Two years and counting

What I’m learning about branding.

Branding | 3 minutes read | Anouska Craig

Two years and counting
Two years and counting

Since graduating in 2016, I’ve been very fortunate. 


Before moving to London and starting at Sparks, I spent the summer in the Czech Republic (Czechia) working for a large advertising agency. There, I was working with clients such as McDonalds, Billa and Volkswagen, using my design skills on advertising campaigns.

Inspired by this experience, I decided to return to the UK and dive into the more specialised world of branding…

Making the move from graphic design at university to advertising to branding has been a steep learning curve.

As a designer, I’m constantly learning and developing my skills, either internally here at Sparks by means of dedicated educational workshops and client meetings, or externally by going to galleries and museums and talking with friends who work in the industry.

Here are a few things I’ve learned (so far):

When working with a client, it’s essential to ask: who are the major players in an organisation – the decision makers? However, it’s also essential to think about workers at all levels of the organisation, and ask for their perceptions of the brand: historically, in the present, and possibilities for the future.

Values schmalues. Don’t simply ask what a company’s values are. People can get into the habit of reciting the same old generic words (“innovative, helpful, excellence”). Nobody is going to say they’re unhelpful or behind the times. Instead, ask people what they value most about their organisation. The answers will be far more varied and insightful.

Another really good question to ask your client is: Imagine a world without your brand. What is that world like? What would clients or consumers miss?

As you research and analyse, don’t focus on where your client is, but explore where it could go. Find out what makes a client distinctive, then look for a gap in the market. Branding is an opportunity to show an organisation’s ambition.

Clients don’t always understand design language, but most like to see facts and statistics. When presented well, stats speak for themselves, and help to communicate to clients the value of your design. But remember, stats aren’t the be–all and end–all. Internal confidence, public reaction, press articles and customer trust should also be taken into account. Unfortunately these are hard to measure but are just as important, if not more so.

Don’t present an idea that is essentially the same as what’s already out there. When going back to the client to present initial directions, aim for three good ideas: a small but significant step, a large step and a curve ball or a wild idea that challenges the client.

Be open about your process. Clients make substantial investments in branding, so it’s important to be clear about each step. Explain how it will work, what level of engagement is expected from the client, and what it can expect delivered at the end of each stage.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last two years is to stay open – and keep learning.

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