The so called “Brand Designer” in Nairobi is killing the brand

I have lived in this beautiful city for the past 7 years and I have seen things change… some for the good and some for the bad.

I have lived in this beautiful city for the past 7 years and I have seen things change… some for the good and some for the bad. Being a brand strategist and having studied and taught design, one of the things I have always asked myself is: why has the quality of design dropped to a record low in Nairobi over the past few years?

First, Everyone is a so called Brand Design Expert or even better a “Brand strategist”. People with no real experience in building brands are given the task to create / revitalize / reposition brands.

Brand owners do not realize the mistakes they are making by not doing it the right way. I am in agreement that it can be a bit pricey to do it right, but I always ask this question to potential clients:

“what would it cost you to not do it the right way?”. Sometimes it convinces them, but most times they go for the “cheap” option.

Please don’t get me wrong as there are a couple of projects that are well executed (We all know the new CBA, National Bank –even though a little borrowed from the Canadian version, KTN). Implementation and Roll out is a different story.

Indeed, in a near future brands will realize that their work wasn’t done properly and they will have no other option but to reinvest in fixing whatever has been created before. I took the liberty below to analyse, or if you prefer dissect, a couple of projects that I have seen around. The quality of the imagery might be poor however so i will let professional photographers judge my poor skills.

Great Strategy Inspires Great Design

Design is supposed to solve a challenge or convey a message. Usually a great strategy provides the platform for great design to emerge by being simple and clear. The lack of methodology makes designers work with no rationale, or even worse, force a rationale after the design is completed.

Every true brand designer knows that without a proper creative brief inspired by a clear positioning / brand promise, design is just guess work! I believe that by investing in the right strategy, great design is almost guaranteed.

How About We Start by Exploring What Brand Identity Is?

Your brand identity encapsulates all manifestations of your brand: feels like / acts like / thinks like/ looks like / smells like / sounds like, etc…

It is key while creating a brand to touch all these aspects. Clients want a “logo”. Forgive me but it is called “brand mark” and it is merely a representative of your entire brand identity. For the sake of simplicity, let’s agree to refer to “brand mark” as the “logo” in the following.

But…What About Visual Style?

I have had to answer this question so many times and I never ever give the same answer.

I think your brand visual style is a collection of design assets unique and recognizable enough that they give a certain sense of consistency and make you brand memorable.

In simple terms, it is a style that is recognizable even if your “logo” is not present. We all know the Airtel blob (that red circle) as even if the new Visual Style is new, we all recognize it miles away.

I spotted a Safaricom Bilboard today and realized that these folks are not actually consistent:

The device is used everywhere and makes the design noisy.

One thing that fascinated me today too is the “Housing finance Group” new brand. It is so edgy and so harsh for a customer friendly brand (family values and all). The visual style is crazy from the look at signage.

Have a look and please let me know what your thoughts are on this one.

Fascinating isn’t it?