For any enterprise to present a believable case to its audience it has to coordinate how it behaves, looks and communicates with consumers, shareholders and investors. Organisations are judged on their products, their services and their conduct. No amount of branding, strategy, values or tone of voice, can ignore the fact that businesses and institutions have to earn their brand value. It cannot be imposed, it has to be real. Truth and integrity are therefore prerequisites of any believable identity.
The role of the designer in this context can be likened to a decathlete. Much like the decathlete, the designer has to excel in multiple disciplines. Every expression and every application adds to the ultimate goal of creating a distinctive personality with a memorable face – a set of visual features that ensures the firm, its products and services are instantly recognisable.
Symbols & Logotypes
“Commercial symbols are like people. Some are reasonably put together but lack personality, others are aggressive, or pompous, or merely unpleasant. Occasionally one encounters an interesting character. Whatever the case, to be effective a trademark must meet a set of criteria: the utilitarian values of being relevant, appropriate and practical and the intangible qualities of being memorable and distinctive; and that something extra, the visual tweak which creates a unique personality.” Alan Fletcher
Companies and institutions communicate internally and externally – with staff, stakeholders and the general public – through a multitude of channels. The one element that unites all of these different expressions and makes them instantly recognisable is the company logo – it is the peg to hang the story on.
Websites of yesteryear were viewed almost exclusively on computers and navigated with a mouse and keyboard. The proliferation of touch-based smartphones and tablets has added the complexities of designing for multiple devices from a portrait smartphone to a landscape 60" television.
Ever since Ethan Marcotte coined the phrase in 2010, we have promoted 'Responsive design' as the thinking man's approach to web development. We believe that a website should adapt to the device it is viewed on without the need for app stores or downloads. Instead, you get the full picture presented in your browser.
Twenty years ago the first request by a potential client or customer would have been: "Can you send me a brochure?” Without a brochure, you weren’t a trustworthy company. Today, this part is largely being played by the website. It is frequently the first and sometimes the only contact with the audience.
Unlike the transient nature of online communication, print has a physical and potentially more permanent presence. A piece of print, as long as it is too beautiful to be thrown away, acquires a memorable quality. With online’s advantage when it comes to speed and distribution efficiency, there is a simple rule:
If it is urgent, put it online. If it is important, put it on paper.
We love books, as the design critic Hugh Pearman noted on one of his studio visits: “There are lots of books about – some used for inspiration, others the product of the practice. Manss has got a bit of a reputation for being a book designer. Not surprisingly, given that his books are so good.
A book, for Manss, is more than presenting text and images clearly, though he has a Germanic love of typographic clarity. What you get is the book as designed object of desire. The feel of the thing – the binding, the three-dimensional texture of the cover, the use of unusual papers – is paramount.”
While a book can be designed as a singular object, the periodical nature of a magazine dictates that its unique mix of editorial contents and design has to prove its worth with every issue.
A magazine's appeal depends first and foremost on its editorial contents. The designer's tools of typography, illustration, photography as well as paper and printing processes all serve to oil the wheels and make the reader's journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
Once this has been achieved the arduous task of achieving it again and again with every issue of the publication begins. New features require new design expressions, re-occuring columns have to be refreshed to avoid readers' fatigue, and yet, the magazine has to retain its own unique character. A carefully curated balance of recognisable continuity and surprising novelty lies at the heart of a magazine's ongoing success.
Campaigns & Posters
Whether it is direct mail, advertising or any other promotional campaign, what all of these marketing tools share is the fact that they consist of a series of individual activities that combine to tell one story.
If that sounds more like a corporate identity programme than a short lived advertising promotion, it is noteworthy that some of the most successful advertising campaigns have not only been an integral part of a concerted identity development, they have also proved to be as long lasting. While many agencies demonstrate their creativity by producing new campaign ideas in regular intervals much like a series of short sprints, we prefer to think of our campaigns as the long distance runners of communication.
Exhibitions & Signage
Environmental graphics require spatial understanding as much as contextual awareness. In exhibition and trade fair work there is a physical journey, through the museum or the stand, that can inspire a sense of learning and discovery.
Reassurance and clarity are of particular importance in signage and wayfinding, for, as Alan Fletcher once observed at Stansted Airport outside London, “people look for signs when they are lost, not when they start.” The craft of good wayfinding consists in finding outcomes that are legible, accessible and clear.