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What's in a name? Shakespeare's Juliet certainly was not concerned about brands and companies, when she asked the sky. But today, in these much un-Shakespere-esque times, one still has to ask: What is a good name, a good brand? While people on the streets placard themselves in brands and names, making fashion designers and companies their style, as Louis Vuitton, Nike or Gucci, many companies are constantly working on redefining their corporate identities. Be that in terms of corporate design, logos, renaming, reorienting, aggressive advertising or defining new customer personas.
For our big iF Design Special Branding we asked experts from our jury for the iF DESIGN AWARD and companies: What makes the big brands so successful? What is actually good brand design? And what are the next big trends? What about Virtual Reality? Experts of studios like Frog Design, Demodern, Interbrand or Factor, give you some insight.
From comic icons to give the Korean Air Force a new face and attract more employees to natural soda branding or pet supplies and e-mobility startups: This year's awarded brand designs have their very own innovative, surprising and facetted handwriting.
Get inspired and view all 86 iF awarded designs in our Branding Collection.
When it comes to innovative brand design, companies engage with design studios to achieve a fresh and new look for their brand and products. Below you can find a chart with the most successful brand design studios from 2015 to 2019, while PlusX from South Korea, Dongdao Creative Branding Group from China and Strichpunkt from Germany are leading. The ranking is based on the number of iF awards in the past five years:
*20 points per iF award, 100 points per iF gold award.
If there is somebody who knows how to arrange a successful brand - it is Andreas Rotzler, ex Chief Creative Officer at Interbrand CEE and now Brand Creator at UMB - a branding expert since 2007. He describes himself as a "brand DJ", who steers brands in their individual rhythms rather than controlling them. He has developed 360° brand experiences for well-known clients in various branches of industry, including ABB, Art Basel, BMW, Deutsche Telekom, Givaudan, Graubünden, Jio, Mini and many more. He and his team have received numerous design awards. We talked to him about the growing brand awareness in society and it's meaning for design.
iF: Andreas, walking through the streets these days is like a branded vanity fair: Louis Vuitton, Nike, Gucci, Apple – brands everywhere, on the shoulders, on the feet, in hands and on shop doors. There was certainly a growth in brand awareness. How come? Do we all have more money to spend?
AR: There is certainly this growing brand awareness – sprung from a growing need for brands. People do not have more money to spend on expensive designer ware nowadays, but they do expect more value and status for their money. The era of digitalization increased the range of choices immensely. The world got much more confusing. We can choose between so many things, cheap and cheap – or we can choose something that we can rely on. Brands help us today more than ever to navigate through the dazzling array. They give us trust and value. Even all the shops in shopping malls and city centres are not only there to sell their products. Their main purpose is to sell and celebrate this brand idea, this attitude towards life.
iF: As you said it: Many brands or designers that became brands themselves, stand mainly for design AND quality or value. However, does this mean: More brand awareness equals more design awareness?
awareness helps to simplify complex questions every regular customer has: Is
this good material? Is it sustainable? Is it well thought-out? Through brand awareness
we as customers accept and trust that there is someone who answered and solved all
these questions for me perfectly. So we are willing to trust and pay more –
which also means: We are engaging more with the products and thus there is
consequently a higher design awareness. However, design awareness does not
determine what design actually is. It can be anything from “less is more” at
Apple, the “Disruptor” Fila sneakers, Swarowski jewelry and ripped jeans.
iF: Coca-Cola or Nike are more than global brands – they are icons, whose logos are “branded” in the consciousness of billions. And they convey a lifestyle that never really took damage. How did they do that?
AR: These brands focus on an idea, a lifestyle first of all, not on one particular design. Form follows idea. However, both are masters in adapting different current lifestyles to their brand idea – never the other way around. This is what makes them so successful in the long run.
iF: Speaking of brand design never incorporates the product, its design and quality ONLY – it is very much about the visual presentation of a business vision or culture, it is about the positioning of a brand. Do you still notice a development in another direction?
AR: Real brand design follows a big idea. The brand idea! It is a superior sense of the brand on behalf of the customer. From there on, all activities of the brand, all touchpoints – be that visual, verbal or social – are deviated. Brand design is very comprehensive; product design is a part of it. In the long run, all successful brands – from f.e. ArtBasel to Freitag – live this premise. Apart from that, co-creation and curating with customers and partners is getting more and more relevant. It is getting more and more obvious that successful brands invest more in theri in-house branding teams and many awarded creatives and designers are currently heading into the companies.
iF: While there is this shift in brand design, obviously, there is another, too: We seem to live in the time of comebacks. Long forgotten brands are suddenly hip again, while others seem to lose bits of their brand value and prestige. How would you explain this?
AR: The current overload of rapidly adapted design trends leads to a visual phasing. Consequently, there are two aspects important for the customer: Conserved time and conserved lifestyle. Hip is uneasy in this case, as it is always temporary. Fundamentally relevant ideas are at some point more in the focus than in another. But they are relevant. That is what long-term successful brands build on!
"1) A superior, meaningful, customer relevant big idea! Exactly: A higher purpose! This is the loadstar, where all activities of the brand have to overlap. From strategy to product design, KI, sponsorships, cooperation and communication to HR. Example: BMW MINI: Excitement
2) A creative idea! The “creative idea” translates the “higher purpose” into a an experience, in lifestyle. (BMW MINI Downtown Excitement at Night).
3) Customer experiences and touchpoints, that celebrate this idea in all its facettes – virtually and physically (i.e. product). Example: BMW MINI = Stores in black and neon, product presentations at fashion shows, DJs at fairs, communication that celebrates fun, the product is a lifestyle accessoire).
4) Brands have to know trends, evaluate them and soak them into the brand idea – never the other way around! Example: BMW MINI = Sharing Mobility, e-mobility for a better climate, still celebrating the fun of life.
5) Evaluate the needs of the customer with algorithms and create with your own instinct new and suitable brand experiences."
In 1993, Olaf Stein co-founded Factor and specialized in branding projects. His work has been honored with numerous national and international awards, among them also iF DESIGN AWARDS. He is a member in the Type Directors Club New York and at Art Directors Club (ADC), in the donor circle of the council for shape. He also represents the German designer club as director in Hamburg. We talked to him about where branding stands now and where it is heading.
iF: What does „good branding“ mean nowadays?
Olaf Stein: Nowadays, good branding has to be flexible in its tools to achieve the highest effect in and on the smallest place. A current example is the state bank of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, which was successfully privatized and is now called the Hamburg Commercial Bank. My team and I developed the brand design for it. Many brand elements and Icons are constantly moving in displays of the bank. Further, we incorporated an unusual color scheme to reach a higher impact and more differentiation.
iF: Everybody knows Coca Cola or Nike. How can young brands profit from good branding design, to reach a similar effect?
Olaf Stein: Young brands, especially those with few financial backups, need to focus radically! Concerning B2C I think the German beverage brand “Fritz-Cola” is a good example: At the beginning they focused on bars and restaurants only and reached an outstanding branding design through their distinctive black and white logo design. Today, they are legendary. The same goes for B2B: We did the branding for Metapaper. We had little means, so we decided on a radically simple but strong branding design. Metapaper is in it’s 8th year and is growing constantly.
iF: What is the next big thing in brand design?
Olaf Stein: The device of 5G and other technological developments will make brand design more and more flexible and moveable. Moving images and interactive elements will gain in importance – that is where brands currently have to be. With the improvements in automatic speech recognition, acoustic branding is getting more and more important. From a brand expert’s point of view this means: Operatively, there is still a clear distinction in moving images, brand design etc. This will change rapidly towards a wholesome view on brand design with all facets.
Virtual Reality (VR) is growing in all different areas and industries. Architects use it as a tool to present their designs. For some companies, like AUDI AG, Digital Brand Experiences, where customers can take a look at newest car designs in 3D visualizations, is a fixed component of their communication strategy – and not just a vision for the future. Since the digitization is rapidly growing companies seek digital brand strategies and brand marketing ideas that helps achieve a digital understanding of a product.
For Demodern, a multi-award winning agency specialized in creative technologies, virtual reality this is part of daily business. They were honored by iF four times for their concepts: A virtual IKEA Showroom in 2017, an iF gold award in 2018 for their 3D world for the Birdly flight simulator above the historic German city of Ulm, and two iF awards in 2019 for their smart cities Retail Experience and the PETA “Eye to Eye” – VR Live Acting Experience they created in collaboration with Kolle Rebbe.
We talked exclusively to Alexander El-Meligi, Creative Director and Managing Partner of the Demodern office in Hamburg, about the present and future of VR and design.
For our iF podcast we talked to if DESIGN AWARD juror, packaging designer and expert Isabelle D. Lidtsröm of NINE, Sweden, about her quality principles. She also takes a look into the future and reveals her main trend forecasts in packaging design!
„I wanted to take an ironical turn on interior: I wanted the living room to be treated like a white cube instead of a room, where you sit around!“ This statement by Off White’s Virgil Abloh is mainly the reason behind most collaborations with fashion designers: breaking the rules, changing perspectives – ironically!
Abloh and IKEA are collaborating for their much talked about collection of
carpets, hitting the stores last month. However, fans of the designer, who is
now the new men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton, did never have a real
chance to buy them: The carpets, starting at 299 Euro, were sold-out in a
minute, in pre-sale already. Owners of the carpet belong to an excluisive circle: To BUY the carpet, IKEA customers have to take part in a competition. Only those who win a ticket, have permission to buy one.
With his design, bold letters saying, for example, “Keep Off” on classical Persian carpet designs, Abloh challenges preconceptions of traditional interior and the clash of generations when it comes to the living space. “It is about today’s relationship of young people with interior and furniture. They OWN it. Nobody has to tell them HOW. It is a kind of artistic and sassy rebellion against every parent’s catch phrase: ‘do not break anything!’”
What is so special about the collaboration of non-fashion brands with fashion designers or labels and the other way around? What role does it play for the brands?
Since IKEA is a master when it comes to collaborations, as can best be seen during their IKEA art events or also in earlier collections, we talked to
iF juror and IKEA designer Wiebke Braasch about her turn on the fashion collabos:
“At IKEA we are always curious in what is happening around us.
That’s why we collaborate with many different partners in various areas like
fashion, art, sound, play, sports etc. We invite specialists that are as curious
as we are to learn from each other because we strongly believe that working
together makes both us and our products better in the end."
Matt Lee is an illustrator, educator and design consultant from the UK, currently based in Bangalore, South India. He worked in London as a freelance illustrator for publications like The Guardian and FT. His work has been shown in galleries and exhibited in North America, Europe and Asia. In our Interview he talks about his differentiation between illustration and graphic design and his advice to young visual artists.