Companies get to that level where they have a dedicated HR professional on the payroll. We are not there yet. From Day 1, that has been one hat that I have shared as CEO, with the help of my co-founder, as well as Mary who always brought her passion for talent development. As a small team, yet to go past 20 people at any point in time, that has worked fine. But there is more to why it has than I have explained in this opening paragraph.
In December 2015, one month after we re-established and restarted the company as we know it today—from VGC Media to FourthCanvas—I missed an appointment to meet a young man who looked up to me and asked for a meeting. He wasn’t Chude (the person I always looked up to) and I wasn’t going to cry over the spilled milk. To be honest, I had less empathy in the earlier days. My emails prove that. I must have said a formal “sorry”, I think.
7 months later, we woke up in our one-room apartment in FUTA South Gate, Akure to realize that our room had been burgled. Laptops gone. 1 hour later, I sat on a stone at the front of a police station in Ilesha Garage trying to comprehend why and how this particular officer had insisted that we “drop” some money to open a case file for us after we explained that all our wallets and cards had gone with the same “case”. But then this call chose that moment to come in.
“Victor, there is this big project and it starts now…” 1 hour later we had a contract with a client on a project from Ghana. It’s a retainer for a fast-paced campaign and work had to begin the same day, as soon as possible. It was a Saturday and we were not the type to hesitate. Deal was agreed verbally, contract forwarded to us via mail, invoice to be sent, to followed by some starting social media files later the same day. Let’s do this.
“Yes do this, but with which laptop though?”
Prior to then, we had been planning to recruit at least one new team member but we had not had the time to settle down to do the work of finding and screening for one. Now it was the only urgent solution. We could get a designer who could get right up to work with his own laptop while we sketched and supported with creative direction. “Hi Ferricool, how you dey?” “Good good good you?” “Good good good” “How is the weather?” “Oh great”. So we have an emergency…” “Speak to my friend, Tunji. He is there in Akure with you.” Tunji’s spirit:
Enter Phase “Sigma”, as was his personal brand label, and this phase, brethren, refers to the embodiment of the exact flexibility and speed of adaptation the situation required, the type we had never known before. A few hours after, we were all sitted in BKFC, a restaurant in Lafe, Akure and we had met each other, discussed a salary (for the lack of a more suitable word for whatever our average monthly pay back then was) and the initial designs were taking shape. By the end of work on Monday, Tunji had completed up to 5 different tasks and we were welcome to the new age. Behold the dawn of real-time efficiency, discipline, and read this part carefully,… people-centredness.
We were amazed just looking at this young amazing individual who “suddenly” was capable in so many dimensions but what we didn’t know was where he was coming from.
Born into a royal family, he had grown as an exceptionally smart yet humble and ‘matured’ pupil, traveled to Europe to represent Nigeria in a Physics competition, led his fellowship on OAU Campus as President and co-founded a design community on campus, building immense capacity all along the way. (Use of “immense” intended, as his favourite word). This person I had not paid attention to some months back was a huge miss I was never going to realize but mercy said no. Mercy offered a second chance.
Adetunji Ogunoye would go on to inspire a new level of excellence and performance, bring in the 3 other superstars who are in leading positions of the agency today as partners and become a mentor figure within the team. He would bring his passion for people to leadership at FourthCanvas, the work we do for our clients, and innovate for the growth of the Nigerian design industry, with his founding of the phenomenal DearDesigner community.
Sometime at the beginning of this year, Tunji called me and said he wanted to discuss something important with me. Guess what it turned it to be. My salary. He wanted to be sure I was earning well enough. He believes I was probably being so sacrificial for the team that I wasn’t taking a salary that was enough to support my hectic schedule and the pressure of my office as CEO. I was, I am, and I will continue to be amazed by that conversation. He was doing to me what the best leaders do for their people—genuinely care and be concerned about their wellbeing. Now that’s one event but you would need a book to tell it all. Talking about books, the first book I saw with him upon his resumption back then was The 360 Degrees Leader by John C Maxwell. I never read the book itself. I didn’t have to. All I had to read was him. Great book that was.
You would need more than an article to chronicle the several kinds of conversations he would come to hold, with that his intense look that showed this issue on his mind worried him, only for you to find the issue had nothing to do with him but about you or someone else on the team. “I don’t think Ayo is happy. What can we do?” That’s Tunji, every day. That’s Tunji, the Head of HR we never assigned.
1.15pm: Tunji had just ended his phone conversation with Deji Faniyan (a friend of the company) and he discussed his plans for a class hosted on Zoom. As obvious as the idea of classes hosted online was, *we had not recently (within this COVID lockdown period), thought about it as a way to channel our ever-growing desire to share knowledge, a habit hinged upon our core value of OPENNESS. So we thought what if we hosted a class on design. “We should look into that sometime”.
*we: A bulk of our team is in “group isolation” at the accommodation facility within our office compound. We abide by the same rules including avoiding interactions with other people, even when we take a walk or go for a run—being one of the ways we keep the mind active while also staying safe.
6.15pm: Demola, Ayomide and I leave for a run to Stadium (Surulere) and back.
7.00pm: Ayomide and I get back the street at the same time and we are having this conversation on how we can help a client we had worked with in the past maximise this period to help them sell more books online. Ideas followed ideas with Ayomide dropping them “hit after hit” as he typed on his phone, staining his screen with the sweat of his palm. There we are, next to a line of the typical greenish Lagos drainage and its resulting presence of mosquitoes competing for dinner—us.
7.10pm: Aremu walks out of the compound to find us and in his usual fashion, he is listening with rapt attention and dropping a thought here and there. Shortly after a pause from our flow, one of us mentioned how Havard and Cousera have released a number of free courses for people to learn in this period and I am like “I need to maximise this thing for a number of things I have always being curious about o, like SEO”.
7.20pm: After I had shared what was my rough understanding of the topic, Aremu weighs in to give us what became an unplanned but “proper" class. To ensure we remained in one listening piece however, we were quick to identify that a walk was a better idea than staying on one spot—especially that particular one.
7.30pm: We start to walk, taking a crescent route that brings us back to the same junction, and one lap became two and three and then four. Aremu walked us through (literally and figuratively) the basics of SEO and there we were amazed by how much we had learnt in such a short while and informal setup.
8.10pm: "Now we are done with the walk and and revising what was probably the one thousandth of such randomly-set conversations. Sometimes it takes the form of a panel and some other times like this one, it is led by the most enthusiastic team member on that topic while others listen, ask questions and help everyone, including the “teacher” learn more. So we thought what if more people would want to listen in, especially in a time like this when they can afford some more time to learn and share.” It would be a series of conversations across various topics of interest over a couple of days via Google Meet, led by members of the FourthCanvas family, for our friends, fans and clients. “FourthCanvas Share” just sounded right
8.30pm-9.30pm: Now the bathroom would be the first place when you are back from a run, but rather we head straight to the closest marker board, drew up names of team members and paired them with the topics they are most passionate about. There is a small argument on how to arrange the names. Tunji had the marker and well, the final say as Ayomide tried to battle that from him, while we all watched the show. At last, Tunji’s regime survives the coup and part of his constituency’s major projects included putting his own class at the very end. Everyone wanted as much time as possible to prepare for their class and Opeyemi who is isolating in his Yaba apartment and couldn’t make a case for himself gets Class 1. I have not said that was the reason though. Winks.
9.30pm-12 midnight: I suggest we build a registration form hosted on our new-but-yet-to-be-announced-because-we-keep-finding-something-to-improve-on website. “Why not a proper landing page?” Aremu said in response. Why not, really? And so begins the sketch for what the layout was to look like, cleaning the board (did I really have to journal this?), clarifying what information mattered and what did not, influencing the journey for whoever simply visited out of curiosity as well as those who would come decided to register. We consider if people would want to check out the main website itself and ask several other questions, debating the answers and moving very quickly. We check the SMW Lagos website to confirm one thing and another site to check the other, rethinking the entire flow a few times, led in utter calm by Bolaji, as he simply asks those challenging questions you hear and say “hmmm true…”.
So, we need a landing page text and I scribble “4Citizens share on…” on the board while looking for the other part of the sentence. “I have an idea but seriously I am just giving myself more trouble”, Aremu says with his characteristic laughter. Up next, he begins to implement his idea that will all loved right away—the sentence being completed with the changing names of the topics. Brilliant, init?
Over the night: Aremu faces the actual dev work, as I create the flyers I volunteered (eagerly) to. The latter would influence the UI design. We both said things in the spur of the moment, and of course had to face the responsibility to walk the talk.
Monday 6 April
5am-7am: I had shared the designs in our WhatsApp group. Aremu was not a part of our last team photoshoot and had no great picture “as at the time of reporting this” even on Google. So I decided his flyer would have an empty space in the picture placeholder. Every one laughed and even harder when he responded he would have my session and name stricken-through on the schedule.
11am: Aremu comes to my room to discuss the process of registration, who gets what email and how. Tunji weighs in and we are able to resolve a particular situation that could otherwise be complex.
12noon: Aremu has previews for the user interface and we are reviewing with Bolaji who his advising on making the whole experience simpler for the user. We agree on a number of things and Aremu jokingly casts doubts on his ability to deliver the entire website by evening as he had hinted. “Is it not you King Aremu, what can you not do?”
9pm: Aremu shares a live preview, we advise on edits here and there. He switches attention to me, and gives me a “threat-like ultimatum" on finishing up the blog article I was to write, as well as the newsletter copy. I smile back, knowing all I was recording was a diary.
Tuesday 7 April
Somehow, through the events recorded above and the so much more I forgot to journal, including so many unforeseen problems and how in the attempt to delivering a great experience, "one landing page" led to designing up to 4 different destinations, we launch and here you are.
NB: I over-estimated my ability to keep track. Recalling this was hard and I must have missed so much and stated inaccurate times for some of the events. In Opeyemi’s voice however, “we rise”.
Wherever you are reading this from, there is a logo within your view. From the Apple mark behind our Macs to the swoosh or three-striped symbol on our sneakers, we see logos all the time. Apparently, logos do the entire work of helping us to identify products or brands? Well… maybe not.
If the most distinctive brands around us are anything to look up to and learn from, differentiation and identification are infused in many more ways than the logo.
Think about choosing between Coke or Pepsi in a refrigerator. You don’t wait to spot the logo. Red or blue and you have your choice. Now if you are thinking “oh yes logo and colour”, you are getting there but you have got to keep coming.
Beyond the logo and colour, let’s talk about the distinctive Coke ribbon. The brand would probably come to mind even if it was carved in a metallic surface where the red colour was absent.
Maybe you think you have not noticed but your brain has and you are always identifying and setting a brand apart by all the details. Hence, businesses looking to be wholly different and memorable—booking a place in the minds of people—know better to ask for more than a logo design.
So, now you want to ask…
What should an ideal visual identity project for a business entail?
First, the logo itself.
The name and logo remain at the centre of the entire identity system. The logo is usually the most travelled visually element that brings the brand to mind.
Number 2 is the colour.
This is usually decided alongside the logo design and is evidently one of the most differentiating elements for brands. From MTN’s yellow to Globacom’s green, brands easily stand out with dominant use of colour, from their logo to all their communication.
Up next we talk about typography.
This begins from the choice of type, or say fonts used to display the company’s name. Typography also goes further to include the entire system of how text is displayed across all communication; from brochures to websites, ads and more.
Another key component is around unique shapes & composition.
There are certain shapes you identify in ads and expressions of certain brands. Uber’s new identity explores a certain flow that is u-shaped while MasterCard does a lot with the circles in their designs. These, alongside examples like Airtel’s bubble and Budweiser's bow tie, make examples of unique shapes and composition styles.
Another key part of the visual identity system is custom iconography.
Top brands pay attention to owning their own design elements up to the level of icons that most other businesses would resort to Google for. Creating your own unique set of icons allow you to style them to suit your brand and it also allows for uniformity and coherence, giving that sourcing from the internet per time and need means different types of icons per time.
There are key messages every brand exists to communicate. They are central to its purpose and it will always say these things from time to time. An extensive visual identity system would usually include a set of such illustrations that can continue to play a vital role in its communications over time. The style also remains a template for future artistic portrayal of the brand’s messages.
Closely related to illustrations are patterns.
Patterns are there to fill in space and create an impression deeper than blank space. There is a lot more that patterns can be used but major applications include back covers, banner backgrounds, tote bags, wrappers, clothing. They make watermark textures and help to maximize empty spaces for easier recognition.
In a photo-centric world of new media communication, another key section is imagery.
Brands that pay attention to detail and intend to maximize every expression for distinction understand that images have a mood to them and it helps to pre-define image composition styles, filters, tones, emotions and other key factors as to what type of pictures to create or purchase for use across different mediums.
Tying it all up is the guidelines document.
that helps to document all the elements already discussed and guide on how to use them. The goal of this is to ensure standards and consistency, no matter who handles what and at any time. However, the best guidelines can only do so much, and this is why companies sometimes keep the creative agency on a retainer to continue to be responsible for the brand’s expressions over time. However, it’s important to make the guidelines as helpful as possible, with agency partnership or not.
Given its potential effect on the brand, the visual identity system should be built on a foundation of understanding and strategy. The vision should lead the conversation, followed by research into the target audience as well as existing and potential competition. This guides key decisions around the brand’s personality, tone, essence and more. It is best when the visual identity is an expression of the defined strategy for what the brand is to become rather than a creative guess.
A comprehensive brand visual identity system ensures that the brand is unified in all its visual communication and as a result builds a distinctive brand that is easier for its people to sell and for customers to choose. This can be essential to standing out and being noticed, as well as staying in the minds of the customers and influencing them to stay with the brand. If it stands out, then it is more easily noticeable and the more conscious people are about the brand, the longer they stay and this contributes greatly to market leadership, huge profits and sustained success.
Despite the obvious benefits of design for great products and service, a lot of CEOs and business owners are not aware of how much good design can affect the success of their brands. Could it be that designers rate design beyond its relative importance? How does design bring business value or make monetary sense enough for a business owner to invest?
Every designer understands the impact of design, its value in our lives, and how much a bad design can wreak havoc on the perception of a brand.
Everything around us has been(or is being) designed. More than ever before, we interact with iconic designs in our everyday lives; the Google homepage, the infinity display of the iPhone X and other sleek mobile phones, packaged food products, elegant automobiles, the architecture of GTBank’s flagship buildings and the list goes on.
We love these designs and describe designers who created them as creatives, but truthfully, all humans are creative by nature; which means that it is easy for anyone to lay claim to the knowledge of creativity and hold pre-determined opinions about design.
However, design is beyond creativity or its aesthetic result. It is the process by which we intentionally create a solution while simultaneously considering certain objectives (purpose) like function, economic and socio-cultural value, aesthetics etc. In brief, design is about solving problems—fashion design, architectural design, environmental design amongst others.
When it comes to the relationship between businesses and design, it is about specific actions taken to boost revenue and customer engagement whether it is of products or experiences, design adds value to businesses when it is purpose-driven. This explains how design has been a great contribution to the commercial success of some of the biggest global brands.
In 2018, McKinsey published a research on “The business value of design” that explored how investing in design is good for business. It revealed that companies that thoroughly invest in design, perform on average, twice as well as businesses that don’t. More than ever before, design has become an integral investment for businesses, mostly because consumer expectations are rising daily with a wide array of options to pick from. Businesses now have more competitors, making it very important to stand out as consumers can now have instant access to global marketplaces with higher expectations. You have to do more to engage, subtle nudge customers towards choosing you and sustain brand loyalty.
Hence, only the very best designs stand out from the crowd, and smart businesses are fast tapping into this reality. Today, consumers interact with brands across more platforms—physical products, digital (social media, mobile apps, websites etc), and experience; only businesses that understand how to build and leverage emotional connections through various design-centered strategies will consistently maintain market share.
Everything around us has been designed and everything around us produces an emotion in us. They can influence us to feel different emotions like joy, thirst, hunger, safety, caution, elegance, adventure etc. Interestingly, it is these emotional feelings that drive consumer purchasing behaviours, and decision making in general. More often than not, people make the first attempt at buying based on emotions before creating a logical justification for such a decision.
When good design is complemented with product quality and valid pricing; it is easier for the consumer or user to become loyal and with loyalty comes retention, increase in revenue and a growing number of new customers. So, design for businesses is about understanding your customers and creating a great solution for them. It is about setting clear goals and objectives for the design project and ensuring that stakeholders (designers and business owners) have a shared understanding of the role design plays in achieving the set objectives.
For example, a designer is commissioned to create product package designs for a small business restaurant looking to increase brand awareness. The expected roles of the product package design in increasing brand awareness would be: shelf attraction, share product information, product identification and differentiation. With these goals set and the roles of design clearly defined, both the designer and business owner can measure the success level of the design in increasing the restaurant’s daily food order.
Also, the effects of design can either be tangible or intangible as it can influence emotions, affect perceptions and also directly lead to conversion. What is important is that you start a design process with a defined purpose, set criteria for success and measure the extent of the success.
Written by Ayomide Ajayi (Business Development Lead, FourthCanvas)
Whatever the motivation of a rebrand is—age, evolution, change of direction, merger or the realization of what was nothing more than a founding-stage improvisation—where done right, it comes with a lot of advantages which includes the opportunity to maximize consumer behaviour, attract new customers, reinforce loyalty among old customers and renew brand spirit among employees. The impact of a refreshed identity on a company’s brand perception and bottomline cannot be overemphasized.
Rebrands come with consequences, and these go beyond the immediate public reactions. While a rebrand begins before and goes beyond the visual identity, the logo which is the first point of interaction visual interaction with a brand is of immense importance. With examples like Union Bank (2015) rebrand bringing fresh energy through their logo, visual system, products, and campaign to say “hey, people, we have stopped being just your grandpa’s bank, we are now yours”, not much can be said about a lot of rebrands we saw in 2018.
This article evaluates rebrands of 2018, with emphasis on the most obvious—logo design changes, rating the progression from ‘before to after’, on a scale of 1-10. It is unavoidably subjective, but influenced by insights gained from my years of work in brand design and conversations within my online community.
To celebrate its fifth anniversary celebrations, EbonyLife—a lifestyle and entertainment media group—launched what they called “a colorful look across a range of new services.” This includes the redesigning of the logo mark of EbonyLife TV (a broadcast on DStv and StarTimes in Africa; and on Flow in some Caribbean countries). According to the CEO, Mo Abudu, “the new look is a fresh and exciting way to start our sixth year… We have many surprises in store.”
With no doubt, this new look is a total surprise on its own, it made a shocking dash from an identity that was classy (yes maybe too classy) to a poor attempt at being colourful. The redesign aligns with the CEO’s statement of redirection and that’s a good point on its own but it could have been better executed as the new logo looks rushed with a poor combination of fonts and other elements of the new identity.
Rating: From 5 to 4. Good rebrand direction but poor execution.
Here was a rebrand largely influenced by Konga’s merger with Yudala. What used to be Konga and Yudala now operate with the trademark of the former, the two CEOs dividing responsibilities, with one managing the online portfolio and the other superintending the offline chain. The new logo is simple adoption of the purplish pink colour which was synonymous with Yudala and Konga’s bold typeface and signature smiley which connotes the happiness and satisfaction users get after a transaction. The ‘.com' was also dropped from the logo as the brand now prides in its capacity both online and offline.
While the rationale is easy to understand and the new colour helps to communicate the merger, retaining the yellow colour of the smiley and combining it with the new pink appears more awkward than pleasing.
Rating: 7 to 6. Good idea but with an avoidable colour combination gap.
The new logo for the radio and online broadcasting company, Television Continental (TVC) was unveiled in November 2018, in what was described as a move to solve the problem that the previous logo posed: old fashioned and dull. The new brand, as the CEO (TVC Communications) puts it, is to reflect their core audience of people aged 15-39 who are young and modern, ambitious, bright, international in their look, yet very much Nigerian and fiercely proud of it.
The old logo really did sit well alongside those of global TV stations like BBC and CNN, but was truly not in anyway fitting for the new direction. We can expect the new logo to do a good job to help people perceive them as young and exciting. The execution could have been better, however, as the TV and C currently look like two different ideas forced together, and that particular idea of dots for the C looks rather cliche.
Rating: 5 to 6. Not a bad one.
4. Deeper Life Bible Church
Although it moves from line-based to colour-filled and glowing, which is the opposite of how the design world has progressed, the Deeper Life Bible Church logo redesign looks like the church decided to give its logo some liberty, as opposed to the lean and bare approach which is synonymous with the church’s distinctive doctrines and members’ lifestyle.
While the old logo was minimal—which is a good approach for logos in this age, and the new one trying a bit harder, both retained a composition of symbols that are way too literal in illustration and hence weak for an identity, especially when you think about how many random churches (of the maybe 10 million churches in Nigeria—exaggerated wild guess) use a logo based on a cross sitting on an open bible. However if it has to remain that way, the latter approach really does look better. It is also noteworthy that the church’s name now has a better position and prominence in the new design. On that, you would wonder what the designer of the old logo was thinking.
Rating: 4 to 5. Near-future rebrand necessary. Good for now.
5. Phillips Consulting
The unveiling of the new logo of Phillips Consulting marks a new phase in the life of the 26-year-old firm. A major motivation was to de-emphasize the name of the founder, Phillips Foluso and promote the brand more as “pcl”. The small case “pcl” with the dot gives the brand a modern and approachable outlook that works great for a brand trying to focus more on its future rather than its past.
While that is said, one opposing perspective from Perez Tigidam (Group Creative Director at Arden & Newton) via one of the online review conversations, is among several other great contributions on these rebrands, selected for mention. He noted the loss of the class, respect and prestige that was easily associated with the old while the new one looked like that of a startup trying to find its footing. Thought-provoking.
Rating: Still, 6 to 8. Good development.
Nigeria’s first and one of its leading betting companies, NairaBET introduced a rebrand which looks intended to distinguish it from competitors who have all tended towards a red-and-green similar look. This they achieved with a blue and orange colour combination that no other brand in the industry uses.
Maybe a clever use of the naira sign with the green retained and combined with a new colour could have been a possible direction, as the “okay” hand-gesture depiction does not only fail to connect with the brand, but is also similar to that of Betensured and appears in a number of other identity marks. A good analogy in connecting to the brand would be to imagine that it was their competitor, Bet9ja who comes with the “okay” gesture. It would have been perfect for such a brand name that sounds like a call-to-action. On the other hand, NairaBET could really have considered being creative with the Naira sign, given its name and the fact that it ‘promises’ a rain of the currency for its customers.
One other necessary comment on this rebrand would be the launch and introduction of the new identity to the public, which was seemingly absent for a street-wide kind of audience. I think they could have done better to carry their customers along with the change, than random teaser pictures on Twitter, followed by a change of shop signages across the country.
Rating: 4 to 5. Some progress.
7. LindaIkeji TV
Sometime in 2017, the popular blogger, Linda Ikeji shared her intention to own a television station, instead of having to work as a reporter. With this came a logo but the idea didn’t quite get off the ground until a few months later when she reintroduced the brand with a new identity.
The revival came with an entire redevelopment, including a logo and app design that no one could believe, due to its starking difference (and improvement) from everything we had ever seen with Linda (from her blog to the social network project). She gladly expressed her satisfaction, saying she was apparently lucky to meet and work with good hands “this time”. Leaving a proper selection process to random chance probably explains why the blog and other extensions appear and remain the way they are.
Rating: 4 to 8. Great leap. Think PUMA!
8. Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON)
The old logo, which had the name of the organization written twice, among other things that could have been done better, obviously needed to be simplified but maybe that popular “correct” mark was one to be retained, given that the primary function of the logo was to indicate approval from the organization on products.
Worse was the launch of the logo, or the seeming absence of it. Save for some press conference, there was way too little public awareness on the new logo, and it got to a point where a video went viral online in which some people ignorantly brandished some canned drinks as fake, pointing to the difference in the logo of SON. This is one case that highlights the importance of a due process that adequately caters for pre-design, design, unveil and post-launch, all which one would not expect to see if as it just might have been, the job was given to some brilliant nephew to “come up with something”.
Rating: 4 to 4. Lemme.
9. Skye to Polaris
The Central Bank of Nigeria revoked the license of Skye Bank and temporarily handed the management of the bank to the leadership of what is for now a bridge bank. Rebranded “Polaris Bank”, the entire change has been obviously rushed and the visual identity has not escaped this.
While the logo works, although with a strong claim online of it being a stolen idea, the implementation on the signages have been poor, with the entire registered name, “Polaris Bank Limited” written boldly alongside a logo that has already “Polaris Bank”. This helps to give some more credence to questioning the credibility of the rebranding process. Skye Bank looked way better.
Rating: 7 to 5, or say 4. Avoidable error.
It’s 2019 and we have already had Sterling Bank unveil a new logo, one to talk about later. However it is imperative for companies looking to rebrand to maximize the change as a once-in-a-long-time opportunity to get it right, being fully aware that it can go wrong. If you were born a century ago and had to bear tribal marks but you could choose who to do the cutting... think about it. The patience, emphasis on portfolio, expertise and an understanding of the process before hand, and an adherence to it, the list goes on. We need to see more rebrands done like that in 2019. Sterling Bank has gone first with their unveiling, 6 days into the new year. It does work and the icon is neater than the previous, but a few valid criticisms highlight flaws that could have been avoided with a more thorough and informed branding process. Maybe I will write a review on that sometime soon.
On Nigerian banks rebranding in past 10 years, which of them is next? Did someone say Zenith Bank?
Victor Fatanmi, Co-founder and Senior Partner at FourthCanvas
While we started the year largely known and respected for our visual identity and graphic design service, we saw a need to do more, in order to help our clients meet their set objectives. Design, as we always had it, was good but our clients needed more, and that transition, was really the highlight of the past twelve months of our lives.
On a second thought, this title could have been something like “business cards, logo, brand identity and branding; knowing the difference” as it would more appropriately reflect the progression from what clients ask for, to what brand designers and consultants would rather provide. The real debate is not about who is right or wrong, but a clear definition of terms, and how with more light shed on all sides, we might as well find ourselves on the same team.
If we take one empathetic step closer to “I need a business card” requests, we see a desire for everything that branding is about. Apart from sharing their contact info, and even though they may not always realize it, more often than not, the typical business owner wants something made just for them that looks great, so that the receiver can respect them more and remember them well whenever they see it. In a random story, she delivers her cards with a smile and hopes you can remember what she told you about her business whenever you see the card. Just that she leaves all of these expectations to a random “just come up with something nice”.
In an ideal situation, business cards would fall somewhere in between several phases and would probably form less than one-hundredth of all the things that would be prepared. But first, let’s talk about what everybody pays lip service to, the brand.
Brand and branding
The brand is the summary of what people store in their minds about a product, service, person, an entity etc. What comes to your mind when you think about Samsung? Whether right, wrong or biased, you are right. Different people have a different version of any brand in their heads, mostly biased (of course), but most of them would agree on a lot of their perceptions and memories about the brand. That sum total is the brand.
Rather than leave this to chance, companies that realize the potency of the brand undergo intentional strategizing, planning and designing aimed at influencing what people think about them — the brand. That’s branding.
Fast-foods welcome you in a particular way, in a conscious attempt to make you connect their ‘brand’ with a particular feeling; sometimes welcoming, sometimes swift, sometimes both or whatever it is they have clearly narrated in their brand strategy document. The process(es) that gives birth to all of this is branding.
In one line, branding is the intentional process of influencing what a brand is in the minds of people.
Think about a teacher you liked the least back in school days. You have just walked out of his office. You are there sitting in a corner of the classroom, thinking of all the times he has put you on the spot, punished you for something you didn’t think you did wrong. There is a sum total of who he is in your mind and even though you have never been in his home before, you could have even also perceived he would be a terrible husband and father. Put everything in one piece. That’s his brand, especially if several other people think of him that same way.
While you may have been consumed with these thoughts and perceptions about your teacher for several minutes, your friends pull you from your thoughts and you all go play some football at break time. On your way back, let’s say you see him again, and the flash through your mind again. Pause. His face…, think of that as the logo. The most central unit of what you see and remember a brand. They usually come in symbols, letterforms, and sometimes like KFC, an actual face like in the example.
But what happens when you hear his voice a few metres away, or you see someone down the walkway wearing a particular type of pink shirt he likes …
That’s the brand identity. It’s usually not one thing but a set or system of everything that identifies a brand, from yes, the logo (face), to the fonts (handwriting), colour (pink shirts), sound, motion style, what the communication materials look like and a whole lot more.
If it contributes to helping people identify a brand, it’s a part of the brand’s identity and should be rather intentional than left for chance, because either intentionally or otherwise, perceptions are being formed, and there is really no room for ‘playing safe’. It is hardly ever safe.
Seeing is one the strongest mediums of identifying, therefore, the visual part of identity is usually the most emphasized. Sometimes the term “visual identity” is used to specifically define that. However, brand identity goes on and on to include virtually everything, to the name of your favourite coffee shop to how the attendants smile, place your cup or hand you receipts.
Where to begin from…
You may be easily overwhelmed by the identity system of a big brand like CocaCola or Google but then it is helpful to begin from somewhere and understand that the size of company and reach of the brand also helps to determine what the most important things are.
The identity of a brand includes but is not limited to the logo, which is a key part of branding — the intentional efforts towards determining what a brand is in the minds of people. Branding in itself never ends. If the people behind a brand apply for an industry-relevant award and win, it is a big branding step as it contributes to how people perceive them. If I get to sit on a comfortable chair while waiting to be attended to in a banking hall and this makes me feel great and relieved, it is branding on the part of the bank, especially if it is intentional.
Now to the essential list. Building a brand at any level should include;
Being clear on what the business, organization or product represents or stands for.
Conducting some research about competitors and the market
Using the information gathered to craft a strategy for what the brand should be in relation to others (its personality, tone, etc)
Choosing names, taglines; designing a logo, other visual elements and their applications on letterheads, business cards, etc.
Developing a guideline that will inform potential partners and third party users on how to apply the brand.
Most companies outsource the entire work above to professional brand professionals or agencies (design agencies or brand consultancies like ours). Depending on capital, some small businesses are unable to fit into their budget the cost of engaging brand professionals. However, we would also agree that sometimes it could also be as a result of a limited understanding of its importance and how it affects the bottom line, hence its lower position on the scale of priorities.
On branding projects with a small budget, the least should be that the clarity and strategy are “extracted” from the founder’s head, via the right questions. On projects like this, research gets replaced with carefully thought-out assumptions and intuition, which is never able to adequately replace it, however.
The standard process (summed up in 1–5 above) takes time but brings the best results. Where done right, you get a logo and identity system developed through a branding process, all being one part of the never-ending important work that branding is.