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.
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
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.
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.