How did you get into digital art and specifically creating brand images/logos?
The only thing I was ever really interested in at school was drawing, and the first signs of a career in graphic design revealed themselves when at age 8, I won first place in a drawing competition with my own interpretation of Abram Games’ Festival of Britain poster.
I was also very lucky to have an art teacher who had pursued a career in graphic design, and set me on the right path. This teacher also initiated the first Graphic Design A Level course at my school, allowing myself and a few lucky classmates to study the subject in greater detail. Obviously in those days it wasn’t digital though, and computers only came into the mix once I headed to university.
Do you have any portfolio highlights?
From my personal portfolio the redesign of Penguin biscuits twelve years ago is the single most influential piece of work on the way I think about and approach brand design now.
The brief was to create differentiation for the brand at a time when private label ‘me too’ products, such as Asda’s Puffin bar, were sailing as close to the Penguin brand as they could without copying. The redesign saw us strip the identity right back to just the image of a Penguin acting as the iconic symbol of the brand. It was a great moment of realisation that brand symbols are a great deal more powerful than word marks. Not only do they offer distinctiveness and differentiation, they are also far easier and quicker for consumers to decode than words.
One of the more recent portfolio highlights has been the McCain brand redesign. I’m proud to have been able to significantly transform the visual look and feel of the brand (previously untouched for 50 years) in a way that delivers meaning for the brand that previously didn’t exist. The new sunshine symbol acts as a shortcut to the positive attributes now associated with the brand whilst retaining recognition with consumers who have adopted the sunshine identity as if it has always been there.
Kudos has to go to the clients involved in both these projects for their bravery and belief in our approach and ideas.
Why do you think branding is important?
It's not just important, it’s vital. How you choose to define your brand visually and the meaning behind that holds huge sway over the extent to which consumers believe and buy into your brand. It defines you in the context of your competition.
If you make it meaningful, you’ll be unique, compelling and relevant. If you are undifferentiated, you will struggle to exist in an overly crowded market.
What are your top 5 tips when creating a brand image/packaging?
Make sure that there is a deep and meaningful idea behind your brand identity. It’s more than just a logo: it needs breadth, meaning and a narrative that will engage the consumer and differentiate from the competiton
Be unique. Create difference not ‘sameness’. Lead don’t follow.
Always ensure that you are balancing the ability to understand where a brand has come from with the vision for where the brand wants to go to. You must be mindful not to lose the essentials of the past when transforming for the future.
Don’t assume that there is only one answer. When searching for ideas explore all the possibilities. It’s important to identify what does and doesn't work.
Give your ideas the opportunity to exist and develop before you commit. Ideas take time. You need the opportunity to assess your ideas before you fulfil their potential
From a designers perspective, what is the most important aspect to look at when creating a campaign to enhance a brand?
The idea. Once we’ve got and idea and we understand how and why it works there are many ways to bring it to life. Don’t confuse the idea and execution.
What is the most demanding project you have worked on?
That has to be our own rebrand and the design and development of our new studio! This has been challenging on many levels. I always think it is more difficult to do these things for yourself – taking on the role of both client and creative at the same time has its pitfalls! There is also an immense pressure to get it right with the perspective of staff, clients and suppliers key in creating the right image for BrandOpus.
To overcome this we had to practice what we preach. We generated idea’s, allowed them to exist and develop before we committed to the direction we chose. And then we worked with that idea until we optimised its potential to take it to where we have got to today. Now we are in our new home the challenge is to continue to develop, hone and revisit the thinking. As time passes we will see how things have worked, how things might not be working as well as they could and how things could work better. Every action has a reaction and we must never be lulled into a false sense of security that we have finished!
In terms of client projects, the one that stands out for me in the last year is the work we have been doing with Moneycorp. Why? Firstly, we had a fantastically open brief that challenged us to redefine the way that travel money bureaus work in the airport environment. Secondly, because we were working with a like-minded client who shared and drove the vision to actively transform the experience. Thirdly, because we were the absolute underdogs in the context of a pitch against some major brands that had a long established foothold in the market.
Through the redesign of the brand and a unique approach to the environmental design of the retail spaces we have achieved pitch success for Heathrow terminal 2 whilst going on to further successful pitches across Gatwick, Stansted, Bristol and beyond.
This project forced us out of the comfort zone and I always find that an incredibly exhilarating and rewarding experience.
How do you go about creating a campaign for an already-established, food brand?
Look back. The history of the brand, its origins. Has it lost something along the way? Is there something in it’s history that hasn't been tapped into? What is the brands current position, and what threat do the competition pose?
Carve out what differentiates this brand and makes it unique in the current context. But also remember to look to the future: it’s not just about creating stand out today, but creating something that will be an enduring idea to build upon, shape and develop as time goes by.
Can you give any advice to others looking to create a brand from scratch?
And finally, what do you think is the most important part of creating a logo? And is typography important for a brand, but also for an ad? If so - in what way?
It’s not about creating a logo. It’s about crafting an identity. The logo might feature a word, but an identity incorporates the word to the point that it becomes symbolism. Is Coca-Cola a logotype or a symbol? Symbols are now recognised for their shape and form, rather than their legibility. And crucially, we know that consumers decode symbols faster than words.