July 22, 2019

Beyond the logo; why you need a distinctive visual identity system

There is a misconception of brand identity that begins right at its foundation with the perspective of a logo as a must-have, not a need-to-have. Most business leaders only understand that you need a logo just as you need a name, office/web address, a front-desk for inquiries, or what else would you have on your ID card or signage? 

When someone asks “can we have your logo so we can add you to the website as a partner?”, there is a JPEG file to share, but since no one ever demands for “your visual identity system” or say “I am on the street, looking out for your identity system”, it hardly makes it to the necessary list of things we understand and ask for. The resulting situation is a lot of business owners only demanding for logo designs and considering “every other thing” as luxurious propositions of branding agencies and designers. This is an ineffective approach as logos exist for a bigger purpose, one so big they are unable to fulfil it alone.

If the world’s biggest and most compelling brands are anything to learn from, the logo alone plays a limited role in achieving why it is needed in the first place—strengthening the distinction, identification and memorability of a brand as well as suggesting the right values and how the brand is perceived. 

People now interact with brands in more diverse and complex ways and are constantly saturated with several other messages and expressions every minute in a more connected and faster-moving world, brands that cut through and find a place in the minds of people do so with everything at their disposal—beyond the logo.

The right place to begin is an intentional inquiry into the foundation and mission of a business, followed by external research into the market it intends to or currently plays in and very importantly, a careful observation, questioning and understanding of the people it intends to reach. A strategic process should follow where the learnings are being crystallized and decisions are made about how a brand will portray itself in a compelling and different way. This will include clarity on the brand’s big idea, value proposition, personality, tone, among other things that help to give some direction as to how it will communicate and portray itself. Where this foundational background does not already exist, it is important to begin with it. The brand identity thing is an important body of assets that should connect with the core of what the brand represents. 

The visual identity development (being itself a part of a broader set of components that make a brand’s identity) should begin with analyzing what direction the brand’s design will employ to stand out. The sketches and drawings then begin, alongside considerations of colour, illustrations, patterns and more. The logo—that everyone talks about—comes in as a key but not the only result here. This is followed with tying it all up with guidelines that advise on the best standards for the deployment of all the expressions across different media.

The goal should always be to create an entire body of identifiers—of which the logo is only one—that brings up the memory of the brand and makes it easy to identify. From the iPhone notification sound to the CocaCola ribbon and Google’s always-different-yet-similar-in-some way doodles, it’s about extending across board but in a coherent manner. Brand identity goes beyond the logo and the entire visual design system to include other expressions sometimes going as far as how the voice on the customer line sounds. The scope is so wide that the minimum to require of a creative design engagement is the visual identity system that at least cuts across all print and digital expressions. When anyone interacts with any of this, it should be easy to know what brand it is, without or before spotting the logo. 

You may not be able to read the language but you can guess which telecom brand is speaking here, even without the logo

While a largely understood visual identity setup already reigns, with colour and typography coming alongside the logo, there is a whole lot more and the list changes from brand to brand. However, a few things appear in every succeeding brand that one can think of, listed below as culled from one of our project briefs at FourthCanvas.

  • Logo (with colour and typography scheme) 
  • Unique shapes, styles and composition across applications
  • Custom brand patterns and illustrations 
  • Iconography (set of custom icons) 
  • Use and style of imagery 
  • Brand Guidelines Document (video version also applicable for ease of communication)

For the certainty of application, such a visual identity project would also include immediate translation of the identity across the following.

  • Application on Stationery & ephemera (promotional items)
  • Application on the environment (frames, signages, vehicles etc) 
  • Design of key internal and marketing documents
  • Design of templates for presentations, social media visuals, etc.

A further look into each of the above assets is provided here.

From a metal signage to a video presentation, event exhibition, laptop sticker or a mobile app button, brands—that desire to be easy to find, love and remember—need more comprehensive visual identity systems that guide their efforts to consistently hit the nail on the head. 

This is always beyond the logo.

(Interested in further exploration of visual identity systems? You can watch our video here where we looked through an exemplary brand’s communication across different touchpoints)



May 26, 2019

The Value of Design

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 platformsphysical 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)

January 18, 2019

Nigerian Rebrands of 2018: Ratings

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.

  1. EbonyLife TV

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.

2. KONGA

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.

3. TVC

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.

6. NairaBet

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?

Author:

Victor Fatanmi, Co-founder and Senior Partner at FourthCanvas

January 18, 2019

Designing from the Heart

The role of empathy in the design process.

How would you feel if you pick up a design or product and realise that the designer had you in mind when creating it? Let me guess, a tiny bit of growing loyalty? It sure feels good when it is evident that you, as a user or member of the “highly esteemed target audience” was right at the centre of the thought process as a brand, material or product was designed.

In an increasingly individual and personalized world, with customers jumping ships to alternative experiences that just feel more right, empathy makes an important ingredient in creating a product that will stand the test of time. In simple terms, it would help to endear your brand to the people you have in mind. All you have to do is to indeed have them in mind— understand their thoughts, feelings, and probable response from their point of view, rather than from your own.

If you ask me what makes a product/design a successful one, my yardsticks would be divided in three:

  1. Functionality/Usability
  2. Desirability/Appeal
  3. Feasibility

Practically and innovatively factored in the design thinking process for any brand, the above-mentioned yardsticks can help to create a product/design that works. Importantly, it clearly performs the intended function with relative ease in terms of understanding how to use it, it appeals to the emotion, wants and logic of the target audience and the contextual application is spot on.

Hence, in trying to achieve functionality and desirability, empathy is key. It is arguably one of the most important elements as it precedes ideation, prototyping and design execution. Designing from the heart is simply putting the end users in mind while thinking up a solution for your client.

Design should primarily solve problems — be it designing a basic information website, communication materials for an event, an app that makes financial transactions easier or a simple piece of equipment etc. Whatever it is, there has to be a problem your design solves for the client or end users, an important reason to design from your heart.

Your design will be “consumed” by a myriad of end users with different personality types, backgrounds and characteristics. While it is very difficult to appeal to everyone that use your design, it’s imperative that you appeal to almost everyone — since you’re designing for them. This is like democracy, your design wins when almost everyone if not everyone likes it and are able to use it.

That said, how do you design from the heart?
It’s really simple; ask them questions and then, think for and with them. That’s it? Think for them? Yes, think for them.

The first step is to understand why you or the client wants to create the product/design. What is the problem that needs to be solved? Does this product/design really solve the problem? Understanding the problem and how your design will help to solve it is very important; it’s the very first step in creating a design that works.

The next step is to understand your client’s target — this is where you conduct market research. What does an average user of the product look like? Are they conservative or reactionary? What is their age range: youths, middle-aged, upwardly mobile or middle class? What appeals to them? Would they be attracted to a lot of colours, images, illustrations or icons? What would make them use/keep using the product? Honestly answering these questions helps you create a design that an average user can relate with — a product/design that actually works for them.

To successfully design a product that works, you need to set aside assumptions and make decisions based on facts and findings. Every new brief becomes a chance to start afresh and create something new.

Imagine if you have to design the user interface of an adult education web/mobile app, using a lot of script fonts is something you would essentially avoid because they are a lot harder to read. This is what designing with the heart is about; factoring in the reaction of your end users into every decision making process. Hence, it’s important to get your facts and figures right as the usability of your design depends on it.

Conclusively, empathy is important for every designer because it gives us a chance to understand and discover the needs and emotions of the people we are designing for. This, in turn, helps us create solutions that meet the parameters of a successful product or service: functionality, appeal and feasibility.

Designing with empathy helps us create a human-centred products/designs.

  • Aluko Brown (Senior Designer, FourthCanvas)

December 31, 2018

Moving in on with our Clients; Our 2018 Story

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.

August 27, 2017

Open Letters: Less Graphics, More Design

​​’Less is more’ is a relatively common quote among creatives and interestingly, the least adhered to. Hence the letters, and in the open.

Read more

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