Kyoorius Designyatra 2010: Iconophilia, simplicity and constant reinterpretation are key principles for brand design

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 07, 2010
Bruce Duckworth of Turner Duckworth discussed key success principles and case studies in brand design

On Day 2 of Kyoorius Designyatra 2010, an interesting and gripping presentation was made by Bruce Duckworth, co-founder and partner, Turner Duckworth.

Duckworth discussed how he and his creative and business partner, David Turner, set up Turner Duckworth, the brand design agency based in London and San Francisco. They started the company in 1992. Duckworth is based in London and is jointly responsible for Turner Duckworth's creative output with Turner, who is based in San Francisco.

Duckworth started off his presentation by saying that the world around us has changed - one has to get down on the ground and talk to people, share their brand communication, make them experience it instead of churning out an overbearing message.

They believe in three principles - Iconophilia, that is, 'loving your logo', simplicity and constant reinterpretation. Duckworth said, "We love our icon, the 'visual exclamation', which consists of an eye in an exclamation. Do you love yours?" he gave examples of brands that love their logos - such as Nike and Chanel, which hasn't tampered with its logo design since the 1920s.

"Treat it (logo) with reverence. Have a deep respect for your logo," he said, going on to share a case study of the online brand,, which approached his company for a change in logo design. The logo consisted of the brand name, underlined by a sort of a 'frown' line.

"It wanted to communicate that now it sold not just books but everything else, too. How do you write everything with two letters? A-Z was the answer and coincidentally, has both letters in its brand name."

Turner Duckworth turned around that frown, making it a 'smiling arrow' pointing from the letters A to Z in the name, signifying everything from A-Z is available here. "It also gave the brand warmth - and who isn't going to like a smile," said Duckworth.

He added, "The thing with an online brand is that you never meet it personally and therefore, its characteristics have to come through the Internet."

The designer also shared some of the work the company is doing on the Levi's logo, turning the logo into an icon, where the words 'Levi's' won't be present in the logo at all. This is already being used in London.

"An iconic design doesn't need a logo. For example, the white cord earphones of the iPod act as an icon for the brand and stands out in its advertising as well. Such individual characteristics that are unique to the product make them iconic," he shared.

Similarly, the jewellery brand, Tiffany, is renowned and can be recognised with just a look at its light green box.

"Sometimes an icon can come from advertising, like the Michelin man - who first appeared in its ads at the turn of the century," he said.

Duckworth also shared another case study of a brand that has been worked upon by the agency. The airline brand, Virgin Atlantic, wanted to differentiate itself from British Airways, another airline that flew the exact same routes and had the same offerings as well.

The idea emerged to create a unique in-flight kit for passengers. "Now since the kit contains a refreshing towel, a toothbrush and toothpaste, we said we'll be cheeky and put in a tiny yellow rubber duck and complete the whole bathroom experience," said Duckworth.

This tiny rubber duck, named Louis after Duckworth's son, became a hit. People started keeping these with them. "It cost less than a cent to make and came to represent customer service and giving customers that 'little extra'," he said. In fact, later, Louis the duck became part of Virgin Atlantic's TV campaign - 'Who gives a duck?' Thus, even a little thing can become an icon for a brand.

Coming to simplicity, he pointed out that when Yahoo was launched, it was a cluttered site but offered everything. Google, in comparison, was clean when it was launched - and is still clean. It takes you wherever you want to go.

Duckworth also shared examples of keeping things simple, citing the example of the company's work for Waitrose, a chain of supermarkets in the UK. "People don't bother about designing tins well," said Duckworth. The company helped design tins and packaging for a variety of products ranging from jams and cat food to paints. The idea was to keep it clean and simple, and highlight the offering with beautiful visuals, colours and good photographs.

"The idea is to evoke smell, taste and texture from packaging - then there are more chances of a customer buying it," he said.

Coming to his third point of constant reinterpretation, he presented the case study on the work the company has done for cola giant, Coca-Cola. The brand and logo for the same over the years had become cluttered with the ribbon and bubbles. The agency suggested that it go back to the original classic logo - and that was what was done.

The brand then tried to become more relevant by finding commonality. The brand's bottles, logos and packaging were redesigned for the summer, displaying goggles, barbeques and surfboards (this also gave the brand a chance to do merchandising with things like beach towels and caps), while for the Winter Olympics that it sponsored, it had skiing images.

Stripping away the unnecessary and becoming more fresh and contemporary helped the brand achieve a rise in brand value by 3 per cent.

Another example of a brand that constantly reinterprets itself, he said, is Google. The logo is changed and morphed all the time for different milestones and major holidays. There have been more than 600 Google logos till date, with people actually collecting these.

Similarly, MTV did the same with its logo, where it allowed it to be an empty bucket and played with it as per seasons and festivals - thus making it very relevant.

Turner Duckworth also worked on the branding for heavy metal band Metallica's last album, released in 2008, titled Death Magnetic. They felt that the band's logo was losing edge and hence gave it an edgier, more pointed effect in the logo.

The agency also worked on designing the booklet, inlay and album art as well, turning the first and last letters of the album 'D' and 'C' into magnets - and much more. Interestingly, Turner Duckworth won a Grammy for the Best Recording Package for this album.

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