Spring into Brandland 2024

BY Charlotte Johnston | Journal | 09/07/2024

This year our very own middleweight designer Charl attended the Brandland 2024, a major event that happens every year in Norwich. The theme was all about creating and consuming differently – here’s everything she had to say about it!

Creating Differently

This was the session I was most interested in, and there were a few topics which resonated with me and my daily practice as a designer.

Jim Sutherland, of Studio Sutherl&, talked about the process of creating the brand pattern and bespoke typeface for Bikedot –  getting down and dirty with custom rollers to create a typographic pattern which is akin to tyre tracks. In my experience, using analogue methods and techniques brings a human element to the clean and crispy ‘blanded’ space I believe we have evolved into, and is an excellent way to stand out.

With my background in illustration, this hit home to me how digitally driven my practice now is. And although I like to add a digitally emulated human edge to my work where appropriate, maybe it’s time to carve up some potatoes and raid my niece’s ‘making box’ and get messy again. AI and technology can never replace the human touch. 

I have always said there is beauty in every flaw.

Another topic touched on was the deafening silence received when presenting concepts to clients. Of course this is the fear before every presentation of mine – will it flop? What if they hate it? Have I totally misinterpreted our conversations? It’s also good to remember that these emotions and thoughts can also be true for the clients too. It’s not just us going into a presentation with concern and anxiety. 

As a way of avoiding these uncomfortable moments, we have crafted an airtight process over the past few years to save the heartache and ensure we and the clients are on the same page every step of the way. Collecting in depth insight through workshops, conversation and stylescaping is key to creating a beautifully unique brand which works effectively.

Although some say this takes away the ‘ta-dah’ moment, but I don’t believe that’s necessarily true … that moment can still happen when you push the concept past the clients expectations and present with honest passion. 

Lastly, a comment which I half agreed with and also half didn’t agree with. It was around choosing to work with clients who want to do exciting work, which will then attract more clients who want to do exciting work.

I agree with the idea of choosing to work with clients who you would like to work with, and attract in the future. But I don’t agree with only choosing ones who want to do exciting work. For me, the magic in what we do is in projects where the subject, in its basic form, isn’t typically perceived as exciting. Instead, it’s what we as creatives do with it, what we do differently to bring a brand, idea or concept to life. That’s where the special moments happen.

Consuming Differently

Going into (Head of Media, Heineken) Joanna’s keynote presentation, I didn’t fully know what to expect… beer really doesn’t agree with my taste buds … but boy did I come away from it with my little brain whirring! 

It’s incredible how they’ve responded to the stigma around 0% alcohol. By actively listening to the community, developing a draftable recipe, striking a deal with the two most famous pubs in the UK and introducing Nommeliers, Heineken is turning decades-old behaviours on their heads.

Having a ‘proper pulled pint’ is the beating heart of pub culture, so the reason for a lot of people not taking the plunge to 0% was that it wasn’t available on draft. So Heineken took this research and crafted a 0.0 recipe specifically made for draft. Directly responding to consumers with an accurate solution has opened the 0% market to a lot more people who otherwise wouldn’t have been open to it before. A classic case of giving the people what they want and it paying off.

Lastly, the idea (which was aptly conjured up over a pint) to have Heineken 0.0 taps in The Woolpack and the Rovers Return, the pubs in ITV’s biggest soaps. With the right questions asked to Ofcom, it was presented to ITV who accepted it. And without it being part of the deal, script writers including variations of the line “pint of zero please mate” into the storyline script!

Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that it can’t be done at all (or at the right time in the future). Heineken being bold and doing something different, has resulted in the first of its kind – a nationwide product placement deal being shown in millions of homes every night, promoting not only their 0.0 beer, but also the Heineken name.

In a nutshell …

… the overarching message is don’t be afraid to do or be different. 

I know we hear this a lot in both our personal and professional lives and it can be easier said than done. It’s sometimes stepping into the total unknown which can be scary.

However, I believe as long as you stay true to yourself and your ideas are informed by insight, you’ll be on to a winner!

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