to do it.” 

That day finally arrived in 2016 after she attended the Women in Business Success Conference organized by Doris Symonds, who had been encouraging her to bottle her sauce for years. “It was like a one-stop shop,” Brenda says of the conference, where she gathered information about marketing and finances. “It was also the kick I needed to get going.” In addition, she and Tony met with Kevin Evans, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bradley University, who helped them strategize their objectives and establish the business. 

Converting the Masses
Lovingood Foods was formed in July of 2016, and within two years, the couple was selling cases of their barbecue sauce to local and regional stores including Hy-Vee, Alwan & Sons Meat Company, Save-A-Lot, and Haddad’s. “We literally walked into stores with a sample tray so they could taste the product,” Brenda says, and their hands-on tactic worked. They now drive to King’s Food Products in Belleville, Illinois—where the sauce is produced in large quantities—every three weeks to pick up cases for delivery. Read the rest of the article here.

Putting Your Best Font Forward

Finding the perfect typeface for your next project takes skill and know-how. Here we put together three different takes on type and why they work so well.

Type says a lot about a brand. Letters are a language in themselves, communicating personality traits like sophistication, simplicity, and whimsy. They can shout or they can whisper. It’s also very subjective, so knowing your audience is critical. With so many typefaces to choose from, it can be overwhelming—and nearly impossible—to make the right choice for your client.

The following projects demonstrate vastly different type applications, with compelling results that speak to their intended audiences.

Herschel’s Coffee Co.

Design: Mustafa Akülker, co-founder, Monajans

Usually, the simpler a logo is, the better. Such is the case for the logo mark for Herschel’s Coffee Co., in Amsterdam, designed by Mustafa Akülker of Monajans. “I wanted the design to be very minimal, so I used a sans serif for the logotype, but then went with an italic serif Hs for the optional logo in contrast,” he says. “I like the softness of the brand with the italic font.”

The Hs can stand alone as an identifier or be used with the full name of the coffee shop. When used with the name, it’s like the crown jewel—that added touch of elegance. The soft curves of the uppercase H next to the lowercase s, create an almost theatrical overture.

A big part of the success of this identity is also the subtle, yet distinct, color palette. “You can see various tones of brown by imagining coffee beans and milk mixed together,” he notes. “I also wanted to emphasize the memorability of the brand by using blue because it’s a nice companion to brown. It adds sophistication and class, much like how I envision a discerning coffee drinker.”

Pro Tip: It can be tricky pairing a sans serif with a serif. Test many variations and ask others their opinions about what is and isn’t working and why.

Molbak’s Garden + Home

Design: Cindy Tyler

When you have a beautiful product, show it off with great photography. There’s nothing more luminous and captivating than the natural landscape, and Molbak’s Garden + Home store, in Woodinville, Wash., uses photography to great effect in their seasonal promotions featuring lush, living plants. Designer Cindy Tyler explains, “Appealing photography is essential, as is the styling. We aren’t just selling plants, we are also selling ideas and inspiration.”

For instance, Molbak’s Lookbook provides recipes, gardening tips, and useful information about plant varietals so consumers make the right choices when purchasing plants to harvest. The photos are often featured full page, with content creatively overlaid. The hand-lettered headers were part of an overall brand strategy incorporated a few years ago to create a more hands-on, friendly feel, similar to chalkboard lettering. However, due to the volume of materials she produces, Tyler says, “It’s not possible to have them actually done by hand, so I went with the next best thing – a computer-generated font that looks hand-drawn. We also use our standby sans serif face (Myriad Pro) for larger amounts of copy.” And it works. Coupons, mailers, and the website all incorporate this open, inviting style.

Pro Tip: When placing type over photos, find the greatest contrast and most visually interesting layout to draw the reader in and complement the imagery.

 

Maisons Paysannes de France

Design: Graphéine

Art direction and type design: Jérémie Fesson

Motion design: Philip de Canaga

The Maisons Paysannes de France was formed in 1965 to preserve buildings and rural landscapes that were abandoned during the rural exodus. However, more than 50 years later, its identity was outdated and overlooked so the association commissioned Graphéine to bring the brand to life. Art director, Jérémie Fesson, did just that by designing an entire alphabet, called MPF Display. The letters in this dedicated typeface can be dismantled and shifted to create patterns evoking construction and movement of architectural elements. Every visual form was considered from the accent marks and punctuation, to the dot on the i.

The stencil lettering, in essence, deconstructs to create unique, decorative elements that are in constant flux. The letter variables are played out in print and online. There’s even a video demonstrating the fluidity of the letter parts and the different ways they can be played out. Each element flutters and flows beautifully on its own and when firmly planted in place on its letterform. “Some letters, like the a and s, have several different writings: This small detail—which often goes unnoticed at first–gives a singularity to the graphics that represents the spirit of a peasant house,” says Fesson.

Pro Tip: Be sure to consider every moving part, including letterspacing and punctuation when designing an entire alphabet. Each detail is critical to its success.

Sustainable Packaging Options

So many eco-friendly packages are reminiscent of brown paper sacks—boring, colorless, no personality. The materials, themselves, can be difficult to navigate from a design perspective to make them more palatable, and avoid the use of harmful glues, inks, and bindings. Here, four firms have successfully navigated the eco terrain to come up with tactile and beautiful design solutions that meet the strict recycling, reusable, or biodegradable packaging standards.

Client: Dutch Harvest Hemp Tea

Design: Tenzing

Illustrator: Walther Otto Müller

When the actual product is eco-friendly by nature (“tea with a mission”), it’s natural that the branding and packaging must walk the walk and follow suit. Designer Arjan van Woensel says, “Esther Molenwijk, the owner of Dutch Harvest, is someone who clearly sees the value of the entire hemp plant and took up this project to showcase the multiple uses of this amazing crop. The design needed to reflect the eco-cred of the product, but—and this was a big but—without becoming too weirdy-beardy.” And by “weirdy-beardy” he means the stereotypical earth-friendly (ie tree hugger) references. It also needed to stand out on the tea shelf in retail outlets, which is a challenge in itself with all the offerings available.

Since this company was started through a crowd-funding campaign, Molenwijk wanted to include customers in the design decision, so van Woensel mocked up four designs and asked supporters to vote on their favorite. “Esther loves collaboration and she wanted to include customers right from the start. Fortunately, they chose the design I would have chosen, although I liked them all,” he says. “We get so much positive feedback that we must have made the right decision.”

The design is colorful, yet retains an eco-friendly feel due to its materials, which was a challenge in and of itself. “It was very clear it needed to be 100% compostable, which was a bit hard because we wanted a window in the pouch. And all of the existing (eco) pouches available at the time had a petroleum-based lining,” he explains. So van Woensel and his client worked with two manufacturers (Bio4Pack and Paperwise) to create a unique, 100% biodegradable, lined pouch. “The lining and plastic window in the bag have been specially created for Dutch Harvest from cellulose-based plastic and the paper is made from agricultural waste,” he explains.

Pro Tip: Be prepared to go out of your way to find partners who can deliver exactly what you need when working with sustainable materials.

Client: Level Cannabis

Agency: Folklor

Designer: Claire Typaldos

Level hired designer Claire Typaldos to redesign its brand to convey the essence behind the science of cannabis without detracting casual customers. “What makes Level special is its high quality and the fact that it’s completely pesticide-free, additive-free, and has no solvents. We wanted to the branding to reflect this with a simple, organic design,” she says.

The packaging is made of recycled pulpboard, which is traditionally used for egg cartons. “We wanted to use it in a unique way—as high-end packaging that also doubles as a nice object the customer could keep. We liked the idea that the customer would think twice before throwing away the box,” Typaldos notes, although it was learning experience working with the factories molding the boxes. It took several prototyping phases to get the design just right.

The label cleverly incorporates the scientific elements for each product strain, using colors to distinguish them. She says, “They wanted to share as much information as possible so that the customer knows what’s going into their bodies. We used Akkurat for the modern and clean titles, and Courier for the more scientific, informational sections. There was a nice interplay between the two.” A deep, debossed logo takes center stage on the box, highlighting the natural quality of the pulpboard.

Pro Tip: Be sure to budget in time and money to test different printing and design techniques.

Client: Poopbags

Design: Tondo

Picking up after your pooch is a rite of passage for dog owners—albeit, one of the less enjoyable aspects—so why not use a product you feel good about? Poopbags is dedicated to using eco-friendly materials in their packaging and product and having a sense of humor about it. “With a name like Poopbags, you can’t take yourself too seriously,” says Tondo’s creative director and designer Max Ali. Tondo was hired to redesign the brand to give it consistent presence in the market and stand out in a category that is dull by nature.

“If you want the design to be both eco-friendly and appealing, you have to be smart,” he says. “Each small element should carry a meaning and convey a message, but also keep in mind that the package should be fun and eye catching on shelf.” The flower logo signifies sprouting life and the outdoors, and stamps were designed as an easily recognizable brand element that can be modified to carry different messages. “The box itself is made of recycled materials, and our main concern was to be able to separate the types of products with minimum design elements,” Ali says.

Colors clearly distinguish the different products by how they are produced—Green is recycled; Orange is for orange-scented; Purple is biodegradable; and Blue is plant based. All the packages are also made with recycled materials.

Pro Tip: Just because you’re branding an eco-friendly product, doesn’t mean the design needs to be dull. Maximize the use of colors to stand out on the shelf.

Client: Hippo&Crate

Design: Alphabet

Ordering personal hygiene products such as soaps, lotions, and shaving kits, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Hippo&Crate is the first subscription-based toothcare brand. The name itself is borrowed from Greek physician Hippocrates, who was considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of healthcare, and as a nod to the crate-like boxes that arrive at customers’ doors.

“In response to an industry that tends to overwhelm consumers with specs and jargon, we crafted a unique visual language to establish Hippo&Crate as a brand that stands for beautiful, honest, and affordable toothcare,” notes Alphabet partner and creative director Abbas Mushtaq. And, of course, the products are sustainable, as well as the packaging. The toothpaste and mouthwash are vegan, gluten-free, sustainably harvested, and toothpaste tube is made of 100 percent recyclable aluminum and printed using environmentally friendly ink.

The designers suggested the packaging be inline with the products since so many of them will be shipped around the world. “We didn’t want it to be harmful to the environment, and personally, we just love cardboard engineering!” He adds, “You have to be wary about the application of ink and how color looks on the packaging—especially stuff in the CMYK range. In the end we opted for simple hits of black and white to make sure it contrasts well. You also need to be careful with smaller type because of ink bleeding on recyclable material. It was a blessing in disguise as we ended up going for a simple, bold approach to help with that.

Pro Tip: Using two colors and simple imagery can actually elevate the design. Simplicity doesn’t have to be simple.

Designers Lead the Charge in the Retail Revolution

Although we’ve seen many huge retailers downsize (like the Gap) and some close altogether (Toys R Us), you’d be surprised to know that there was a 58% increase in store openings in 2017, according to a study by Fung Global Retail and Technology. Amazon even made the leap to brick and mortar through pop-up stores and by purchasing Whole Foods. Surprisingly, a lot of this has to do with Gen Z and millennials who prefer to shop in-store vs. online. Granted, they gather intel and find the items online, but then head to an actual store to make the purchase.

This is good news for brands and designers who are marketing to these segments. Direct mail, gift cards and packaging still play an indelible role in purchasing decisions at the store. According to Liz Burnett, principal at Matchbox Studio in Dallas, “As consumer behavior changes, brands are starting to design packaging and in-store experiences with social media in mind.” She cites a study by Contract Packaging Association that says, “Nearly 40% of consumers say they’ll regularly share product packaging that is ‘gifty’ or ‘interesting’ on social media.” With that in mind, she says, “Thoughtfully designed packaging and collateral pieces entice customers to share products with their followers on Instagram, which can boost brand awareness and word-of-mouth.”

Matchbox Studio was commissioned by Neenah Paper to design the Retail Revolution promotion which features several examples of printed materials that can help boost retail sales in the luxury market. “In the luxury retail environment, details matter. A great deal of care is taken to make luxury brands look and feel great. It’s the little things that mean the most to a customer – right down to the paper choices a brand makes to elevate its message. With personal health and wellness markets growing ever popular, we chose to focus on four brands that illustrate consumer aspirations to look and feel great as well,” Burnett notes.

“Today, shoppers are paralyzed by choice in almost every purchase category. Strong branding and premium paper can cut through the noise and help sell products. The product itself must be able to deliver on its promises, but the packaging and collateral alone can do a lot of the heavy lifting,” she says.

For the Neenah promo, the designers at Matchbox conceived four luxury brands that are influenced by major brands in the same category: The athleisure brand, Knetics, was inspired by Uniqlo, Lululemon, and Nike; the men’s apothecary brand, Pack, was inspired by Kiehl’s and C.O. Bigelow; Desert Mothers spa, was inspired by Four Seasons and The Springs Resort; Odyssey was inspired by Blue Apron and HelloFresh.

Below, she explains the significance of each piece they designed for the promo.

The first section of the promo is called “How to Get Customers in the Door,” which has become an increasingly harder task as consumers are relying more on online shopping, so we highlighted three pieces get them there and keep them coming back: a direct-mail postcard, a gift card, and a colorful hangtag. ColorCom has reported, “Colors can increase brand recognition by 80 percent.” Once customers are in the door, a branded color alone can drive them to purchase a product.”

The next section, “How to Engage and Excite Customers In-Store,” demonstrates how proper branding paired with premium papers can excite and encourage purchases. The featured pieces include an attention-grabbing business card that used foil and Neenah’s memorable CLASSIC COLUMNS finish; a product display card; and an interactive package piece to help illustrate that shoppers often select products based on the packaging.

Sending the right message at the right time is crucial. In “How to Spread the Word,” we wanted to show how premium papers can make memorable first impressions. We designed a large event invite and envelope and a prism-shaped brochure filled with fictional spa treatments like “Vision Quest Meditation” and “Sweet Nectar Body Wrap” that could draw in customers who are interested in unique or VIP experiences.

In “How to Build A Following,” we created a meal-kit subscription service brand, Odyssey, to illustrate how online subscription services are building brand loyalty by using curated, personalized print materials.

Let’s move the Retail Revolution forward, by designing jaw-dropping print materials that draw customers in and keep them coming back for more!

Enticing Menu Designs

Beyond offering a selection of food and beverage items, a good menu design is an extension of the restaurant’s identity, it’s well organized and easy to read, and hopefully it’s appetizing. Here, we offer up several menu designs with decidedly different ethnic and cultural offerings.

Köksbordet is a family-style restaurant serving locally produced foods in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Designer Björn Berglund, who’s known for his hand-lettering, was tasked with creating the identity. Köksbordet literally means “kitchen table,” so he intentionally made the o’s look like a round table, and the wavy baseline for the word indicates the restaurant’s close proximity to the sea.

Once the logo was determined, Berglund focused on a color palette derived from the natural ingredients served at the restaurant, and he worked with illustrator Fanny Schultz, who drew the imagery. “I love to collaborate on larger projects, if you find the right partner. The overall quality is so much better,” he says. The illustrations are used on the menus, business cards, and on the website.

“The menu basically follows the rest of the identity – but it´s important for me that it´s easy to navigate and that it makes you hungry and ready to order,” Berglund explains. He designed a simple template so the owners could easily update the menu offerings each day, and could be printed on a basic printer.

Common Bowlery, San Pedro, Mexico

Design: La Tortilleria

Common Bowlery invites patrons to select ingredients and create their own bowl of goodness. The menu features an array of fruits, vegetables and legumes to let customers mix and match according to their tastes. La Tortilleria created a complete identity system for the restaurant, starting with a name that fit the offerings, and then devised a unique logo that incorporates a custom hand-written style for the word Common, and a robust sans serif typeface for Bowlery.

Zita Arcq, cofounder of La Tortilleria, says, “When we created the brand colors, we knew from the start that we didn’t want to use the typical broccoli-green hues so overused in health-centered restaurants. Instead, we developed a color scheme inspired by lemons and mint. This harmonious blend proved to be a winning combination and was used on every communication application, and on the interior decoration, including the menu.”

Counter Reformation, Palm Springs, California

Design: Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

This wine bar/restaurant is located within the swanky Parker Hotel, which also houses two other two other restaurants. “When the owner was throwing out ideas for the name, he came up with Counter Reformation, and we started working with the idea of tongue and cheek religious themes,” explains designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, who is well known for his restaurant identities around the world. “Palm Springs is a unique place with a very liberal demographic that appreciates the antics of the branding.”

And the branding plays heavy on humor. For instance, the coaster imitates a holy wafer, the check is presented in an old hollowed out hymnal, and there are murals by the entrance depicting praying hands holding a liquor bottle. De Cumptich went so far as to recreate actual characters from old medieval manuscripts for the menus to create a masterful arrangement, sure to elicit a chuckle or two from customers.

El Vez, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

El Vez is a Mexican restaurant with locations in New York City and Philadelphia. With the opening of its third establishment in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the owners worked with de Cumptich to establish the identity. “The owners like to mix the spirit of the city with Mexican culture and folklore, which is why each restaurant has a different theme. Ft Lauderdale is a tourist beach destination, with a big spring break contingency, so we wanted to convey the hedonism of sun-filled beaches that is part of the locale,” he explains.

“When you design a series of menus, they have to be identifiable at a glance and have a general common theme to unify them. ‘Day of the Dead’ themes are a bit cliché, and often expected in a Mexican restaurant, but on closer inspection you see what the skeletons are doing with each other, and it makes you smile and laugh,” de Cumptich notes. “We want customers to be part of the joke and laugh with us.”

Each menu features a different position—and he admits he had to tone down some of the depictions. The illustrations are paired with a geometric mosaic and printed in a warm or cool gradient to resemble popular printing techniques found in Mexico.

 

Winning Logo Design Strategies from 9 Industry Leaders

Andreas Karl

“First: Look through all 265,000 logos in the LogoLounge library and see what other graphic designers have done before. It keeps you from creating doubles, and from following an idea that already exists. Second: Look at the logos of companies like Nike, Apple, Mercedes Benz, CocaCola, and ask yourself ‘What makes these logos so good?’ And third: If your design colleagues all go right, then take the road to the left! Creating good logos has nothing to do with following trends or copying the styles and ideas of others.”

Aaron Draplin

“Zoom in, then zoom back out. Look for things meshing or problematic areas. … Just that quick. It’s a privilege to do this. One year before I got into this game, people were taking photos of logos with Photostat cameras and shit, waiting four days just to see how their logos looked. Just zoom out for a second on your screen! And then, adjust accordingly.”

Su Mathews Hale

“Do a lot of research to get grounded. It’s your job as a designer to understand the business. Keep your audience/customer top of mind. Sketch in black and white first; it’s easier to see if an idea is strong without added bells and whistles of color and gradients. Ask yourself ‘What’s the idea?’ Test the strength of the logo in the environment in which it will live—you will rarely see a logo on a white piece of paper without any other context.”

Felix Sockwell

“Start with pencil to paper, and don’t hop on the computer right away. Get the problem solved before you start executing it. Do more typographic research and use typefaces that are historically correct.”

Yo Santosa

“Don’t try to tell the entire brand story in a logo. The simpler the shape, the more memorable it becomes.”

Von Glitschka

“The common denominator in a great logo is a core concept—a great idea encapsulating distinct meaning in a fun and clever way that is executed with impeccable craftsmanship to bring it to life. Many have good ideas, but fell a bit short on the build end of the design equation. Then there are a lot of precisely crafted logos that are just shallow in meaning—they aren’t bad, they just lack soul. Idea plus craftsmanship—both are needed to be successful with brand-centric design, but doing so isn’t always easy.”

Alex Tass

“A successful logo may mean many things, but I would say to always try your best, try to be unique, try to be clever, try to reach that ‘wow’ effect.”

Emily Oberman

“Strive for clarity, simplicity and a little bit of wit.”

Chad Michael

“Don’t recreate anything you see others doing unless you are evolving it to make it your own. Be daring and take risks. Remember, great logos tell a story.”

Read the original article here.

Hippeas Branding

Organic snacks have become a hugely popular category in the food sector in recent years, so creating an ownable brand that stands out is essential for survival. So, when Livio Bisterzo, founder of Green Park Holdings, a food innovation company in the health and nutrition sector, developed a new product, he commissioned Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR) to devise the brand personality.

Tosh Hall, JKR’s Global Executive Creative Director, notes, “He approached us with a new product technology for creating organic chickpea puffs and the idea of making snacking not only good for you and but also good for the earth. He had a concept, a name, and a desire to not just be another small food brand, but rather to have big impact and touch people across the globe.”

In other words, be a category disruptor, not a follower. The JKR team is quite adept at creating campaigns that resonate for clients like Budweiser, Kashi, Stella Artois, among others, so when evaluating this brand’s attributes, Hall and his team didn’t rely on existing competitive data for visual guidance. “When we start any project, we familiarize ourselves with the category, but don’t really look left or right to see what others are doing. We concentrated on what is unique and ownable to our brand,” he explains. Read the rest here.

 

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Thinking in Icons

Icons have become such a ubiquitous way of life for most of us, that we don’t often think about them. And the point is, we shouldn’t, unless they misguide us or leave us confused. In Felix Sockwell’s new book, Thinking in Icons, he walks readers through the process of designing icons and the subtle nuances that can make or break the design.

“Icons affect our daily lives, similar to typography. It’s something we don’t take much notice of until it’s wrong,” Sockwell says. “For instance, in Penn Station—a place where millions of commuters pass through—there’s an icon in the main hall that denotes ‘gift shops,’ showing a pipe, a gift (with ribbon), and a book. It makes no sense to most people. And no one sells pipes–you can’t even smoke outside in many New York City public spaces–but that icon has been there forever, and it probably always will be. I find strange pleasure pointing out odd things like this to people. It’s one of the reasons I’m no longer married.”

He’s also fascinated by the evolution of some icons, such as the “share” icon. “It started out clunky, within a box and with rounded edges. Now it’s a 3D arrow, and it’s quite effective,” he notes. “A lot of mistakes turn into good, useable icons. My book is an honest conversation about how icons are used, designed, conceived and understood. Designing icons isn’t a sexy or even known practice within the profession. Most designers take it upon themselves to either use an old system or tweak things to feel new or proprietary. I’m more interested in the bigger steps and mistakes that lead to workable solutions.”

And he shares it all in the book, admitting in the introduction, “Ninety percent of the work shown within these pages is completely fake—drawn up in the sidebars of actual assignments. Some of them are redrafted explorations, staged buffoonery cloaked in optimism.” Even so, you get a front row seat into the thought process, and the many considerations that go into a simple mark.

 

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Developing Successful Identities for a Mr. & Mrs.

If you’re an identity designer, the most critical function in the beginning of the project is research—getting to know your client’s brand inside and out, as well as the competition, and some of that involves what Sharon Werner, principal of Werner Design Werks in Minneapolis, Minn., calls “feet on the ground.” This is especially true when working on a start-up brand, like Mr. Mak’s Ginbao, a new wellness drink that is based on a traditional Chinese recipe made from natural ingredients.

Werner and her team spent the day in New York’s Chinatown with the Mak family, even enjoying a traditional Chinese lunch prepared by Mrs. Mak. “We walked the streets of New York and looked at brands they liked and disliked in the same category,” Werner explains. “When it’s a startup we want the identity and the brand to feel true to who they are, and the only way to do that is through an intensive immersion and getting to know them. We want to understand who they are compared to their competitors; what they’ll offer that others don’t; what their personal beliefs are and how those will translate to their business and product.”

A challenge with developing brand identities for start ups is determining what will work past the first year, which is sometimes hard for clients to envision. “We’re building for a future, which means we’re asking the ‘what if’ questions—What if you add more flavors? What if you add 100 employees? What if you sell the company?” she says. “We want to build an identity that can grow with them and is fluid enough to adapt if the ‘what if’ becomes ‘What do we do now?’”

Combining traditional aesthetics with modern design elements, helped differentiate Mr. Mak’s Ginbao. The packaging utilized colors associated with the flavors, while the corporate identity was limited to neon red and porcelain blue. The letterpress printed business cards come in a glassine envelope which also houses a nice surprise for recipients—a recipe card and fortune. These small touches, tie the identity back to the brand story.

Taking a critical look at the competition and how your brand measures up, is key in the identity design. Werner and her team go to the store see the competition live on the shelf, in the environment. They look at how the retail lighting might affect packaging and how the height of the product will look sitting next to others. “We are avid and intuitive consumers— we trust our intuition. We look outside the categories to see where to go next, keeping in mind that it still has to communicate what the product is,” she notes. “With Mrs. Meyer’s, we asked how we could we make it look like a hard-working, effective cleaning product, but different than its competitors. We borrowed from the utilitarian, hard-working, hardware vernacular and then softened it with color and line drawings.”

Werner developed the Mrs. Meyer’s brand story 18 years ago, and it has stood the test of time. The brand story revolves around the founder’s mother, Thelma Meyer, a homemaker from Granger, Iowa. The no-nonsense design reflects her personality and informs consumers of the natural ingredients in the cleaner. “With Mrs. Meyer’s we were involved for many years, hands on,” Werner says. “We helped them hire their first internal designer, then we later briefed their new ad agency on the brand. When they were purchased by SC Johnson, we conducted a full retrospective briefing of the Mrs. Meyer’s brand language and elements. We outlined what was brand right and not brand right and the reasoning behind that. Always bouncing decisions against ‘What would Thelma do?’”

The ultimate goal when creating an identity design for a company, is to make sure all the brand assets will be managed by the client after the project is complete. This usually entails creating a style guide to ensure the identity is properly applied in every application including packaging, advertising, website, social media, and beyond. “Our goal is to create a brand and brand assets that basically eliminates the need for Werner Design Werks. We develop a brand language that can evolve and grow and still be ‘brand right,’” Werner explains.

This post originally ran on the PixArt blog here.

 

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