Recently we spoke to Adam Giles from award winning UK design agency, Interabang. They work across many disciplines and sectors, from large to small, independent businesses, from environmental graphics to postage stamps and everything in between. Adam shares his thoughts on what makes a great brand, the importance of adding value and what trends to be aware of to future proof your business.
What role does design play in creating a strong brand?
Design is crucial, but doesn’t work in isolation. Design is most effective when backed up with powerful strategy, marketing and execution. It’s such a shame when you see a beautiful identity that doesn’t have these systems in place to support it. The opposite is also true, and I’ve seen some wonderful strategic brand work fall flat as the design hasn’t had the same level of attention. At Interabang we talk to our clients right from the start about whether they have a marketing or business plan so we know they have a strategic solution too.
What are the components of a good visual identity?
A good visual identity includes the logo, colour palette, tone of voice and layout, which can include image or typographic treatment. It’s really how those things work together as a whole: a brand is never a logo in isolation. Ideally, you should be able to encounter a colour or a line of copy and know what brand that is. It needs to be engaging, memorable, and speak to its audience on an emotional level.
How can you measure good design?
Return on Investment (ROI) is a large part of what we do, but for me good design is something that elicits an intellectual or emotional response. The last thing I’d want our studio to do is add to the unnecessary noise in the world.
In light of the pandemic, what new trends are you seeing in the design world that we should be aware of?
All eyes are turning to digital. As the high street is closing down it looks like new areas are opening up online. For example, one of our FMCG clients is putting less focus on wholesale and shelf presence and more effort into driving direct to consumer sales online through their marketing.
Businesses also need to adapt quickly. Recently we created the visual identity for a hospitality brand and we provided them with a brand toolkit so they could respond to the constantly changing government guidelines regarding eating out and delivery. We wanted to deliver a robust identity that could evolve and adapt in step to the landscape and be completely responsive.
We’re also seeing brands shifting themselves into new growth areas. We’ve just been looking at how we can expand a client’s brand, cutting through into areas that have grown in the pandemic – home workout, home office, home baking, cycling – spaces you wouldn’t normally expect this brand to inhabit. But this interesting, creative challenge – finding ways to connect brands with new growth areas – is something I think we’ll start to see a lot more of. Unexpected collaborations and brands occupying unexpected places.
Your clients and, as a result, the sectors you work in are extremely varied, from large corporates, small start ups, media giants, charities, education and cultural institutions. Is this variety a help or a hindrance?
Our studio is unusual in the huge breadth of work we cover. Many agencies choose to build a reputation on a specialism: a charity agency, packaging agency or arts and culture agency. Ian, my business partner, and I have chosen instead to cast our net far and wide. Being honest, this is partly due to selfish reasons: we love the variety! One morning I’ll be wrapping my head around the branding brief for a macro economic research institute, by lunchtime I’ll be art directing an artist for a set of postage stamps and by close of play I’ll be considering how to create a new dialogue in men’s grooming. It can be exhausting, but we wouldn’t change it for the world. We’ve also found this approach also benefits our clients: a broad expertise allows us to cross pollinate what we’ve learnt from disparate projects and hopefully bring an unexpected insight to the table. I don’t think this approach has held us back, and it’s always wonderful when a client shares our vision, seeing beyond sectors and focussing instead on our design approach. We were recently asked to create the brand for a new FinTech company off the back of a brand we created for a Tea company!
While many design agencies are closing their doors, you’ve managed to keep going. What’s been your secret to weathering 2020 so far? What advice have you got for other businesses?
No one could predict what 2020 had in store! Undoubtedly we’ve been incredibly lucky to stay busy, and retain our staff full time during the last few months. Our business model of a small studio with a core team that can grow depending on what projects we are working on has been a strength, but I’m also grateful for the long standing relationships we have with many of our clients. It’s meant we’ve had a number of projects in the studio that we could hit the ground running with, and not rely on building new business relationships.
Something that can often be overlooked in design is the strategic thinking that should place before any aesthetic decisions are made. We’ve always looked for ways to add value to a brand beyond the visual elements: exploring how we can help our clients in addition to what they’ve even asked for, suggesting new ways design could empower their brand and using our experience to challenge a brief and flag up potential opportunities. More than ever this added value is going to be key in differentiating you from your competitors, and also making you an indispensable asset to your clients.