On 2017 and why I’m making no excuses for colourful language

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Illustration by Frost & Kin

For a while I’ve been juggling brand strategy, design, writing and lecturing. But 2017 has been about finding focus. Among this array of activities, I identified a theme. Something at the core of my practice, which enables me to do all those things.

At the centre, always, is the idea. A strong brand must be driven by an idea. And the idea inspires the content, whether visual or verbal, preferably a sharp combination of the two. My focus is on finding that smart idea, identifying a singular insight that can give a brand competitive advantage and turning it into something that reaches out and touches the target community.

The power of brand names

What motivates me even more is finding the right brand name to express that idea. A name can be powerful. In an instant it makes an enterprise feel real, captures the imagination of people inside and outside the business, and puts a spring in their step. In February Design Week published my article Why Brand Names are the New Logos. Funnily enough it was more popular with writers than designers. But my point was that brand names are more important than ever.

For me, the challenge of finding a name is gripping. It’s like panning for gold; finding one that says what it needs to, feels like it needs to and remains available as a trademark.

This year I’ve worked on more naming projects than ever before, for brands ranging from tech to beauty, food, media, design and not-for-profit.

Turning ideas into stories

Working with Phillip Southgate, we created the name and branding for PACEY’s Business Smart toolkit for childminders. Working with Matt Burke, we created the name and branding for Good Science Beauty, a skincare brand soon to launch. Other projects yet to be trademarked can’t be mentioned quite yet but watch this space.

Alongside my commercial work, I challenged BA Graphic Design students at The Cass to invent and name concepts for enterprises. Propositions included Tease Me, a match-making tea shop, Parent Plant, an urban community farm, and Renew, a sustainable skincare brand. All great ideas made all the more tangible by their use of language, providing students with a start-point for powerful design.

In May and June, my time was taken up writing about design. I prepared successful DBA Effectiveness Awards entries for Interbrand, Decide and Carter Wong. I’m excited about hearing the final results at the ceremony in February and looking forward to supporting agencies with more entries in 2018.

Spreading the word

In the summer, a side project saw me creating a new brand name of my own. Wake Up Workshops offers training sessions for small businesses. Along with vibrant designs created with Matt Burke and a website created by Sara Watkins, the brand captured the attention of the business community locally and has led to a partnership with Chichester Chamber of Commerce for sessions in 2018.

Over the year it’s become clear that the focus of my practice is names, words and stories. And in 2018 that is more than likely to continue. Just recently I was invited to speak to entrepreneurs at Enterprise Nation’s StartUp2018 event about How to choose a brand name – that’s next in the calendar on 13th January.

So you can expect even more Colourful language from me as I help brands say what they mean and sound like they mean it.

Thank you to all my clients, collaborators and students for an inspiring year.