Modis receives Rebrand 100 distinction
Friday, June 1, 2012

I generally don't place much value on winning industry awards, in particular design awards, but an award that seems worth mentioning is the Rebrand 100® Global Awards, which focuses on notable brand transformations

I created the brandmark that formed part of the Modis rebrand for the Adecco restructuring as a senior freelance brand identity designer at Siegel+Gale in late 2010. I was brought in specifically to develop brandmarks for all the brand transformation routes put forward to the client

The Modis rebrand received a distinction in the 2012 Rebrand 100® Global Awards Brands, which is one category award below the Best Of but quite high up in the category listings of Notable, Merit, Distinction and Best Of

Click on the brandmark above to see Modis as an entry in my portfolio or click on the Rebrand tab above to view the Modis case study on the Rebrand website


Sustainability architects – Re-branding program
Monday, April 2, 2012

Early last year I was approached by an architectural firm based just outside of New York in New Jersey looking to re-brand their business. I had a few brief email interactions with the principal architect, supplied a proposal and heard from them no further.

In mid-December I received an email letting me know that they were ready to go ahead with a re-branding program and requested an update to the previous proposal, which I duly supplied and in early January I began getting-to-know-the-business brand consulting and followed with a name generating process.

The firm is a small to medium sized architectural practice and has a proven track record delivering services primarily in public sector building management, interior and architectural design with a focus on energy analysis, management and planning. Many of the energy efficiency sustainability practices the firm delivers will be legal obligations in three to five years.

Equipped with just a little information about the firm's services it's obvious why the re-brand is necessary. Not only is the name grossly mis-leading because it accounts for only 1% of the business but the overall presentation of the existing brand is roughshod and poorly considered. This is particularly problematic in light of the fact that the firm's ambitions are to focus on winning private sector projects where most of the competition offer superior brand experiences.

The nature of the architectural sustainability business is complex and requires highly qualified people, systems and working practices to deliver cost-effectively and profitably. Despite the fact that the barriers to entry to the industry are high there is a lot of competition for projects that are becoming increasingly demanding. And, despite the firm's proven competencies and strong growth it has no stand-out differentiators to create preference.

The firm has a marginal advantage over some of their competitors who outsource energy analysis to independent consultants but in order to stand-out there is an opportunity to demonstrate it's offering in a more clearly differentiated (and robust) brand experience.

As with all businesses who intend to outmanoeuvre the competition, this architectural practice needs a distinct sense of purpose articulated in a brand identity that ensures as much as possible that the entire business is led by it's brand.

I'll share a few more observations and insights about this re-brand in a follow-up post in which I'll also discuss the developments in finding a new name for the practice.


Wiloh no more – The death of a brand
Friday, March 2, 2012

In early '09 I was commissioned to create a brand identity for an exciting new US-based eco-apparel business. The budget was tight and my original start-up identity package offered a lot of value at a relatively low cost. This was my first direct client project where I found myself in a position to create an entire consumer-facing brand experience.

After two rounds of naming, using a name generating presentation format that I invented for this project (and still employ today), we were excited to discover that the name Wiloh was available to trademark and also available as a 'clean' website address with no need for an extension to the name to secure a URL. In addition to this evocative name I conceived of the brand-idea 'Ecosocial' to give the brand a distinct sense of purpose.

The idea behind the business was to draw on, and encourage, a global network of designers to create graphic eco-oriented messages and then to print these works onto environmentally friendly fabrics with environmentally friendly production techniques and printing processes. This was about more than selling t-shirts, this was about creating a movement, an 'Ecosocial' movement that was to be led by Wiloh.

However, as the budget was extremely tight and my client had no previous experience of running this type of business and/or of building a brand from scratch my services as a consultant weren't retained to ensure the brand remained 'on message' beyond developing the core branding elements. Instead, a less experienced designer with a fashion background and only cursory brand identity and marketing experience was taken on as the operational designer and overall art director.

As the identity I envisioned for Wiloh in my portfolio testifies (click on the image above), the brand was intended for an upmarket mass audience with a clean-cut image and offered a brand story in alignment with the environmental impact and sustainability narrative to which we are all now subject. The brand was intended to deliver casual and edgy street wear; not thrifty and bargain basement fashion but low cost, high value and ethical fashion for an affluent youth market across cultures.

The name Wiloh provided us with an opportunity to draw on and emphasise the sustainability aspects of the willow tree in a modern and contemporary way – and away from the potentially sinister association of willow trees of medieval folk lore. However, under the direction of a young and verifiable 'fashionista' art director Wiloh ventured into this darker side... and therein, I believe, lay its inevitable and ultimate demise.

Wiloh went 'dark' by not only literally abandoning colour almost entirely but also in subject matter. Instead of aiming at a mass audience where economies of scale would make the business model viable, an attempt to create a high-impact niche brand image by appealing to the novelty-hungry world of fashion, Wiloh went for street fashion in what looked to me like a pouty, punk-y and slightly smutty fit of youthful rebellion. More importantly, instead of committing to the 'Ecosocial' idea as a core message that would have provided a clear sense of purpose, eco-oriented issues and the sustainability narrative became peripheral and the brand-idea was marginalised in what appears to be lip-service environmental impact and sustainability concerns, limited almost exclusively to the production of t-shirts.

Wiloh only enjoyed a brief spell under the hyper trend conscious spotlight in (mostly) US-based online fashion media circles. Perhaps instead of spending valuable resource on what look to have been indulgent photographic shoots, resources were spent building, promoting and genuinely living the 'Ecosocial' idea the brand might have stood a good chance to carve out a unique place in a cluttered and noisy market.

Wiloh – Ecosocial Apparel, 2009-2011 – R.I.P.


Ashley House – Well-adapted brand-idea
Thursday, February 23, 2012

As part of the creative brand design stage for the Ashley House re-brand that I led for the Design Portfolio last year I conceived of brand-ideas to lead each of the three brand identity concept routes that I also designed and presented.

Brand-ideas are creative translations of the brand strategy distilled into a single idea. They are useful in determining a brand experience made up of various related and interdependent brand-marks. Brand-ideas are the conceptual 'engines' of brand experiences and can be presented in various ways. Often they are behind-the-scenes only and for the benefit of brand managers to understand what the brand stands for on an implicit level. Brand-ideas help brand managers to keep messages on-brand. Sometimes brand-ideas are expressed directly as a public facing brandline but this is rare.

'Well-adapted' is the brand-idea behind the new Ashley House brand identity. It's an interpretation of the evolving nature of the business and reflects well the primary reason for the re-brand, which is to transform the organisation at a fundamental level and in order for it to become a fully-fledged brand-led business. Not only does the idea invoke evolutionary adaptations of systems, organisations and technologies but the secondary meaning of 'adapted to wellness' is particularly suited to health and community property services.

As an extension of the 'well-adapted' brand-idea I conceived of a directly relevant formula: 'adaptive = resilient = sustainable = enduring'. This brought me to the brandline 'enduring properties', which has the added benefit of the double meaning and can be applied to include everything the brand is and does. I particularly liked the idea of the employees of Ashley House and of the employees of the organisations working in the built properties demonstrating 'enduring properties' (as shown in the brand identity section of my portfolio). To see the chosen brand identity as presented to the client click on either of the images above and then select 'identity' in the menu on the right.

Unfortunately, beyond my involvement in the project, the brandline 'enduring properties' was eventually ruled out because of – what I considered at the time to be – a minor and ultimately ignorable negative connotation ie. to be forced to endure something. Given the overall presentation of the brand identity, I believe this is too big a compromise to an otherwise very strong brand story where all the various types of marks that make up the brand are intrinsiclly connected.

Instead, 'understanding property' was chosen as the official brandline. Although relevant and quite clever the double meaning isn't overt and there is no direct connection to the brand-idea 'well-adapted', and therefore also no obvious connection to any of the other Ashley House brand-marks.

In combination with the understated and conservative nature of the 'understanding property' brandline and the fact that no brandline is currently in use the brand-idea 'well-adapted' risks being forgotten and remembered only as a way of justifying the chosen identity, which I believe is likely to be at the expense of the entire brand experience and therefore of the long term brand identity Ashley House is intending to establish.


Brand-idea: Workouts That Work Out
Friday, February 10, 2012

Following on from the positioning work that I did for the fitness brand in December of last year (click on 'Fitness Comparison Platform' above), I convinced my client to let me generate names using my proprietary naming presentation format, which has proved so valuable to my previous clients.

In order to keep costs down, of the two brand consulting options I proposed, my client choose the option that included getting to know the business and consulting on supplied names only.

I felt there wasn't a strong enough case presented for any of the supplied names and that the top name choice was profoundly problematic. Confident that I would impress my client I proposed to generate a naming presentation to take up the remaining time bought from me but that would also require a significant investment on my part as we hadn't negotiated any additional fees to cover this work as a cost. The start-up looked like a great opportunity to create an outstanding brand experience and I intended to give it my best shot.

As with all my naming presentations I look to find a name that is likely to lead an entire experience made up of various other related brand-marks. To this end I build a case for each of my top recommended names and often include a brand-idea or brandline to help demonstrate the potential of each name.

I believe I delivered of my best work as demonstrated in the brandline above: 'Workouts That Work Out'. Not only is this a strong brandline but I believe it's an opportunity to create an unprecedented brand experience. And, not only is the wordplay clever it's exactly what the brand will deliver in what looks to be a category defining business.

I proposed to contract the brandline to simply 'Workout' in some instances, not necessarily as a name, which is what it would effectively be perceived as under some circumstances, but handled, rather, as a piece of brand communication of a suggestive or instructive kind and on this basis probably wouldn't necessitate the ownership of 'Workout' as a trademark.

Unfortunately, perhaps also because I didn't charge my client for this presentation, my ideas received almost no time and the entire presentation was rejected in a matter of minutes after I emailed it over. I was devastated to find my work so unappreciated. Other names worth mentioning were Fisiq and Tautology but given the short shrift my work received I found myself like a man taking a stubborn horse to water.

So, sadly, for the first time in my career I suggested my client find another designer to work with; a designer who wouldn't challenge his brand name and merely supply him with a logo. Fortunately I hadn't accepted the 50% advance for the creative brand design stage that my client seemed intent on paying me. I didn't want to take a name forward that wouldn't reflect well on my work and this was a condition I'd set on reviewing the supplied names.

Click on 'Workouts That Work Out' above to view the naming presentation in case studies where you can also download the entire presentation.


Ashley House – Brand workshop
Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Following on from the Ashley House strategy post in this news feed in mid-November last year, and as part of a series of posts about the rebrand that I led at The Design Portfolio in May 2011, the above diagram is the outcome of the Brand Crystalliser methodology that encapsulates the fundamental characteristics of the Ashley House brand.

The Brand Crystalliser is based on a type of brand consulting methodology widely used by top-tier brand consultancies. The particular variant or 'strain' of the Brand Crystalliser is inherited from Dragon's Ellipse Analysis, which I learned during my time with the business brands division of the company (now Dragon Rouge).

The Brand Crystalliser featured above is the outcome of a workshop that I structured and ran. The workshop day was coordinated and supported by The Design Portfolio and involved the senior managers of various divisions at Ashley House. Before the workshop I put together a questionnaire that was completed by the participants in advance and provided a springboard for the various exercises during the day.

The workshop itself was comprised of various brand personality exercises, a variation of the Brand Bullseye (which I learned while working with Allen International) and, finally, the Brand Crystalliser. The Brand Bullseye enabled us to find a broad range of values, attributes, benefits and personality traits which we distilled to one or two of the most important of each using the Brand Crystalliser. The Brand Bullseye also delivered a core brand DNA, which doubles up as a positioning line and describes the scope of work of the business.

Without going into too much detail about how each component relates to the Ashley House business it suffices to say that the combined content describes a unique brand character with a strong sense of purpose and a singular ambition that drives the brand's core messages.

Click on the image above to view the Brand Crystalliser as entered in my portfolio.