For us, the starting point of any brand project is rarely (never) creative. Enduring creative solutions are based on solid thinking – so there’s a lot that happens before we consider tackling how any of it looks. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not an extremely important part of the branding process.
But often when we get to the creative bit there’s a sense of nervousness from clients. Changing their brand visually and rolling out across teams, departments, and regions – costs time and money. We recently worked with a client who said “do we need to change our identity? We’ve just put a new 30ft sign up on the factory.”
So what can you do when your agency’s urge to change everything clashes with your desire to change nothing? Well, there’s a middle ground. With the right approach you can change everything, without changing much. Here’s four responsible design principles that allow us to do just that…
- Build a language platform
Language and tone of voice is our creative starting point. We work with lots of B2B tech companies who are shit-hot when it comes to talking to end-users about product and applications, but not at communicating value at a brand level. A language platform (built from your values) that can carry a broad suite of messaging, creates consistency across your brand comms. And this is probably the area where you can have the biggest impact without changing anything graphic. Using your values to inform how you talk helps create something that feels credible, coherent, ownable – and different.
- Create a design language
Using something like a graphic asset derived from your brand marque to build a simple, easy-to-apply design language is an effective way of introducing a new element. For example, a shape used as container for technical information, wayfinding or to highlight graphics and imagery. Even carrying that through to inform the design of infographics, icons, illustration, and product UI. Perhaps introduce a secondary typeface that complements what you have, but provides flexibility across different touchpoints. It adds variety to your brand toolkit, without changing anything.
- Enhance your colour palette
A limited range of brand colours can feel restrictive and stale – it often results in overuse of the core brand colour, which gets boring pretty quickly. Introducing (or updating) a complementary secondary or tertiary colour palette – even just adding an accent colour – can really freshen things up and create standout. B2B creative can often feel very cold and mechanical so the use of colour, in the right proportions, adds warmth and personality. It doesn’t need a radical overhaul to have an impact.
- Elevate your imagery
B2B businesses are notoriously bad when it comes to hero’ing their product. Product photography tends to be very functional and bland, and brand imagery is full of overly corporate stock shots. You don’t need to break the bank for a shoot – a small studio space with careful lighting and prop styling can elevate the standard massively. Introducing people interacting with products also adds a bit of humanity and helps highlight key features. Using stock photography is fine – but it should be used to supplement, not replace, brand imagery that’s your own.
I appreciate that’s not an exhaustive list – and it isn’t new thinking when it comes to creative development – but it’s amazing how quickly the basics are forgotten. At the end of the day, creative development isn’t a vanity project – it shouldn’t be change for the sake of change. Our approach is based on the principles of responsible, pragmatic design, so we always start by asking “what’s the least amount we can change?” That means taking time to understand where there’s value in existing assets, and identifying where there’s scope to evolve and/or introduce new.