As a designer, you should enjoy diving into research and just getting lost in your explorations. Its time away from the pressure of always creating and designing something, and just letting lose on the interview (or in the physical world, I guess). But it is good to have some initial goals to help get you started or else you’ll spin worse than a … oh you get it.
My goals for branding research usually starts with competition, then industry, then related media. And I set my goals on finding examples for Logotypes, Symbols, and Color. That gives you at least some high level ideas on where to start and my goal is to always fill up a tabloid size InDesign page with little screenshots.
At first, I just go on a web rampage and just splatter little screenshots all over my InDesign canvas, but at least on the appropriate page for logotypes, symbols, or color. Then you’ll start to discover some trends or relationships where you can start grouping your research or hone in on your searching.
For this research, I was looking specifically for Product Suite Families and any relationship from the Parent Product down across the Individual Products. This was fun as its something I don’t think I’ve ever really looked into. I was amazed how some product suites leveraged typefaces consistently across the entire suite, while some completely disregarded that. Some used colors in some relational manner like taking them from the parent symbol, while some just used the one main brand color and used it to make each product icon or symbol look like its within the product suite.
After about a 4 hour research session, at least I have a good 6 pages of cleaned up examples. Another tip is to not get too hung up on thinking of how each element can apply to your specific needs. That will drive you nuts. Just go with the flow, faster the better probably so you don’t overthink something and leave it out. Get it all in your InDesign file, clean it up (leaving some on the canvas and not on the actual page), and then sleep on it before really going through and thinking about which is best for you to apply to your project.
5. They re-imagined existing brand elements, like the Heart, in a new fresh way. The heart use to be such a strong element of the Southwest brand, which has slightly diminished since the red stirring straws, but they didn’t totally reinvent the brand symbol and leveraged this existing component in an exciting new visual way.
4. It will recharge their social activation with spirited content. The messaging seems so much more spirited and will give their social strategy such a boost in tone, character and visuals. They have come out with some great phrases and branded content ideas of their employees’ reactions to the new branding. #SouthwestHeart
3. They kept the brand colors true to heart. Color is one of the most recognizable brand components, and Southwest didn’t stray too far from their strong existing palette. They started pushing the font usage, messaging, and imagery, but kept the strong color statement very recognizable from the painted planes to their digital properties.
2. The tagline: “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” Wow, if you know the Southwest culture, this couldn’t be more perfect. From flight attendants singing the safety instructions, to stories of Southwest crew members going the extra mile for customers in need, this truly embodies how Southwest tries to be more than just an airline.
1. The Heart symbol on the belly of the plane. I literally laughed out loud when I saw this, as I immediately knew how brilliantly creative this was and how it was going to emotionally connect with their customer base. Exposing the symbolic Southwest Heart of the big metal contraption that I’m trusting my life with … Genius!
I just came across an article about a Paul Rand exhibit, and it never fails that this guy motivates me in this oddly serene way. If you’ve ever heard him talk (in person or just in videos), he just comes across calm and controlled while definitely in control of every creative discussion … which is amazing considering how subjective and innovative all of his work is and falls in. Paul Rand define “timeless” to me when speaking to designs needing to stand the test of time and still appear appropriate for its context.
Working with IBM currently on various projects across digital media platforms, I see the logo everyday and also all the innovative usages and implementations we (and other partners) are doing with it. That speaks to the logotype creation, and how it allows for this timeless flexibility for branding opportunities with various colors, image, graphics across all types of media and orientation.
I just noticed a new quote from Rand in this article, where he says, “Don’t try to be original. Just try to be good.” I love it. It seems like the type of calming yet direct direction you would receive while working with this type of legend in the industry. I’ve always remembered a mentor telling me ‘the best design is not always the best design’ which has always stuck with me and makes me remember to not aim for this unobtainable perfection, but what is appropriate and will hit your specific objectives. With that said, I’m going back to work to which will probably be a very productive day now.