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.”

The Howdy guide to bikes

Spring is here, Howdy’s bike is out of the shed, and there’s even a few cycle tours in the diary. If you’re thinking of taking up cycling, either to work off a few pounds, reduce your carbon footprint, or to get nicely tanned knees and a calloused backside, then this guide is for you. It lists common bike types and the sort of people you can expect to find riding them*. If you’re after serious advice you’d be better off speaking to someone at Evans (Evans Cycles, not Evans Outsize). This hasn’t got much to do with graphic design either, although it does contain the words ‘logo’ and ‘Helvetica’.

1. The Hybrid
A sort of default bike, for people that aren’t really into cycling but feel they ought to own a bike. Found mostly in sheds. It’s called a hybrid because it’s poor at both going fast on roads and going up and down mountains. Most bike manufacturers produce hybrids, most bike shops are full of them.
What to wear: normal day wear, a high-vis tabard and trousers tucked in socks.

2. The Vintage
Traditionally associated with war-time vicars, the vintage, which is either a lady’s bike with a basket on the front, a Dutch bike, or a fifties ‘gentlemans’ racer’ converted to a fixie (see below), is now back in vogue thanks to beardy East London art students who use them as fashion accessories. Pashley will sell you a brand new vintage bike, or you can get a proper one from Ebay and renovate it yourself. Check out the gorgeous Hetchins with its famous curly chain stays and ornate lugs.
What to wear: brogues.

3. The Fixie
Started life on the track, became the cycle couriers’ favourite, then the graphic designers’ favourite. Called a fixie because it has a fixed wheel hub, which means you can’t stop pedalling. On a fixed wheel bike you only need a front brake as the back wheel can be slowed by reducing your pedalling speed. All the big bike manufacturers will now sell you a fixie, usually with fluorescent green wheel rims, a yellow chain and a bit of lower case helvetica somewhere on the frame. Riders of these bikes don’t stop at red lights or zebra crossings, mainly because they can’t. The Charge Plug is one of the most popular off-the-shelf fixies.
What to wear: neck brace and sling.

Bike2

4. The Carbon Fibre Racer With Lots Of Numbers And Italian Words On It.
These are the Formula one cars of the bike world. Light and fast, these bikes can be seen tearing round Richmond Park on Sunday mornings ridden by Mamils (Google it). A carbon framed Colnago, Pinarello or Wilier can set you back anything up to £10,000, which is an absurd amount of money to spend on a bicycle. These bikes are generally owned by well paid corporates working off their business lunches.
What to wear: head to toe lycra printed with the logo of a French bank.

5. The Mountain Bike 
A top end mountain bike such as a Turner Five Spot is a beautifully designed and engineered bit of kit and can cost £4000 plus. A Halfords’ full suspension Trax (see BSO below) isn’t, and will set you back £89.99. Buy something in between, in both quality and price, by Kona or Trek. A good mountain bike is designed specifically for riding off-road and going up and down mountains and is brilliant at it, provided you’ve got the lungs and the nerve. Just don’t try going down the shops on one, all that knobbly rubber means they’re as good as useless on tarmac.
What to wear: baggy shorts and an expression of terror.

6. The BSO
The Bike Shaped Object. It looks like a bike, but handles and rattles like a shopping trolley. Built in the far east with poor quality components and delivered flat-packed most bikes under £150 fall into this category. Buy one from Asda or Halfords if you want to be put off cycling for life.
What to wear: tattoos, no shirt.

7. The Folder
At my local railway station folding bikes are used exclusively by late middle-aged men (never women) in slightly shabby suits, cardigans and identity lanyards. (Ok, so there’s only one person at my local station with a folding bike). Who wouldn’t want a bike you could fold up and take on the train? Saves all that exhausting cycling nonsense. Buy a quirky British Brompton, or an American Dahon.
What to wear: bicycle clips.

8. The Recumbant
A sort of deckchair on wheels, often sporting a flag on a stick so that the rider can be seen by passing cement mixers. To be honest, if you’re thinking of buying a bike you probably won’t be considering one of these unless you enjoy people pointing and laughing at you in the street.
What to wear: Beard and thick skin.

* Note: these people are just convenient stereotypes.

Design trends – how much should they influence branding decisions?

It’s the time of year when annual trend forecasts are published and magazines are full of news on what colours and shapes are ‘in’ and what will dictate 2016’s ‘style’.

This year Pantone have selected two ‘colours of the year’: Rose Quartz and Serenity. According to Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman: “These colours demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.”

What does this mean to us, as branding and communications specialists, in our day to day marketing and design decisions? Probably not a lot in all honesty. Identity and communication design needs to reflect, enhance and communicate a brand and its values on a longer term basis.

Fast changing trends are essential in fashion, an industry built around seasonal, short term collections fuelling our desire to update our wardrobes every few months, but it’s no accident that most fashion brands’ corporate identities are black and white or neutral, giving them the flexibility to work with and sit above each season’s changing trends. Brands like Chanel, Burberry, YSL, Gucci and Fred Perry, are iconic and have changed very little, if at all, in the past 20+ years, maintaining consistent, well managed and instantly recognisable brand identities.

A brand identity is not a short term investment and, as such, should not be subject to seasonal whims and fancies. Longer term trends do occur and brand identities can become tired and outdated and in need of a revamp, but this should be after years not months.

The key to a successful and long lasting corporate identity is to get the brief right and find a design partner you feel is right for you (see our blog ‘Choosing the right design partner’).

Ensure you end up with an identity that accurately reflects your brand values and personality. Be ambitious and look to the future. Think about where you want the organisation to be in five years and aim for an identity that reflects that vision. Don’t be swayed by this season’s style ‘must haves’. Don’t end up with a logo that’s ‘so last season’ in 12 months time.

 

 

 

 

 

World Cup wall charts

In 2010 we wrote a design critique of some of the World Cup wall charts that landed on our desks during the run up to the tournament – a total of eight. We thought we’d produce a 2014 version of this ‘popular’ blog piece, but unfortunately we’ve received a sum total of zero wall charts this year. We think this says something about the low expectations of the current England team’s chances. Have you noticed the lack of England flags on taxis and vans?

Anyway, we’ve been to the newsagents and researched online and have cobbled together a few wall charts that we mostly don’t like. Our random five from 2014 are:

The Telegraph World Cup wall chart ‘simulator’
As the title suggests, this isn’t exactly a wall chart, but just simulates one, although not well enough for it to be attachable to your wall. Apart from this major shortcoming it functions well, although we found it visually dull and unexciting. We reckon they would have made more effort if it had been the Polo World Cup.

Image

The Mirror
We think the designers have been influenced by a recent team-building exercise at a Delta Force Paintballing centre.

Image

The Times World Cup app
We noticed this on Creative Review’s blog, and thought it looked interesting, although again it’s not a wall chart (maybe it’s the future of wall charts?). Unfortunately we don’t subscribe to the The Times online, so we couldn’t see it to review it.
Image

Samuel Ladlow, from ‘The Drum’ wall chart competition
This was one of the entrants to an online design competition that we didn’t have time to enter. We like the big football shirt numbers, although Sir Neville’s England shirt numbers seem to have been overlooked. On close inspection it seems a bit impractical so probably wouldn’t have made it to our wall, even if we had a printed version.
Image

Andrew Fishleigh (as above)
We had a guess at what the brief for this one might have been: “In 2014 Brazil, a vibrant, booming country, will host the world’s biggest and most exciting sporting event. Can you design us a wall chart please, but make sure it looks like a survey from your local authority about parking provision and quality of waste and recycling amenities.”
Image

And our review from 2010…
Grafik
First on the doormat was the bright orange chart that arrived with Grafik magazine. Designed for beard-stroking typographers this one, printed with fluorescent and metallic inks, gloss varnishes and typeset in one size of a rather nice sans serif typeface. All very functional and minimal. And just a little bit joyless. I think I’d rather put a mortgage application form on my wall – at least it’d use less blu-tack. And we think it’s probably been designed by somebody who doesn’t really like football – a Manchester United fan most likely.

Image

Creative Review
Next up was the Creative Review chart. Not enough pictures of Didier Drogba and too many numbers on this one. For instance: If England win their group they go through to L16 50 26 06 19 30 and play the runner up of group D. If they win that game they play the winner of 49 in 58 on 02 07 19 30. We really couldn’t be bothered. Having said that, we quite like the pixelly patterned background.

Image

WineOneHundred
Just like most football fans I know, we’ve been having heated discussions at Howdy about which wines to drink while watching the games. So imagine our delight when the ‘Wine drinker’s guide to the World Cup’ arrived. We love the big Avant Garde Gothic numbers and the ‘Tree Free’ paper stock. Attractively, but impractically set out as a calendar, the copywriter has pulled out all the stops to match a wine to every game: “Group H, Spain v Chile – Abadia Retuerta Rîvola (£12.49) A wine almost as slick as the passing of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas.” Hmm, World Cup Lager drinker’s guide anyone?
Image

News of the World
The News of the World wall chart gives half of its space to that famous picture of World Cup winners’ hands grasping at the trophy. However, the hands have been retouched in the colours of various national flags which gives them the appearance of a pit of exotically coloured snakes fighting over a cornet. Strangely, this one seems to be the studio favourite.

Image

Daily Mirror
Tim found The Daily Mirror wall chart on the bus. It’s sponsored by Wii Resort and has an alternative Wii wall chart on the reverse so if we get knocked out at the group stage you can turn it over and fill in the result of the sword fight you had with your nan.

Image