About Howdy

Established in 1999, by Neil Smith and Sharon Clampin, we are brand identity design, strategy and management experts across all forms of communications for SMEs, start ups and third sector organisations. We aim to share helpful information and our expertise on design and working with designers here on our blog as well as occasional views on random stuff that we find interesting. We hope you'll find it useful.

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17.07.17 #DeepSkyBlue #003bb0 #Battersea 18.07.17 #GoGreen #10fee4 19.07.17 #c41e22 #VividRed #DustyDog 20.07.17 #howdyhues #ffffff #PureBrilliantWhite   21.07.17 #000000 #JetBlack #SharonsCat 24.07.17 #889293 #CoolGrey #EnglishSummer 25.07.17 #54b1ab #PMS325 #Turquoise 26.07.17 #54d15 #MexicanOrange #BBQ #Burritos #HavelockTerraceBBQ @SantanaGrill 27.07.17 #1648dd #DLRBlue 28.07.17 #ff6801 #Tangerine #RideLondon #Cycling … Continue reading

We only need a logo…

We were asked to put together a proposal and costs to design a logo for a Tudor stately home. Our proposal was rejected immediately on receipt because we used the term ‘brand identity’. They didn’t want a ‘brand’, they just wanted a logo.

This raises the question: can any business, even one rooted in Tudor history, decide it doesn’t want a brand? By wanting a logo they are acknowledging that they need an identifier of some kind? If it wasn’t required to do anything more than signpost, why wasn’t just writing the name sufficient? Perhaps they thought that a ‘logo’ would be cheaper than a ‘brand’.

Every company and organisation – even individuals in some cases – have a brand, whether they choose to manage it or not.

The logo is the visual representation of the organisation – an identifier – and once used on a website, visitor leaflets, merchandise and signage it builds a bigger visual picture that further develops the perception and, dare I say it, builds the brand.

Businesses with a clear vision of what they are and what they want to be, who choose to manage how they are perceived through their visual branding, are the most likely to succeed and build a memorable, cohesive brand aligned to their vision and future ambitions.

A logo used without control and consistency and without considering the bigger picture, quickly becomes devalued and can, potentially, drag the rest of the organisation with it.

I hope they end up with a well thought through, appropriate logo that’s aligned to their future plans as well as being rooted in their Tudor history. You don’t have to use the word brand to create one but whatever label you put on it, without careful management you’ll probably end up wasting your groats.

Howdy nominate their top five Charity identities

mind-logo
We love this logo. It’s a great idea implemented with honesty and energy – it looks like it’s just been scanned from the first ‘back of the envelope’ idea. It communicates what Mind are about in a single blue pencil (or mouse) line. And you can’t say that about many logos. On the down side, Mind use a particularly nasty, scratchy ‘hand written’ typeface on their web site which clashes horribly with the logo. Nice logo, shame about the implementation.

macmillan
Speaking of nasty hand written typefaces take a look at Macmillan’s identity. The intended friendliness of the blobby, hand painted letter forms is tempered by the use of caps which lends a certain toughness to the look. This toughness works well in the context of what Macmillan do – they support and help people stand up to, and fight, the horror that is cancer. The inspired addition of ‘WE ARE’ adds a sense of togetherness and an almost football terrace belligerence to the brand – ‘Oi Cancer! Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’. The Identity is implemented consistently, and, though considered, has the look of an identity that hasn’t had loads of money lavished on it – important for a charity. We also love the blanket use of green, green and more green. However, don’t mention any similarity with Greenpeace.

WWF
A beautifully drawn panda that’s more than WWF’s logo – it’s almost become a symbol of our threatened environment. This cuddly logo from the sixties is proof that logos do look better in black and white – although what other colour could it be? However, we’re still not sure what WWF stands for. I know it used to be World Wildlife Fund, then it was changed at some point in the 80s to World Wide Fund for nature, to cover flora as well as fauna, I guess. To some it stands for World Wrestling Federation. But does it matter – anyone know what IBM stands for? (That’s rhetorical by the way, don’t email us the answer.)

Amnesty international
Another one from the early sixties that’s stood the test of time, due to the brilliance of the idea and the simplicity of it’s execution. This, probably more than any of the others, has the ‘I wish I’d done that’ factor. We can but dream.

Prostate-UKWe really like this man of men logo. It suggests unity and the power of working together. It’s a simple idea that’s well executed. The individual figures within the logo give flexibility for implementation as individual icons and use within infographics helping to reinforce the brand. As we like to say, this is a logo with legs – in this case literally!

That’ll be £100,000 please

I recently listened to a podcast of my childhood hero, Pete Townshend, delivering his John Peel lecture on how creativity (in music) has been devalued by the growth in free music downloads. Pete’s beef was that, while lawyers, plumbers, pilots, cleaners and accountants get paid as the clock ticks, ‘creativity has less value than an hour’s work by me as a musician’. The comparison with design isn’t perfect (artwork vs ideas?), as musicians are self motivated artists rather than commissioned ‘professionals’, but the comparison does hold true when it comes to the difficulty we have in putting a value on creativity.

As designers we’re commissioned by small companies, global corporations, charities and individuals, so the value of a great idea to each of these types of client can vary hugely.

We’re currently working on a small project for a sole trader IT specialist. His brand identity will help him communicate his personality and professionalism and will be of huge value to his embryonic business. Ideas may come easy, it may be a tortuous process or inspiration may strike in the middle of the night (it sometimes does). However, having worked on countless identity projects the one thing I can absolutely guarantee is that this project, and the way the creative process develops, will be unique.

One man who had no problem in putting a price on his creativity was Paul Rand (designer of The IBM logo, amongst others) who, when asked to present some design options by Steve Jobs for his new computer business Next said “I will solve your problem and you will pay me. You can use what I produce or not, but I will not do options, and either way you will pay me.” (It would cost $100,000). If I had the ego and arrogance to say that to a client I’d be shown the door, and rightly so. I think that today even a legend like Rand would be out on his ear. Branding is a collaborative process and no designer would expect his client to have zero input into the visual identity of his own brand.

Maybe branding should be an even more collaborative process. If we find it difficult to put a value on creativity maybe more of us could share some of the risk by taking a reduced up-front fee, but charging a ‘royalty’ that’s linked to the clients’ (hopefully) growing profits. This seems to make sense as the value of a brand identity only becomes apparent over time. The problem there is that it takes a lot more than a brilliant piece of graphic design to ensure a company’s success. Management, advertising, PR, quality of product/service, quality of staff, to name just a few, all contribute to the success of a ‘brand’, so we’re still left with the same ‘how much is it worth’ conundrum.

Would it be easier for us, and for our clients, if we simply charged an hourly rate for a transparent process that ran from research and strategic planning, through to implementation and evaluation? The bigger the project, the longer the hours, the bigger the fee. But while the strategic and implementation phases of a branding project can be planned, managed, controlled, estimated and scheduled, that spark of creativity and invention around which any successful design project hinges can still be so slippery and elusive.

So how do we measure the effectiveness of a brand identity so that a client may better value it? Maybe the modern way would be to get the public to vote on it. Do an X factor. Throw your logo to the dogs. In fact, I can remember a new British Airways identity being killed off by the people (and Maggie Thatcher’s handkerchief), and that was pre-internet! And we all know the fate of the new Gap logo when the Twittersphere got its talons on it.

Should it be as simple as measuring sales and awareness before and after a redesign? A rebrand is often only the visual manifestation of more fundamental changes within an organisation, so it would be equally wrong for a new identity to take the credit or the blame for an organisation’s success or failure. What if we’re branding a new organisation or product? What do we measure against?

So where does that leave us? Don’t ask me. But I think at Howdy we’ll carry on as we are at the moment: discussing a client’s needs, expectations and budget limitations and submitting an honest and fair estimate of how much we think he should pay for our work. We won’t be taking Paul Rand’s stance any time soon: “I know best, I’m a designer, and I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. Oh, and it’ll cost you £100,000.”

Howdy’s guide to planning a new brand identity

Featured

We’ve put together this basic guide to help you prepare and plan a new brand strategy, identity, implementation and management.

1. Why?

Of course if you’re setting up a new organisation then the reason you need a brand identity is straightforward, but if you already have an established identity which you’ve decided to change, or refresh, what’s the reason and intention driving the decision?

Is your current identity out of line with your brand values and mission? Maybe changes within the organisation mean that your existing identity and communications are no longer relevant or is it that your visual branding is tired, outdated and ready for an update?

Whatever the reason, this forms the core of your design brief and should be one of the checkpoints that you later evaluate the proposed strategies and concepts against, asking, ‘Does it meet our original objectives?’. Without referring back to these original objectives, the project can drift, and ultimately fail to do what you set out to.

2. Identify the scope of the project

Consider the full range of applications and environments (current and anticipated) that the visual branding will need to work across from the outset, to ensure an appropriate design solution. Beyond on- and offline, think about different media and environments, as well as specific applications, ie. signage, interiors, liveries, uniforms, products, etc?

Audit current marketing and communications materials. What works and what doesn’t?Do they add value and reflect the brand values? Are some things produced out of habit and due for a rethink?

Be open to new ideas for formats and ways of communicating.

3. Engage and manage stakeholders

A brand identity is a significant investment and there may be some resistance from some stakeholders.

Put together the case for the change explaining the reasons behind the decision. Outline the benefits of a strong, cohesive and well-managed brand. Get feedback from contacts and staff on the existing identity: how effective it is; what it says about the organisation; recognition levels, etc. This helps the decision on whether a change is needed, and provides valuable background for the design brief. Look at what competitors and peers are doing.

Invite stakeholders to contribute thoughts and opinions to the brief. Engage them from the outset and keep them informed throughout the process so they feel involved and support it going forward. Ensure key stakeholders sign off the brief.

Identify who will have final veto on design sign off to avoid stalemate and design by committee. It’s valuable to get wider feedback and opinions but ultimately someone needs to retain overall control and ensure the design answers the mutually agreed brief.

4. Consider the resources available for the project and post-project management

This means both time and money. Consider how much time you, and colleagues, can realistically commit to managing the brand once the new identity is delivered: updating the website, feeding social media, writing copy, etc. This helps ensure your communications plan is appropriate and achievable.

Have a ballpark budget in mind. Get quotes to help guide this figure. Don’t get sucked in by unnecessary whistles and bells that blow your budget without adding real value and benefits. Having already identified the scope, objectives and challenges, it will be easier to stick to clear parameters.

5. These things take time

Allow a realistic timeframe. If you have a specific launch date then discuss this with your designers and put together a detailed schedule broken down into stages. Ensure everyone involved is available when required, for presentations, sign offs and to provide copy and content, etc.

Don’t expect to see your new logo within the first few weeks. The pre-design stage is crucial to getting the right outcome. Research, strategy development and getting the brief right are the key to the success of the whole project.

You may have already done some degree of research, agreed the brand personality and purpose, and developed a brand strategy but this still needs to be tied into a cohesive design and communications strategy and brief by your design and branding specialists.

Ideas need time to develop and evolve beyond the obvious. There’s no short cut command on the keyboard for the creative thought process. You’ve chosen your designers for their creative thinking – hopefully – so  give them the time to develop the best ideas and design solutions.

Allow sufficient time for the implementation and production. It goes without saying, the more this is rushed, the greater the margin for error.

6. Find the right design group

You need to work with someone that you feel is the right match for you, someone you trust to do a great job and that you’ll enjoy working with. We’d like to think that’s us of course, but sadly it isn’t always. There are many many designers out there and finding the right one may seem overwhelming.

Look around, find out who produced other materials you like. Don’t restrict this to your own sector. The point of design and branding is to differentiate and create something unique that’s relevant to your brief. A fresh approach and open mind from someone who may never have worked in your sector can bring a different perspective helping you to stand out from your competitors.

Take time to meet face to face with the people you’ll be working with – those who will actually be doing the project. Ask lots of questions and talk the project through. Make sure they are good listeners! Essential if they are going to get to the heart of your organisation and produce the right solution.

Don’t ask them to free pitch or do any initial rough ‘ideas’. If they offer to, walk away.This issue is a whole other blog in itself, but trust us – free pitching doesn’t benefit clients or designers. These visuals will bypass the pre-design planning, research and strategy stage,  be done in a rush and by whoever happens to be free at that time. At best, you’ll get an ‘it’ll do’ compromise.

“If you don’t understand the issues, you’ll end up creating fantastic solutions for the wrong problems.” Michael Johnson (I think! Apologies if I’ve mis-credited this quote)

7. Protect your investment

Great identities are quickly destroyed by misuse and misrepresentation. The job’s not over when you get your master artworks and guidelines, and everything’s looking beautifully ‘on brand’. The ongoing implementation and brand development needs to be managed and policed to protect everything you’ve carefully crafted and invested in.

Ensure at least one person is responsible for policing the brand and checking that everything adheres to the guidelines. Supply brand guidelines to anyone producing anything related to the brand, and ensure they understand the importance of them.

Familiarise staff with all aspects of the brand identity and explain why it’s important it’s protected and managed. Make it part of the company briefing for new members of staff. Details matter, from email sign offs to the way staff communicate with clients.

Forward planning is key to maintaining and building a strong brand. Communications created as knee jerk reactions to an immediate need tend to serve a short term role and are less likely to be as effective over the longer term and therefore are less cost-effective. Have regular planning meetings to look at forthcoming requirements and marketing opportunities to allow time to plan and schedule projects.

Need any help? 

As well as design, Howdy offers a design planning and management consultancy service for organisations who don’t have in-house communications and design expertise. We help with all aspects of brand strategy development and communications planning including design reviews, communications planning, managing individual projects, budgeting and scheduling, as well as independently helping source designers and suppliers. This can either be on a project-by-project basis or on a regular retainer basis for ongoing planning and support.

If you would be interested in finding out more about this service please contact Sharon by email or call 020 7720 8111.

Buy it cheap, buy it twice

This wise old adage may seem redundant in today’s throwaway society but we think it still offers some valuable lessons in the design and marketing world.

As marketing budgets continue to shrink, the temptation to scour the market for a cheap solution is inevitable, but we believe that when it comes to design, working closely with good designers and careful planning, are better ways to maximise your budget…

Know where you’re going
You need to have the internal focus right before you can brief an external supplier. All branding and marketing should be steering an organisation towards its long-term vision rather than just meeting short-term needs. This helps to give branding and marketing communications a longer shelf life and make them more effective. Quick fix solutions are tempting but are rarely the best way to communicate the bigger picture.

Learn from past mistakes
Plan carefully to ensure that communications tell the right message, to the right people, at the right time. Regularly audit marketing materials and all manifestations of the brand to assess the effectiveness and value for money. What works and what doesn’t? Don’t just produce things out of habit. Sometimes one communication can replace three. If you really need three, can they be printed up together to save on print costs. A few well thought out, engaging, relevant and well designed pieces will be more effective than lots of unfocussed, poorly produced ones that end up in the recycling bin.

Get your designers problem solving
Develop a dialogue with your designers. Tell them what you want to achieve and invite their input on format and content, as well as on layout and design. Ask them to suggest smart solutions to save money in production and distribution. Don’t be over prescriptive or limit their creativity at the outset. Tell them what information you need to communicate, and who to, and let them propose solutions. Consider different technologies and distribution methods? Does it really need an envelope for mailing or can it be designed to negate that? Sometimes a powerful single colour piece can have more impact than a  full colour one? Be open to new ideas.

Pick our brains 
Draw on your designer’s industry knowledge. As designers we really understand print and production – from presses to paper sizes and how jobs are planned up. We can help plan jobs economically to minimise waste. Some papers bulk up more than others so they appear thicker but are lighter in weight – useful to know when considering mailing costs without compromising on quality. A few millimetres trimmed off an edge could save a lot on distribution costs.

And finally, the ultimate false economy…
Free-pitching may seem a good idea – after all, who doesn’t like something for nothing? Putting a job out to many companies as a free pitch may at first appear to yield lots of exciting glossy options, but will they really reflect your organisation and future vision? Did they spend hours of unpaid time researching your organisation, your marketplace and your target audiences – probably not. The fact is that a free job will always be at the bottom of the pile behind the fee paying jobs in any design studio, so even if you get something you think is OK just imagine how good it could have been if you’d paid them to give it real time and effort. Find a designer or design group you respect and trust enough to pay them for their time and you’ll get the right design solution without the wasted time – after all, time is money.

Election special

Remember when things could only get better? Neil Smith and Sharon Clampin can. They look back at their time working with a relaxed, raven-haired Gordon Brown and a precocious David Milliband at Millbank Tower on Labour’s 1997 election campaign. Below is some of the work we produced (as part of the GIANT team) during the campaign.

downing_st

Mandelson (doesn’t) take the biscuit
We’re in a design studio in Wapping – it’s the early hours of a Tuesday (or was it Wednesday) in 1996. The artwork has to go to print now if we’re to meet the launch deadline. We’ve got Peter Mandelson and Pat McFadden and half a dozen Labour policy wonks in our meeting room, putting the finishing touches to the ‘Road to the Manifesto’ document – Labour’s dry run for the real thing the following year. One of Mandelson’s flunkies appears at the door “Do you have any biscuits? Peter wants biscuits”. “Ok, we’ll see what we can do” I say. Sharon offers to go into the Wapping night to find Custard Creams. Nowhere is open, not even our local garage. She comes back empty handed. “We have a slice of bread left from this morning – we can toast it, although we’ve run out of butter” she says. It’s 1996 and we’re doing our bit to help Labour end 18 years of Tory government.

Pushing Prescott around
It’s now early 1997. We’re in a rented photography studio in Kennington. The Labour Party have hired war photographer Tom Stoddart to shoot portraits of Blair and Prescott. I’m there to direct the shoot, and to make sure we get plenty of usable pictures for the various publications we’re working on. We’ve got 30 minutes. Tom and I are up on a mezzanine shooting down at Blair, who is reaching up to shake my hand. This is the picture I want for the front cover of ‘YOU (deserve better)’ magazine that we are designing for the Party. I get the picture, although most of the pictures on the roll look like Blair is doing a slightly camp Nazi salute. We lock these pictures in a drawer in case the press get hold of them. The second shot involves Blair and Prescott together. They stand facing away from each other. I ask Prescott to turn towards Blair. He turns the other way. I say “No, rotate clockwise, and move closer to Tony”, he says “Bloody ‘ell, just come and put me where you bloody well want me”. I grasp his shoulders and yank him towards Blair. He doesn’t punch me, and we get our picture. I shake Blair’s hand and say “Good luck Tony”. He smiles, and says “Thanks”.

Labour You magazine

Moving to Millbank
In the final couple of months before the May ’97 election we move a small team of designers and artworkers into a corner of Labour’s Millbank HQ. We design the newLabour newBritain logo. We churn out manifestos, leaflets, magazines, flags, badges, stickers, caps and anything else that can be branded New Labour. We get bored of red and start using purple. Everybody loves it. We start work on the main manifesto and they need a family to appear on the (Tory-sounding) ‘We will strengthen family life’ page. I volunteer mine – hoping the press don’t decide to come sniffing around my bins. Our lycra-clad artworker, Alan, points out to David Miliband that there’s no mention of cycling in the transport section of the Manifesto. Miliband says “Well, put it in then”. We did.

Festival Hall
The night’s going well. I’m standing in front of a huge screen at the Festival Hall surrounded by party workers and celebrities (although the only one I recognise all evening is John Peel). David Mellor has just lost his seat – look at his face! Portillo loses his seat now! How we laugh and cheer. D:Ream, the second rate dance band with the astrophysicist keyboard player, arrive on stage and remind us again that things can only get better – they certainly do improve when they finish playing. We stagger bleary eyed onto the terrace to greet the dawn and to greet Tony, who’s just flown in from Sedgefield to shake our hands. I cross Waterloo bridge in the sunshine and head for the District line. London has never looked better.

The Honeymoon years
I’m standing in the Lobby of number 10 next to a mountain of photographic equipment. It’s a few months into Blair’s premiership and he’s still popular (he hadn’t declared war on anyone yet). We’ve been retained as Labour’s designers, (originally as GIANT, then as Howdy) and have been asked to produce the centenary brochure for the NEC (Labour’s governing body) which involved getting a portrait of Blair at his desk in Downing Street. While number 10 is surprisingly grand and cavernous, the prime minister’s office is a slightly tatty and disappointing room set just off the main cabinet office. The Oval Office it isn’t, although there is a red telephone on the PM’s desk with ‘Washington Hotline’ dymo labelled onto it (I kid you not). Do you think Clinton had a London Hotline phone on his desk? I think probably not. While Blair is in the next room sorting out the Troubles with David Trimble, I’m doodling a very childish and quite obscene picture half way through his note pad. I often wonder if maybe he was on that Washington Hotline, a few weeks later, when he turned the page to reveal my ‘art’. Maybe it brightened up his day – maybe one of his office cleaners or ‘interns’ got fired. Guess we’ll never know.

The Prime Minister's office in Downing Street

The Prime Minister’s office. Neil and Jocelyn Hillman, Labour’s communications manager