January 10, 2018

Identity Designed, the book

The Identity Designed hardcover (published by Rockport, available from January 2019) aims to uncover the most valuable details about what it takes to create a compelling visual identity.

Since the Identity Designed website was launched in 2010, it’s been a bit of a labour of love sharing insights into more than 500 projects from design studios at the top of their game. Eight years later and I’m delighted to have signed a book deal with Rockport to bring the name to print.

The book will take readers behind-the-scenes at around 20 studios from across the planet, giving a detailed look at one of the most interesting visual identity projects from each. It will cover workflow aspects from pricing and invoicing to generating ideas and reaching consensus on the strongest direction.

It’s aimed at design students with an interest in visual identities, professional designers who want to know how their peers handle projects, and business owners outside the design profession who want to make the most of their time collaborating with studios.

Studio contributions

Each feature will be a 50/50 split between text and imagery. The images will also be split between process and final result, because it’s the sketches, digital roughs, unused ideas, and photos of experimentation that can really tell the story of how the job gets done.

Text will give an insight into the following topics:

  • The client approach — how the client was found, the first questions asked, and steps taken before initial payment is received.
  • Setting terms and conditions — key insights into how client expectations are managed from the outset.
  • Clarifying the design brief — topics covered, and what the client receives for reference.
  • Project pricing and timeframes — factors that affect the overall project fee, and how to determine the time it takes to do the work.
  • Preparing invoices and handling payments — software used to help streamline the process, charging in full versus percentage amounts, and dealing with foreign currencies and exchange rates.
  • Conducting research — what’s looked for, and where, to give the best possible chance of exceeding expectations.
  • Merging strategy with design — how a strategic approach to the visual identity is ensured.
  • Crafting good ideas — how to know when enough experimentation has been done, methods used to find the most varied ideas.
  • Avoiding copyright infringement — ensuring (as far as possible) that no existing design is infringed upon, the process of trademarking a logo.
  • Presenting the work — how clients first learn of a potential design idea, tools and software used for mockups and presentations.
  • Reaching consensus — guiding the feedback, steering clients toward the strongest idea, keeping control of the design execution.
  • Developing guidelines — the role of a style guide, whether prescriptive or flexible, how these documents are formatted and supplied.
  • Measuring success — how to determine the impact of visual identities on client businesses.
  • Studio marketing — advice on how to find your first clients.

The resulting features will be mini-lessons on the process of creating a visual identity. It’ll be quite a unique compilation, merging memorable design with lasting advice.

If there are any particular studios you’d like to see featured, please send an email: design@davidairey.com.

Update: January 2019
Get your copy here. I’m so grateful for the work my publisher and the contributors put into this.

January 19, 2017

Saul Bass — Style is Substance

15 minutes well-spent watching a couple of commentaries about the title sequences of Saul Bass.

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April 2, 2016

What makes a good logo?

Anyone can design a logo, but not everyone can design the right logo. A successful design may meet the goals set in your design brief, but an enviable design with the capacity to become iconic will also be simple, relevant, adaptable, enduring, and distinctive.

Apple logo signageApple logo, photo by Medhat Dawoud

Keep it simple

The simplest solution is often the most effective. Why? Because a simple logo helps meet most of the other requirements of iconic design. Simplicity helps a design be more versatile. Adopting a minimalist approach enables your logo to be used across a wide range of media, such as on business cards, billboards, pin badges, or something as small as a website favicon.

Simplicity also makes your design easier to recognise, so it stands a greater change of achieving a timeless, enduring quality. Think of the logos of large corporations like Mitsubishi, Apple, FedEx, Google, and so on. Their logos are simple, and they’re easier to recognise because of it.

FedEx logo on truckFedEx logo, by Lindon Leader, 1994 (photo credit)

Make it relevant

Any logo you design must be appropriate for the business it identifies. Are you designing for a lawyer? Then ditch the fun approach. Are you designing for a winter-holiday TV program? No beach balls. How about a cancer organisation? A smiley face clearly won’t work. You get the idea.

Your design must be relevant to the industry, your client, and the audience to which you’re catering. Getting up to speed on all these aspects requires a lot of in-depth research, but the investment of time is worth it: without a strong knowledge of your client’s world, you can’t hope to create a design that successfully differentiates your client’s business from its closest competitors.

Keep in mind, though, that a logo doesn’t have to go so far as to literally reveal what a company does. Think about the BMW logo, for instance. It isn’t a car. And the Virgin Atlantic logo isn’t an airplane. Yet both are relevant within their respective markets.

BMW hood logoBMW logo, photo by Markus Spiske

Aim for distinction

A distinctive logo is one that can be easily separated from the competition. It has a unique quality or style that accurately portrays your client’s business perspective. But how do you create a logo that’s unique? The best strategy is to focus initially on a design that’s recognisable — so recognisable, in fact, that just its shape or outline gives it away. Working only in black and white can help you create more distinctive marks, since the contrast emphasises the shape or idea. Colour, although important, really is secondary to the shape and form of your design.

V&A logoV&A logo, by Alan Fletcher, 1989

Commit to memory

A solid iconic design is one that onlookers will remember after just one quick glance. Think, for instance, of passengers travelling on a bus, looking out the window, and noticing a billboard as the bus drives past. Or what about pedestrians, looking up just as a branded truck passes by. Quite often, one quick glance is all the time you get to make an impression.

But how do you focus on this one element of iconic design?

It sometimes helps to think about the logos that you remember most when you sit down at the drawing table. What is it about them that keeps them ingrained in your memory? Is also helps to limit how much time you spend on each sketch idea — try 30 seconds. Otherwise, how can you expect an onlooker to remember it with a quick glance? You want viewers’ experience with your client’s visual identity to be such that the logo is remembered the instant they see it the next time.

London Underground logoLondon Underground logo, by Edward Johnson, 1919 (photo credit)

Think small

As much as you might want to see your work across billboards, don’t forget, your design may also need to accommodate smaller, yet necessary applications, such as zipper pulls and clothing labels. Clients are usually enthusiastic about, and demanding of, an adaptable logo, since it can save them a substantial amount of money on printing costs, brand implementation meetings, potential redesigns, and more.

In creating something versatile, simplicity is key. A solid logo should ideally work at a minimum size of around one inch, without loss of detail. The only way to accomplish this is to keep it simple, which will also increase your chances of hitting on a design that likely to last.

Woolmark logoWoolmark logo, by Franco Grignani (photo credit)

Focus on one thing

Iconic designs that stand apart from the crowd have just one feature to help with differentiation. That’s it. Just one. Not two, three, or four. You want to leave your clients with just one thing to remember about the design because their customers won’t spend a lot of time studying a logo. Usually, one quick glance, and they’re gone.

CND logoCND logo, by Gerald Holtom, 1958 (photo credit)

Remember, a logo doesn’t exist in isolation. In the words of Paul Rand, “A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolises, not the other way around.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t give your design every chance of gaining that iconic status.

February 25, 2015

Marginalising creativity

There's never a good reason for designers to call themselves "creatives."

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December 8, 2014

Identityworks retirement

Tony Spaeth's Identityworks website was one of the first that inspired me to build my own. A fantastic resource, but now, sadly, retired.

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May 24, 2014

Wigan Little Theatre’s little known facts

Problem: design a brochure for a small theatre.
Solution: make the brochure small.

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November 28, 2013

The influence of colour in brand identity

Who wants 50 shades of grey when you’ve got the choice of the rainbow? Written by Laura Hussey, partner and creative director at London-based SomeOne.

It’s drizzly, it’s grey, everyone is wearing black and I’m a Celebrity is back on the telly tempting me with the lush green Australian rainforest and it’s vast, bright blue skies. I’m sick of the dullness of winter. I need some colour.

Union Jewellery boxesUnion Jewellery packaging by Red Design

My desire for colour isn’t only at this time of year either, I crave it all year round — in fact I’d go so far as to say I draw energy from it.

Brands can benefit from our desire for colour, too. It can help keep conversations intriguing, energetic and rewarding.

A study of the world’s top 100 brands (defined by brand value) saw 95% use only one or two colours. 33% of those top brands would like to think they own the colour blue, and 29% think red is their colour. It suddenly becomes irrelevant, it’s what you do with it that counts. Why be limited?

Take a look at how Oxfam have rebranded with a reinvigorated palette of colours and the mantra ‘provocative optimism’. The charity has to deal with famine and world disasters and yet still has to attract people to be inspired to give money. The most immediate way to do this is through their brand colours. The vibrant colours help to reinforce Oxfam’s positive attitude towards fundraising and boost their rallying cry, making people feel positive about taking part and able to help affect change.

Oxfam identity by Wolff Olins

Another brand that recognises the power of colour is The Guardian, whose use of a spectrum of colours to illustrate it’s all-encompassing news. Multiple colours speak of choice, variety and diversity. Think Google, NBC, eBay, or MSN to name but a few that use more than two colours to express their breadth.

Google data center pipesGoogle data center pipes

We chose a similar approach when we created the Brand World for The Halcyon — an exciting development highlighting the best of British art, retail, design, music, exhibitions, gallery and food. The colours used within the brand and environment were derived from, and act as a subtle nod towards the diverse colour palette used during Britain’s great creative periods of the past — our Halcyon days, mixed with those we see around us today.

The Halcyon identity by SomeOne

Colours can reflect the emotional outlook of a culture and so it’s no coincidence that as we emerge from the UK’s longest, deepest postwar recession we see a change in colour trends. We want to feel happy and secure, and that’s why we gravitate towards colours that bring about more positive emotions. Think of the striking pink Olympic signage that directed people around London and how happy and talkative people in the city suddenly seemed to be. Even many normally surly locals engaged in casual conversation. The colour got a good showing on many volunteers, too. Why? it stands out, it’s appealing. The result? A capital city and thousands of people adorned with a surprisingly bright and appealing shade.

London Olympics signageImage: Surface Architects

The Dutch artists Haas & Hahn saw this potential when they lived and worked in some of the world’s most violent places. It is unusual to have to ask permission of a drug lord before you can start painting, but in Vila Cruzeiro – generally considered one of Rio’s most dangerous favelas – this is what they had to do. Not just to beautify, but also to create a dialogue with their surroundings. After several successful projects, the image of a square painted in a design of radiating colours yielded worldwide fame and transformed Rio into ‘one of the world’s 10 most colourful places’. It stands out.

Favela painting by Haas & Hahn

Colour doesn’t just benefit worthy causes though — you only need to look at Jonathan Ive’s colour choices for the new iOS 7, or the sweet shop choice of iPhone 5C. More than any iPhone in history, the iPhone 5C is all about colour and personality. Some say Ive was inspired by the well-regarded graphic designer of the late 20th century, Mitsuo Katsui whose designs are known for vibrant use of colours in motion, often placed within wide, single-colour blank spaces. Katsui’s abstract forms also often use transparencies to highlight contrast effects.

iPhone 5C coloursPhoto via iPhone Hacks

Similarly, for the launch of Tesco’s first tablet – the Hudl, we wanted to inject warmth into a category that can often be overly technical and unfriendly.

Hudl colours

‘Be more Colourful’ doesn’t have to simply mean ‘use lots of bright colours’ either. A brand can behave more colourfully through their actions, their tone of voice or their inventions. Innocent Drinks has grown from a three-person outfit to a multimillion pound business, a large part of the company’s success can be attributed to the brand’s tone of voice. It has managed to stand out in a saturated drinks market by being friendly and engaging, sometimes even cheeky but always distinctive. It has managed to elevate the brand way above it’s competitors.

Innocent Drinks colours

Then you have Marmite — a yeast-based spread. Nothing very sexy or colourful about that and yet by being brave enough to recognise their product is hated as much as it is loved it has elevated it to much more than a savoury spread. It’s ‘Love/Hate’ campaign has earned them many fans and its originality means it’s now used to mean anything which strongly divides opinion. The strength of the brand means it can now expand into other areas, even fashion — ‘Love Marmite, Hate Jams’ as seen on many a trendy fixie rider weaving through traffic.

Love Marmite, Hate JamsRoad cycling jersey available from Foska.com

Brands want fame and monopoly and to do that they must stand out and appeal to human beings, so they need to be more optimistic – more colourful. Who wants 50 shades of grey when you’ve got the choice of the rainbow?

Laura Hussey is partner and creative director at SomeOne in London.

October 31, 2013

LiveSurface Context

LiveSurface Context is an Adobe Illustrator plugin by Brooklyn-based Josh Distler that renders your flat artwork to a wide range of contextual photos.

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September 18, 2012

On designers critiquing designers

Design blogs often direct a lot of negativity toward projects of different kinds — especially within comment threads.

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November 11, 2011

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

The first book to be dedicated to one of the greatest American designers of the twentieth century, produced by Jennifer Bass (Saul's daughter) and Pat Kirkham.

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November 7, 2011

Remove the logo. Know the brand.

I asked Twitter to name brands you can visually identify without the logo. Here are a few clues from your suggestions — a reminder that identities are more than just wordmarks and symbols.

Adidas stripes
Image credit

O2 bubbles
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Absolut bottle no label
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Science Museum typeface
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Apple Wallpaper
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Paul Smith purse
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Coca-Cola bottle contour
Image credit

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Honda slogan
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Macmillan poster
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Big Mac
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Ikea instructions
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Burberry tie
Image credit: suitored.com

easyJet uniform
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Guinness head
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All your replies:

Apple (@chrismcobble)
Coca-Cola (@limpa)
O2 (@internalmachine)
McDonald's (@keyondesign)
Absolut, Target (@AnnLikesRed)
Marlboro (@twotribes)
Nike (@AnkitBathija)
Macmillan, Waitrose (@stephenkelman)
Dyson (@iandevlin)
RAC (@LiamSwift87)
Cadbury (@thecardbiz)
Guinness (@MacRamsay)
Burberry (@cog_design)
Twitter, Converse, Vans (@jclin1)
Cath Kidston (@gray)
Toyota (@hanux9)
Goodyear Blimp, Geico (@duomark)
M&S, The Science Museum (@michaeldowell)
Starbucks, Red Bull (@thegighandle)
Easyjet, Paul Smith, Orange, Louis Vuitton (@leejdavies)
Adidas (@QuietBritAcc)
Ikea, ESPN (@uberryan)
Lidl (@caffeine_code)
KFC (@cristirus)
Kleenex (@josiahsprague)
Jif (@sjgreen)
BP (@BlairThomson)
Cleveland Browns (@BrandMooreArt)
Lego (@ben_gc)
Volkswagon (@markbowley)
Pepsi (@juanmagdaraog)
Dyno-Rod (@KieranHarrod)
Honda (@minxlj)
UPS (@AndrewKelsall)

Depending on who you ask the list could include almost any brand name. Shapes, typefaces, colours, patterns, illustration, photography... they can all play their part.

Colour in branding, on davidairey.com
Remove the logo and still know the brand, on LDL

October 28, 2011

When asking for a design critique

Designers often ask me for feedback on their work, but in many cases they’re asking the wrong question. Don’t show two logos and ask, "Which one's best?"

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October 11, 2011

Identify, by Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

In Identify, designers Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff, and partner Sagi Haviv, open their studio for the first time in the firm’s 55-year history, revealing the creative process that led to some of the world’s most well-known marks.

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December 14, 2010

Colour in branding

Colour plays an important role in recognition rates. To illustrate, you know what worldwide brands these palettes represent, don't you? (Answers in the links beneath each.)

brand colour
Brand name

brand colour
Brand name

brand colour
Brand name

Of course each of the above brands has a huge marketing budget, helping ingrain the product or service into our subconscious whether we deal with the companies or not. But try imagining brands that are a little closer to home — ones that perhaps catch your attention when you're pushing a trolley down a supermarket aisle.

This one's for a breakfast cereal:

brand colour
Brand name

Here's a toothpaste:

brand colour
Brand name

And a chocolate bar:

brand colour
Brand name

You'll undoubtedly see copycat products using similar palettes, hoping to steal some of the market share, but the message is that colour definitely influences a shopper's choice.

You need a good reason for changing a corporate colour.

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