Bear with me. This is hard to explain. We got interested in this story because we loved the graphics and packaging for the new Museum of Unnatural History in Washington D.C., which isn’t a museum and not a real store either. It’s the Washington D.C. location for 826 National, a nonprofit tutoring, writing and publishing organization founded to assist kids aged six to 18 with their writing skills. It got its start at 826 Valencia Street (hence the name), a storefront location in San Francisco’s Mission District. To make the place seem “cooler” to kids, the 826 founders decided to disguise it as a “Pirate Store” and stocked it with pirate supplies like peg legs, message bottles and hooks. Kids loved it and sales helped support the tutoring programs.
About 12 years ago, we posted a quiz, called “The Human Touch,” in @Issue, challenging readers to name the face in the trademark. We are updating it here because back then, there were too many to fit on a spread, so some favorites had to be left out. Also, in the ensuing decade, new brand “people” have emerged and some have been given much-needed facelifts. The reason why companies give their brand a face hasn’t changed, however. Faces are often more memorable than an abstract mark. The right face can humanize a product and give it personality. It can imply the endorsement of an expert. Or it can just make the brand seem more likeable and fun. See if you can connect the face with the brand. The answers are on the next page.
This video leaves a lot to be desired graphically, but it is an excellent primer on audio branding. We would tell you more, but the video by Byswiss does such a great job, why bother. Be sure to read the text to understand the examples.
Recently a number of Pantone-color inspired products have been introduced into the marketplace. There’s the Pantone chip mug by W2, the Pantone cufflinks by Sonia Spencer, the Pantone stationery and bags by Alpha, and now there is the new Pantone Hotel in Brussels, created in a licensing partnership with a British developer.
Designed by Belgian interior designer Michel Penneman and Belgian architect Olivier Hannaert, the seven-story boutique hotel is alive with chic, contemporary colors, all matched to Pantone’ color swatches. Guestrooms are appointed with white walls and bedding to create a neutral backdrop for Belgian photographer Victor Levy’s photographic installations featuring a spectrum of vibrant Pantone colors. The public spaces equally reflect Pantone’s skill at applying color psychology and design trends to create an environment that is at once convivial, happy, and relaxing.
Editor’s note:Here’s more thoughtful advice excerpted from branding expert Marty Neumeier’s book, The Brand Gap. Marty is the director of transformation at Liquid Agency.
Why are there so many sound-alike names? The short answer is this: Most of the good names are taken. Between a rising tide of startups on one hand, and a flood of URLs on the other, companies are continually forced to dive deeper for workable names. The latest trend is to push the boundaries of dignity with names like Yahoo!, Google, FatSplash and Jamcracker. Where will it end?
It won’t. The need for good brand names originates with customers and customers will always want convenient ways of identifying, remembering, discussing, and comparing brands. The right name can be a brand’s most valuable asset, driving differentiation and speeding acceptance. The wrong name can cost millions, even billions, in workarounds and lost income over the lifetime of the brand. George Bernard Shaw’s advice applies to brands as well as people: “Take care to get born well.”
How do you brand a banana? It’s a generic fruit, like an apple or peach. right? If you live in the tropics, you can grow bananas in your backyard. Still, for the past 65 years, only one banana has a brand identity, not to mention, a name, a face and a personality – Chiquita.
Back in 1944, Chiquita charmed consumers by turning a caricature of Carmen Miranda, the flamboyant Brazilian samba singer/dancer with the tutti-frutti hat, into its brand icon. Then to reinforce its slogan “Quite Possibly the World’s Most Perfect Food,” it created a little blue sticker that to this day it affixes by hand onto every single banana it sells.
Kulula, South Africa’s first no-frills commuter airline, makes up with humor what it lacks in global stature. Its two-plane fleet, which flies short-hops from Johannesburg to Cape Town and Durban, is painted a conspicuous lime green with callouts identifying each part of the aircraft, including the cockpit area where the “the big cheese” (captain) sits, and the “loo” (lavatory) “or the mile-high club initiation chamber.” This is a brand identity that you are not likely to forget. In fact, you may even look for Kulula planes on the runway to amuse yourself.
The inflight instructions are equally irreverent, with the flight attendant advising passengers to make sure they have all their belongings with them when leaving the plane, but if they have to leave anything behind “make sure it is something the cabin crew can use. Preferably not children.”
Or telling passengers before takeoff: “If you have a child with you, please be sure to fasten their seatbelt first. If you have more than one, please select your favorite now and fasten their seatbelt.”
Editor’s Note:Martin Miruka is the founder, CEO and lead strategist of ATOM, the first indigenous brand strategy design firm in Kenya. Based in Nairobi, Miruka is also chairman of the Diversity Africa Foundation and KenyaOne, a nonprofit organization founded by ATOM to champion issues of diversity and the creation of a value-based national brand for Kenya. He is the author of The Passion of the Brand, a handbook distributed free to business leaders by ATOM to increase awareness and action around the fundamental role of brand strategy in building African businesses into global African brands. This interview continues our Foreign Correspondent series on the state of design in nations around the world.
How long has the design profession existed in Kenya?
Design has been around since 1967. It started with the creation of Kenyatta University, which was hived off the University of Nairobi (UON) to become a constituent college for training teachers. At that point, Design and Fine Art were created as Bachelor of Arts courses. Fine Art went to Kenyatta and Design remained at UON.
Editor’s note: People often ask the difference between how a public relation expert goes about wooing customers versus an ad agency, a designer, etc. In his top-selling book Zag: The No. 1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands,Marty Neumeier summarizes the differences in this tongue-in-cheek visualization. Neumeier is the author of several books on branding, lecturer and Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency, where he helps companies build their brands from the inside out. His book was published before social media caught on, so we don’t know how Twitter would fit into this comparison? Maybe a courtship between two emoticons.
Editor’s Note: Alina Wheeler’s book, Designing Brand Identity, just released in its third updated printing, is a reference for anyone involved in branding. A comprehensive review of branding fundamentals, Wheeler’s book showcases best practices and pares away complexities so that common processes are easy to understand. It is a great guide for those entering the business, and for old pros, her book can be used in the same way that experienced cooks consult a cookbook to make sure that they haven’t forgotten any essential ingredients.
Here’s Wheeler’s schematic of components that go into preparing a brand brief. “Many entrepreneurial companies have visionaries who walk around with this information in their heads; getting it on paper helps anyone who has the responsibility to execute the vision,” she says. “The best briefs are succinct and strategic, and approved by the most senior levels in an organization early in the process. If these briefs are approved, the balance of the project is more likely to be on track and successful.”
Want to set an elegant table for the holidays? Don’t just put any old bottled water out for guests. Make it French. Make it designer. Make it from the Evian Paul Smith Limited Edition collection. In a tradition started in 2008 with a limited edition bottle designed by Christian Lacroix, followed in 2009 with Jean Paul Gaultier, Evian has just released the Paul Smith Limited Edition 2010 bottle.
The renowned British fashion icon designed the bottle in vibrant colors with a festive theme, featuring his signature stripes and five different multi-colored caps to collect. These days selling bottled water has become harder with countless brands vying for market share and sustainability proponents urging people to drink water filtered from the tap, even adding the bubbly themselves. With its designer bottles, Evian, owned by Danone Waters of America, isn’t touting how its product tastes, but how its bottles look. At $13.95 (USD) for a single 750ml bottle and $118 (USD) for a 12-bottle case, what consumers are buying is imaginative packaging that happens to have water inside.
Historically house brand packaging has been sad to look at. It’s as if shoppers were being told, “You want it cheaper than the national name brands, then don’t expect us to spend any money on pretty wrappers.” Increasingly, stores are concluding that packaging that looks inferior to national brands present a missed marketing opportunity. Instead of communicating value, it gives bargain-hunting shoppers the impression that the merchandise inside is just as shoddily produced.
Like Martha Stewart, Charles Schwab and Ralph Lauren, renowned chef Wolfgang Puck is a brand unto himself. His name evokes a promise of culinary quality, fine dining, and contemporary style. Little wonder that his enterprises have expanded from celebrated restaurants like Spago in Beverly Hills to a line of quick-serve Wolfgang Puck Express and contemporary casual Wolfgang Puck Bistro dining establishments to the retail sales of a broad array of licensed branded products, ranging from coffee and soups, frozen appetizers and pizzas, to pots and pans.
Anyone who has ever been involved in designing or managing a graphic identity program (pretty much everybody in design and mar-com) has experienced fleeting impulses to rebel. Rigid rules and authoritarian orders run counter to freedom of expression and creativity. But identity guidelines are the foundation of branding. Consistent and repeated use builds brand recognition. And yet! Just once, wouldn’t it be fun to run the logo in pinstripes or push the corporate colors into a more punk PMS shade? Or tell the “identity police” that being forced to use the logo is a blight on your beautiful cover design?