Article / Branding / Graphic Design / Inspiration / Project Highlight

Three years of design

Unbelievably, Severn is three years old already. We’ve come a long way over that time; there have been a lot of highlights, and a few near-misses to learn from.

So I’d like to talk a little bit about what got us here, and share some of the most noteworthy projects that we’ve had the pleasure of being involved in over the past few years.

The reason why a made the decision to start an agency, rather than to freelance, was because of the way I wanted my business to grow. I wanted to be seen as part of something bigger, and having an agency felt a bit more substantial, and had a certain stamp of trust about it.

I feel fortunate that I made that decision, because it’s opened the doors to so many great design projects, and given me the freedom to experiment with plenty of techniques and processes, and allowed me to work alongside many different industries.

I’d like to share a few of my favourite projects and highlights, and some of the projects that are happening right now.

My highlight project

Perhaps it’s unfair to say this is my favourite project over the last three years; there have been many that I still look back on with a sense of achievement. But saying that, the work that I did for the local business, Glouglou, is one that sticks in my mind. Possibly because I had involvement in the branding of the business from its infancy, and the owners were so great to work with.

You can read more about what I did for them in an earlier post, but in summary, their approach to the brand was unique, and I think we managed to come up with something that completely encapsulates what they are all about. I can’t think of another brand that looks like they do in their branding, and everything they do, both online and offline, ties in with their image perfectly.

Personal highlights

From setting up the business, and then working towards my MA, I’ve been able to explore so many opportunities I might not have thought possible before. Like creating my own book, Ten Yrs Later, which showcases my design thinking and tells my story through my work.

I also won the Creative Conscience Award, which was fantastic to work on and a huge confidence boost. Designing the app allowed me to try out new techniques and be involved in subjects I hadn’t previously had too much experience in – Mental Health, and the Emergency Services.

It’s not something that many people think about, but there is huge pressure on people who work on the front line, and taking care of their mental health is often overlooked, and frequently stigmatised. So being able to look at ways I could help them, as a designer, was an eye-opening and valuable experience.

And an upcoming highlight – I’ve recently been asked to get involved in the Coventry Design Festival (although that one isn’t happening until 2022).

What’s happening right now?

There are a couple of local projects going on that I’m part of, and both are centred around Shrewsbury.

The first one – Market Hall: A Day in the Life – is focussed on Shrewsbury Market Hall, and tells the story of the building’s history, and the people who work there. The building has always been a big influence within the town, and it’s great to keep it alive by telling the stories of the current stall-holders, and giving a history of its architecture and use over the years, in relation to the town. 

Another ongoing project – Public Opinion – where we created an online survey, did face-to-face interviews and asked on social media, where the local public could share, anonymously, their opinions on the town of Shrewsbury.

We used this information to share some of the comments, using stickers around the town, sharing a booklet, and projecting them on slides from the studio.

Did lockdown affect us?

I was affected very personally by Covid – my family and I caught it about 2 weeks before Lockdown 1.0. What hit me most was how utterly exhausted it made us feel. And then of course businesses began to shut down, and I was left in a situation where for the first time in a long time, I had to seek out work, because everyone was putting their marketing on pause, meaning my workload reduced significantly.

The second lockdown has felt different – in general, more businesses are staying open where they can, and those who are working from home are more confident in booking meetings vis Zoom, so even if budgets are reduced, they are thinking about how they can remain in front of their customers, which means keeping ahead with web design and graphics.

The future

I think for all businesses, the future looks different to how we thought it would back at the beginning of the year. We’ve all had to adjust, and I’m no exception.

Views have changed, and for me, it’s forced me to focus on things in a different way.

I’m keen to continue to evolve in a professional capacity and challenge myself a bit more. I’m really enjoying working with local causes, and I count myself lucky to be in this part of the world.

Animation / Branding / Graphic Design / Logo Design

Tech-led logos – 2020 logo animation trends

One of the things that tends to cause to most concern during the branding process is the logo. Businesses recognise that the logo they have designed for their branding is the one thing that will dictate everything else – the colours, the fonts, the style…

Getting that one element right, even if the final design is a simple one, takes a lot of thought and effort on the part of the designer.

In the past, and in fact today, the logo for any type of business needs to become the most recognisable part of the business branding, and should tell the customer what the company is about without relying on the name or taglines.

Some of the most effective logos, from the big corporates, to the small local business, use clever design techniques and images that are instantly recognised with little more that simple shapes, colours, and images.

I suppose that, unlike in the past, today’s logo design needs to work even harder, because not only does it need to tell the customer who you are across your printed material, but even more so, it needs to translate digitally as well, and that can be a whole different task due to the fast-paced nature of the tech we use, and how we use it.

What I’d like to explore in this article is not just the simplicity of the ‘flat’ logo we’ve all been used to, but the way in which the technology we use, and the differences in print-to-screen, which have changed and evolved logo design. I’d like to look a little bit at some of the trends that are emerging right now in order for businesses to stand out, and take full advantage in new technology, and appeal to a new generation of customers, who largely read from a screen or smart device.

The Perfect Logo

A well-designed logo should always be uncomplicated. I find that in having something that looks relatively simple, it becomes almost like a symbol, a single image that the customer remembers and doesn’t have to spend too much time thinking about.

If you consider some of the bigger companies, such as Nike, or Audi, who use just a simple shape, but are know the world over. Designs like that don’t need to have a defining colour, words or slogans in order for us to recognise what they mean. Yet if you were to seek out the designer of those logos, as simple as they seem to us, I’d be willing to bet that hours and hours were spent on getting them to look how they do today.

Unless you’re a well know company, though, I would necessarily suggest using something quite that simple – although it’s not a bad idea to think about having some kind of simple structure or shape by which you can be identified as part of your logo design.

Looking at some of my own designs as examples, I’ve tried hard to use shapes and symbols within the logo images, or as part of the font, in order to tell the story behind the brand. I think that’s important to do, because you have to consider who you will be appealing to, and your logo is a big part of that.

And that is always where you start – with the logo at its most basic. Because in its basic form, it needs to be able to make sense on both printed material and on screen.

Animation is the biggest new trend

Something that I’ve been looking at more and more recently is the use of animation in logo design. I think that’s it’s becoming a necessity to stand out using movement as part of our logo design, particularly where we’re using social media as part of our content creation plan. The eye tends to pause when we see movement in an image, and so where there is such busy traffic such as social platforms where people are scrolling through such a large amount of content, having animation can be a good way to pause them and encourage them to read the post.

Whether or not you already have an existing logo, use of animation can greatly enhance your images and make them more memorable, and are a useful tool in getting your content noticed above the competition.

You could look at something as simple as having a moving gradient, or a light effect over the logo, or something more elaborate like fade-ins, moving characters, rotation/sliding, or video effects. The huge advances in technology means that we are able to add a huge number of animated images – much of what you can imagine can be done on-screen.

During 2020, it’s thought that many businesses will embrace animation as part of their designs, and could fast become mainstream.

By adding detail to the animation, the viewer tends to spend longer watching it, therefore making the experience more memorable, and too your brand.

Branding / Design Strategy / Rebranding

How and when to rebrand your business

Over time, every business evolves. Maybe that’s simply adding new products to your ecommerce business, or having a wider range of services, exploring new markets or changing your customer niche. When that happens, you might be thinking about changing certain things within the business, in order to attract a new audience, or to express a new image entirely.

Perhaps the rebranding of a business is the most common way to realign your image and ethos – especially if you’ve been established for a long time and your current image just doesn’t fit with where you are right now. If your image is old and tired, you might be considering bringing it more up to date, to give a more contemporary image in order to attract a new generation of client.

Is your branding good enough?

Perhaps the first thing you need to think about is how effective your current branding is, and why you feel that you want to rebrand now. Evaluating your current brand is the first step in the process, and rating the overall brand and then looking at each element can help you to decide the steps you need to take, and what (if anything) already works well.

Ask yourself these questions;

Does your brand have meaning? In other words, when people see your brand, do they immediately know what it is that you do? Does it grab attention, and let your customers know who you are?

Is it different? As well as being in line with your ethos, ask yourself if your branding stands out. If the colours, fonts, voice and tone are generic, you’ll look and sound just like everyone else – people need to be able to recognise you, so stand out!

Is it sustainable? Think about longevity. Just because your branding is on-trend now, that doesn’t mean it will be in ten years’ time. A good brand should be future-proof, and if the brand you have right now looks dated and old-fashioned, that’s a big warning flag, and a sign that you need to update it.

If you’ve answered YES to all of those, then you’re on the right track. But if they’ve thrown light on anything that puts doubt in your mind, you can start to think about which elements of your branding are not working, or even embarking on a whole rebrand throughout.

Elements of design in rebranding

I’ve spoken about this in more depth in my previous article, but I’ll just touch on some of it again. Because I find that many businesses misunderstand what branding actually is. Good branding encapsulates all the elements of your business – it’s far from just having a cool logo.

Yes, it might start with your logo, after all, it is an essential part of your branding and can set the tone for everything else within your business. For example, your logo will appear on almost all of the other elements of your marketing, including your website, email signature, letterhead, business cards, brochures, invoices, and shop front, if you have one.

But this essential element should be used to tie in with everything else, and it all needs to be kept consistent.

Think also about your tone – this is something I often see businesses getting wrong. The voice you use for your web content should be mirrored on your social media and printed material, and should match your overall image. For example, if your brand image is contemporary and youthful, your voice should always reflect that.

Don’t forget the re-launch

After your rebrand is complete, use the opportunity to launch your new brand image – this has a couple of benefits. Firstly, it reminds your customers to acknowledge your fresh presence, and it promotes you to potential new audiences.

Promote your new images on all of your social media channels, and share offline too. If you can use the opportunity to launch a new blog at the same time, then that’s even better – as this will also serve to let your audience know that you are actively making efforts to keep in touch with them on a more personal level.

The Severn Agency can help you in creating your new branding strategy. If you would like to talk to us about how you can refresh your branding, or would like advice on your current branding, please give us a call.

Design: ©Newell & Sorrell
Branding / Design Strategy / Graphic Design

5 design strategies to bear in mind for your business

Marketing is a vital part of any businesses plan, but it always surprises me how little though is put into using good design when a business is thinking about marketing. In fact, graphic design should be at the front of your mind when you are planning your marketing – here are 5 design strategies you should be considering.

Logo

Branding starts with your logo – it’s an essential marketing tool which ties together all of your marketing messages, creates the face of your brand, and helps you to connect with your customers. Your logo is the image that people will most remember, so it’s important to get it right. It should communicate who you are, what you do, and what you stand for in one simple image. Also consider this: nobody buys anything because of a bigger logo.

Fonts

The right font can tell your customers the mood, character and tone of your business before they even start reading. There are so many different fonts available, it can be overwhelming, but there are things you should consider.

Your font should be easy to read, especially if you’re using a text-heavy approach. People won’t read a lot of text if they are having to put in too much effort to decipher it.

Using the right style of font is important. If the overall design of your branding and website are contemporary, you need a font which will complement it. For example, if you were using something like a brick wall effect background, you wouldn’t want to use Times Roman – it would look out of place. You’d instead need to consider something bold, perhaps a font that hints the use of a stencil or paint.

It’s also an idea to consider using the same font across all of your branding, and committing to just 2 or 3 fonts across all of your marketing. Use the same font in all of your titles and headers, and compliment that with your main text.

Colours

When you apply it to marketing, and even branding, colour plays a big part in your customers decision making process. If you look at some of the bigger, well-known brands, you might start to see a pattern – they’re playing on something called colour psychology.

According to the theory, every colour sparks something different in our minds. It’s why brands like Netfix, Lego, Coca-Cola, and Virgin use the colour red – because red is the colour most associated with happiness and youthfulness. HP, Dell, and Facebook are blue, which is thought of as trustworthy, strong and dependable.

So it’s worth thinking about the colours you use in your branding and design, as it can have a huge influence on the people you reach.

Images

Now that social media is such a big part of our lives, we are seeing a lot more images in our marketing. We have the capability to take instant images with your phones, edit them and upload them in a matter of seconds. With this in mind, it’s so important for us to make sure that the images we use in our branding stands out and gets noticed. It needs to have an impact, and make people stop scrolling and look at what we’re doing.

All of your images need to be of high quality, and they need to be consistent in style. Like your logo, font, and brand colours, people will come to recognise your images, and know that they are yours without any context. And if you can achieve that, you’re on to something good.

Cross-platform optimisation

Something else which often gets overlooked, especially with website design, is cross-platform optimisation. In other words, does your content read well on mobile devices, as well as desktop?

According to research, more people consume content via their mobile phones that they do on their desktops. If your website doesn’t translate, you will be missing out on a huge audience.

Make sure that during the design process, all of your content is optimised for mobile too.

Of course, there are many things to consider when you’re thinking about graphic design – these are just a few. If you’d like advice on how to use design in your branding, please give us a call. We’d love to help.

Branding / Graphic Design / Logo Design / Rebranding

Your logo – the face of your brand.

Often, your logo is the first image people see. It’s the one piece of your branding that people make their first judgement on, and can be the difference in attracting customers, or not.

While it is only one element of your overall branding, it’s a really important one to get right. Because aside from the message it sends out to your customers, it also sets the precedent for the rest of your branding, your image, and even your voice.

Your logo, in a way, is the very personality of a business. It’s the image that people will most remember, the one they will expect to see when they visit you, on- and offline.

Creating a logo – a designer’s view

When people approach me and my team at The Severn Agency to create their company logo, they expect it to be a quick process, because ideally, they want something simple and unfussy – but it’s a process that takes more time than they realise to get right.

The process starts with a conversation. I want to get a feel for what the company represents; and that means getting to know the people behind the brand, how they see the business or product range, and the type of audience they want to attract.

From those conversations, we start to collate ideas in the form of a mood board, collecting examples of colours, styles, symbols – and we ask them to do the same. Sometimes the client doesn’t want to do that, they just want us to get on with the job – and that’s ok, but it’s always really useful to have a visual idea of what’s in the client’s mind.

In my opinion, the most effective logos are those with a symbol which includes the name, or the name as text with a treatment added, not just an icon with the name typed next to it – I always try to do them like this but it isn’t always possible.

My five favourite logo creations

It’s always hard to choose favourites. Every project is different, and as a designer, you tend to put a lot of yourself into them. But saying that, there are always the ones that you remember. The ones that bring a smile when you remember working on them, and that you feel proud to have created. And these are the ones that do that for me.

Iron and Rose: The client asked me if I could make it look like a seal or stamp, something to give it a sense authority. The central icon represents the rose but we added the small rivet onto the flower head to suggest it’s made from cast iron. The deep red/purple comes from the colour of the wine…

Glouglou: It’s a strange word which we thought sounded squashy or liquid. We hand drew it so it looked more flexible, and made the letters all individual. Originally it was just going to be the lettering, but at the last minute the client asked for some sort of symbol to be included. It was difficult to get something to fit into the shape, so we played with the sizes to create a gap into which we could add something. The shape doesn’t really stand for anything definite; the viewer can interpret it as whatever they want it to be: a tap, a flower or just a splat or spill of liquid.

Concrete Futures: This was one was at the start of the year for an exhibition stand at Futurebuild. The letter shapes show a cut through representing a rising bar, moving forward, onwards and upwards, etc.

Cafe Concrete: A project for the same client as above – this one was for an event, a series of lectures promoting the use of concrete in architecture. The logo is a strong cast block which is, unusually, used as large as possible every time.

Ashmolean Museum: The three blocks come from the curve of a ridged column at the entrance to the museum – as the column curves towards you, perspective makes the ridge wider as it comes forwards. The type and layout of the logo gives it a Romanesque look to match their building, they didn’t go for it anyway…

All of these logo designs are simple concepts, yet portray the essence and personality of the brand. It’s important when people see the logo, they get a sense of what the company does, who they are, and that then spills out into the rest of their branding.

Branding / Graphic Design / Logo Design / Rebranding

Branding – it’s more than just a logo

Some people think that when they start a business, they just need a simple logo, a half decent website, and customers will come in droves. However, there’s so much more to it than that – these days, competition between businesses is sharp, and in order to stand out, and to succeed, your branding needs to be strong.

Since starting the Severn Agency, I’ve seen my fair share of branding, and in fact, when I’ve had the opportunity to work with new businesses in creating their branding as a whole, that’s when I’ve been able to create some of my best work. I talked about this a bit in my last article, where I told you about how I came to create the branding for a local wine bar.

So, let’s think about this in a slightly wider sense – how, as a small business, or a start-up, do you begin with creating a brand?

What branding isn’t

People often mistake the logo for a brand. They believe that by designing a simple logo, choosing some pretty colours and an image that vaguely represents what they’re about, their work is done, and they can sit back and wait for the customers to come.

Sorry to say, that won’t cut it. Your logo is just one tiny element in the whole branding process – and even that is so easy to get wrong.

I’ve seen so many mistakes made by companies who have put their logo on the top of a website, their social media outlets, and their printed material, and then have failed to recognise that the rest of their image is so shoddy and inconsistent that it just ends up falling flat – and when it does, any potential customers are turned off and take their money elsewhere.

Branding takes thought. It needs to reflect who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. And all of those things need to be apparent to anyone who reads your content online, sees your social media posts, or receives an email or brochure from you. If they visit your premises, they should immediately know where they are, because they recognise your branding.

What branding is

If I had to sum up what branding is in one word: consistency. Your brand should be instantly recognisable, whether you’re seen online, in print, or on the high street.

As a branding agency, I consider the whole business. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that learning about the personality of the business, who you are, and what you represent, is always my first priority. Because without that, I can’t imagine what your brand will be.

I need to know the essence of what your company is, and only then can I start to put together what your branding should look like.

So, what do I mean by branding? The logo, although it’s an element, is not necessarily where I begin. Branding encapsulates the entire image – and that includes many elements, from the colours that you use, the fonts and image styles, the tone and voice portrayed in all of your content. It’s all of the visual elements, the corporate style, even the materials you use for your printed content.

Branding and design

Design is more than just an image – it’s the ambassador of your brand. As such, your branding should communicate your message, and that’s really where a branding designer comes in.

A good branding agency will be able to establish your brand personality, and pull everything together to make it visually beautiful, appealing, and most importantly, consistent.

And in doing so, no matter what medium your customers choose to find you, it will be immediately obvious by your branding who you are.

© SEVERN AGENCY LTD