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The Distinction Between Design and Brand Design Studios

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - 04:03

During a recent conversation, a friend of mine in the business said that a particular company would not make an interesting client. It was a statement that stayed in my mind long after we spoke, as I had almost the opposite reaction.

I don’t think what I observed in the company was any different than what my friend saw. Which is to say, they were a small business that was relatively unknown. Though they had been in operation for some time, their branding was unprofessional and belied their experience.

That said, the difference was clearly in how we interpreted the aforementioned. After some thought I have concluded this might be distilled as the distinction between a branding focus and a design focus. Any organization thinking about engaging a studio to develop new communications needs to be able to discern between the two.

I might draw the analogy that branding is the speech and design is the speaker. In other words, branding is rhetorical, and it aims to persuade the audience of its argument relying on design to communicate it's idea. This distinction is why both parties value different characteristics in their clients.

The design studio without a strong brand to leverage is forced to improvise and the result might not be entirely coherent. Like an orator improvising without a script. As such I've found people who focus on design alone will gravitate toward larger, well known companies with more fully formed narratives to draw from and build off of.

By contrast, a brand design studio is able to engage their clients at a more fundamental, and holistic level. Not only are they able to communicate the message effectively, they specialize in defining it as well. This is why they are particularly suited to working with businesses who's brands are underdeveloped or at least not on auto-pilot.

If your brand isn't mature or recognizable then collaboration with a design studio alone probably isn't a good fit for either party. It's critical to know when your brand is under-serving your organization, because that's when it's time to engaging a brand design studio to compose a strategic tone and message for your audience.

John Gavula
Contributed By John Gavula

John is the creative director of Gavula Design. He has provided design and illustrator services for many of New York and the region's biggest brand consultancies. Leveraging this experience, and his multidisciplinary background he now works closely with Gavula Design’s clients as a trusted branding partner and steward.