By Fran Johnson
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Using brand words as testing devices

Whilst I no longer have any confidence in my maths skills, I will always remember quite enjoying maths exams when I was younger. I enjoyed knowing if I was right or wrong (often wrong!) whilst still in the exam, and having confidence in certain answers. When it comes to design - a much more subjective discipline - I have found establishing brand words at the start of a project has proved to create a similar feeling!

Often designers speak about establishing brand values, or brand words at the start of the project to steer a projects direction. Understanding from a client if they want to be known as a ‘heritage’ brand rather than a ‘traditional’ one starts some interesting conversations. But I rarely hear anyone speaking about using brand words as a testing device.

Selecting three words, and ensuring that all pieces of design and communication feel aligned to those words can quickly create a stronger brand. In the days of flexible branding and design systems, brands can no longer plonk a logo in a corner and hope for the best. Consumers are much more brand literate now. They will be able to spot a Nike advertisement without seeing the brand mark, they will know they are on Airbnb’s app without seeing the logo. So, when brands are evolving so quickly, establishing three brand words that can steer design, marketing and advertising is often more appropriate than a rigid book of brand rules.

Let’s take some our our projects …






With brand words in place we can then do simple checks after completing any design work. A simple test – can you apply the brand words to the design you’ve just produced? It is also a great test to do in teams. ‘Which brand words would you have associated with what I’ve just produced?’

These design hopefully communicates a sense of resourceful collaboration …

design work rebrand a dozen eggs

… and this hopefully communicates playfulness!

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