Branding and Visual Identity

People often mix these up.

For me, brand is about how something makes you feel. It’s about what you think about products, services, companies, or organisations – its personality and how it relates to you. It includes how you are greeted or spoken to, how much a company helps you to trust it, and the professionalism or the warmth of a company. So much of it is about emotion.

Visual identity, how something appears and the first or second or seventh impression that it makes visually, is, of course, a huge part of that. Does the packaging with its muted colours and soft textures feel natural and perhaps safer or more trusted? Or will it be more of a high-octane, high-sugar thrill ride? Do you feel like you want to inhale when you walk in to the foyer? Or do you want to hold you breath?

I approach the building or renovating of visual identities from a very emotional angle because that’s what others will do. One of my favourite things to do is look at reasonably new brands and see how well things are served by their first visual identity. I enjoy looking at ways of either fixing problems or reworking a complete new visual identity to better suit the brand and where it is now.

Case Study – Bishopsgate Institute

Arriving at Bishopsgate Institute I found a brand whose visual identity featured an unwelcoming and highly-photodegradable red base and a hotchpotch of random colours, weak and inconsistent typefaces. This led to staff working in departmental silos and an extremely fractured and diluted/weak public face. Despite having one of the richest archives of materials around social and political and queer history (with a particular focus on the East End of London) it was hidden away below stairs with only scant awareness amongst specialists.

With much of the building’s corridors still in possession of their original green Victorian tiles, it seemed madness not to swap the base brand colour to green. Then it was a case of starting to build a visual identity that spoke of boldness, married a contemporary feel with historical solidity, and injected a little of the unusual and the off -kilter – perhaps even some humour. It need to be a solid foundation but with flexibility to move forward. Another aim was to create welcoming and open creative spaces. They needed to be equally suitable for those learning Italian, starting creative writing, attending a swing dancing event or watching a performance. They needed to begin to open up the archive by ‘people-ing’ the cold spaces and putting the faces of history at eye-level.

"Before" images follow main "After" gallery.

“Before”Empty corridors, Information points looking like fire safety/assembly instructions, wayfinder signs seeming to point towards no-go areas, panels unreadable, entrances unwelcoming…