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Adventures in Branding Pt 1: Brain Surgery

The soup to nuts of brand development.


We thought it’d be a blog-worthy enterprise to chronicle a brand development exercise we’re currently going through with one of our newer clients. Basically we’ll be walking you through the branding process real-time, starting at ground zero: the development of an icon which will subsequently be used in a logo.

Stage 1: Exploratory Brain Surgery

This was primarily a research and fact-finding mission (with a little doodling thrown in for good measure), compiling as much info about the client as possible. We let the client know beforehand what to expect from this initial gathering so they came ready to rumble. I’ve noticed a number of horror stories) about dealing with the ignorance of business owners in regards to branding, so it was refreshing to get a chance to meet with someone outside of the design field who understood the necessity of getting their brand right and appreciated the time it took to go through the process to reach success.

One of the first issues we dealt with was “Is this a Paris Hilton?”By that I mean, since the company and the owner were basically one and the same, would the identity of the company completely mirror that of the owner, or would the brand serve as a public persona separate and distinct from their normal personality? We’ve had situations where it was more important to the client that their company reflect their target market than their personal tastes. In this case the client wanted the corporate brand to synchronize with their personality,(so, more like a Kelly Clarkson).

Armed with that knowledge, we proceeded with questions about the client’s likes and dislikes as far as existing logos were concerned. It was constructive to hear both the positive and negative comments since this helped us set the parameters for our brainstorming. We listened out for key words, concepts and symbols that the client used when answering our questions. Words like sophisticated, sensuous, feminine are gold mines of possible visual directions. I had a sketch book there and was doodling while the client was talking which itself sparked new directions, helping to flesh out and solidify what the core themes of the brand were.

Sometimes, however, our clever maneuvers lead us to dead-ends or road blocks. Susan then started down some more non-traditional avenues. One question that spawned some useful results was: “If the brand were to make a movie, what kind of movie would it be? Which studio would carry it? Who’d star in it?”

When we reached a point where we were all satisfied with the number and strength of the directions we had on the table, we sewed the client back up and made preparations for the follow-up. Our next step: Excavation.

Identity Works
A List Apart
Directed Creativity
Creative Lattitude: Logo Notions

Picture References
Farmer’s branding a cow
Human Brain

Andrew Davies

Drew's degrees in Illustration, 2D animation and Broadcast Design, and his volleyball skillz mean he can get your design done and play well with others at the same time. He’s the Creative Director at Paragon and will call you out if you start hanging out with shady-looking fonts and messing around with whacked-out color palettes.