Throughout the second half of 2011 we worked with Pearson Fronter on the brand identity for a new product that was finally launched in January 2012. The following is not so much a formal case study, but more of a guide as to how ideas in a project such as this develop and how we got to the end result.
The product in question is a way for schools to put all the management and learning applications that they use in one, easy to access, online toolbox. Everyone involved with the school: teachers, pupils, parents, admin staff, can use the same online portal to access the tools that are appropriate to them. School management software and VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) are big, complex pieces of software – they have to be because they do big, complex things, and Pearson Fronter’s ‘Project X’, as it was known during the development stages, is designed to streamline these software monsters.
So in June 2011 we were briefed and given a name for the product – ‘Imagine’, and the work began…
The brief from Pearson Fronter’s marketing department was that the brand identity should be flexible; Imagine would be bought by a school’s management team but also be used by teachers, pupils and parents. Being different was also an important criteria as Imagine would be the only product out there that unified management and learning tools.
Armed with a thorough understanding of the product and a clear brief from the client it was time to start work.
Of mind maps (nearly) and mood boards
A blank piece of paper can be a daunting thing, so the first thing to do is to to put some marks on it to make it less scary. I usually start with the name and a few words to remind me of what the thing I’m designing for does. Then I can start to come up with metaphors, images, related ideas, doodles that spiral away from the starting point and lead on to new metaphors, images, related ideas and so on. The resulting page of free-wheeling ideas and scribbles is kind of like a mind map but without all the associated pseudo-science – it’s just a gentle shove to the old brain cells to get them moving.
These pages of words and doodles are an excellent way to come up with raw material for the design; the client doesn’t always get to see it, but sometimes, providing that it isn’t too weird, it’s worth cleaning one up and presenting it to make sure that designer and client are still pulling in the same direction.
Next up – the mood board. Used in all branches of design as a way of getting a feel for what you’re trying to achieve before you start to put pen to paper. In the olden days you’d need to collect piles of magazines and shelves full of photo library catalogues to cut up and paste together to get the look and feel that you wanted. Nowadays a quick trawl around the internet can get you all the inspiration you need. I’m not talking about ripping off someone else’s design, I mean colour, texture and general feel that you want to achieve.
The next post will deal with how to turn all this preparation into a proper logo and brand identity.