Power couples: Concept and Design

Designing a brand can be overwhelming. A blank page staring at you, ready for the creativity to hit the page. I’ll be honest, I’ve caught myself staring at the blank illustrator file, stumped. Er… should I just start with selecting typefaces and colors since I can’t seem to come up with a logo?!

There are so many things to consider: typefaces, shape, scale, color, icons and meaning. In theory, it seems easy enough to hit the computer and start pairing these things together until it evolves into a logo, but in truth there’s a whole process behind the scenes before getting to this point. Which is why today I’m sharing a little insight into one of my favorite “power couples:” concept and design.

My favorite interior designer, Emily Henderson, shares her take on power couples on her blog. From sconces + chandeliers, to beds + nightstands. I thought it would be fun to share my insight as a brand identity designer! Let’s dive into it.

Designing a brand can be overwhelming. Where do you even start?! In this post I’m sharing all about my fav. “power couple”: Concept and design.

Form follows function

I can’t drop my architecture education. Those few years of intense studies in architecture ingrained two things in me a love of craftsmanship and that form follows function. If you’ve followed my studio around a while, you’ve no doubt recognized my love of organization, detail and precision. And there’s a reason for that beyond being type a. I truly believe that the best design is built from a solid concept.

“Form follows function” is foundational to every aspect of design, and essentially means that aesthetics and beauty should follow the function or purpose. Now, this can get quite controversial! I remember telling my design professor at one point that “I just want to make pretty things” when he asked what the concept behind my design was. I’ve grown so much since then, and now I uphold the value “form should follow function.”

This might seem nuanced, but it separates good design from great. You on board? Great! Betcha wonder how you can achieve that great design.

Establishing the concept

I like this (semi-crude) quote by Petrula Vrontikis, of the Art Center College of Design:

“Practice safe design: use a concept.”

So. True. Incorporating a concept behind your brand identity design is the safest way to create. A risky design would be one that has no foundation, and in turn ends up dated or needing to be replaced since it doesn’t fit with your identity.

Our team is conscious of this, which is why we always sketch first. Getting pencil to paper allows our ideas to flow more freely, and create concepts we would have no doubt missed by “sketching” on the computer.

A prime example of this is from our very first Spruce Rd. project: Red Fork.

Red Fork Studio by Spruce Rd.

A little back story: Red Fork Studio is a mother/daughter communications studio based in Atlanta. When they came to me for fresh branding, their dilemma was how to create a brand centered around their name “Red Fork” while not appearing as a restaurant-based brand, or even worse, resembling some sort of devil’s pitchfork (eek!).

Quite the challenge, but I knew we could create a solution that worked. Initially, I drew hundreds of sketches. Maybe I don’t even include a fork in the imagery? Maybe it’s just type? I took a break and I distinctly remember the “ah-ha” moment when I stepped away from my sketchpad. The fork could be nested in the R. Numerous sketches later, I had a concept that I knew hit the mark.

All that to say, incorporating a concept into the mark elevated the design beyond aesthetics.

Concept adds depth to the brand

This power couple, concept + design, allow an added depth to the brand. It allows Red Fork to stand out, and for their potential customers to have that moment of joy when they uncover the hidden fork. It’s intriguing, unique to their brand and no doubt opens up conversations.

Now, does every brand need a hidden icon in their logo? Short answer, no! There are so many ways to design from concept without incorporating imagery. It all comes from understanding the target audience, goals for the brand and what makes that brand unique. Start sketching from a place of understanding the foundation, and let the form follow. I promise — the design will get pushed so much further!

Hope you’re off to a great week!