Passionate about coffee
Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Powerful and nourishing with global appeal and an African flavour," is how the new name for the coffee cafe startup brand I've created for Vella & Associates has been described. The name is as a result of the name generation presentation package I put together in a day's worth of my time. It was not one of my top 3 recommendations but emerged as a winner from the short list.

Central to the brand is an idea that I originated and brought to life in a distinctive and flexible brand identity. The brand idea will not only inform leadership, management and barista culture but will be customer facing as a brandline to lead a coffee-centred brand experience beginning in Cape Town next year.

My client and I are very pleased with the outcome of this project and I'm looking forward to showing the work in my portfolio. Once the trademark is secured we will begin to celebrate and promote the brand publicly.

Update: Click image above to go to the portfolio entry of the completed project.


Coffee cafe brand identity
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another startup brand identity project has come my way. The presentations for the previous startup brand I created, Wiloh, were useful to demonstrate the whole brand identity creation process, including positioning and name generation to my most recent client, Vella and Associates.

This time it's a coffee cafe brand. It's an on-the-go, up-market cafe experience aimed at sophisticated urbanites who expect a good cup of coffee in the hustle and bustle of a busy contemporary environment. The first city to enjoy this new coffee experience will be Cape Town, where the baristas of the new brand will take good coffee convenience to the next level.

Watch this space.


Soulellis Studio
Monday, September 7, 2009

I've been invited to contribute to the brand transformation of a major US-based global brand in the media sector.

After viewing my online portfolio, Paul Soulellis contacted me to see if I'd be interested to work with Soulellis Studio. Some of my experience with another brand in the sector is directly relevant and lessons learnt from that project have already proved useful. We exchanged a few emails and the project is underway using Basecamp, a first for me.

Although Soulellis Studio is positioned as a design firm the strategic brand thinking is top-notch. Click on the image above to go to the Soulellis Studio website to find out more about the firm.

UPDATE: See the outcome of this project


Wiloh - Ecosocial Apparel
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm pleased to be able to show my latest brand identity project. This project spanned the whole gamut of brand consulting including positioning, naming, brand idea, brandline, copywriting and brand identity.

Positioned to appeal to highly networked eco-aware young people the ecosocial idea was developed to lead the Wiloh brand. Wiloh is a community of people who share graphic eco-oriented messages to socialise the green issues of environmental impact, climate change and sustainability.

This is green consumerism with a graphic edge. Graphic designers are invited to create edgy and evocative graphic works which feature on apparel available from Wiloh. A fully functional e-commerce website is in the pipeline and Wiloh is available to follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Click on the brandmark above to see the entry in my portfolio. Let's get ecosocial!


Naming process
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We may share a similar meaning for particular words with groups of people but everyone has their own very personal and subjective associations. Generally, the larger the group the more stable and 'secure' the meaning but the more likely a name will also be in use as a brand mark.

I've developed a brand naming process and presentation format that 'does what it says on the can'. It's an intuitive and spontaneous process that I generate in a day's worth of my time, without any trademark, URL and search engine checks. I draw on what I know exists and is likely to exist, in order to capture a unique brand experience in an own-able name.

Cinelli & Associates commissioned me to generate names for their eco-clothing startup after we agreed that their incumbent name was not up to the task of leading their brand identity. We went through two naming presentations, each of a day's worth of my time to land a name we were all excited about. Wiloh had a clean URL and best of all no previous trademark applications.

You can download both presentations from the links below. From presentation 1 my personal recommended was Kale and from presentation 2, Kokoda.

Naming presentation 1
Naming presentation 2


Opinion categories
Thursday, August 13, 2009

My reviews were becoming too numerous to manage in a simple stream on this website and so I've created the categories above to better manage my opinion.

I've been compelled to demonstrate a language constructed of marks to handle brands. The marks of this language show how different types of marks determine brand experiences. The most numerous reviews using this language are of brand identities with a specific focus on brandmarks. Commonly referred to as logos, I use the term 'brandmark' to denote a brand's primary mark. And as a result I actively discourage the use of the term 'logo'. More on this in Brand marks.

An explosive topic in the design and branding media at the moment is the relentless rise of spec work (speculative work), which is most commonly encountered in the form of crowdsourcing on the internet. The internet has made possible the harnessing of large numbers of amateur and professional designers to compete in project competitions for an awarded fee with no other compensation.

Spec work is tackled as a scourge on the professional design industry and seen to devalue professional design services on the whole. Efforts are being made, especially in the US, to formalise a professional body to discourage designers and clients to engage speculative work. You will find more of my thoughts on this in the Crowdsourcing section.

As I believe brands are best handled as collectvely held opinions it makes sense to expect brand identity professionals to have opinions about prominent brands. I hope you find my reviews entertaining and thought provoking.


Identity Forum
Thursday, July 16, 2009

There isn't anything inherently wrong with referring to logos. The term has mainstream currency and it is the easiest way to describe what I do for a living.

I've found myself heavily criticising the use of the term 'logo' on various blogs recently, not only because logo design is superficial and logos do not carry brands but because there is a more compelling alternative available. An alternative that has the weight of a whole new set of terms and definitions that do justice to the perception and experience of brands and at the same time gives primacy to the expression of the brand in a single mark.

Tony Spaeth and a group of collaborators has weighed in with a new forum to discuss identity issues on the strength of Tony's well respected Identityworks. Tony agrees with me, he describes logos as facile but yet continues to support reference to logos because the term is in common use in mainstream media.

If branding is one of the vital discussions of our time according to Landor Associates then there is a compelling reason to offer a much more effective presentation of brand consulting and the associated brand identity work. I believe a full frontal assault on the use of the term logo will not only spearhead a change in perception of brands publicly but will also re-energise the brand consulting industry.

To find out more click on the image above to go to my posts extracted to this website in the opinion section, where you will also find more about my position and the direction I am taking with this approach.


Everyday eco-clothing startup
Friday, June 26, 2009

The last few weeks I've spent developing a brand identity for an everyday eco-fashion startup based in the US.

We've been through two name generating exercises and have secured a name with no prior trademark applications and a clean URL. I've developed a neat naming process package for this project, which I hope will make selling a naming process to other clients easier in future. It's a creative-led and intuitive approach without all the legal checks and procedures that seem to suck the life out of most naming processes. And demonstrates a no 'cut and paste' approach clients of brand consultancies are often subjected to. As soon as the project goes public I'll exhibit this process.

We now have all the primary design elements of the identity, a brand idea which doubles up as a brandline and may quite possibly represent a new category in sustainable thinking. I'm waiting on a decision from the client as to which 'look & feel' direction this project will take. I hope to be able to show this work relatively soon, perhaps once a splash page goes up before the planned fully-fledged ecommerce website.

Watch this space.


Ultra-premium residences
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last week I found myself in at Siegel+Gale for five days. I was tasked to develop identity ideas for a global ultra premium residential property development brand, with an emphasis on generating proprietary typographic brandmarks.

This brand is aimed at ultra high net worth individuals who require the best of the best in their homes and hotels. These are individuals who desire more than money can buy, they are the highly cultured and educated elite who don't seek social status by flaunting their wealth. They represented 'rich' in the best and fullest sense of the word and seek to surround themselves with rich experiences.

I felt well suited to this project and feel good about my contributions. Due to other commitments we've had to limit my involvement to just the one week. I'm scheduled to deliver brand identity concepts for a US-based ecowear startup next week.


Growing opinions
Friday, May 8, 2009

It is useful to think of brands as collectively held opinions. This makes brand consulting the selling and management of opinion. A brand strategy or a brandmark design is nothing other than opinion. All the complex elements that describe a brand experience can be handled as a nested set of opinions, which describe a larger opinion - the brand itself.

All the work in my portfolio demonstrates my commercially realised opinions. To the furtherance of my creative offering I hold opinions about other brands and seek to offer my view of new brand identities or branding related issues. These opinions demonstrate how I think about brand identity design and consulting.

The opinion section on this website is growing rapidly. I qualify my reviews as much as possible and present bite-sized assessments as interestingly as I can.

Many new identites get scathing reviews but amongst these are a few celebrated examples of great brand thinking. I believe the three brand identities featured above are successful. Click on the individual brandmarks to go to the reviews extracted to this website. From there you can link to the original post on the various blogs.


Ecowear and merchandise startup
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On the strength of the Nvohk identity I designed last year I've secured a startup ecowear and merchandise project in the United States. The initial scope of work was to design the brand identity, which has now been extended to include name generation and additional brand consulting.

This project is the first commercial fruit of my efforts to socialise my content and market my services more extensively online. I've also been developing proprietary brand consulting tools over the last few months which are proving useful to this project.

The top level consultancies I've worked for in the past have provided me with insights into very effective brand consulting methodologies. To these I've added my own innovations, which I hope will prove useful in the long term development of my creative endeavours.

As soon as I get a gap I will add an inspiration and theory section to this website. The theory section will demonstrate my vision for brand consulting.

Click on the Nvohk identity above to view the work that lead to this new project.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is crowdsourcing evil?

It seems I've underestimated the size of the global graphic design community. Having chosen to socialise my content and get involved in online discussions, I'm finding the numbers of designers doing the same staggering. Few, however, seem to have benefited from working with brand consultancies. Many use outdated design consultancy language and seem to think that outside of brand consulting they have something significant to say. This has become evident in the discussions about the emergence of crowdsourcing websites such as Crowdspring and 99Designs.

The reality is that despite specialist knowledge of powerful design applications graphic design not in service of clear and specifically directed marketing strategy isn't worth much.

I've posted my thoughts about crowdsourcing and spec work on Wired's Epicenter. Click on the article headline above to go to the post extracted to the opinion section of this website. From there you can link to the original entry on the Wired blog.


Logos vs brandmarks
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

There seems to be a proliferation of logo-centric and logo-obsessed blogs online at the moment.

Logos have a deep history in consumer culture. Imbued with a mystical otherness, the word logo comes from the Greek word logos, meaning both the source and fundamental order of the cosmos. And, in a Christian sense, 'logos' is used to mean the divine word, through which all things are made.

Until the birth of the brand consultancy advertising agencies were brand custodians. Design was categorised as either above or below-the-line. Above-the-line design was design in direct service of advertising and below-the-line, design for everything else. Below-the-line design was handled by the design consultancy. Both advertising agencies and design consultancies talked to clients about logos... after all the logo is the vehicle through which all a brand's things are made.

Since marketing as a profession has come of age it has joined forces with the design consultancy and given rise to the brand consultancy. Brand consultancies apply rigorous methodologies to brands, which help demystify their commercial effectiveness.

Continue reading...


Cooliris enabled
Friday, February 20, 2009

Web 3.0 is the next level of the internet merging seemlessly with our current online experience. Technical terms such as the 'semantic web' are being used to describe some of the smart new features.

One aspect of Web 3.0 which is a lot easier to grasp is the three-dimensionalisation of the internet. Virtual worlds such as Second Life provide us with a glimpse of what more we can expect.

Another feature, which may appear gimmicky at first, allows for rapid movement through large amounts of visual data. Image searching has never been the same since the introduction of the precedent-setting Cooliris (previously Piclens).

Click on the image above to go to my Cooliris and Flickr page. Follow the instructions to launch your Cooliris enabled browser to fly through a selection of my work. I'll upgrade to a pro Flickr account at some point to make more work available.


Brand New identity reviews
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Armin Vit over at Brand New has been busy. There have been a number of high profile brand identities drawing a lot of media attention recently. Quick off the mark, Brand New covers most major brand identity developments and is fast becoming an established blog covering this kind of work.

Although the audience is mostly US-based, many of the featured brands are global. The reviews tend to be design-centric and not as strategically insightful and as thorough as Tony Spaeth's Identity Works. Brand New also draws a lot of designers who judge the work in terms of 'logos', which to my mind is an old fashioned and narrow view of brand identity.

The opinion section on my website continues to grow from the comments I've posted on Brand New. At the risk of pedantry, comments are constructed to reflect the language I use to assess brand identity design work. I hope the pattern in my language becomes more evident on reading my posts collectively.

Click on the brandmarks above to go to the respective comments. There you will find a link to the original post but you may need to dredge through many hastily composed and ill-considered comments on the Brand New blog.

I've edited the odd glaring typo.


Showcase websites
Thursday, February 12, 2009

In a continued effort to socialise my content I've published selected projects on various mainstream portfolio showcase websites. Although there isn't much of a corporate audience and little quality control of submissions, the exercise has been valuable for a number of reasons.

Each website has strengths and weaknesses in terms of how they show work, how they make content available to search engines and which audiences view the presented projects. The vast majority of the designers featured are from the United States and the websites seem geared towards superficial peer review.

Weaknesses and strategic merit aside, I believe in open and transparent networks where value can be assessed without too much interference from politically driven and reputation managed industry cliques. As the internet is fast becoming the defacto means of harnessing project specific skills on the fly, profiles with history will become increasing valuable in the long term.


Obsessive Branding Disorder 1
Monday, January 12, 2009

Brands and branding are a perpetual target in the media.

Brands play such an important role in our lives but appear largely misunderstood. Brands are so close to us that we assume to know them. In the same way we assume to know ourselves until we start looking more closely.

Although I haven't (and don't intend to) read Lucas Conley's Obsessive Branding Disorder I have been able to make a number of observations from Adrian Shaughnessy's review of his book on Design Observer.

In brief, I point out that it is not Brand which has failed but the language space used to make sense of brands and branding.

If you've been following my opinion, you should begin to notice a pattern in my language. Better yet you will notice that I am using a different kind of language to hold my position.

Click on the image above to go to my post, from there you can click through to the original Design Observer entry.


By Dubai
Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In February last year I was brought in on an exciting project at Siegel+Gale. We were tasked to rebrand Dubai Events Holding, which is an emirate decreed company responsible for enhancing Dubai as an event destination.

Despite various organisational problems such as the horrendous traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai is a premium event destination. It offers world class entertainment and luxury shopping experiences for the moneyed. The new company was to arrange events to complement each other and orchestrate them holistically so that average stays moved from the one and two day mark to three, four and more.

We were very excited to present a concept represented by the brandmark above. Click the brandmark to go to the portfolio entry. It was designed as part of a whole brand identity system, lending itself to iconic celebratory symbols.

However, as is often the case with branding work in the Middle East, clients expect a logo parade and decide the fate of an identity based on the brandmark. And as there is still a macho and patriarchal approach to business in the region our proposal was found to be too feminine.

Without access to other decision makers, we were not able to transfer our enthusiasm or present a stronger case for the new identity directly. Another supplier was arranged to supply a symbol to accompany the new (extremely institutional sounding) company name of Dubai Event Management Corporation.

The result is a brand identity which stands diametrically opposed to the flexible and inviting celebratory system we were expected to deliver.


2012 Olympics
Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I expect the debate over the 2012 Olympics identity will fire up again closer to the games. In the meantime, whenever problems arise with preparations for the games, cheap shots get taken at the logo. I type logo with gritted teeth. Referring to the 2012 brandmark as the primary representative of the 2012 brand experience will, with little doubt, be lost on those taking pot shots.

At the height of the debate in 2007 I voiced my opinion in defence of the new identity on the Wireality forum. I've added my posts to the forum in the about section. Click on the 2012 Wolff Olins image above to go there directly.

Wireality is a member email forum so the posts may come across as disjointed and out of context but the main thrust of my position should be apparent.

Related posts
2012 Olympics - 2009
2012 Olympics - 2007


Socialising my content
Monday, January 5, 2009

As a Brand Identity Designer my primary task is to generate content. The more original and relevant the content the better. And, as the social dimension of the internet is paramount it makes sense to socialise content I've generated.

You'll notice AddThis share buttons on each page and the RSS feed in my news section is available via an AddThis feed button. You can now bookmark any page using your favourite bookmarking site or manage my news feed via your feed reader.

Click on above to get your own buttons.