When you think of successful brands, which ones come to mind? Do you picture big corporations like Apple, Nike, and Amazon or do you picture a smaller, less obvious company like Bombas or Chobani? All of these brands are successful for a variety of different reasons, however, we’re going to discuss how great design adds an extra layer of value to successful brands, and how to achieve it.
As a designer, I can’t count how many times I’ve been approached to “make a logo” or to design “something simple” for a client. Whether the ask is to design a logo, a PDF of existing content, an email blast, social media graphic or website, all of these projects are pieces of your brand and should not be viewed as “something simple”. Graphic design, at its most basic definition, is problem solving through visual elements. When a client approaches a designer with a problem (for example, we need a new logo), a designer isn’t trained to put a band-aid on that problem and call it a day, they want to be able to provide the best solution possible. The best way to achieve this is through a brand brief, no matter how big or small the problem is.
What is a brand brief? It provides context to all parties about your brand including your vision, mission, personality, purpose, positioning and what makes you competitive. Your brand brief is big picture thinking, outlining your objectives and goals and it’s the best starting off point for a designer to understand your brand. A creative brief is more project-based and holds all parties accountable. It contains background on your company, competitors, and audience, while also discussing the project overview and objective, outlines the deliverables, timeline and budget. By providing both of these briefs, the creative team is able to fully understand the problem at hand and develop a well-thought out solution.
Let’s look at Fisher-Price as an example. This is one of my personal favorites when it comes to rebranding because it’s a great example of how brand and creative briefs are used to solve a problem. Fisher-Price is an educational toy brand for children that has been around since 1930. It’s old logo and brand assets were a bit outdated and the company turned to Pentagram for a refresh. Up first, the logo.
What may look like a small update, really had a lot of conceptual thinking behind it. The number of semi-circles at the bottom of the awning have been intentionally minimized from four to three. In doing so, Pentagram wanted to symbolize two main ideas: a nod to the three founders of the company, Herman Fischer, Irving Price and Helen Schelle; and highlighting the intersection of parents playing with kids. By moving the wordmark to being all lowercase, it adds a more fun, less sophisticated element to the brand. The hyphen has also been re-imagined into a scalloped edge, mimicking the three-edges along the bottom of the logo and also echoing a child-like smile. Looking at brand elements, the animated monograms also add a level of play that echo child-like illustrations.
When Pentagram had taken on this project, going through the creative and brand briefs, they knew Fisher-Price wanted to achieve a level of playfulness and joy but without losing the heritage of a nearly 100-year-old brand. They had taken a look through Fisher-Price’s early advertising and packaging to re-purpose and create a unique typeface, specific to this brand, to encapsulate the tagline, “Let’s be kids”.
Now, taking a look back at what we develop in brand briefs and in creative briefs, we can see how Pentagram used these in this new brand identity system. For example, in the brand brief we know that Pentagram had a great understanding of Fisher-Price’s brand idea, “the what”, as they are a children’s toy brand and the brand personality can easily be seen throughout the playfulness and color palette of the new branding assets. We can also see how Pentagram utilized a creative brief to solve the project’s objectives. Through understanding the company background and audience to executing the deliverables, Pentagram’s designers were able to solve the problem of bringing a nearly 100-year-old children’s toy brand into a playful, modern world… all with the help of properly established brand and creative briefs.