Having branded 70+ small photography businesses, I’m pretty comfortable working off of conceptual information (as opposed to the typographic stuff that leads the way in terms of identity design) when working on a brand. At first I railed against it, claiming how you couldn’t create a logo without at least an inkling of the typographic sensibilities of the client, but now I can solve those problems for the individual, regardless of whether they were able to bring their tastes to the table. I thought I’d recreate one of these scenarios, as they are all too common when creating an identity. Not everyone is drawn to typography, and sometimes people hire you because they cannot think in the same terms needed to solve the problem. Through a heck of a lot of trial and error, I’ve come up with a few tricks to help people through this essential stage in the branding process.
This is actual inspiration collected from a few clients where we came across this problem. Since the niche was wedding photographers, the majority of the inspiration that came my way were shots of weddings, dresses, cakes, shoes, bouquets, you name it. Most of the time, it should have simply read as “wedding”, but people send in inspiration for all sorts of reasons.
The first thing you should do when dealing with a concept heavy inspiration set is to search out the mood. Try and engage the client first to gauge why they selected specific images. If it’s like squeezing dust out of a stone, try and lead the conversation. Start out sentences with, “What I really notice when I look at these images are _____, ______ and ______”. See if they agree or disagree. Regardless, you have gotten the conversation started.
My goal when a client offers no typographic assistance, is to offer as wide of variety as humanly possible with the information provided. Even if what I’m offering is 100% wrong, it will at least help to create a boundary to see what could be a better fit.
This step can come in the form of collecting inspiration for the client, breaking elements down that were originally turned down, etc. Both involve a little legwork from the designer, but a little effort spent explaining and articulating decisions can make all of the difference when dealing with someone who is uncomfortable, but willing to trust in the designer’s expertise. Instead of someone who greets this challenge with stubborn defiance; that client is impossible to work with.
The images I pulled for this example are all situated in the warm, vintage-esque tones, that range in light to dark. A strong use of contrast, and a healthy use of warm light will help me with the imagery and icons for the brand, but for type it seems to be wide open.
The way I approach branding is that the moods communicated can all be interlaced and exchanged, depending on what is important to lead the brand on. For example, if this particular client prefers to focus on the ‘rustic’ nature of the inspiration, over the ‘romantic’ inspiration, a focus would be on texture: woods, fabric, paper, rather than images or icons of flowers, flowing lines and softness. Those images can work alongside the texture, but the texture will be the dominant feature.
I also like to keep things pretty rudimentary at this stage. No mixing messages with various fonts, I like to keep things completely cut and dry. Usually clients will like a few options, and those can be mixed together depending on the preferences. Keeping things simple at this stage will allow the process to naturally build on itself, instead of intimidating an already overwhelmed client with too many thoughts at once.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to repeat a few ideas, executed in slightly different ways. Letting the client see how many variations to an idea there are will help broaden the spectrum of what’s possible. A lot of the time, clients are simply unaware of all of their options (perhaps the direct reversal of an overwhelmed client), and need someone to lay it all out there; illuminating the possibilities.
Perhaps the typography could be a ‘strong’ element, in order to be stamped across multiple mediums, using the tactile nature of the stamp, the material it’s created on, to speak to the rustic nature of the brand.
Logo Option #1 features a simplified frame, but even without the addition of a frame, the bold sans serif type will act as a stamp.
The vintage-focused logos, 2 and 4, range from traditional to cocktail party-happy, but both are seated in the 1960’s graphic sensibility, which can be pulled from the wedding shot from the board.
The soft fantasy dreaminess of the mood board could also be applied in #3, 5 and 6, all being variations on that idea. Logo #3 feels more traditional, stable and southern, whereas Logo #4 is more romantic, whimsical and airy (italics will do this to a person). Logo #6 leans more to the rustic side. It’s still a serif, but it’s a pre-textured typewriter serif, so it speaks to vintage, love letters, and old age much more than it does tradition or romance ala airiness.
I hope this helps any designers out there currently struggling with concepts over typography in terms of identity design. What sort of problems have you come up with? How have you solved those typographic blunders?