A few months ago, I worked together with co-founder Kat Garner of Rye Here Rye Now, our networking group for creatives to write an article for Lecture in Progress on networking specifically for creatives and other people who find it a bit daunting and are not sure how to get started. I realised over the three years that I have been running the studio how much networking I have had to do to get things off the ground and running. I also noticed that so many people that we meet at Rye Here Rye Now mention how they almost didn’t come that night because they were so terrified to try meeting new people in a networking setting. They say that they were really glad that they did so this made my really think about how many other creative people who might be out there that were scared to try going to a meet up. The article has now also been published in the biannual newspaper called ‘Off’ that has just come out. Here are some pics of it. Here is a link to the full article online at Lecture in Progress.
Last night, Miho was invited to speak at the Santander Business Breakthrough event for small businesses. I have included the talk below for any small businesses looking for a few tips in branding their enterprises.
Who am I?
Hi everyone, my name is Miho Aishima. I am an award-winning graphic designer with over 13 years experience. I run Aishima, a brand and design studio which works with small businesses and start-ups
When I set up on my own three years ago, I did a lot of networking. I wanted to meet potential clients but I also wanted to chat to other business owners and to hear their stories. I was amazed by the number of new, exciting ideas that people shared with me. During the networking events, I would collect everyone’s contact details and when I returned home I would search for their businesses online and read about them. I often discovered that those wonderful, inspirational ideas were not always reflected in the online presence of the brand. This experience made me realise that it wasn’t that businesses needed better ideas, they just needed a better way of communicating their ideas.
What is branding and why is it important for small businesses?
I have realised that the businesses that need support the most are not the big, multi-national monoliths with their mega budgets, but the small businesses who are starting-up - businesses with an idea to create change and to make a difference in the world but who are unable to get their message across and can’t access the appropriate support. Branding helps you to get the word out quickly and effectively, and it attracts people to your business during those crucial initial stages, allowing you to grow and continue on to the next stage. Without it, great ideas can easily be quashed before they have had their chance to make a difference in the world.
When I talk about branding I am referring not only to the logo on your website, but also to the practice of effectively communicating your core idea and values, your positioning and experiences, and then interpreting them into an appealing and relevant visual identity. This identity can include items such as a logo, your brand colours, typography and imagery, and it can be presented across a variety of applications such as your website, publications, stationery, social media, signage etc. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this really matters to your audiences.
6 Tips for Building Your Brand for Small Businesses
1 Know your audience. Getting the right people to connect with your brand is the key to building and growing your business. You could have the best product in the world, but without connecting it to the right audience it will go nowhere.
Understand demographics as well as the softer stuff. Consider the needs and preferences of your audience and the problems that they face.
2 Create brilliant experiences for your audience. There are so many similar products and services out there. Brands win by providing a good experience. An example of this is Amazon. Sometimes brands compete on prices, but lowering prices can often lead to downward competitive spiral. Even though your product might just be online, you can achieve high rates of loyalty and greater satisfaction by providing a better experience. Map out how someone will interact with your brand from the initial research stage to purchase and beyond and this will help you to build a better experience.
3 Think multi-sensory People don't experience life in 2D, so think about all of the five senses available. Much of the branding that I have seen used by smaller organisations tends to cover sight, but it is worth noting that the addition of another sense or two to an experience can really give you an edge. This is not as complicated as it sounds. An example is the cosmetic subscription site, Beauty Pie, which offers a luxurious parcel and personalised card with each delivery. This type of experience triggers responses in your brain (this is not just a low cost, delivery service) and makes you feel more engaged.
4 Name Having a memorable and unique name can help you stand out from the crowd. Like it or not, the name of your company is one of the first things that people find out about you, and you want that first impression to be a positive one. A generic name might imply that there is nothing unique or special about your brand. A wacky name might put people off even before they find out more.
Once you find a name that you and your consumers love, make sure that you carry out the required checks and trademark it. You don’t want someone else claiming the name months or years after you have worked so hard to build a brand behind it. I am sure the legal beagles can help you with that but it is certainly something to consider.
5 Logos and visual A strong visual identity and logo is a great way to emphasise the quality and service that you provide. More than ever in this insta-happy/visually-led world, first impressions matter. Your website, business card and logo can go a long way in helping to create that good impression. Also, you want to ensure that the visual identity will appeal to your target audience and not just reflect your personal preferences.
6 Stories Remember, every business has its own unique story. You are the key to your business and you have a unique take on your market and product. Sharing stories about the what, why and how of your business will help people to remember your brand. It is easiest way for you to engage with people and for people to connect with your business.
A special thank you to Priti Surti, Business Relationship Manager at Santander for the invite. The Business Breakthrough events are organised by Priti and occur throughout the year.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about our branding services, please contact us here.
Rye Here Rye Now one year, Studio space one year and own studio three years.
Even though I am no longer in school following the academic year, it seems as if there is something ingrained in my psyche which drives me to make major creative and life decisions in the autumn, specifically September.
September marks the first full year of taking on a studio space and three years into having an independent practice. September also finds us celebrating one year of Rye Here Rye Now, the monthly meet-up for creatives started with fellow designer Kat Garner.
One year in the studio
It took me almost two years to find the right studio. Many of the places that I looked at were either too expensive or too far away. Regular desk spaces did not feel very inspiring, as they did not allow me to work around other creative people. Last year, I noticed a post on Twitter from Linzie Hunter, who was looking for a replacement studio mate. She is a very successful illustrator and it has been so helpful to get advice from her on how to navigate the freelance life as a relative newbie. The fact that she also has a similar taste in music and drinks lots of tea is a bonus too. In the end, not only did I find a good space to work in but I also found a good friend.
If you are working from home or in a office that is driving you crazy, here are few tips for finding the right workspace for you:
Tips for finding your happy, creative space
1 Do your research
I checked out about ten places before I found mine. I searched online, compared prices and visited various desk spaces and studios. I talked to friends with workspaces and to friends who shared their spaces. I also asked around in case anyone knew of spaces.
I had to consider how much I could afford (including bills, VAT if required) and how the cost would spread out over the year and beyond.
This was really important to me. I wanted it to be close enough so that it wouldn’t become too difficult to travel. I was worried that if it was too far, I just wouldn’t bother going.
It’s always worth thinking about the security of a space before leaving your equipment and precious work in there! And if you want your items to be insured, it’s worth noting how secure your place is.
It may not seem like a key factor, but I made sure that I met everyone that I was potentially going to share a studio with. I also asked them how often they used the space. It doesn’t make sense to rent a space to share with other people if they are never there! Also, keep in mind that working in a small space everyday with the same people can be quite intense, so it is important that your personalities do not clash.
It is noticeable that business advice articles always seem to address the challenges faced by studios or start-ups as they try to stay afloat during their first year but often fail to mention the fact that it can be a real struggle to keep the energy going after the first year. How do you cope after the novelty of being a new business owner wears off? Admittedly, I was concerned that I would find this period challenging and it proved to be the case - this past year has been a tough one.
Without doubt, my favourite experience of the year has been the running of the various projects that Rye Here Rye Now took part in. It was very exciting to be involved in so many different events but I found it very challenging to do the work whilst also looking for new clients. I was able to meet my goal of working with organisations such as Impact Hub King’s Cross, who have development scale-up programmes to help social impact start-ups get off the ground. They help them to develop their ideas and give them the support that they need to grow to the next level. I am happy to say that I will continue to support start-ups but I also plan to focus heavily on those who are scaling-up and on other organisations creating social impact, whether they are charities or commercial enterprises. This will allow me to grow my studio and learn from a range of projects.
Three things I’ve learned over the past year
1 Keep the energy up on the marketing activities.
Sometimes I am not as diligent as I used to be about promoting my work, my projects and the things that inspire me. It is easy to forget how important it is to do this so that people don’t forget that you are still in business and are looking for opportunities. It was great for my profile to be featured in publications such as Communications Arts and The New Statesman, and it really helped me to reach a wider audience. All of this is worthwhile, but it does take time.
2 Networking is still key
Meet new people and follow up with those who you have contacted before. It is still a great way to build contacts and to find out about projects that could use your help.
3 Side projects
Before I set up on my own, I think I was a little sceptical about the benefits of side projects. I can honestly now say that they have added another creative dimension to my work and that they help to ensure ongoing creative development. Taking on personal projects or side projects outside of the client work that feeds your day to day still seems to be really key to getting the paid work that you would like to do.
One year of Rye Here Rye Now
When we started Rye Here Rye Now, we were not sure what the response from other creative people would be. Would other designers and creative people share our view that meeting each other and swapping stories is important? Where would the journey take us? Who would come to the events?
Our first event, held 13th September last year, drew around 25 people. We felt really excited that we were starting something and building a community. Many of the people that we met at our first event attended our first birthday do and have been with us throughout the entire journey. It feels so good to know that we are building connections which are lasting and meaningful. Building meaningful social interactions helps to enhance the freelance experience, combating isolation and promoting personal and professional growth.
We also took part in Peckham Festival, which was truly exciting. We set up as a community group, giving everyone an opportunity to exhibit, sell their wares and get feedback on their work. This is not something that I tend to do in a day-to-day basis so I found it quite interesting and useful. It was wonderful to see how hundreds of people took part in the One Minute Portraits, providing a snapshot of Peckham.
One thing I learned over the year
Over the past year, we have held 13 networking events (including 5 sold out events), a day of talks at Tate Modern with Pempeople and an exhibition/market at Peckham Festival. We have also been featured in notable publications such as Time Out, It’s Nice That and Lecture in Progress. None of this would have happened unless Kat and I decided to say yes to various invitations and being willing to see where it could take us. Rye Here Rye Now would not have grown if we had just stuck to the same monthly event format. We have developed through all the people we met and decided to collaborate.
Thank you to all of the wonderful folk that I have met over the past year. It has definitely been a busy year, but it has also been a fruitful one. I look forward to the next one... Please do get in touch if you have a project you would like to discuss.
A few months ago, Rye Here Rye Now received an Instagram message from Pempeople, asking if we wanted to get involved in a Southwark Untold project that they were putting together at Tate Modern. Pempeople are a community-based organisation working with residents and championing locals in South London, from Southwark to Lambeth.
The team at Rye Here Rye Now decided to take part. It marked the beginning of an intensive journey, planning and preparing for the event with Pempeople.
The Southwark Untold event offered an amazing opportunity for Rye Here Rye Now monthly regulars to showcase their stories, to do a talk at Tate Modern and to be involved with other Southwark creatives. The speakers at the event were a mix of local creatives and dedicated visitors to Southwark. We decided on a series of 10 minute talks, with a panel discussing their creative involvement in Southwark. We also contacted Lucie Russell of Drawing People Together, a regular to Rye Here Rye Now and discussed how we could incorporate sketches into our event. The result was a series of combined ‘Doodle Talks’, with the audience drawing the speakers. This idea was conceived by Lucie Russell.
We started Rye Here Rye Now in order to build a community with meaningful connections and to create strong networks of creative friends that we could hang out and work with, not just collect business cards from. So, we also wanted to show other aspects of Rye Here Rye Now, like the interactivity and the relationship-building. We developed a Rye Here Rye Now-specific ‘Networking Bingo’, with questions relating to the speakers, E.g. ‘Find someone who speaks more than one language.’ Many of the speakers in attendance on Sunday are from all over the world and often speak more than one language, sometimes even two or three.
We also included our ‘One Minute Portraits’, which are a firm favourite at Rye Here Rye Now events. Kat created a ‘DIY poster-making’ workshop so participants could have a go at putting together a poster and looking at the relationships between the different elements in the layout.
Next stop, prep
Our drawing boards were created from off-cuts of grey board. Our studio happens to be very near a large printer who kindly donated some off-cuts. We also printed and cut out all of the bunting, bingo cards and signs, and Kat did the poster workshop elements. This meant weeks of cutting paper but it was worth it to see all of the beautiful worksheets on display at the Tate. We also chose to print on coloured paper to coordinate with all the Rye Here Rye Now notices.
We were really pleased that most of the speakers that we asked were up for being involved in the Doodle Talks. We were a little worried that it might become a little chaotic at times, but everyone seemed ready to take on the challenge. It really says a lot that the speakers were committed to trying something new.
We promoted the event mainly through social media but we also sent mailers and a press release out to the London press. We were featured in Time Out London and we are also waiting on some pieces which should appear after the event.
Despite the worries of planning and organizing a rather big event, it turned out to be a resounding success. The event was packed. The speakers shared their amazing stories and everyone doodled, networked and designed their way throughout a very busy day. One of the highlights was witnessing the enthusiasm of the kids as they got involved in the activities.
Thank you very much to everyone who came down on Sunday. It was so nice to see you and to have your support. It was a really magical day. Thanks to Nicholas Okwulu at Pempeople for having the vision to create SouthwarkUntold and for inviting Rye Here Rye Now. Thank you to Julia Piekarczyk for her excellent coordination of the event. A big thank you to Tate Exchange for providing such a wonderful space. Thank you to Drawing People Together for collaborating on the Doodle Talks with us. A massive thanks to the volunteers who made the day run smoothly. Thank you to John the Unicorn for sponsoring the art materials. Thank you to Kat Garner, our Rye Here Rye Now co-founder. Finally, to everyone who spoke - you inspire us. You guys showed up and told some truly inspiring stories and we feel really humbled to have heard them.
Photo credit: Claudiu Joacabine
A bilingual visual identity is something that we have been interested in exploring for some time, so when we were approached by NTree a few months ago, we were intrigued. 'NTree' had chosen their name partly because it sounds like 'Entry' but also because it includes the word 'tree', symbolising growth. Ntree provides a service educating European investors about China so cross communication is imperative. As their business provides a gateway of sorts into the Chinese market, we looked at ideas using a series of Chinese characters such as centre 中, gate 门 and tree 木 and thought about how we could combine them to create a mark that was also understandable in English.
NTree had a lot of interest in their initiative and needed to prepare their pitch decks and proposal to meet demand. This meant that timings were tight. The key for us was to ensure that we could help them get their visual identity up and running as fast as possible.
We developed several visual concepts and presented NTree with four different options. After some consideration, the ‘gate’ concept was deemed to be the favourite. The Chinese character for ‘gate’ doubles as a box which we developed into a branch-like framework for the logotype. The leaf references the ‘tree’ of NTree and suggests growth without being too naturalistic. We also created some branch-like icons to augment the visual identity for various applications.
The key to getting this identity right was to really understand how the identity could be perceived in both cultures and also as an abbreviated mark on social media and beyond.
'Overall the project was a super success. We’re really pleased with everything.'
Ashwin Tirodkar, COO, NTree
One question that we get all of the time from entrepreneurs is 'how would I go about talking to a designer?' I always say that it is helpful to have a brief to refer to and discuss so that everyone is on the same page about objectives, deliverables, and timings. Here is an one-page template that we often give to our branding clinic participants. Let us know if this was helpful to you.
A design template should include a project overview which is just a little bit about the project and your organisation. A timeframe is very helpful too. Then a description of the target audiences that you are hoping to reach and engage is required so the activity is targeted and the funds are not wasted. Listing three or four objectives will help ensure that the team is building towards some goals that are meaningful for the client. Also, some communication messages about what you want the designs to convey is important. Then, the deliverables. It is important to know exactly what items the clients needs to be designed and what specs that they had in mind. Even if this will require some discussion, it is useful to have as a starting point. Then, it's helpful to have a section on preferences because sometimes, there are some personal or organisation preferences such as 'I really don't like orange' that could prevent some headaches in the future. Also a section on the budget that the client has in mind is helpful. The design brief is a starting point to move the project along so I don't think you need to adhere to it religiously but it will get the conversation moving and set up the project nicely.
Design brief download is here for free.
Late last year, Sarah Williams of Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, got in touch with us as they were looking for a rebrand for their good food magazine Jellied Eel.
The brief was simple. The Jellied Eel has been running for about 8 years and has grown from a small newsletter to a print run of 30k, with each magazine having about two readers per copy – an estimated readership of about 60k people. They wanted us to refresh the brand and to make the magazine more modern and appealing. The Jellied Eel have a loyal fan base so we wanted to make sure that the rebrand was something that both captured the essence of the great work that they do but also enhanced it.
We were really excited to be involved with the magazine as we were fans of the great stories that we had read in previous editions. Jellied Eel told us that they were intending to publish new and back issue stories on their website so the rebrand needed to be sympathetic to both print and online. It was an excellent opportunity to help them amplify their message through both outlets. The brief from the team at the London Food Link was ‘to entice people to read about good food and the associated issues. We hope that by engaging with our content in print and online, they will be inspired to think more carefully about these issues.’
We started by looking at some historical London pie shop signs for inspiration and noticed the bold and decorative letters that are often quite ornate and can be found hand-painted on mirrors in and around the shops. We wanted to reference these but to also create something fresh and modern. Since the logo was to be the masthead for the magazine, we worked on a landscape format.
For the typography, we created a new alphabet called ‘Jellied Eel Caps’ which formed the basis for the logo and could also be used for headers or Drop Caps in the future. Utensils were incorporated into the crossbar of the ‘E’ and, as there are four ‘E’s in the logo, this made it possible to include a knife, fork, spoon and spatula. We paired this with a Google font Work, which could be used across the team at no cost.
We also created a colour palette which was an extension of the Sustain palette. This could be rotated across upcoming issues to maintain consistency both online and in print and also help to build the brand.
The magazine’s layouts needed to be set out as templates which would not only allow them to have distinct styles for certain features but would offer uniformity across each issue. They could also be updated more quickly and efficiently. In our print design templates, we colour-coded and styled some of the feature sections so that they could be easily recognized each month and would allow fans of that particular feature to access them instantly. We designed the index page to be very visual and easy to navigate and the ‘Around Town’ event page to be very systematic.
Our next step was to design a system of icons to go with the theme ‘Eat, Save, Forage, Cook, Grow’ which could be used in the online and print magazines. Overall, the team at Sustain were very pleased with the work and Gavin Dupee, Head of Digital and Design who was overseeing the rebranding process on their end said: “Miho really understood what we want to say with our rebranding of the Jellied Eel. Great work!”
For the online magazine, we worked up some visuals for the homepage and the main article and the team translated it on to the lovely site that we see here, in line with their exact content needs.
We are excited about this work and really glad that we could create a comprehensive solution which will help to showcase these important stories for many more years. A project like this is really exciting to be a part of and it was inspiring to witness how we can potentially use our design skills to create an appealing brand that will engage those who read it and are interested in good food and sustainability.
Be sure to get your copy in various foodie locations across London like Borough Market. Please also check out their online site here. A special thanks to the Jellied Eel and Sustain team for all of their help and support in getting the project completed. Thank you to Syd Hausmann for the artwork assistance on the letterforms.
In early November last year, I was approached by Communication Arts magazine for a feature on our work in the Fresh feature. I worked closely with Michelle Yee, Associate Editor of Communications Arts to collate my experiences, examples of work and share my philosophy and purpose for my work. Sometimes, it takes an experience like that to take the time to reflect on the journey that has led me to where I am today. Setting up a branding and design studio with a focus on social enterprises and start-ups has definitely been challenging but it does feel really great to share my work and vision in the magazine to a wider audience.
Communication Arts is a magazine covering design, typography, advertising and all things design which I have greatly admired for years. I remember flicking through it when I was in the States prior to coming to London. It has been really exciting to be featured in my home country. To see the actual article, please follow this link.
Here are some visuals of the article.
We were recently approached by the Impact Hub Kings Cross to design a visual identity for a new sustainable food start-up incubation programme called Feeding The City. It is probably the most comprehensive programme of its kind in the UK, involving 10 cities and covering all aspects including food production, creation of products, distribution and food disposal, all taking place in an urban setting. In order to gain funding, ideas need to be tailored towards a particular community to meet their needs. Feeding The City will be taking teams through a fully-funded programme that will produce seven market-ready start-ups at the end of the 12-month period.
We were tasked with creating a visual identity which would bring the aspects of community, food and nurturing to life.
We began with a meeting to discuss the finer points of the values and vision of the brand. Unlike other programmes, Feeding The City really takes you through the process of seeding ideas to harvesting results. Also, there is no fee to pay for the expertise and support on offer as Feeding The City. The strapline we agreed upon was 'Growing ideas to nourish communities’. We also created a logo with a secondary strapline for occasional use.
The next step was to brainstorm. We honed in on the themes of food, communities, sustainability and ideas. The resulting sprout and fingerprint visual identity was the firm favourite. This identity combines the sprout and rings suggesting the potential for growth, with the fingerprint symbolising the need for people to be part of the solution and to take responsibility for their actions around food sustainability. We felt that it was important that the rings are growing out as the start-ups involvedare not just about the potential within the programme, but for the future.
For the visual identity, we selected a set of vibrant images which reflected all processes of the food cycle and alluded to the community aspect. We worked from the current Impact Hub colour palette to align the identity with the main brand. The choice of typography was also led by the current brand guidelines.
It has been really exciting to work with the team at Impact Hub King’s Cross and it feels great to help to create positive impact now and into the future.
The visual identity was applied to a webpage, social media, flyers and a video which is coming soon. Feeding The City have their first ideation workshop on 11 January in 10 cities across the UK. For more information, please have a look at their site.
A few weeks ago, our London-based branding clinics went global! We normally work from Impact Hub Kings Cross, but after speaking to Shota Nishigaki at Impact Hub Kyoto in Japan, we were invited to visit their Hub and given the opportunity to run the first ever branding clinic with some of their members.
We arrived on a Saturday morning and held two branding clinics with a couple of local Kyoto entrepreneurs, with each clinic being about one hour long. As with our London clinics, the format involved participants presenting their branding queries.The only exception here was that we needed some extra time to explain the process and to understand further how the session might proceed.
In Japan it is more usual to meet with people several times and to get to know them gradually, rather than jumping straight in and talking about business and work immediately. This sort of lightning-session approach is something that we are quite used to from our own projects and from mentoring in London, but I have to say that there is something rewarding in finding out more about a person's entrepreneurial journey and, in doing so, learning more about the entrepreneurs themselves.
At first, the members we spoke to did not fully understand the scope of branding and of what it actually covered, and were unsure of the exact nature of the clinic. Their experience as entrepreneurs had mainly revolved around building abusiness or idea into a minimum viable concept and they had not yet fully encompassed other aspects such as branding and promotion. In London, there are dozens of accelerators with comprehensive programmes and sophisticated structures in place which can help entrepreneurs to get off the ground quickly, assisting in areas such as business modelling, marketing, branding, legal, cyber security, funding opportunities, networking and pitch preparation. This is not something that is readily available in Kyoto, or even possible across Japan.
During our clinics, which were conducted in either Japanese or English depending on requirements, we helped the participants to set out the main objectives for their branding and managed to provide some insights and direction on which steps to take next. One of the participants was actually able to consolidate some key points of his core brand thinking in the time between the morning session and the afternoon session.
After the morning clinics, we ran a two-hour group session where we gave a keynote presentation with portfolio and insights. We also discussed branding and the state of entrepreneurship in Kyoto and wider areas of Japan. Some of the participants were creatives working with clients on their websites. Others were setting up as freelancers, brand and marketing managers, or social entrepreneurs.
Overall, we were struck by how similar the questions regarding branding and entrepreneurship were, and we were energised by the excitement and optimism of the participants. We look forward to tracking the progress of their branding and future ventures. It was really inspiring to meet such great people and to experience the positive vibe we know from the Impact Hub in London in another part of the world.
Below is an excerpt from our Q and A in Kyoto.
What is the current state of start-up culture in Japan and Kyoto?
At the moment, there is not enough support for start-ups. In terms of finance, there aren't the kind of options that you have in other countries like in the UK and Europe, with loans or grants. In South Africa, we learned that you can get large start-up grants if you are creating a business in manufacturing, education, agriculture or technology sectors. This does not exist in Japan.
Culturally, there is also the issue that if you get off the career track (Japanese people tend to go to college, get a job and stay in that job traditionally) it is very difficult to get back into the system if you try and then fail with your start-up.
Many students often dream about setting up a start-up but their parents dissuade them from these dreams and persuade to work for large companies or follow more 'sensible' options.
However, it sounds like entrepreneurship is gathering pace in Kyoto. More artists and start-ups are emerging there. One participant mentioned that they thought that Kyoto welcomes '変' 'hen' or strange people. They said that if you move to Tokyo you get coloured by the Tokyo lens. In Kyoto, people accept you as you are and embrace individualism.
In terms of social businesses or social enterprises, or '社会企業' 'shakai kigyou', it seems that the current landscape consists of large companies with CSR programmes or non-profit organisations, but social entrepreneurship, where both profit and social impact existed together, is limited. Currently, Japanese companies are legally required to employ disabled people to make up 2.0% of the workforce for companies with at least 50 employees. The participants were not sure if there were any other social responsibility requirements for companies regarding the environment, education, or health, etc. As the population of Japan is much less diverse than in other countries, the requirements may be quite different.
Overall feedback and impressions of the day:
'It was helpful because, before I came, I was struggling to understand the branding process and now I feel that it is much clearer.'
'I found the session very helpful although I am not new to branding. We currently get so busy with other things that we can lose focus on the brand. This will help us clarify our goals and work on our brand messaging.'
'It takes a lot of work to get from a collection of messy messages to something that will make a clear message to everyone.'
'As a web designer, if I can clarify the branding process with clients then we can really produce something that it is really tailored to their goals, making it a win-win situation.'
'Including a variety of stakeholders, not just the big bosses, in the branding process was eye-opening to me. It was important to learn that branding is something that should be pivotal across the company or organisations, not just the leaders.'
A very special thank you to Shota Nishigaki of Impact Hub Kyoto for helping to organise the session and for everyone else for coming along. We would love to go back to Kyoto in the future and help to nurture the emergence of start-ups. Please do get in touch if you have any requirements for a cultural start-up exchange. Or please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org about any workshops enquiries.
Our next branding clinic for social enterprises will be back in London at Impact Hub Kings Cross on the 20th of October. If you are an Impact Hub member, please go to the Impact Hub Kings Cross page here.
It may seem like a new restaurant is popping up every week in Peckham but we wanted to highlight a truly exciting addition to the area: modern British restaurant – The Coal Rooms.
Created by the owners of the Old Spike Roastery and Spike+Earl, serial social entrepreneurs Cemal Ezel and Richard Robinson have been building up their purpose-based hospitality brands for over four years.
These social enterprises train, employ and help with the housing aspects of formerly homeless people to work in their cafes, restaurants and coffee roastery. They create a system of teaching homeless people to gain skills in a job that may not have been an option before. At times they also team up with The House of St Barnabas in Soho in their training of recruits.
Cemal Ezel originally started his first coffee social enterprise with Change Please in 2010, training up homeless people to become baristas. They have gone from strength to strength with their coffee carts
What is really excellent about this brand is that they pair their powerful social impact work with top rate, first class food and service. The put their people-first values at the forefront and lead with it across all aspects of their business.
We had a chance to visit the Coal Rooms the weekend that they opened for their soft launch. We don’t usually restaurant style reviews but the experience was too good to not share. We started with the eggplant parmigiana style dish. It was truly excellent. Then, the Sunday roast we had when we visited was quite possibly the best Sunday roast we have had! The Yorkshire puddings were as large as our heads. We had the roast pork and beef, with some roast vegetables in a lovely gravy.
The service was top notch too. Our kind and helpful waiter suggested some perfect wine and beers to accompany the meal. If only we had a chance to get to a pudding but we were too full at that point.
The interiors and design of the place was very fresh and modern with cool and elegant colours by local architects Kennedy Woods, but it also had touches that hinted to its train station coal rooms heritage. They had the main room where we ate
We had a chance to speak to the manager James Galton and learn a bit more about the Coal Rooms themselves.
'The Coal Rooms name reflects the origin of the premises with it being a former waiting room of the ticket office of the Peckham Rye rail station where it was an actual coal storage. We have alot of rooms here, the cafe, dining room, private function room (set to open in October) and the upstairs will be a bar in the future. It also aligns with approach to cooking with the charcoal used in the cooking with the robata grill.'
For the food, the chef Sam Bryant (formerly of Smokehouse) does his own on-site butchery and cooks the meat up on the robata grill. They have a nose to tail cooking approach making sure none of the animal is wasted. He says that the approach to cooking is,
'meat heavy approach with a nod to local area and cultural influences in terms of the flavours of Peckham. One example is the jerk spices. We use every bit of meat, bone, fat everything to avoid wasteage. It is part of our ethos.'
Aside from the food, did we mention the best part? It would have to be the toilets. A bit like a tropical hammam with some nice vintage signage details, it is definitely worth a visit.
What’s next for them? They will be refurbishing the room upstairs to become a handy bar right next to the station. This will be a one stop venue for the locals and beyond.
A special thanks to James Galton and Sam Bryant for their time and comment. Change Please has just launched a range of coffees with the baristas faces on the fronts and now available at Sainsbury’s so you can try some of their coffee at home.
Last month, we ran a workshop for the 2017 Climate-KIC Summer School Climate Journey #17 group, at the Imperial College in the Grantham Institute in South Kensington. The 40 or so team members taking part this year were from all over Europe, with London being the penultimate stop before their final presentation in Riga. The students spent time visiting various institutions such as South Bank London University, Chrysalix Tech and Key Gardens, learning about policy, finance, technology and even time management.
The six-week programme was organised by Climate KIC and funded by the EIT, an EU body. Our introduction to branding and marketing for sustainable start-ups ran in week three of the course.
We started our workshop with some games and an overview of branding for sustainable enterprises. This was followed by some brainstorming and the sharing of insights by the students to really understand the importance of branding for mission-based enterprise which focus on people, profit and purpose.
We studied several current, best practice case studies for excellent sustainable brands. Then it was time for group activities. The students got to the heart of the matter looking at the Why, How and What of their particular enterprise's brand.
The students were split into teams and worked together to build their brand canvases. We discussed their approaches and answered any questions that they might have so they could really take the time to think about what their start-ups stood for and how they should communicate with their target audiences.
The teams had some truly excellent ideas. These involved moss, human hair, boats, vegans, packaging and energy and were targeted to various business to business and business to consumer segments. They used the time wisely to work together to get to the core of their brand, think of a launch marketing plan and map it out on their own brand canvases.
In the end, the teams did a 3-minute pitch to their fellow students and explained their start-up brand and launch ideas. It was truly a dynamic exercise and everyone got very involved. The students received feedback both from their classmates and our team. It was truly inspirational to watch how it all came together and to feel the energy and excitement in the room. We received some lovely feedback from the education manager Kathy:
In London Imperial College this summer, we had 40 foreign students on our flagship programme the Journey – an intensive environmental challenge where young people (aged 22 – 28 years) are developing their entrepreneurial skills and developing a concept for a start-up business. As part of their development, we invited Miho in to assist with understanding what a brand is, how to think critically and looking at branding positioning and marketing strategies. A lot of the group are scientists, technologies and engineering and the session really opened their eyes to the importance of branding their business idea. By the end of the session teams that were less certain about their market positioning; who their audience were and how to reflect their branding accordingly felt much more confident and equipped to tackle this. Many had also started their marketing plan and the mediums to start with.
Students warmly thanked Miho for her inspirational and insightful talk.
Kathy Jowitt, Education Manager, Climate-KIC, UK&I
Congratulations to Climate KIC Journey 7 for completing their programme with their final pitches in Riga. A special thanks to Kathy Jowitt for helping to coordinate the event.
If anyone is interested in future workshops, please get in touch here.
I was invited to speak at the Good Stories 2017 conference yesterday, which was produced by Matter & Co, Pioneers Post and SE100, and held at 250 Bishopsgate in London. During the conference, I met with social entrepreneurs from across the UK, who shared some great insights as to how stories can transform the way you communicate your brand. They also gave some wonderful advice on how to use social media and on how best to get your local MPs onboard.
Shortly after the first break, I took part in the Building Brilliant Brands panel with Claire Pearson from Belu Water. It was really interesting to hear about Belu's journey from its origin through to its recent successful expansion. Claire also spoke about the importance of Belu's brand in the company's success in the high-end hotel and catering sector.
Next up, it was my turn. I gave some branding tips based on my experience. I have shared the slides below for those of you who were not able to attend the conference.
But… Good is not good enough.
We have been fortunate to meet some really impressive social entrepreneurs doing wonderful work but, as we tell them in our workshops and clinics, having a great social message or story is not enough to succeed as a brand and business. You need to ensure that the quality, service, experience, design and other needs-based aspects are as well-considered, as ultimately the business has to serve the needs of its customers. There must be a balance between the social message and the experience of the product or service itself.
Inspire to do good, not by making people feel guilty or fearful
It is more powerful to inspire people with positive stories and the potential for change than to make them feel guilty about social issues or the fearof inaction. There is a possibility that you may make people feel guilty enough to act once, if that is your brand's message, but your customers will not keep engaging and will not share their experience.
Stories are key
Telling stories about the brand makes it more memorable and shareable. Stories are the easiest way for people to remember information. It brings the people out from behind the brand and it bridges the gap between customers and the brand.
Head + Heart
Branding is not an exact science. You may have a superior product but your branding might only communicate the functional attributes of that product. The brand that bridges the heart and mind to the product ultimately succeeds. Businesses need to think about the look and feel of their brand, the people behind the brand, their customer service and the other sensual aspects of the brand. As Jeff Bezos, 'Your brand is what consumers say about your product when you are not in the room.'
Design & Beauty Matter
In this day and age, visual culture is very important. You are bombarded by over 100,000 words a day on the news and through emails, social media and ads. People look to visual culture and to sites such as Instagram for some light relief. This means that brands need to really think about how they present themselves visually. Also, the visual identity is the face of the brand and if it not memorable or appealing this will reflect poorly on the brand.
We had a great day at the Good Stories 2017 conference and it was nice to meet so many inspirational people. A special thanks to Matter&Co.
Move over pinstripe suited bankers, there's a new kid in town. Monzo is the fluro coral-coloured prepaid debit card, with an intriguing name and major ambitions and social considerations.
We had a chance to meet Naji Esiri, the Community Manager for Monzo, when we attended a Campus London AMA (ask me anything) session a few weeks ago. We heard about how Monzo utilised their in-house team and very active community to build their brand person-by-person.
Monzo's vision is to become the 'world's bank' and to serve one billion customers through their mission of financial inclusion. They felt that there was a human element missing from the banking experience, and decided that this needed to be changed. They worked with The Money & Mental Health Institute to find out how they could both better understand and help people to manage their money and deal with financial hardship. Monzo advocate responsible lending and debt management. The Monzo card also offers zero fees, and free and instant transfers between users, making it easy to use on the go and when traveling abroad.
Building a bank from the ground up has not been easy or without hiccups. Naji was very keen to emphasise that Monzo feel that every negative experience is an opportunity to do better next time. On occasion, there have been some teething problems with their systems but the communication lines always stay open and Monzo keep their customers updated in real time. Monzo realised early on that people are entrusting a very important aspect of themselves (their money) into the company and that they needed to be very transparent in how they deal with their customers.
Last year Monzo had a serious issue with their brand name. This led to a rebrand during the very crucial scaling-up stage of their enterprise. They discovered through this process that their brand could withstand the loss of their current name as long as they stood by their values of community, transparency and diversity. In the past, they had relied on their community for feedback on their products and services, and even to do user testing for them but this was a different brief.
It is interesting that Monzo's rebrand was built entirely in conjunction with their community. We have seen great examples of when communities have been asked to provide input during the rebranding process to good effect, but in this case it seems that it has been a 50/50 partnership, both in bringing the problem to the community and then working together as partners to resolve it. With only a team of about 12 staff, and no external agency brought onboard, Monzo were able to rebrand with a strong visual and design led approach. They even asked 1,000 community members to check to ensure that the new name did not have negative connotations in their native tongue or in other languages.
Originally, the company's name was 'Mondo', which means 'world' in Italian, but this was changed to 'Monzo' due to a legal challenge. We contacted Naji after the session to get more clarification on the process and the outcome.
Naji: ‘So with regards to the name change, it really was a blessing for us to be able to hand this problem to our community to help us solve. The root cause which prompted the name change was a legal challenge by an organisation with the same name. We weighed up the options and decided it wasn't really something we had the resources to contest.
Our final choice of name came down to a combination of things. Although we didn't have a brand guidelines book, we had to ask a few questions Does it fit certain design based considerations? We didn't want to change the 'M' logo for example, so we knew the name had still begin with M…
The secondary filter was the question of availability - the name needed to be free for trademark not only in the UK but in the majority of other countries around the world (the last thing we wanted was to run into the same trademark problem in years to come!)
The final shortlist of a few hundred names were shared across the company (then around 40 people) for feedback - do any of these names have a negative meaning or connotation in other cultures for example. The final decision came down to discussions involving the design and marketing teams along with the founders.
Not everyone liked the name and there was plenty of feedback from people who felt we'd made the wrong decision - in the spirit of transparency, we published two blog posts to help explain the process and exactly what was involved.’
The loss of Monzo's old name could have caused a branding disaster but instead it actually seemed to help the bank go from strength to strength and to build stronger ties with their community. They have now started to preview their first fee-free current account.
A special thank you to Naji for taking the time to answer our questions in detail. Please check out these blog posts from the Monzo blog here and here for further information on the naming process.
To find out more about Google Campus AMA London lunches, have a look here.
Being part of the creative industries can mean being involved in a lot of exciting and fast-paced projects and teamwork, but starting up at home alone like I did can be a solitary experience. So I had a thought, what if there was a community of creatives where we could share projects, exchange tips and just have an occasional pint? That is how Rye Here Rye Now was born.
Rye Here Rye Now is a meet up for London creatives organised with my friend Kat Garner. It will be hosted at John the Unicorn starting on 13 December from 7pm onwards. Full details here on the Eventbrite page.
Here are a couple of stop frame animations made in Indesign. Sometimes, you've got to improvise.
Working in a creative studio environment, we know firsthand how hard it can be hard to achieve a proper work/life balance. Nowadays, success can often be defined outside of working 24/7 or blitzing task after task on your to do list.
A new generation of workers are focusing on their physical and mental health as being key to their happiness and success. According to an article in Stylus 'Around two-thirds (65%) of Americans equate wealth with good physical health, rather than lots of money (35%).'
A better way
Dr Jatin Joshi, a successful London surgeon, discovered the challenges of managing a demanding career whilst battling Crohn’s disease. Recovering from surgery to have a section of his intestine removed, Dr Joshi needed to find a way to absorb the nutrients that his body badly needed. He refused to take vitamin pills because he knew from surgical experience that the binders from tablets could stay lodged in his colon and he understood how difficult it may be to absorb them. Urged on by his wife, dental surgeon Dr Sonia, Joshi, he used his medical expertise to create an oral spray supplement which would enable better absorption and would be easier to take even whilst on the go.
Small, incremental changes = big difference
Last year, Instavit were entering a new phase of growth. We were enlisted to review their current brand and to help them realign it. As Instavit were scaling up from initially only selling their product online, we needed to make sure that the brand that we built would be fit for purpose both for that moment and for any future growth when it became available in many retailers across the USA and Canada.
As previous applications had been carried out on an ad hoc basis, we worked closely with the client to develop a vibrant and colourful identity, bringing visual impact and consistency to the brand.
Today's consumers live a hectic, 24/7 lifestyle and are often tired, stressed, lack sleep or have poor general health. With this in mind, we worked together to create a 360 degree, holistic focus for the Instavit audience. Through blog posts, health tips, quick recipes, and additional content, we provided small, incremental changes with the potential to positively impact their lives. This amplified the no-junk solutions that the brand stands for.
The website was redesigned to be content-led and to educate consumers on the products as well as the key components of nutrition such as the A to Z of vitamins. The visual identity was rolled out across print items, banners, presentations, ads, retailer presentations and strategies as well as social media and PR. Instavit then decided to go full circle and change the logo to include dots instead of the medical 'plus' symbols. We helped to implement this across all communications. This led to a more vibrant and appealing brand which we summarised in a guidelines document to ensure clear guidance for all stakeholders.
Now, Instavit is ready for the future.
We had the privilege of working with Miho over the past 18months on Instavit. Miho has been a real asset to our team, bringing in her experience and expertise on design and branding to our company. We found Miho to be immensely creative, responsive and analytical. Miho brought with her a unique perspective of having lived in both the UK and USA and had a great understanding of the needs of early stage ventures and growing companies. Dr Sonia Joshi, Co-founder and Global Brand Director, Instavit Ltd
Three learning points
Listen intently to the client and work together to find a solution
Every project that we take on is a collaboration, so every effort is made to listen to the various stakeholders to make it work. Instavit is based in the US and UK so it could have been a challenge to connect across the various timezones. Ultimately everyone was on the same page, focused on trying to improve the Instavit brand, so we made sure to listen to all parties and worked together to reach the best solution.
Know when to save and splurge
Although there were often tight budget restrictions, we managed to create a cohesive identity across various touch points. Since the brand is key, especially as for a start-up that is scaling up, we kept the visuals fresh. We had to shoot the social media items in-house, but we made sure that the visuals retained the vibrance and excitement of the brand. For certain items such as brochures, PR kits and other printed materials, we took a more premium approach. Even if another option was cheaper, the sensual aspect of the paper needed to be considered. First impressions count.
Passion paves the way
Working with a start-up or scale-up company can be more time-intensive and you need to be adaptable to client needs and changes that can happen very quickly. This can be a challenge for creatives. However, we were excited about using our skills to help people live healthier lives. By building the brand, we were able to help Instavit amplify their vision.
This summer we have been busy viewing the final year work of some of the UK's finest BA graphic design students. We attended the Central Saint Martins BAGD show and the Kingston University BAGD show in Peckham, and we were invited to be on the judging panel for D&AD New Blood 'Ones to Watch' award.
First up, we had a great opportunity to check out some stellar work right on our doorstep, with the Kingston University BAGD degree show private view at Peckham's Bussey Building, just around the corner from our office. Our first impressions were that the exhibition itself was well designed, with everything displayed and organised beautifully in a very cool space. The work on exhibit explored themes such as the current political climate, identity, social and gender issues and sustainability. This was presented through beautifully produced typography, illustration, graphic design and even some product design. Nicely done. Here are some highlights from that show, which included giant tape roll installations that the public were able to interact with.
The Central Saint Martins BAGD show seemed different from the outset. There was a very long queue to enter the building as the private view was not only for the BA graphics programme but the entire Granary Square building. It made you feel as if you were going to some exclusive gig. Random passersby even came up to us to ask 'What are you queuing for?' Well, our wait was worth it in the end.
Initially, the general set up of the CSM BA graphics exhibition did not seem to differ much from last year's show. It was the same floor, and had a similar layout and minimal show graphics. However, this year contained even more work than previous years, and the work spanned the entire floor, showcasing a range of design subjects including typography, photography, illustration, graphic design, animation and even VR. Themes touched on current events, identity, sport, culture, volcanos, robots and much more. It was a truly varied platform of work, including holographic characters, 3D illustrations, and experimentation with various media. There was even a degree show robot observing the actions of participants as they observed the work. The wide range of styles, ideas and approaches was truly eye-opening and reflected the global student body.
Finally, we had a chance to take part on the judging panel for the D&AD New Blood 'Ones to Watch' awards a few weeks ago. Dozens of schools from across the UK carefully put together their stands, showcasing the excellent work of their students at this year's degree shows. Judges had a chance to look through the entries in a particular zone of 15 or so exhibits, and had to assess which three students were the ones to watch for in 2017. We worked with a team of two other judges, with a time limit of around 2 hours to assess all of the projects. It was quite challenging to judge everything quickly and clearly in the given time frame, as there was a lot of outstanding work, with some from vastly different parts of the UK.It was a great opportunity for an industry person in London to see work that might otherwise be difficult to come across. Overall, it was a great experience to be a judge and it is great to think that this award could help a student in a competitive graduate environment. There was a buzzing atmosphere at the private view evening, with students networking with potential industry people clearly, pleased with their final work and excited for the future.
Congratulations to the graduates this year and we look forward to seeing you out in the industry. A special thank you to the D&AD New Blood team for having us on the judging panel.
CSM BA (Hons) Graphic Design degree show page.
Kingston University BA (Hons) Graphic Design show page.
D&AD New Blood page.
A few weeks ago, our founder, Miho Aishima, was included in Impact Hub King's Cross's 'Impact Report 2015 – 2016: Locally rooted, Globally connected'.
Impact Hub King's Cross interviewed Miho about the branding clinics that we run in conjunction with the hub and asked for her thoughts on social enterprises. Last year, we ran 46 clinics for Impact Hub King's Cross and met all sorts of lovely social entrepreneurs: life coaches, innovative app developers, sustainable textile importers and sustainable fashion brands, to name a few.
Miho: 'I believe that social enterprises are the future. Up to 84% of consumers (10K globally) seek out socially responsible products whenever possible. With all of my years of experience, it made perfect sense for me to use my skills to enable those doing great work to amplify their potential by strengthening their brand.'
We've had some great feedback from the entrepreneurs who have taken part in our branding clinics. Some of them are included below. It has been a truly fulfilling experience being able to help social entrepreneurs.
One to one sessions are run like this: Miho works with the client to troubleshoot their branding issues and provides a mini diagnostic report, with tips and feedback on what they can do to resolve their issues. She also runs a mini brand MOT to assess where they are in terms of their basic brand blueprint.
We are looking forward to continuing this collaboration this year. Our next branding clinic will be Friday, 30 June, 2017 and it is open to all Impact Hub members.
Check out the full report here.
'Tis the season to be jolly and everyone certainly was last Wednesday when I gave a talk at the Letterform Live Beer Night by Monotype and Grafik. The event was sold out and Protein Studios was packed to the rafters with hundreds of graphic designers and beer enthusiasts. The line-up included Stephen O'Neill (Typechap), Jim Sutherland (Studio Sutherl&), Alec Doherty and David Law (SomeOne). All speakers gave ten minute talks and the evening ended with a lively panel discussion debating whether branding had died or not.
Here are some of the slides and results from the beer talk and experiment. If anyone would like to take but in the beer experiment over the holidays, there is also a link at the bottom of this page. Let me know how you get on.
For my talk, I chose the ITC Avant Garde Gothic Demi 'B' for beer, brewery etc. I felt that its graphic design and branding heritage from the late 60s resonated well with beer as a topic. Also, looking at the London craft beer logos, I discovered an interesting trend…
Out of the 83 London breweries that I could find, 64 or 77% of them use sans serif type in their logos. I am not sure why this is the case, but it may be that brands are looking for cleaner, fresher typography instead of the more traditional serif typefaces.
I thought that these lovely logos looked great; a rich visual diary of the London craft beer scene. I just felt that the sensory aspects of enjoying beer and the buzz of the alcohol.
I remember hearing about this typeface from 1989 which was a response to the perfection of type in industrial times. It was a revelation that it evolved through use and was programmed to be inconsistent and a bit distorted. I felt it encompassed the experience of having a few drinks, that it had its own story.
Many column inches seem to have been written about creatives excelling through a few drinks. And it's not just the tabloids reporting this either, it seems as if a few different studies have been done and have proven creativity is boosted by alcohol. There is even a drink called 'The Problem Solver' which is supposed to have the exact alcohol content and dosage to get your creative juices flowing. It sounds too good to be true, but then again worth exploring. I decided to combine these findings and created The Great Beer Experiment.
The idea was let's create a 'live letterform' by getting people to trace the letter 'B' before and during a few drinks to see what happens.
The Beer Shop was a perfect venue and helped find us some willing participants. I think having great beer helped!
The experiment in full flow. Some homework submitted from Hove and Brittany.
30 people took part although 2 entries had to be disqualified as they had clearly had had a few before starting.
84 drinks were consumed overall with the breakdown of totals shown above. There was even a mead drinker out there.
This experiment took place over seven locations. Five of the locations were in the UK and two in France.
These are all of the scans combined into four files before they were cleaned up.
These are the cleaned up Beer Goggles letterforms. As you can see, the tracings are generally pretty even, but as they get to the final letter it seems as if the participants cut loose a bit and start to doodle. This could be where the beer-fueled creatively (or boredom) is setting in.
Here are a few of the funny letters that made me chuckle. It's interesting what people see after a few beers.
This is the full live letterform 'Beer Googles' and the evolution through the different stages of beer drinking. You can see that as you go though the letters, it becomes a bit wobblier and more colourful.
A special thanks to Caroline Roberts at Grafik and Theo Inglis for his Monotype interview and The Beer shop for finding us some participants. Feeling festive and inspired? Please check out the link here to download and do your own beer experiments.
Please note: this activity is only for people who are 18 and over. All risks and responsibility in taking part in the experiment lies with the participant.