How do you transform brand values into brand design?

By Nick Dormon

As designers and brand strategists we spend a lot of time working out the very essence of a brand – a single crafted expression that helps marketers and their agencies to stay focused, and allows the brand to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Behind every successful business lies a clear expression of their brand.

The challenge comes when we want to turn this essence into a physical entity – a design, communication or PR activity. The essence itself is often so distilled that it lacks the richness required to tell a brand story. So we go back to the start, and identify the brand values that underpin the essence. These should be values that consumers can understand and care about. And they must always relate directly to the product.

To address this challenge we start by identifying a brand’s product attributes and user needs. Then, by examining the relationship between these values, we are able to distinguish a robust purpose for the brand.

It is important to make sure that the values identified can be clearly communicated. Occasionally we are faced with closely held values that simply don't translate into something that can be easily understood by the consumer through design (often the case when they are born out of communication strategies). For example, when we worked on After Eight they were keen to retain a sense of fun but this was not something that made sense on pack. We need to express a sense of quality, luxury and formality- fun was for the communications agency to play with.

To develop our strategy we run through a process of brand manifestation to explore the values and confirm that they can be brought to life effectively through design.

By exploring values in the visual realm we are able to further define each word's exact meaning wtihin the context of the brand. This means we avoid ‘fat’ (generic, abstract, nonspecific) words, which can be interpreted by different people in different ways. 

Through this process we map out the function of different aspects of design in their brand role. This will deliver a rich palette of forms, functions, colours, materials, finishes, graphics and behaviours. The trick is to define the role of each and not try and do everything everywhere. These can then be used by the brand to engage consumers in new ways.

A good example would be our work with Sure / Rexona. We were able to convey the brand proposition ‘elegant performance’ so well through design that in consumer testing no one needed to explain the brand values.

It is essential therefore to take a cohesive and strategic approach to brand design in order to make the most of every opportunity to connect with users.

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