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A Brand is more than just good design

I first joined xDesign’s five-strong design team as a Junior in 2021. We’ve since grown to a team of over 20 talented product designers who have all helped shape my design practice to better focus on user centricity and accessibility. 

Just as I was beginning my career and finding my feet, so too was our new visual identity. As I grew into my title as Digital Designer and took on the role of brand custodian, the visual identity evolved alongside. During this time I’ve learned that successful brands take more than just outward aesthetic appearances. Designers must take on multiple roles in order to develop an authentic brand - these include visionary, educator and campaigner.

The Visionary

When beginning the journey to establish what a successful visual identity would look like, you have to step back and think about the ‘why?’ and the ‘what?’. There’s no use in creating a slick identity if nobody can rally behind it or feel inspired to use it! For us, we wanted to emphasise the quality innovation and fun that makes xDesign unique. In staying true to our people-first approach, we recognised that the brand should first be accessible and exciting to the diverse teams and individuals we work with in the company. Learning from a team of product designers has helped me understand the importance of user needs in the design process. And even more so, the multiple teams and xDesign stakeholders I’ve worked with have taught me about both common and divergent needs, which has helped shape the iteration process and deciding what assets are useful. xDesign’s minimal, modular approach allowed for designs to be scaled as and when needed. This system means when design resource is tight, we can create simple on-brand materials that can be templated for quick turnaround, but when we have more freedom we can build upon and experiment with basic components and established styles.

The Educator

By taking people with us on the design journey and ensuring they are considered at each step, we can create the perfect environment for the brand to flourish, whilst helping it to become an embedded experience in every corner of the company. This means we rarely have to enforce draconian ‘brand police’ tactics. Providing a level of accessibility to the visual identity and assets used has meant the brand has been adopted and co-opted successfully within the culture of xDesign. People are excited to see the brand implemented across the business, and so wish to replicate it for themselves. With the democratisation of design tools it can often cause anxiety for many designers, threatening the hard work and integrity put into a well-crafted visual identity. However, given the right resources, people seek out design guidance and knowledge when creating internal materials, whether it be for presentations, slack ‘posters’ for social events and even custom emojis and GIFs! As brand custodian, it has been important to maintain a presence within the company and ensure people have a friendly face to contact when in need of this guidance. This not only opens an opportunity for teams and individuals to be educated on the design process, but allows for crucial insight into the everyday usage and perception of the brand.

The Campaigner

Designing for a people centric company means that you need to immerse yourself with the people you are representing and ultimately designing for. This doesn’t mean reading lots of onboarding and documentation through a screen, but finding out first hand ‘in the field’ to absorb conversations, actions and the buzz created by colleagues at all levels within the organisation. Tapping into this company culture and knowing who we’re designing for ensures that our identity doesn’t just look good but will also meet our common and divergent needs, as well as our values.

Our vibrant, creative ‘fun club’ activities and social events create the perfect environment to test out and get creative with our brand. Engaging non-designers in these types of activities also gives us more intel into how the visual identity is being understood and interpreted, and therefore how it can evolve.

Creating something that is living and breathing 

Creating a successful brand identity is about creating something that is living and breathing, not static. A logo would only get you so far but ultimately won’t provide you the depth, authenticity and personality that the people of xDesign need or deserve. As visionaries, we ensured the needs and requirements of the diverse teams and individuals within xDesign were met. Creating a minimal style and neutral playground from the outset allows for experiments and iterations of the visual identity to scale and evolve alongside the company. Through education and collaboration, we are able to bring our xDesigners in on the design process. This fosters a mutual respect and interest in the brand integrity, and offers insight into the work that the design team does! As designers we also are able to learn how our visual identity is adopted and communicated day-to-day, ensuring its successful adoption within the company. And finally, as campaigners, we can facilitate engaging workshops and events that showcase the brand in the best light.