Key learnings from Brand Talks London.
It was the night before London’s first snow and splat in the middle of the capital’s bustle, tucked away between trendy Oxford Circus, timeless Soho, and the forever-inspirational National Gallery, the Vinyl Factory set the scene for Monotype’s latest event – Brand Talks London.
Fairy lights twinkled happily over the heads of 130 creatives as they entered through the main entrance (or the secret passage) to hear three sets of speakers present their Brand Stories and come together to close November with a flourish.
Kicked off by our own Bill Connolly, Brand Talks London began! Speakers Katherina Tudball, Stuart Radford, Matt Redway, Plamen Motev, and Phill Smith captivated the attention of the room with their insightful presentations followed by closing remarks by Connolly and Oli Stratford, before an informal mingling amongst nibbles and tipples.
Who were the Brand Talks London speakers?
Compere: Bill Connolly, Monotype
What did we learn at Brand Talks London?
1. Community is a brand.
While established fanbases have high standards for quality, those standards manifest in different ways. Designing for Eurovision 2023, Design Bridge’s creative directors shared the importance of passion, love and community in the process as well as the theme, noting how rewarding it was to see that, “die-hard Eurovision fans embraced the branding” from event outfit choices to satirical social media posts. Prepare for creatively expressed reactions from passionate communities—good, bad, and hilarious. Designing for video game communities is slightly different, Matt Redway explained, appreciation of multiple ‘easter eggs’ means the message doesn’t have to be as immediate but can be layered, unusual, playful, and weird… Notably, design-based branding and video games overlap here, both tell stories with graphics. Refreshing the branding for Formula One seemed to fall somewhere between the two – connecting with this fast-paced crowd must be immediately recognisable, but since form follows function in the design of cars and graphics, a single form-based easter egg will take your brand story from A to B.
2. Design is having a MOMENT.
The second theme expands on a takeaway from Brand Talks Chicago, that design is having a special moment…worldwide! In the UK, the design sector outpaced the industry average twice over!
The same study from the Design Council revealed that “Roles in user experience, site development, app design, video game creation and other forms of digital design grew by 138%, three times the rate of the UK’s digital sector,” indicating a lowercase ‘r’ renaissance for design. Similarly, the Renaissance followed a pandemic and reflected a technology boom. Sound familiar? Two words: COVID and AI.
3. Wherever the technological current flows, humanity is still the bedrock.
Open-source technology has the power to elevate and help us explore beyond but what we do with that is an art in itself, and keeping humanity at the heart of every endeavour is key. The rise of artificial intelligence-based technology and the isolation of remote work combined to usher in an acute desire for truly human experience and connection. After Connolly referenced a Good Will Hunting scene “Can a robot describe the smell of the Sistine Chapel?” this writer posed the same question to ChatGPT. The results were sterile, listing materials that might produce smells, yet the only descriptors were ‘neutral and musty’…not unlike the response. Good writing, like good designs, fonts, and branding, must champion authenticity and emotion to satisfy the desire for a truly human voice.
Tudball shared how empathy played a key role at every stage of their branding for Eurovision, from the pitch to the final deck. She and Radford masterfully presented the importance of respecting serious challenges, such as collaborating with designers based in a warzone, whilst maintaining a light-hearted relationship with design – which is necessarily a powerful but playful profession.
4. The brainstorm is half the battle, treat it accordingly.
It’s easy to feel like the brainstorm is taking too much time, but an insider tip from Redway: don’t give up, just change your approach, and over time you will “develop creative resilience.” Constantly shake up your own approach for a brainstorm. Sometimes it’s a mind map, other times it’s a list, or a list within a list, such as this one which combines brainstorming tips from all Brand Talks London 2023 speakers into a mini guide:
Key typeface and design brainstorm questions:
Is it my aim to find the special sauce that would make this typeface special?
What’s the physicality of the brand?
What does looking at all the materials at once and from afar reveal?
What adjectives guide branding imagery?
Am I lost? What does a completely different perspective reveal to me?
As a designer, we use everything we see! Have I seen enough things?
Ideas occur when we’re distracted. Do I have side projects?
Dispel the myth that creative work always looks like work. In the eloquent words of Oli Stratford’s Design Review forward, titled “In Praise of Faff:” the creative process can include “flimflam, vibe and flourishes.”
5. Teamwork makes the dream work.
The final takeaway encourages open minds and open arms: From being unafraid to ask stupid questions to answering stupid questions with kindness; meeting designers from across the world with a range of backgrounds, disciplines and years of experience; and always being open to what different perspectives can teach you. Attend events like Brand Talks to learn from a line-up of interesting designers with fascinating real-life experiences that might inspire your future work and break the ice with potential designer friends over a game of Fix the Font. Whether or not you attend physical events, stay up to date with virtual events by subscribing to webinars, podcasts and social media channels run by type sources you love. Bask in the warm glow of the loving design community – we’re all about good vibes!
Monotype is honoured to play a part in curating safe spaces for creative minds to connect and inspire one another across design, branding, and marketing realms.