11 august 2011
Branding 2.0 — What’s next?
D&AD’s Branding 2.0 brought together some of the most visible design practices in Britain. Simon Manchipp (SomeOne’s co-founder) was invited to sit in the middle of it all to try to herd the cats…
SomeOne co-founder Simon Manchipp is a busy chap.
When he’s not working on creating BrandWorld’s (like the London 2012 Sports Pictograms above) at SomeOne he’s an external assessor at London Design School, Central St. Martins — or off somewhere lecturing on progressive design thinking of some sort…
More recently he’s been invited to become part of D&AD’s Executive. (If you are a member of D&AD vote for him here)
The executive is a select group of people that decide the future direction of D&AD.
(For those who don’t know what D&AD is — D&AD is a source of information and ideas: of professional development, support and inspiration, interesting people to talk and nice things to look at. — D&AD are also the ‘Oscars’ of the creative industry.)
Anyway — recently Simon chaired a debate on Branding for D&AD.
Public debates are — weirdly — few and far between in the design industry. So it was a good opportunity to get some of the big guns in a room and take the gloves off for a frank discussion about where Branding is going.
Here’s Simon’s review of the evening…
Branding 2.0 brought together some of the most visible design practices in Britain, and I got to sit in the middle of it all and try to herd the cats…
Branding heavy-hitter WolffOlins Creative Director Marina Willer observed that ‘A brand is what Google says’, not what the Brand itself says. She showed the seductive AOL film work and talked about how there was a lot more than graphics to consider when working on creating, or recreating brands.
Independent Branding practice V3 was fronted by a cerebral Graham Jones, he pushed for bigger thinking in design groups generally — a call to arms to the industry. Asking that Brand 2.0 moves on from logo obsession, into a deeper, more collaborative approach from the industry as a whole.
Johnson Banks lead guitarist, Michael Johnson strummed out his latest hits in a virtuoso performance. Amongst a familiar, and widely awarded folio he showed the typographic system developed for the Science Museum featuring a bespoke typeface — which he had animated in a series of branded stings.
All pretty much as you’d expect: professional, slick, interested and interesting — but not particularly progressive. JB’s animated logos drew swipes from Twitter as anything but Branding 2.0 — more ‘same as it ever was’ thinking.
@thekingmob James Denman said in ironic caps: OMG. IT WAS AMAZING. with the hash tag #oldschool
The strategic twittersphere was most critical: The WolfOlins planner @nathanawilliams & Moving Brands strategist Camilla Store tweeted it up with “@Camillastore: Michael Johnson made a logo move! #rad #DandAD_Branding” EPIC LULZ
Then came Landor represented by Australian/Parisian cross-over Jason Little. Unusually for a company that famously creates large brand work accompanied by large guidelines he dismissed the brand manual as something you give to poorly informed clients, that agencies ‘threw over the fence’ to clients. (things were hotting up)
To the audience’s delight, Warren Hutchinson from SomeOneElse stepped up the pace. He put the cat amongst the designer clad pigeons, arguing for deeper and wider considerations when tackling a branding task, from the back room guys to front of house. He argued that we, as those shaping brands, needed to think less about the ‘presentation layer’ (typefaces, imagery and themes) and more at ‘design with a capital D’ (the way that the services, products and organisations are designed).
He labelled much of the traditional brand approach so clearly demonstrated by most of the speakers as surface deep marketing waffle.
Game on, gloves off.
This (from my perspective) was a rare opportunity to get some of the heads of the major design families together for a bit of a frank discussion. We rarely see people disagree on stage anymore, yet we often learn the most from the arguments.
Argument came fast. Michael Johnson was challenged over the Science Museum being nothing more than a typeface. Marina talked about how the WolffOlins process involved far more than graphics, that PWC’s re-brand took 3 years and involved deeper change management. Graham Jones took Michael Johnson to task on his methodology.
But the fire really got started when it came to Warren’s response to Landor. “Guidelines are just a piece of paper that demonstrate you’ve done some work”, he went on to attack the rather condescending description of how clients should be treated. “I’ve worked client side and I don’t need you to throw guidelines at me to brighten my day — thank you very much”
Now we had a party.
Then the audience got involved. They were not happy, the presentations had left them a bit cold and they wanted more. To be arguing about typefaces and guidelines was futile, why were designers not engaging with clients at a deeper level? Was change really only surface deep? What about behaviour. Experience. Thinking. Reputation. These are where brands became useful for products, services and organisations.
Warren eloquently echoed the audience’s concerns. While Landor tried to defend their position, WolffOlins, JB and V3 agreed that new brand thinking requires brand designers to demand deeper involvement with a more cohesive practice that takes the time to look into how a product, service or organisation behaves.
This was not a happy place for the design establishment. I felt that there was a real desire in the room for a longer discussion; there was frustration aplenty. ‘Digital’ or multichannel thinking was rocking the more traditional ‘Graphic Design’ boat.
Twitter of course was the unedited voice of the night:
@nathanawilliams ‘hosted cockfighting’
@russellsdust ‘I came here hoping to be scared’
@sjgreen ‘interesting and insightful’
@camillastore ‘good chat, strong debate & light abuse’
It’s clearly a creative practice at a point of change, Do you agree that Branding is moving on to transmedia pastures new — or that there’s still a priority in business for the logo makers?
How can we move the debate on to provide some consensus on what we should be worrying about?