Vanguard Projects Identity design insight

People often ask how I go about creating an identity and what my process is when dealing with a design brief. Sometimes it can be a little confusing trying to describe the process and the value that's inherent in a more considered approach to graphic design. So I've decided to create a short blog post which reflects on a recent real world project for Vanguard Projects and Consulting.

Paul from Vanguard approached me to design a new logo for him to replace the one he had been using previously. The logo was created by a designer who had never met Paul and hadn't really attempted to get to know him or his business. This was problem number one! How, if we as designers don't take the time to get to know our clients, can we ever really understand how to successfully fulfil their brief. Needless to say that the logo was relatively generic and fraught with issues when it came to using it at smaller sizes in print and on screen. 

Problem number two arose from the fact that the logo was where the project had begun and ended for both designer and client. Of course, when you're starting out it's hard to perceive the value of a holistic approach to designing an identity system. After all, understandably, we generally prioritise things such as tangible business assets and getting that first sale. However, time and again it appears to me that if we treat Design as a business asset early on, we set ourselves up to start out from a position of strength and confidence in what we and our businesses represent.

All that aside, I began the process of meeting with Paul to discuss (over a nice coffee of course) what he thought he wanted and what I believed his brand deserved. I got to know Paul and his personality and the ins and outs of his business. Because we sat and chatted at length, he began to discuss things that he didn't initially perceive as valuable to the brief. Ultimately the very last thing he mentioned in passing, was the project triangle. It became the basis for the logo. Had I not taken the extra time to sit with the client and really talk things through, It may never have come to light and every design decision would be made on my own face value research into his area of expertise.

It's difficult to see the energy and time which goes in to creating a strong design. Often the final few iterations of a logo are all that's seen by the client. However the process is often complex and there are often hundreds of sketches drawn and pages of research read before even a few avenues are opened up that can be deemed potentially viable. This was true of Vanguard. There were several avenues which yielded a great many pages of sketches and concepts before the final route was chosen and revised into the final design.

The result was a logo and identity that he is extremely pleased with and proud of. The extra ingredients that were added through learning about his unique personality and his business' character allowed for a strong concept backed up by logical thought.

Another aspect of the process is to consider the application of the design, for example will it be used digitally, in print, both, on a van, on a t-shirt and so on. The original Vanguard logo suffered from being disproportionately small in relation the name of the company and so was tiny even on a business card. In addition it couldn't really hold it's own without the accompanying typography.

Speaking of which, the choice of a typeface for design is crucial to conveying the correct look and feel at all times. There are times when your logo may not even be present and choosing the right typeface can help to reinforce the words your write. So as part of identity design I research and specify a typeface for the client to be used on branded collateral, on the web and so on. The value of the consistency of typography shouldn't be underestimated and so I include it in my work on identity projects.

Ensuring that a clients design work is well considered is fundamental to what I do and hopefully I have helped to begin to explain how I incorporate that value into my process. I've included here a link to a sample of the Vanguard Brand Identity guide that was produced as part of the project. Hopefully this will give a further insight into the process too.

The base identity we have created to work from can now inform all of the future design decisions as the brand grows. After all, a small business can only invest a certain amount at a time. But by assuming that the project will be on going and keeping one eye on the future a solid foundation can be laid as a staged roll out of brand assets continues into the future.

I'll end by reiterating that good design shouldn't be considered a commodity, as is often the case with cheaper vendors, but as an intrinsic asset that adds great value to any piece of communication or business. Just ask Paul, he'll tell you! View the results here