A brief reflection on the challenges of translating the essence of a brand into powerful visual elements.
By Juan Ruggiero, Design Director at FutureBrand Hispanic America
Those of us whose role is to generate a visual universe around strategic concepts defined in advance by a team of talented thinkers often find ourselves with a new brand strategy already processed, evaluated, proved, and shaped, which almost always leaves us with a mental sheet that, far from being blank, abounds in clichés.
It is difficult to escape from rigid forms when the brand demands to look solid, to stop swimming in strong coloured waters when we have to talk about safety and not to think at 45 degrees when the personality talks about the movement.
The page is always far from blank because we already know what atmosphere to generate when a brand needs to look cute or what textures it needs to look childish. And the difficulty comes because not only do ideas need to go somewhere new, but they need to go somewhere no one has gone before.
Typically, we start from a brand conceptualization, born from a purpose, and we start generating the visual brand expression within this framework. However, the most interesting and groundbreaking part of identity construction happens when the design proposes a reinterpretation of those concepts before sharpening the pencil.
The generation of a visual identity demands not to be the same as anyone else, it demands differentiation and the first space to fight is internal, with ourselves, and the baggage that we bring from concepts that we have already seen represented in many brands.
To achieve this, it is always essential to go one step further in the appropriation of the theoretical framework of the brand and work on the regeneration of that strategic thinking, but by taking off from the structure of the image, taking advantage of everything that each designer may contribute.
It is not just to remain in strategic definitions intrinsically linked to the business, to given metaphors, or to the way the brand wants to be seen, but to find the way in which these ideas can be interpreted with a different voice, with a particular tonality that gives a new meaning to the concepts to be transmitted.
The challenge for design professionals lies in the good translation, with deeply personal touches, of these brand strategies to arrive at coherent but distinct visual identities, with a unique vibe.
Meanwhile, the difficulty lies not only in interpreting brand values, but also in adapting to a visual environment of inherent change in which there must be an obvious relationship between brand strategy and brand representation, and yet propose something else.
It is about generating a unique connection between a space of mental creation where certainties dwell and one where chaos and spontaneity are embraced. That’s why I believe that the next step after having understood the conceptual nature of the brand is a re-verbalisation of the brand personality.
To search for an idea underlying the concept. To search for a unique becoming in that Barthesian kitchen of meaning so that the brand is a good vehicle for its purpose, but where the designer’s head is not in a place of translation, but of reinterpreted interpretation.
The process of how the brand goes from point A (conceptual) to point B (visual) demands the conscious readjustment of those strategic concepts to a graphic personality thought from the design, while considering contexts, social, cultural, and historical connotations, and fundamentally issuing an opinion on the matter.
And no journey is a straight line, and certainly not a journey that requires going through creative chaos. Once it is clear what is being done as a brand and, crucially, why it is being done, it is crucial to be able to generate the HOW through a unique, relevant, and also stimulating way.
In these brand building processes we may find similar concepts, repeated archetypes and a storytelling that has been tried and assessed over and over again, but in the multiverse the shapes are constitutive and that is what makes it possible to tell the same story repeatedly without sounding repetitive.
I once read somewhere that there is a finite number of plots, a limited number of stories that can vary in a million nuances, but I am convinced that what makes them always new storylines is the voice that the storyteller brings to them.