The Brand Identity

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After 10 years creating visual identities as Mildred & Duck, Melbourne-based graphic design duo Sigiriya Brown and Dan Smith decided to change their studio name to Both. Alongside their new name, they’ve launched a new website, new work and a new set of stationery. We caught up with them to find out more.

The Brand Identity: How long have you been considering this name change?

Both: We have been talking about it on and off for four or five years. Initially, we thought we should just stick with our existing name… changing everything seemed like a big undertaking. We sometimes assist our clients with the naming process for their own businesses, so we know how time consuming and complicated it can be to find the ‘right’ name. However, as time went on we kept bringing it up with each other and started to talk about name options; once you start thinking like that it’s hard to go back. One of the main reasons we decided to start our own studio was to have ownership over what we do and how we do it. So once we decided Mildred & Duck didn’t feel like the right name for what we are doing and how we work, the change was inevitable.

“We have been talking about it on and off for four or five years.”

TBI: Did the name ‘Both’ come naturally or was it the result of a process?

B: We wanted to make sure that whatever name we ended up with felt right, we didn’t want to go through the naming process and all of the logistics of that just for the sake of having a new name. We didn’t really sit down and talk about it, it was more something we’d mention over lunch or while working on something else. That’s probably the main reason it took us so long to settle on the name, and then all of the deliverables that followed, as we weren’t in a rush and were more concerned with making sure we were happy with everything. In the end, one of us mentioned the idea of calling the studio Both as more of an offhand comment… about how some of our clients started emails to us with “Hi both” instead of using our names, and we may as well just use that and then it suddenly seemed like the logical choice!

“Some of our clients started emails to us with “Hi both.””

TBI: What do you want people to understand about your studio as a result of the new name?

B: For whatever reason, we don’t tend to talk that much about ourselves as the people behind our business. We have always felt that in a way our work speaks for itself, and that who we are isn’t hugely important to the work we produce. But, we did start to notice that people often didn’t understand that the majority of the work we do, and the day-to-day running of our studio, is just the two of us. We love to work with other people, and have a trusted network of suppliers and collaborators to meet the needs of each individual project, but at the end of the day we are the ones that drive the projects we take on. That is something we are proud of and want to celebrate. We hope that the name Both signifies that the business at its core is really just the two of us, the both of us. We also like that ‘both’ is a word that unites two things and is associated with togetherness. We’d be happy if people interpret it in different ways, to signify the uniting of other things; like us and our clients, as we do believe strongly in relationships and collaboration.

“At its core is really just the two of us.”

TBI: What’s changed over the ten years, from your start as Mildred & Duck to now, as Both?

B: We feel our approach to our work is pretty much the same, although of course things have evolved over time, but perhaps the main difference is that we are more comfortable and confident in what we do and how we do it. As an example, many years ago we decided to stop presenting multiple concept options for new identities, for a number of reasons, and we used to feel more of a need to justify only presenting a single concept before we started working with new clients. Now it’s just the way we work, and we know that if clients want to work with us they are happy for us to guide them through our own process. We also take more time to get to know our clients and the project before agreeing to take anything on, which again is probably down to us feeling a bit more confident and experienced.

“We probably wouldn’t want to give our past selves too much of a shortcut! ”

TBI: What have been your greatest lessons and what would you want to tell the Mildred & Duck of ten years ago?

B: A lot of the things we have learned have been from experience, and by doing, so we probably wouldn’t want to give our past selves too much of a shortcut! Starting a studio straight out of university is a big learning curve, but we have met so many great people and had so many interesting experiences that we wouldn’t change anything.

TBI: Has there been a structural or procedural change in your studio and practice alongside a change in name?

B: Ten years is a long time, and over this time working so closely with each other we have adapted and refined the way we do things and it’s now all pretty harmonious. So, apart from the actual name change, it’s business as usual for us! Well, as much as things can be business as usual during a pandemic and the impact of this on the way we work (in particular now working from home, and how we have then had to adapt the way we communicate with each other and our clients as a result of this).

“If we didn’t love what we were doing we wouldn’t be doing it.”

TBI: Could you see you both doing the same thing in another ten years?

B: Absolutely. If we didn’t love what we were doing we wouldn’t be doing it. Running a small business consumes the majority of our time. We are constantly working, planning, or thinking about whatever projects are in progress; we never switch off because we find our work exciting and engaging.

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