Branch is a branding agency based in London. We caught up with Creative Director, Craig Dimond.
Can you describe your background and your role at Branch?
Prior to Branch, and after graduating from Middlesex University, I worked in both large and small agencies, in almost every aspect of design; FMCG/retail, advertising, internal communications and digital, then finally identity design and branding. These roles may have been quite diverse, but each one added to an understanding of exactly how brands communicate through every channel – which is fundamental to creating an identity that is fit for purpose.
My role here is mainly that of guidance, the designers are all of a senior level and very talented, which makes my life easier. So basically I spend most of my time ensuring that any creative being produced is in line with outlined strategic objectives – rationalising everything from typefaces to colour palettes to imagery and everything in between.
What’s your studio environment like?
The studio is very relaxed – there’s only five of us here on a day to day basis and we all get on really well and enjoy working collaboratively on the various projects that come through the agency. Everyone is very passionate about the final outcome and whilst we might have slightly differing approaches or opinions, the determination to deliver quality is what brings us together.
Can you tell us about your team and their roles in the studio?
Simon McClelland Morris is the co-founder of Branch and responsible for the general running of the agency. Simon is also the lead client contact, managing all of our client relationships. As well as Branch, Simon also co-owns The Graphical Tree (a large format print company) and Bright Leaf (visual merchandising).
Anna-Marie Watson is our longest serving member, at just over 6 years, and her dedication has never wavered once! She’s a graduate of the University of Lincoln, a highly creative and organised designer and loves to work in a precise systematic manner.
Ben Lee studied at Central Saint Martins, and is a forward thinking and passionate creative who aspires to create intelligent and considered design solutions. He draws inspiration from a wide spectrum of subjects and disciplines both within and outside of design, which shows in his approach to formulating ideas.
Marisa Piñana graduated from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia with a degree in Fine Arts which has helped her to develop a very conceptual approach to design problems. Being Spanish it seems somewhat cliché to say, but Marisa is probably our most passionate designer, she seems to find inspiration in everything that surrounds her.
I actually worked with Marisa and Ben at a previous agency, so I’m really pleased to have them here now.
What’s the concept behind your identity for Cambridge Elements?
The Cambridge Elements identity was produced to promote a new format from the University of Cambridge’s publishing house Cambridge University Press. Previously all content was either presented in book or journal format, Cambridge Elements was created to perfectly bridge the two, benefiting from the detail of a book and the publishing speed of a journal.
The Cambridge Elements content itself is peer reviewed and published digitally, as a series, so the identity had to reflect this modern approach to publishing.
As such, the symbol consists of three blocks, taken directly from the uppercase E of Elements, which represents the format as a series as well as multiple input sources. The minimalistic nature of the icon reflects the clean and clear presentation of the texts. It’s also a very familiar icon within digital environments, defining a list or further information.
The hardest part of this brief was create an identity that would be able to adapt to the vast amount of subjects that Cambridge Elements will cover. This was achieved by creating a typographic solution to extend the logo to include the subject name as well as employing varying colours through the logotype and symbol.
The visual language then developed around a focus on the bars of the symbol, utilising their simplicity to generate a consistent graphic and allow any image from any subject to sit along side it.
You’ve recently launched a new brand identity and website for yourselves. Why did you decide to do so and what was the process like of putting it together?
This is something we’ve been trying to pull together over the last year, and with Branch turning 7 recently, we set ourselves a deadline to get the new identity live.
The creation of the new identity was inspired by a new approach, we’d seen a substantial shift in the type of work we were being commissioned to work on and as such, we changed our focus. We started to employ more research and strategy in every project, gauging a much deeper understanding of our clients situation. As a result, the creative solutions that followed were driven by insight rather than aesthetics. All of this meant it became obvious we needed to practice what we preach and produce a more mature, concept driven identity for ourselves.
In terms of pulling this together, we turned the tables on ourselves and ran the same process we do for our clients. It was a very collaborative effort, everyone here worked on the concepts, and whilst the chosen route was created by Marisa, it really was down to the entire team to develop it and bring it to life, resulting in what you see today.
Do you find projects for larger multinationals and smaller independent clients require a different approach?
Well, yes and no. Where ever possible, when creating an identity we prefer to run through our five stage process; Listen, Discover, Define, Create and Deliver. But what changes is the level of depth required for each stage. Usually with larger multinationals, it takes a lot longer to create a full situation analysis. Then, in the general running of the project, it’s completely different when dealing with a marketing team as opposed to the company’s owners. So basically, our approach is tailored, within each stage, as per each brief/project.
You’ve recently created a dynamic identity for Fuse. Can you describe the concept behind it?
Fuse is a toolkit that enables project managers, designers and developers to work together in one piece of software, to create apps that then can be exported to any platform, iOS, Android etc, without the need to re-code/develop.
This software was developed in Oslo and California by Outracks, and that’s where we started. After running a series of workshops in Oslo it was decided that our first objective was to look at the Outracks identity. Instead of a complete redesign, we saw the value in what was already in place, the pedigree of the company as a legitimate collective of coders that existed to solve problems, a key attribute of the brand and part of its core equity. We retained the name and the icon refining the typography and size relationship and this became the perfect foundation on which to build from.
Next we tackled the naming of the new product. Fuse was decided upon to reflect the collaborative nature of the software, co-creation, a point of fusion, pm’s, designers, developers all working in parallel.
Then the visual language was created to complement the name. The symbol used within the Fuse logo is a representation of the four strands of the Outracks symbol fused together. The imagery used is heavily influenced by digitally generated fractal graphics, portraying a point of fusion or movement.
So for this project, everything started from a name and developed from there. And the name itself is an abstract representation of the product.
What’s your favourite part of a project?
For me it’s the very start of the creative process, the brainstorming, idea generation. Basically when strategy turns into creative. It’s always fascinating seeing how different designers interpret different concepts, so it’s always new and always exciting.
How important is social media in graphic design?
I’m a big fan of social media in design. Before social media, I always used to start up my machine when I first got into the studio, then steadily work my way through a series of bookmarked blogs to see what was going on. Twitter and then Instagram changed that, suddenly all of the updates from designers, agencies and blogs found their way to me. I’ve also made some good friends through the various networks too.
I’ve always encouraged the designers I’ve worked with to be active within social media. It’s such a great way to canvas opinion (within reason), follow trends and just generally keep up to speed with the industry.
If you could only use one typeface for the rest of your design career what would it be, and why?
I think it would have to be a classic, something truly timeless, and one that featured a large family of fonts. It would probably have to be sans-serif, as much as I love seriffed typefaces, a sans-serif is less limiting. So I would opt for Akzidenz-Grotesk.
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