Archive for the 'Branding' Category

How to work better

While these guidelines have been spread widely across the web and adopted by countless organizations and individuals, credit goes to Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss who created this 10-point manifesto. It certainly has relevance for all of us who are constantly refining the process of brand development.


Building a brand platform

I collaborate throughout the year with the talented designer Melissa Mahoney of Indigo Creative. She recently asked me to develop a piece on a service we often offer to clients, and share it with her AIGA colleagues in Santa Barbara. Here it is:

So many times a client comes to us with the need for a refreshed website, a print mailer, or a new look for a presentation, product packaging, or trade show. And like so many design professionals, we often jump right in with the visual design and content development.

That can be a mistake, however, if the client hasn’t really identified their target audience and positioning in the market, or defined their own brand identity and how their offerings provide true benefits to customers.

And that’s when we find the collaboration bogs down, direction shifts, and frustration starts to build. The problem is, we have no true guide that can direct our design processes. We’re driving somewhere new without a map.

Define the Brand

We all know how to ask our clients: “What is it you do that’s different, and why is that important?”  Yet too often we include these valuable discussions as part of our design process.

At Indigo Creative, we try to begin any new project by taking a step back from the requested website, print piece, or other tactic.  We ask to review our client’s current brand identity, and create a “brand platform” that will serve as the foundation for all of the design and messaging that follows.

In that platform, we provide a snapshot of where our clients are at currently and what opportunities they are targeting. We define three key components that make up their core brand identity. We help them position themselves in their market, and review their competitor’s brand positioning. And we start to develop visual “look and feel” concepts, along with preliminary taglines and messaging that express the brand.

Build the Platform

This brand development process inspires our clients to take a good close look at themselves, and really define what they’re all about. It’s heavy lifting, but provides valuable benefits.

Once we have this brand platform in place, then just like an ad agency’s creative brief, all design and messaging decisions can be developed based on its findings.

Aim for Consistency

The other key advantage is that we now have an agreed-upon guide, a “Brand Bible,” for all tactics that follow. There’s a consistent visual design that is shared by the website, the print collateral, the digital media, and all other client-facing tactics. And as we’ve learned, consistency is essential to building a strong brand.

For more about how to develop a brand platform as part of your design services, contact us, or visit

Your brand really is your best story

Fathom Business Events specializes in staging corporate presentations in movie theaters. It’s an opportunity to share specific messaging in a focused environment. They’re also big believers in the power of storytelling, as this wonderful promotional piece illustrates.

The automation of branding

Don’t know if this is a cool new tool, just a curiosity, or a sign of the coming apocalypse. But this London-based startup company intends to help entrepreneurs design logos, websites and business cards instantly using their simplified web interface.

BuildaBrand’s approach is essentially to break down the brand-building process into a simple step-by-step exercise. The user is asked questions about brand values, and then BuildaBrand’s proprietary algorithms provide a selection of logos, fonts, etc. that you can tweak to your heart’s content.

Skeptics call this approach “vending machine logos,” and of course a logo should not be mistaken for a brand. But it may be a starting point. And it raises the question asked by “Can brand development really be automated, or created via an algorithm, or is it something that can only be created on a personal and strategic level?”

CEO Justin Chapney sidesteps it deftly, stating: “”We are trying to lower the barriers to entry for startups by providing them with accessible and affordable tools. Eventually, we would like to provide branding knowledge and support as well as products.”

And what does this say about the value of automation as a replacement for creative thinking?

“Our algorithm and the way it has been constructed is the result of years of branding experience and a lot of strategic research,” Chapney says. “All our designs are originated by designers, from the symbols to the colour palettes.”

Intriguing. Scary. And I definitely signed up for their closed beta.

Tell your brand story

As the story goes, a young Flemish bike racer named Henri “Ritte” Van Lerberghe showed up at the starting line of a famous race directly from the frontlines of the First World War.  He borrowed a bike from a local, sped out to a sizeable lead, then decided to stop for a pre-celebratory beer.

Well, one beer led to three then four as Ritte apparently enjoyed hanging out with locals more than winning. Yet he eventually did hop back on the borrowed bike, and reportedly won Belgium’s greatest race by more than 14 minutes.

He later started up his own racing team which — following 90 years of hibernation — has now re-emerged in Southern California.

Sound far-fetched? Sure. Does it matter? Of course not.

The idea is that this simple yet engaging story perfectly captures the brand of a new bike company based out of Santa Monica. It says: “We race bikes, and we dig the sport’s traditions, but we also like to drink beer and have a good time with friends.”

Ritte Racing sells high-end racing bikes with cool paint jobs, maintains a hip website and blog, produces hilarious video promotions, and pretty much lays claim to the coolest marketing tactics in the cycling industry.

As for their brand story, there’s a lot to be learned. If you don’t have a compelling one, feel free to make it up.  Just make sure you stay true to its personality.  And, most importantly if going this route, don’t be afraid to let your customers in on the fun.

By the way, Ritte Van Vlaanderen Bicycle Company was founded by an ad agency copywriter and creative director. Go figure.

Like wine, brands improve with age


Ron Leland of Real Life Brand Architecture and I have enjoyed working with John and Kimberly Cabot since they started making wine several years ago. Since then, they’ve grown slowly and steadily, with the quality and diversity of their wine constantly improving.

For our part, we’ve helped their brand evolve and, with it, the primary point of contact with their customers — the label itself.

The initial label featured an image of the local salmon. It’s an iconic symbol for the Klamath River in Humboldt County, where Cabot Vineyards is located. And it started to support our brand image that relied heavily on this unique location. After all, the vineyard site, the appellation — or terroir — is very important to those who appreciate fine wine.

None of us, however, could anticipate the reception among wine-shop owners, who couldn’t get around the idea of a fish on a bottle of red wine.

So our follow-up label featured the elements of a topographic map of the region. We wanted to convey the rugged, steep terrain. And we wanted the Cabot name to be featured prominently as a wine buyer approached the bottle among many others on the shelf.

Design-wise, we believe it was a big improvement. Unfortunately, the execution of the printing itself was not on par with the high quality of the wine.

So with our third and latest pass, you’ll see that the label’s unique texture on an uncoated paper stock really does lend a sense of elegance and sophistication, while doing a much better job of conveying the feel of their remote location in the middle of dense, steep forests. Rub your fingertips across the label and you get a sense that this bottle of wine has a unique story behind it.

Directing a brand image is a constant challenge. You ask: How has the brand changed?  How is it being received?  What elements are working well?  And which can we improve upon?

Our work with Cabot Vineyards has served as a powerful reminder that brands are alive. They’re dynamic. And as brand architects, our job is to continually check in to ensure that the ever-changing brand is being expressed to its full capacity.

Brand positioning made easy

Thanks to the guys at Neutron for breaking positioning down to the essentials.brand_positioning

Robert Hyndman

can be reached at his Laguna Beach studio, 949.497.3179, or by using the form on the Contact Me page.
October 2019
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