The Brand Identity

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Character is a San Francisco based branding and design agency. Recently, we caught up with their Creative Director, Rishi Shourie, who talked to us about the studio and some of their work.

How did get Character get going back in 1999?

Character was founded in 1999 by Ben Pham, Tish Evangelista and myself. We all met at CCA (California College of the Arts), where we became good friends. We had a similar passion for design, and during school we decided that someday we would come together when the time was right and start a design agency. After 3 years working apart, the time felt right, and we came back together to start Character. Our very first client was Pottery Barn Kids. The core identity and brand elements still live on to this day.

“After 3 years working apart, the time felt right, and we came back together to start Character.”

How has the studio evolved since you started?

Initially, we had a passion for lifestyle brands and worked on clients such as Pottery Barn Kids, William Sonoma, Kohler, Levi’s, Banana Republic, Restoration Hardware, and Nike — pretty good for a scrappy startup! There were very few agencies in the Bay Area dedicated to doing this type of work, with the majority lifestyle branding being done on the East Coast. Given the strong work we did in those initial years, we were able to evolve our client base and attract companies in other areas that saw the value of storytelling and the importance of showing how a product or service fits into people’s lives.

Do you approach projects for a startup differently to how you would approach one for a multinational company?

Our goal is to create lasting and meaningful relationships between our client’s brand and their audience through distinct brand experiences. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for success. From startups just finding their feet, to established companies with decades of brand history, we shape our team and process around each client. Each assignment is unique, and should be measured against an individual set of objectives.

“The new Mixt Greens identity and visual language brings a new and modern approach to quick service dining”

What is the concept behind your logo for Mixt Greens?

The new Mixt Greens identity and visual language brings a new and modern approach to quick service dining. Its evolved and modern aesthetic inspires new and existing customers, expanding the Mixt concept to a more diversified audience and complementing the vast selection of natural and seasonal products offered at its restaurants.

The logo delivers a modern and fresh take on farm-to-table with visual cues abstracted from agricultural and dining concepts and details touching on the layering of ingredients and the stacking of the stainless mixing bowls they use to create their dishes. We love this logo!

“Our logomark portrays the limitless, adaptable nature of the Plume.”

What was the process like for choosing the right typography to pair with Plume WiFi’s logo?

Plume’s Adaptive WiFi responds to its customers’ actions and interactions, staying in tune with their home, its occupants, and their needs. In Plume’s design language, adaptability can be defined by the unobtrusive integration into an environment by means of reflectivity, transparency, or modularity. Seamlessly integrated into their homes, Plume compliments users’ surroundings and lifestyles without barriers or complexities.

Our logomark portrays the limitless, adaptable nature of the Plume experience with its open form, modular geometry, and radiating lines. Its modular hexagonal geometry is found in both structural and molecular spaces, making it a perfect form to bridge the gap between technology and the persons using it.

Our logotype is free of typical cliché tech styling and integrates a humanist tone into the identity with custom-drawn serif letterforms. This adds an emphasis on where the product experience is going to be (the home) not where it’s coming from.

What’s it like being a design studio in San Francisco?

I love San Francisco and the Bay Area. It is one of the greatest design hubs in the world, with an incredibly large design community. Our proximity to Silicon Valley provides us the unique opportunity to be part of some of the world’s most successful and innovative companies around. The ecosystem of innovation and development in which we do our work allows us to truly be at the fore, helping some of the most exciting technology and service companies in the world build their brands’ stories.

Do you feel there is a friendly competitiveness with the other great studios in the city, such as Manual, Mucho and DesignStudio?

We love being part of a design hub because it challenges us to perform at our best. Like other agencies, we strive to do good work, and always welcome a little friendly competitiveness. It only makes us stronger as designers.

“While not all our identities are dynamic, we often use animation in introducing logomarks to clients, as it helps to convey our thinking in a much richer way.”

Using your work for Playground as a great example, how important is it for an identity to have the ability to animate as a part of its application?

We are in an age where having a dynamic identity that can live in both a static and an ever-changing medium is critical. Animation allows brands to tell a deeper story, highlighting messages that can’t be readily conveyed with a static image. While not all our identities are dynamic, we often use animation in introducing logomarks to clients, as it helps to convey our thinking in a much richer way.

Which qualities do you look for in a new designer?

Typically, we evaluate:
– The breadth of a designer’s experience (time spent as a designer and agencies formerly worked at)
– How they approach problems at a conceptual level
– The processes they take in solving problems
– Knowledge of typography and basic understanding of composition, scale, and art direction
– Cultural fit (we are a small and open studio, so it’s important they fit in, and everyone respects one another)
– Their specific interests outside of design and/or the unique experiences that have shaped them (People’s backgrounds and their interests say a lot about how they approach new and/or challenging scenarios)
– Their dedication, commitment, and work ethic
– Their attention to detail and/or organisation

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