By Fran Johnson
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Content driven brands

Lots of business cards for AOL with different photographs and illustrations - a content driven approach.

Perhaps one of the most innovative approaches to branding around at the moment is the content approach. AOL. is one of the best examples of this, Google another. Both companies trade in content, so it feels apt that their branding reflects this.

AOL. generated a simple bold logo that could hold dynamic shapes and colours behind it. They commissioned artists all over the world to create original works of art to express AOL’s creativity. Sometimes change can inspire greater engagement, and AOL. have ensured that the brand can develop quickly whilst ensuring its identity is easily recognisable.

AOL - a content driven approach to branding.

Framing the content

Art galleries tend to approach ‘content’ branding in a slightly different way. The logo itself doesn’t interchange, but the brand needs to sit in the background and allow the content to drive the look and feel for each exhibition.

Matisse in Tate Modern poster, a content brand.
Schwitters in Tate Britain poster, a content brand.

A different audience will be attracted to a global cities exhibition than to the latest Hockney and whilst the Tate will be a factor in the decision to attend, the potential audience need to be convinced by the content first. The Tate brand needs to sink into the background, with the message communicated – the news of a new exhibition – remaining up front and centre.

This approach to branding works well when a brand’s values are fun and irreverent, and tends to be applied more readily to lifestyle brands. You maybe less convinced by a solicitor who changes their logo every month!

National Geographic, a content driven brand

Flexible branding

National Geographic kids branding

The National Geographic branding is a very good example of how a mark can be both flexible and content driven in its approach. The entire idea of the mark is to frame the content. Taken from the iconic yellow border on the magazine, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv the design firm commissioned to carry out the branding work, created a cohesive branding policy that has become immediately recognisable.

Due to the iconic nature of the mark, other designers can afford to push the brand to its limits. The design firm Plenty pushed the framing idea for the launch of Nat Geo Kids – creating idents and graphic packs for the four main themes; Science & Sea, Nature, Animals and Space.


Photographs by underconsiderationChermayeff & Geismar & Haviv and Tate

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