Good Foundations

Good, timeless brands, like great architecture, are built on solid foundations.

Without brilliantly engineered foundations, designed to fulfil the vision of the building they’ll support, no matter how pretty it is, no matter the plaudits, if they’ve not been designed to deal with every eventuality imaginable for the life of the structure, it will fail.

It’s exactly the same in branding.

The less than glamorous trudge of internal and external research, trend and market analysis, workshops, interviews and all the rest of the planning team’s remit are the concrete and steel of a robust positioning and a well-defined brand. 

That said, it never ceases to amaze me in presentations, how often this piece of solid gold is undervalued and ignored in favour of the shiny creative concepts that follow. Data, reasoning, analytics, structure, values and promise seldom lights the fire in the belly like the graphic interpretation. Similarly, architects don’t get much elation from their foundation schematics and loading calculations, but the client knows that without them, his building will collapse. 

Done well, by experts that understand location, usage, materials, competitors and conditions, now and in the future, good foundations don’t limit, but facilitate creativity and ensure longevity. Just ask any great architect from the creator of the Colosseum to Frank Lloyd Wright, Santiago Calatrava and Norman Foster. 

Good foundations facilitate timeless brilliance.

Glass curtain walls, stunning unsupported spans and luscious curves in materials you simply cannot believe are possible. Light and space to bring wellbeing and productivity. Soaring atriums, transparent lift shafts and floating, interlocking floor-plates to raise the heartbeat, improve productivity and spark the memory. Whatever was envisioned in the brief is facilitated by the integrity of the foundations.

And so it is in great, classic branding. 

Our foundations, positioning and definition, are the underpinnings of great work. Referred to at every step to validate decisions and deliver informed inspiration where needed. Design language from copy to typefaces, colours to photography, communication templates to interior guidelines. Good Brand foundations inform the building blocks of the brand, the materials, allowing flexibility whilst consistently delivering to brief and maximising creativity to differentiate and connect with the audience. 

Without foundations in either branding or architecture, design decisions are subjective, personal and ultimately flawed.

“The beautiful rests on the foundations of the necessary” Ralph Waldo Emmerson, Lecturer and Poet.

The added benefit of solid foundations in branding is the ability to stay focused on the vision. Informed conclusions and decisions can be made without the distraction of creative pyrotechnics. It allows large stakeholder groups, prevalent in large corporate structures, to act as a focused, decisive and effective entity, devoid of subjective banana skins, personal preferences and box ticking conformity. This in turn, if you’re working with a good consultancy, delivers great work.

Not only that, the values and promises, derived from your foundations can as a reference point and filter to ratify every decision you make as a brand. From the language, interactions and content of your digital strategy to your employment policy. Good foundations literally are the unsung hero of successful brands. Without them, you’re wasting your time, your customers time and your hard earned cash.

The most vital part of branding is usually the bit you pay the least attention to. Unseen and sitting quietly but stoically behind the scenes, it can be a bit boring, a bit grey and doesn’t look up to much in isolation. However, combine it with insight-driven and informed building blocks in an imaginative and flexible way, determined by your foundations and you can create magic.

So remember: 

  • Get your foundations right and don’t trust creative execution built on sand. 
  • Use the outcome of your foundations to drive every decision you make for your brand. 
  • Good foundations should last a lifetime and foster creativity not restrict it.

“Without a solid foundation, you’ll have trouble creating anything of value.” Erika Oppenheimer, Life Coach.

Drawing my rant to a close with a forthright opinion, human beings are built on the foundations of their upbringing and experiences – a post for another day – but I’m convinced it’s this depth of character that instinctively draws us to buildings and brands with substance, flair and integrity that echo our vision of self.