One of the things I enjoy is boiling things down: refining and reducing. I’m a minimalist. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that, as designer, I’m constantly trying to turn a sometimes overwhelming list of requirements and constraints into something simple and beautiful. I now find myself attempting to apply this streamlined approach to the rest of my life.
Recently I came across the concept of “brand essence”: the spirit of a great brand which can be captured in a just few words. It’s not that a brand doesn’t have many connotations of course; it’s much more complex. Brand perception has as much to do with personal experience and quality of service. Concentrating a complicated thing such as a brand into just a few words forces prioritisation.
Here are a few examples:
- Disney: magical.
- Hallmark: caring, shared.
- Bic: good enough, disposable.
- Volvo: safety.
- AA: fourth emergency service.
- Amazon: everything, easily.
- Apple: innovation.
A brand’s essence is separate to what a company produces, the services it provides and the industry it associates itself with. It’s how it does what it does, it’s style and what makes it different. It seems quite obvious when you look at the list above. In practice though it’s an incredibly difficult task, it cuts right to the core of a businesses strategy.
Relating this to products
People use products for a reason, be that through choice or necessity. A product should be functional and provide value to the user. But what else should it do? More to the point: why is it there?
Even though a product may have it’s own personality and unique purpose, as a brand ambassador, it must exude brand essence. If it conflicts with the very heart of what makes the brand, for example, an electric Bic razor, it shouldn’t exist. As designers we must not lose sight of what makes the brand what it is, it should occupy our minds at all times.
A couple of things to think about:
- What’s your brand’s essence?
- Are your users experiencing the essence of the brand through your design decisions?