As Saul Bass stated, design is thinking made visual. Learn about the process of mining information to get those creative cues needed to produce effective visuals. Also, go over collating visual reference material to align everything to the topic, theme, and genre you are creating for.
- When it comes to design, you have to know where an identity has been before you can fully understand or discern where it should go. In order to think through a brand character design we need to take in a lot of information so we can think through and problem solve effectively. So one of the first things I do in a brand character design project is to review the client's existing brand identity so I can accurately comprehend who they are, what they've been doing in the past, and what they are currently doing now.
This will determine if a complete overhaul of a brand character is even needed or if it's just a refresh of the current ideration. In this movie, we're going to audit my client's brand character history and begin to identify information that'll help guide our creative efforts. So let me walk you through it. With this school, it's called South Salem High School and their mascot is the Saxons. Now the images you see here were part of my initial auditing of their current identity.
And the person I was working with at the school kind of dove into this and kind of got into it, which was really cool because that's not always the case with the client. But they pulled out these archival images and these two images date back to 1954 when the school was founded. And it shows how even back then, they had this pretty crude brand character of a viking shown here and a seal for the school showing here. And so this dates back to 1954 when the school was founded.
Here's some more iterations on this brand character going to 1955 and it has that kind of retro spot illustration feel of that artwork from that time. So you can see how it's progressed a little further on here. In 1957, you have one that's more, it almost looks like a rough sketch here on the left, and the image on the right, this is the best image they could get of this. But this comes from their yearbook cover at that time and it's kind of a lesser identifying image of a viking.
Actually it's kind of like a baby viking 'cause he's wearing diapers. So I don't fully understand that. I know we're not going to move in that direction but it's good to take in all this information, see what they've done. You can see there's no real unification of the artwork. It's kind of all over the map and that just continues as we get into the late 70s here. Once again, this looks like a high school drawing in both cases. Be it the full figure on the left, which is back to that viking form.
That classic kind of viking form and one shown on the right. It almost reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite drawings from that movie. So you can see how their aesthetic keeps shifting and changing. Obviously nothing was digital at this time so it's still all analog-based and looks analog-based for that matter. Now as we move into the 2000s, here's some from 2006 and these are student-driven artwork. You have one here that almost looks like kind of a guy with horns, it just happens to be wearing a helmet.
So I don't completely get that. And you have the one on the right which looks like something that somebody might have initially drawn on a Pee-Chee. I don't know, do they even use Pee-Chees anymore? But it definitely looks student-driven. So I think there's a lot of room to unify here with the approach we're going to move forward with. But their design, their current character design that they've been using was designed by somebody and it looks like this.
Now in my opinion, there's a lot of problems with this. The main one, as I'm looking at it, is it kind of has a fantasy art feel to it. Meaning when I first saw this, it reminded me of a character from the old Flash Gordon movies called Ming the Merciless. That's what I thought of when I saw this brand character. So I think, yes, we can improve and create a captivating brand character for this high school that's going to encapsulate that idea of Saxons.
Now Saxons in general are thought of as vikings. As we're going to see here shortly, that's really not the case but we're going to still use that visual metaphor moving forward. So they've used this existing artwork in different ways. Here's a banner on the wall in one of their gymnasiums. Here's another one, the continuity of the art isn't staying intact from one usage to the next. That's another problem here.
And not a big surprise with a high school. That happens a lot. They've also taken the S and they've isolated it to represent Saxons. But even this has a continuity problem where it's different colors and different tolerances and different aesthetics being used in various places. So this S has shown up on the football coach's shirt and hat. But very inconsistent usage of branding across all the various methods that they're using to showcase it.
So that's one thing I think we're going to be able to improve on is the overall continuity of their branding and keeping it consistent and on target. Here's another usage where the colors shift again and the style is varying in terms of how it's handled as well. So another problem we've isolated here. Here's another application of it where the S once again is a slightly different styling and the colors are being shifted.
So a lot of incontinuity when it comes to the brand styling and the brand coloring. Here's one usage where they've created some kind of logo type. Probably created by a local vendor at some point. But they keep using it. But this is the only aspect to this typography that I saw anywhere so it's inconsistent. Here's another one they're using, and once again, an inconsistent use of, in this case, the typography and the coloring.
So a lot of problems with their continuity. And here's another one where it shows an even varying form of typography. This one doesn't look so bad. It's just not coherent within all the various contexts. It's kind of shifting around and changing. Here's another graphic using another typeface and the color values are shifting as well. So a lot of problems with continuity with their current system and how they're using it in various ways and I think we can kind of bring order to this chaos.
It's not going to happen overnight. That's another thing. Even big brands like UPS, when they rebrand, they don't roll it out overnight. They actually rolled their campaign out over seven years. A high school doesn't have the financial capabilities to just wholesale change everything in one fell swoop. So giving them a basis to make those changes as they run out of supplies or they get the budget to do so is how things will change over time.
And that's what we want to facilitate through a well-thought-out brand character design. Now as I stated previously, Saxons aren't really vikings. If you look into the history, that whole idea of a viking with horns on its helmet, that's more of a Hollywood myth applied to the context of vikings. But we're going to stay with it because it does, I'll admit, make for a more impactful logo. But I just wanted to point that out.
I'm fully aware that technically Saxons are part of the viking lore but not vikings specifically. But their current identity does look like this in terms of their brand character and I think we can definitely improve on this. Now an audit can be an uncomfortable reality for a client. When it comes to a brand character people can become very attached to an established character like this, no matter how bad the artwork may be.
So that makes the process of creating a new one a lot harder. It's best to broach the subject before any creative work is started and have an agreement in place that clearly states how the project will proceed and what, if any, equity needs to be retained in the new deign you're going to develop. So failing to agree on this beforehand is going to lead to problems later when presenting your design. So it's a good thing to do upfront before the creative work begins.
So if something is poorly designed, don't avoid the obvious. Let your client know. Do it gently of course, but hold fast to your design convictions and communicate your concerns sincerely with the client. This will show you have the client's best interest in mind.