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
Look inside and get your copy here. I’m extremely grateful for the work my publisher and the contributors put into this.

February 25, 2015

Marginalising creativity

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

Read more

May 24, 2014

Wigan Little Theatre’s little known facts

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

Read more

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 onto a wide range of contextual photos.

I had a go with the free trial. Excellent. And at $9 per month (or $89 for a year) it’s a fair bit cheaper than a stock photography subscription. You can cancel at any time if it’s for a one-off project or occasional use.

LiveSurface Context

All the available contexts are here.

LiveSurface Context

Try it for free (Mac only), or read a few words from Creative Review's Mark Sinclair.

Top work, Josh.

Free LiveSurface codes

Josh gave me seven codes so you can get the high-res, non-watermarked mockups for free. I’ve got five 1-month codes and two 1-year codes. To enter, share a recent identity project that stood out from another designer or studio (just to add some interest to the comment thread). I’ll randomly draw names next Wednesday (6th November) and email the codes.

The magnificent seven are Nick Wilmot, Laura Miller, Anthony Schmiedeler, Richard Knobbs, Jess, Steve Perry, and Richard Baird. Codes on their way.

More design mockup resources.

September 18, 2012

On designers critiquing designers

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

So, now and again I like to remind myself that it’s almost impossible to give a balanced critique of another designer’s work without knowing a few things:

  1. Details of the design brief
  2. The relationship between the client and the designer
  3. The relationship between decision-makers on the client side
  4. Just how hard the designer tried to sell a preferred yet unused option

Next time a studio completes a design project for a high profile client, my first thought will be one of congratulations for achieving consensus on a particular outcome, because getting the decision makers to agree is often a designer’s most difficult task.

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
Image credit

Absolut bottle no label
Image credit

Science Museum typeface
Image credit

Apple Wallpaper
Image credit

Paul Smith purse
Image credit

Coca-Cola bottle contour
Image credit

Image credit

Honda slogan
Image credit

Macmillan poster
Image credit

Big Mac
Image credit

Ikea instructions
Image credit

Burberry tie
Image credit: suitored.com

easyJet uniform
Image credit

Guinness head
Image credit

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?"

Ghost twins

What does the client do? How do they want to be seen? Why?

And it's always easier to offer an opinion when designs are shown in context, i.e., on websites, signage, vehicles, stationery. How does the design interact with different media? How does it adapt, flex, grow?

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.

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

"Identity design is not about what one likes or dislikes. It's about what works."

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

There's a preface from Isaac Mizrahi and a foreword from Steven Heller before the book gets down to business with a few pages describing the firm's overall identity design process.

"Sketching by hand gives a designer an immediacy of artistic expression and intuitive extension of creative impulses that as of now using the computer lacks. We are looking for the most direct connection between an idea and the creation of a form. In the early conceptual phase, the computer's preprogrammed functions often just get in the way."

The remainder of the book is filled with almost 100 case studies detailing the design decisions behind trademarks we've all come to know, regardless of our knowledge of the design profession.

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & GeismarLibrary of Congress

"The solution that we came up with was a combination of an allusion to a library and a representation of the American nation: an open book and the American flag."

Identify by Chermayeff & GeismarNational Broadcasting Company (NBC)

"It wasn't until 1986, six long years after NBC first hired us, that the network took the number-one slot and the new peacock was released into the world."

Identify by Chermayeff & GeismarChase Manhattan Bank

"The blue octagonal mark is abstract but not without meaning. It suggests a Chinese coin or, with the square enclosed in an octagon, a bank vault and by extension the notion of security and trust."

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & GeismarNational Geographic

"Beyond the basic signature and guidelines for usage, recommendations were made for the extensive use of the color yellow, especially for product packaging; the use wherever possible of appropriate and striking photography; a standard way to incorporate a message about the society and its purpose; and how, without restrictions on layout and design, the use of strong, clean contemporary design can help update perceptions of National Geographic."

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

"This remarkable book testifies to the benefits of collaboration and sets a very high standard for the entire field to emulate."
— Milton Glaser

Identify: Basic Principles of Identity Design in the Iconic Trademarks of Chermayeff & Geismar — a landmark publication showcasing the worldwide visual influence of Chermayeff & Geismar.

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Buy from Print Publishing, or Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

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.

July 30, 2010

Qualities to achieve in identity standards

Worthwhile qualities that designer Jerry Kuyper aims to achieve when creating identity standards.

Read more

David Airey
Brand identity design

Independent since 2005
Website hosted by Fused

64 Beechfield Avenue
Bangor, County Down
Northern Ireland
BT19 7ZZ