Brand Design: the Driving Force of Culture

A bold statement—but one we believe we don’t see enough or hear enough about.

Never has the profile of British design on the global stage been so great. From Stella McCartney to Thomas Heatherwick the best of British Design—fashion and product along, of course, with industrial and architecture —has been applauded and awarded this summer. But who is actually bigging up British brand design? With the focus still very much on Britain and our legacy of continuing design excellence, it is the optimum time to give British brand design its voice. Not only is it one of our greatest success stories and biggest exports but an indisputable driving force in shaping our culture and society.

From the media to the government, a lot of air-time is given to the other design disciplines. The London 2012 Velodrome, for example, rightly deserves its moment of glory but brand design is not afforded the same commitment and focus.

Powerful brand design expresses big ideas, builds meaningful connections and creates rich associations.  It works both on a conscious and subconscious level, resolving our conflicts and fulfilling our desires.  Over time design (and ultimately brands) can become part of our culture, shaping the symbolism, language and aesthetic that we identify with and ultimately seek.

If a brand builds this kind of deep and powerful connection, then its identity and packaging represent a great deal of emotion.  They become symbols of our love for the brand; in psychological terms we could say that design becomes the object of our attachment to the brand.  And we should be showcasing the power of brand design and its impact on the daily cultural fabric of our lives—and of society as a whole.

In the past century, brands have undeniably become as essential and integrated a part of our lives as the spoken or written language. Far more than the simple means by which we choose one product over another, our branded choices have become coded shorthand for who we are and what we stand for. As tools of communication, connection and expression, we all use and benefit from them. And even the more recent unbranded and fictional brand movements are still ironically, underlining a cultural context and significance for brands.

As brand design and packaging specialists, we give the greatest thought and care to designing brands that are as beautiful as they are effective, and that can be decoded effortlessly and intuitively by the broadest possible audiences. And a tour through the best brand design of the 20th century will see packaging and identities that evoke and encapsulate a time, a spirit, a culture: Apple, Nike, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Innocent, Method…design icons and challengers that tell their own story and which have revolutionized the look and feel of our personal and collective worlds…

We all need to look at brand design as a progressive force for change that, as a fundamental part of our society, can and does enrich our wider culture —now and for the future. And this is a call to action to all of us in this industry to help elevate and afford brand design the same level of respect and significance as these other highly regarded design disciplines.

We are discussing the cultural role of brand design and packaging as part of our Pearlfisher Creative Week (10-17 September). To find out more about this talk or any of our other events please click on the link


About the Author

Darren Foley, Managing Director at Pearlfisher, London, joined the company in 2002 as Realisation Director, inventing the concept of realisation and advocating a design process in which our technical and creative teams work in harmony from the beginning. He has worked in the design industry for close to 25 years, starting out as a junior production artist, and amassing an unparalleled depth of knowledge for the discipline.