Last night saw a gathering of some of the great and the good of branding and design at the Vibe Bar on Brick Lane for the D&AD Sharpner on Branding 2.0. Intended as an evening for students and young designers there were some equally impressive designers in the audience as on stage. This evening was sure to be a lively debate on Branding.
The first half of the evening was a series of Pecha Kucha talks from each of the five people on the panel. With representatives from Landor, Wolff Olins, SomeOneElse, Johnson Banks and Venture Three there were sure to be differing approaches. The presentations varied in their style and content, with some interesting points on Branding, but this was merely the warm up to the main debate. What these short presentations did do though is highlight one thing that I feel is a key issue in our industry, which is that of definition.
In the debate which was the second half of the evening there were many different comments on how the respective companies approach a branding project and what is involved in a branding project. It was clear that there is no one format or process that a project will take, but it was equally clear that what each person described as Branding was different. This was the major problem for me both in the evening and also in our industry. I was told once that the first thing to do in every meeting you are in is to agree the definitions of what you are discussing, otherwise you can never get anywhere. With each person on the panel having a different view of what Branding was, and entailed, there was a distinct feeling of each person discussing something slightly different.
Now this variety of approaches and opinions is great, it is what makes our industry so fascinating, but it is also a major problem. The problem comes in explaining what we do as an industry to the outside world. The definitions of Branding last night varied from the design look and feel taking the lead and positioning a company, to the opinion that branding should involve redesigning how a company actually works, a fundamental look at the company processes and experiences. There seems to be an area of what is being described as Branding which is essentially designing how a company works from the ground up.
The design industry is moving so fast these days, what we offer our clients is changing at such a pace that is it any wonder that our definitions are so fragmented. What was the definition of ‘design’ ten years ago is miles away from the definition of it now. The areas ‘Branding’ is covering now are so varied that who has decided that designers are even qualified to advise in these areas? Design school training certainly doesn’t cover anywhere close to the areas that designers move in to now, but this is a whole other (huge) issue.
So back to last nights event. A very interesting evening which successfully proved that there are a myriad of definitions of and approaches to Branding. This is both our industry’s problem and benefit, and is something that will likely never change. Do we need one clear definition of what Branding is, of what design is, of what we offer? Even if we do is there any chance of all designers agreeing one? Probably not.