Why good design matters

One of the first design and advertising books that really spoke to me was Pentagram’s Living by Design (long out of print). Its basic premise was that design extended to more than graphics, architecture, advertising- but was the entire consumer/brand experience- long before people were talking about experiential marketing.

I was lent the book by a former employer, who had been given it as a gift by one of his professors. After I read it, I tried to talk to him about it, his response: “I don’t read books.” I didn’t stay at that job very long (probably because I did read).

I went to Pentagram’s London office to find a copy, several years later. They were nice enough to give me a copy- that had a section removed- and she copied the missing pages. I later got a complete copy from an art book store in Santa Monica- it’s one of my most prized books.

So, when I stumbled onto Pentagram’s blog- and saw this logo- I was instantly reminded of why I believe design does make a difference.Logo for One Laptop Per Child by Pentagram

Take a look at this elegant logo- then read their description:

New at Pentagram: New Work: One Laptop Per Child
Pentagram has designed the identity and website for One Laptop per Child, the non-profit organization with the goal of providing laptop computers to all children in developing nations.

The identity is a hieroglyph, designed to be universally understood, that utilizes the icons of the OLPC laptop interface, also developed by Pentagram. The website design employs these symbols as the basis for navigation. Each icon leads to a corresponding section of information: the laptop to a section about hardware and software, the arrow to a section about participation, and so on. The site launched in English but is currently being translated into many languages.

For all the companies that don’t think they can afford to do a proper logo on start-up, just remember, you can pay now, or pay later. A well designed brand mark can make the difference between having a corporate identity- and becoming a lifestyle brand, ala Nike, Apple, BMW, Mini etc.

And, by the way, if you aren’t familiar with the One Laptop Per Child initiative, you need to read more about it- it’s truly something that could change the world.

Unique branding position from The Next Wave gets results

Zen Windows logoWhen we do our job really well- our clients get PR for free.
Dan Wolt was another window salesman, who knew the high-pressure business inside and out. He’d been at the top of a huge window mill- with 150 people setting appointments in a pressure cooker- and then he walked away and went solo.

But how to compete? How does a sole practitioner make enough noise to get noticed above the din of one of the most cut-throat industries known to man?

Our solution was “Zen Windows” a brand that was the antithesis of the standard positioning. His new slogan “Relax, window quotes in five minutes” opened a new conversation with customers who had already experienced the grueling three hour sessions of the competition.

So successful is his strategy, that About.com wrote about it. (unfortunately- the link died)

Replacement Windows - Profile of Zen Windows - Replacement Window Company
Zen Windows - Doing Replacement Windows Differently

If you think your business can’t compete with the Goliaths of your industry- consider what is accepted practice- and think about how you can differentiate yourself. BMW motorcycle dealers are different because they let customers ride demo bikes. Apple built it’s own network of Apple stores- that are as much an experience as a retail environment. Target asked it’s vendors to help them differentiate the product offering with high design products at a reasonable price. What makes your business different?

Can an ad agency like The Next Wave help? Ask Dan Wolt for a reference.

Branding: why lawyers should be there at the beginning

Big or small, before you name your new company, product or rock band, it’s well worth checking with a lawyer first. We’ve created a few brand names for clients- like “Kata” for a kaizen consultant, “Fearless Readers” for a comic shop, “Geotropix” for a GPS guided mapping systems integrator, “Technoconnecto” for a technology installation company and others.

Google is a great place to start checking a tradename- as is DNSStuff.com because most active brands will own their URL- or be published on the web. We use Google as a first step- because we also want to see what usage might be floating around the Internet- and, it also helps identify foreign language issues- which can always be interesting (the Chevy “Nova” meaning “No Go” in Spanish is the famous one).

The next step is to check with US Patent and Trademark Office.

So- you really have to wonder when someone who is considered a “marketing superstar” (Mark Burnett) makes a dumb mistake- like naming a new rock supergroup- after an existing rock group- even having an “identical mark.”

While we are on the subject of “marketing genius”- it’s also clear that Mark Burnett productions has zero understanding of web accessibility and search engine optimization- as this blog’s previous mention of the show ended up with a first page position on Google with a single post and properly tagged picture.

Read the entire MTV article by following this link: the excerpt that follows is the language you don’t want to hear about your new brand name.

MTV News - Judge Sides With Original Supernova In ‘Rock Star’ Suit

The suit insisted that the “Rock Star” producers willfully ignored the fact that the Supernova moniker was unavailable and that “individuals within defendants’ own organizations informed defendants of plaintiff’s rights in the Supernova mark.” Using the Supernova name would cut into the original band’s future earnings, as it would interfere “with plaintiff’s business relationships” or cause the band to lose merchandising deals and potential offers to perform, according to the suit. The filing also suggested that some fans of the band might be confused and therefore duped into buying the new Supernova’s merchandise and music.In his ruling, Houston acknowledged that “the marks are identical, the parties operate in very similar or identical markets, the Supernova is distinctive and therefore strong, and there is evidence of actual confusion in the market.” Houston further noted that “irreparable harm [to the original Supernova] is presumed” and added that “defendants access to [a] large amount of monetary and promotional resources will effectively diminish, if not eliminate, [the original Supernova’s] commercial presence in the marketplace.”