Though we may yet see the golden days of business again, I think I can safely say that time is, unfortunately, in the distant future. In this "multi-colored age of entrepreneurship," businesses must be more creative than ever when developing a brand strategy, and they shouldn't neglect their looks—a major part of that strategy is a visual identity.
Gestalten's recent publication Introducing: Visual Identities for Small Businesses profiles 151 business identities by 89 designers from all over the world, investigating start-ups and small business owners who know that "branding is personal identification as much as it is public presentation" and who have used a strong visual identity to drive their business. The kinds of businesses profiled range from bespoke perfumeries and bike shops to well known restaurants and bars.
Anna Day and Ellie Jauncy worked in the fields of fashion design and illustration before they founded a full-service flower shop. Jon Cantino and Matt Gorton quit their design studio to establish their own clothing line. Daniel Martnavarro teamed up with his sister, the designer Rocio Martinavarro, to develop a meaningful identity for his bakery shop. And the designers of the Studio Goodmorning Technology develop and sell bicycle parts under the label of a side project that they branded themselves.
The vis-id tome is split into four chapters according to aesthetic:
Sunny Side Up - a clean white slate with bright logos and lettering
Pretty Straight - black, white and gray color palettes with minimal text and linear forms
Everlasting - vintage-inspired
With a Twist - experimental, image-based, humorous or unusual materials
Amongst the best brand identities is the Amsterdam ice cream shop Frozen Dutch, designed by Ewoudt Boonstra. "Like the artistic movement De Stijl, Frozen Dutch stands for elementarism—in this context pure flavors and honest brand communications. The logo is the shape of an ice cream scoop, its colors are those of different flavors and the business card in an ice cream stick." The packaging speaks to the product itself. The only marking on the stark white ice cream container is a sticker with only the most straight forward product information printed with the color of the ice cream flavor, a clear indication to the consumer that Dutch Frozen adds no fillers or synthetic ingredients to their product and, likewise, to their product design.
The aforementioned Studio Goodmorning Technology's branding for Copenhagen Parts takes the cake in the Pretty Straight chapter. The stop sign red color and missing vowels in the brand name not only give you an idea of what the company is about, but it also performs a second task. In 2009 Copenhagen Parts wanted to expand their brand without weakening "their credibility as a supplier to the underground bicycle community. The result is a playful typographic interpretation of bike culture: Real bicycle connoisseurs are always on the lookout for special parts. Their bikes are subjects of an ongoing process of deconstruction and recombination and are never complete." It's win-win. Loyal bikers don't feel like their beloved local shop has sold out and Copenhagen Parts can bring in bigger clients - and how can you not love that Christmas card?
The identity for Robert Massengale's "polymath outdoorsman" brand remains modern even as it calls upon the old-timey use of rubber stamps. Designer Joshua Gajownik highlighted Massenagles plethora of abilities and his motto "Anything, anyway" with a set of a geometric permutations. "As adaptable as the entrepreneur himself, this system allows Massengale to make a business card out of anything that can be stamped...The choice of material and a blank space for specifications invited the outdoorsman to adapt his identity to every job and adventure." And since many of his jobs take him to remote areas, he can mark the contact details as "active" or "not available."
Pirol's volcanic eruption design for Stefan Reinhardt easily won me over in the Experimental chapter. Reinhardt practices something I've never heard of before: professional de-escalation. He offers "consulting, training courses and workshops in aggression management to facilitate the interaction with violent patients." Since his specialization is highly unusual, Pirol took a similarly unusual approach with "rather drastic symbolism. Photos of smoking volcanoes cover postcards, business cards and stationery, and function as oblique hints to one of the key aspects of Reinhardt's services: early recognition of the patients' potential for aggression."
Whether you're a designer yourself or an entrepreneur just starting out, Introducing: Visual Identities for Small Businesses provides a wide range of recent brand IDs to get you thinking. Available in the Gestalten online shop for $35.
When Perrin isn't scouting the best new design talent for Core77, or working as the Products Editor of The Architect's Newspaper, or writing for Cool Hunting, Design Applause, Print Magazine, Frieze and The Paris Review, she's trying to put her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College to good use.