How to perfect your brand presentation

Alex Bigman

Back in the day, the concept of a full “brand identity design” applied mostly to major corporations with a huge marketing presence. Everyone else got along well enough with just a logo; at best, one that could be stamped on letterhead and business cards too.

Now, even small businesses have to think right from the start about how their brand is going to work across a website (on several types of device), social media, print media, product packaging and swag; and, yes, letterhead and business cards as well.

And you, the designer, have to find a way to present your design in a way that proves it is up to the task. How on earth do you fill such a tall order?

To find the answer, we sifted through the best, most professional and innovative brand presentations and campaigns of 2016—among them Grubhub, Guinness, AT&T and the Tate—to see how the world’s best design firms presented their initial work. We grouped our findings into the 10 categories below.

1. Illustrate your concept

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 11.15.42 PM
Image via Manual

Most logos have an underlying concept or idea, even a simple one. Manual’s design for Fort Point Beer Company, for example, uses one of the steel trusses from a picturesque bridge near the brewery’s location. By including a handsome photograph of this object in their brand presentation, they really make their concept click.

YBCA new
Image via Manual

The same firm also designed a new identity for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. By itself it  might just look like an abstract polygon, but in fact the concept was based on the unique shape of Yerba Buena’s site, and is also meant to represent arrows expanding outward to signify growth. The concept behind this one is a little less obvious, so their map image, which they also animated to illustrate the expansion component, really makes a difference.

2. Showcase your creative process

guinness_sketches_01
Image via DesignBridge

As any art lover will tell you, knowing the story behind how a great work was created can really add to your appreciation of it. The same goes for your branding work. DesignBridge had an especially impressive process in creating Guinness’ new, more realistic harp logo. They went to one of the oldest harp manufacturers in the United Kingdom to actually spend time with the instruments and capture their visual essence. They make sure to highlight this special effort in their brand presentation, and also include sketches to show their working process.

att_2016_logo_development_process
Image via UnderConsideration

Interbrand took a simple but effective approach in their brand presentation for AT&T. They simply included a collage of photographs documenting their creative process. It gives a sense of the many iterations they considered before arriving at the finished product.

3. Distinguish your design from the old one

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Image via Wolff Olins

If a company has hired you to create their first ever brand identity, then you have a clean slate. But if you are replacing an existing one, then you need to make an extra effort to demonstrate how your work is superior to what came before. Wolff Olins‘ approach was to juxtapose their sleek new design (shown at left above) with a motley collage of old brand materials (right), which together show how crude and disjointed the old brand had become.

att_2016_logo_modifications
Image via UnderConsideration

Interbrand’s AT&T design is very similar to the old one. Their task was not a complete overhaul, but rather a small tweak to make the brand more effective across new 21st century media. Thus, their approach to presenting their work was simply to overlay their new design on top of the old one and point out its small but significant improvements.

4. Go into detail

uber_2016_logo_grid

Typographic wordmark designs require a tremendous amount of precise crafting. Unfortunately, to a layperson client, it might look like you did little more than select a font. To show them that your design is more than “just a font,” do what Uber did: go in to detail with a grid that shows all the specific lengths, widths and angles that make your wordmark aesthetically successful.

5. Show your design’s flexibility

YBCA dance
Image via Manual

Recognize that hexagon? It’s the outline of Manual’s logo for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (discussed earlier). This image is a mockup of how their design could be modified to visually organize Yerba Buena’s advertisements, season catalogs or even signage. Such flexibility is a key value in contemporary branding. If you can show that your design can unify a complex platform of marketing elements, you will be in good shape.

australian_design_centre_logo_flexibility_2
Image via Interbrand Australia

Can you spot the logo here, by Interbrand Australia for Australian Design Center? This “modular” logo’s basic form is the third one from the left, consisting of three simple blocks topped by a triangle. Its genius lies in its flexibility: it is able to expand to incorporate other visual and textual elements, or contract into smaller shapes to fit on smaller screen sizes. If the designer had simply presented the logo’s primary form to the client, it might have seemed ridiculously simple. But by showing its various iterations, it looks marvelously versatile.

pjimage
Images via Wolff Olins

Being flexible doesn’t have to be as complicated as Australian Design Centre’s acrobatic manuever. Wolff Olins made a more simple effort to show how their elegant wordmark can shift and bend into different formations while still being recognizable as the brand that it is.

6. Prove it is adaptable

att_2016_logo_on_colors
Image via UnderConsideration

This suggestion is similar to the last one, but not quite the same. Proving flexibility means showing your design is capable of shape shifting to work across different environments. Proving adaptability means showing how one single design can maintain its integrity within different parameters. Here, Interbrand shows its client how their logo can look good in front of white backgrounds, black backgrounds, colored backgrounds and photographs—something that was not true of the old, three dimensional looking design.

guiness variations
Image via DesignBridge

Another example is DesignBridge’s Guinness logo. Here they show how it still looks good in black and white, and in an embossed gold form. Very handsome indeed.

7. Justify your color scheme

ybca_stationery
Image via Manual

The color scheme is one of the most tricky and ineffable, yet crucially important, aspects of a brand identity design. There are tons of questionable studies out there about the psychology of color, but at the end of the day it largely comes down to sensible taste. How do you convey something like that to a client? Skip the Pantone swatches and demonstrate your color scheme using real brand elements, like Manual did with their stationery for YBCA.

uber_2016_patterns
Image via UnderConsideration

Uber took a more more innovative, adaptable approach to color: the color scheme and graphic background patterns for their app change depending on one’s location in the world. This idea is somewhat opaque in theory, so their visual demonstration is very helpful. Each of these collages shows a city and a typical local pattern or landscape, next to the color schemes into which these translate.

8. Show off your typeface

rotterdams_philharmonisch_orkest_font
Image via Enchilada

Kudos to you if you have the skills to create a custom typeface for your client, like Enchilada (great name, by the way) did for Rotterdams Harmonisch Orkest. But even if you’re just selecting a typeface from existing options—which is totally fine—it’s still a good idea to do what Enchilada did and present an industry-standard sample to your client. Take Enchilada’s cue and ditch “Lorem ipsum” in favor of a brief explanation of why your typeface is the right choice for the brand.

9. Put product packages in their best light

budweiser_2016_fb_cover_02
Image via UnderConsideration

Showing off a product packaging design to a client is especially difficult, because you have to convey something three-dimensional using just two. Roll-outs are of course a necessary component, but it’s also a smart idea to show how the design will look in real life. This Budweiser mockup by Jones Knowles Ritchie is especially effective because of how they angle each bottle to provide a view of the design as a whole.

fort_point_cans_front_detail_02
Image via Manual

This image by Manual for Fort Point is also a lesson in presentation. By filling up the whole frame with their can designs, rather than having them stand before a white background, they create a much more compelling image.

10. Capture every application

tate merch
Images via UnderConsideration

Like we said at the start, nowadays designers must assume that their design will appear absolutely everywhere, from tote bags to iPhone screens to architecture. North does a good job of showing how their refresh of the Tate brand will look on pins, t-shirts and even shoes. This photo looks like it is of actual merchandise, but if you are creating a brand presentation for a client, you could easily do something similar in mockup form.

australian_design_centre_exterior_02
Image via Interbrand Australia

This image of Interbrand Australia’s design for Australian Design Centre conveys an important lesson: always try to show how your brand work will look in the actual space where it is going to appear—not just a generic one. If you can add it to a photograph with real people, all the better.

grubhub_app_icon
Image via Wolff Olins

Lastly, don’t forget to keep in mind the hottest, newest technology. Wolf Ollins was quick to show its client, Grubhub, how their design would look on an Apple Watch interface.

What other guidelines do you follow when giving a brand presentation to a client? Share your tips in the comments!

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