Friday, 17 April 2009

Brand spirit: Defining visual language

Distinctive visual language should promote the spirit and brand personality of an organisation. Brand personality and how it is manifested through design elements is the pure essence of the brand. A brand’s visual language is a powerful reminder of how people perceive an organisation in their mind’s eye; the real organisation behind the image. Today visual language has a vital role to play in terms of updating, repositioning or refreshing a brand, to send a new message.

Visual language is a powerful but subtle combination of design elements working in harmony so strong brand management is needed to create consistent and distinctive ‘language’ in communication. Photography, tone of voice, colour palette and layout style need to express the right connotations to support a brand and its meaning. The combination of brand name and colour recognition are the core visual elements but these need to be enhanced with a visual language that is unique and appropriate. Determining the right visual language for a brand is a fine art between taking into account competitive differentiation and creating a result that enhances the brand values.

The Maltese Tourism Authority wanted to improve promotion of the Maltese Islands as a travel destination, enhancing the quality and value of Malta through maximum recognition and understanding throughout 
the world.

We developed a distinctive symbol and specially drawn logotype which presents the name Malta in a way that underlines the values of the islands as a travel destination. The mark incorporates two common Maltese symbols, the protective eye painted on the front of traditional luzzu boats, and the unique Maltese Cross. The manuscript style of the specially drawn logotype for the name Malta recalls the 6,000 years of Malta’s civilsation and underlines the human warmth with which the Maltese greet visitors. The primary colours, representing sea and sky and radiant sun reflect the warm climate.

In order to provide a forceful and evocative impression of what the Malta brand offers, we developed a detailed visual language to support Malta’s market positioning and values. This included designing a system of powerful and appealing literature and advertising visuals and an 
engaging website.

Meridio is an innovative technology company whose software is creating new markets in managing and accessing company information. We created a distinctive brand and visual language to embody the philosophy of opening up information and making it readily available. The mark reflects the open flow of information. The use of circles is an important design element to signify dynamic and precise ‘rippling’ out of data.

Pakistan PTA Limited (PPTA) is a specialist producer of pure terephthalic acid (PTA), a basic chemical used in the production of polyester staple fibres. Originally a business unit of ICI plc, the PTA business was spun off to become an independent entity.

The challenge was to manage this transition, creating a powerful new independent brand that appealed to established customers and employees alike. We worked closely with ICI and PPTA management to help define PPTA’s brand values and proposition and to support the company’s launch. 

Sporting Portugal, known as Sporting, was in the process of commissioning the building of a new stadium. This was the catalyst for evaluating the visual identity and club communications.

Our work stipulated ‘evolution’ as part of the brief with minimal change to the ingredients of visual identity, but gave the opportunity to influence conceptual thinking, clarity, consistency and visual language to enhance presentation. The challenge was to maximise retention of the equity in the brand while ensuring it worked in a modern communications environment.

Sonera is the name for Telecom Finland to reflect the company’s international ambitions and to reinforce its reputation for innovation. 
We developed the new name, Sonera, which stands out as the most aspirational name in a sector characterised by conservative naming, 
‘Tel’, ‘Coms’, or national descriptors, or ‘Country names’.

As a leader in mobile communications Sonera developed Zed, a global mobile portal, now a unique and individual brand in its own right. 
We created the name to communicate the essence of a brand at the leading edge of global wireless technology.

Zed is more than a mobile portal and the strong, fresh and individual visual language reflects the values which position it as a distinctive and memorable company and service. The guidelines for the brand and visual language are packaged as digital interactive files on a CD.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Odeon: Projecting the right image

The Odeon brand uses the positioning statement - fanatical about film, the challenge was to define how this would differentiate Odeon from competitors. The positioning was brought to life by ensuring that the design of all communications always has a relevant filmic reference to provoke a passionate and emotional response from cinema guests. The positioning and the way it influences communications will ensure a positive brand perception, so that Odeon is truly seen as - fanatical about film. 

Enhancing the Toyota brand

More than a branding exercise, this programme was part of a major internal reorientation for the company comprising new behaviour and cultural initiatives, a redefined sales and marketing proposition, product development emphasis and distributor/dealer focus.

Toyota is renowned the world over for cars that have a clear edge on quality and reliability but the brand was being squeezed in Europe between the pricing of newer competitors and the stronger ‘image’ offers from established manufacturers.

Designed to make Toyota the most desirable responsive, multi-cultural car brand in Europe, the programme has been developed to preserve the best of the brand’s current global image for quality and responsiveness, whilst building new values of creativity, individuality and engaging.

Within this, our role was to help research and define Toyota’s new brand platform a pan-European perspective and then reflect that vision, mission, set of values and proposition to both internal and external audiences.

Brought together as part of a company-wide training programme, we developed a strongly managed and simplified identity system and guidelines which clarify the relationship between the Toyota corporate parent and the Toyota and Lexus brands, as well as all Toyota products and services. Secondary graphics, coupled with a comprehensive literature styling and marketing communications system support and reflect the new values and personality.

Critical to the programme’s success was the faithful communication of the brand through the complex distributor and dealer network in major European markets, whose principals needed to be convinced of the benefits.

Enhanced guidelines were key to ensure consistent and accurate presentation of the Toyota brand system, visual language style and a comprehensive literature styling.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Love letters

My love of letters and typography started when I was studying graphic design at Bolton College of Art and Design. Two tutors were instrumental in helping me develop this passion Tony Forster and Ken Adshead. Between them they introduced me to the Americans Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Ivan Chermayeff, Milton Glaser and the Swiss style of Joseph Muller Brockman, Wolfgang Weingart and Armin Hofmann. Around the same time I discovered Herbert Spencer’s books Pioneers of Modern Typography and The Visible Word which gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of the evolution of typography. I was fortunate then to get a place at the Royal College of Art where I was taught by Herbert Spencer. Here are some of my favourite quotes from his book Pioneers of Modern Typography.

‘In centred typography, pure form comes before the meaning of the words.’
Jan Tschichold

‘The more uninteresting a letter, the more useful it is to the typographer.’
Peit Zwart

‘A photograph neither lies nor tells the truth.’
John Heartfield

‘Concepts should be expressed with the greatest economy.’
El Lissitzky

‘Typography must be clear communication in its most vivid form... clarity is the essence of modern printing.’
L. Moholy-Nagy