How can designers work to best convey the underlying depth and strengths of a brand, in an appealing way for their target audience?
Whether we are creating a store environment, designing a brochure, or putting together some page layouts for a website, our goal is always to create an emotional connection with the end user and to differentiate the brand from its competitors.
When done properly, it makes the difference between lacklustre design and design which is impactful, effective, and which truly articulates the brand’s DNA.
Conversely, brands that fail to pinpoint and show what makes them special will struggle to establish themselves as relevant to their target audience. They risk falling victim to the old marketing adage ‘under-told and undersold’, in other words, not being clear about what you stand for and therefore failing to capitalise on your anticipated level of customer appeal.
Our first challenge, however, is sometimes to define what these underlying strengths are. Whilst brands may wish to focus on executing their brand communications activity straight away, actually digging a little deeper to discover how they describe what we call a brand's ‘one and only’ (it’s uniqueness) can be a hugely enlightening process.
From our side of things, we need to begin the design process with a full understanding of the brand and its target audience, before we can get to the brief. This consists of determining the brand values, the messaging, and the 'one and only', which we then work to highlight in our design work.
Where this insight isn’t readily available, then we sometimes have to gather it ourselves, through interviewing key stakeholders such as customers/clients, internal teams, and partners. We have a small team of specialist planners who work alongside our designers, providing objective input to the design brief.
Below, we've selected a few examples of brands which we think have successfully articulated their 'one and only'. There is a whole range of sectors we could talk about, but we've decided to focus on retail here.
The design challenge in retail is arguably more complex; brand positioning and values must be communicated to shoppers at the same time as tempting them to make a purchase, which makes the following successes all the more impressive.
1. The Dyson Demo store, Oxford Street, London.
This store - some would say showroom - offers a fully-rounded experience of the Dyson brand. It's less geared around buying, and more dedicated to displaying the huge level of engineering excellence that goes into each product.
2. Uniqlo, worldwide.
This Japanese apparel brand offers a huge depth of colour options on a tight product range, which is flaunted in-store with visually inspiring visual merchandising (VM).
The brand's Japanese heritage is evident through all of its stores, which frequently feature Japanese language, uniform fixture systems and pop culture-centric in-store graphics.
3. Lego stores, worldwide.
Lego stores are always a joy to visit, frequently filled with tourists no matter the store or city. These stores have found a way to appeal to the child in all of us, and they always offer an authoritative range.
Their use of VM always showcases the very best of the brand - and what you can really do with Lego. Here, you are completely immersed in the brand.
Although it receives some stick for being 'disposable', IKEA is the success it is for a reason. They have always been aware of their Danish heritage, and their brand values for being 'for the everyday modern family'.
The huge range of products is affordable, quirky, accessible and great quality. These values are reflected in the store layouts, which guide you through 'rooms' of a house, encouraging you to pick up items you might not have even needed on the way.
They are also working hard to prove that they're about more than just throwaway furniture - as can be seen in their display of chair springs being punched by a mechanical ‘hand’, showing that they are built to last.
5. Ellis Brigham
One of the brands we’ve worked with, Ellis Brigham, are all about their know-how and expertise when it comes to customer service, leveraging their sector and product experience over the past 80 years #WeAreExperts.
The people behind the brand go beyond simply running it - they are actively involved in product development and have driven the addition of unique experiential store elements, such as the vertical ice climbing wall in their Covent Garden store.