How do you design for designers?
This is the story of how a design studio, rebranded a design-focused PR agency and got it right.
Going on a rebrand journey can be anxiety inducing for anyone. None more so than for a PR agency working in design and branding, and the agency they chose as their rebrand partner. A year ago these partners started out on the journey to rebrand Red Setter.
The results have been more than positively embraced by clients and the team, who now have a brand to be proud of. But how did we get here? We went back to the beginning and spoke to Ryan Tym (right), founder and director of London-based branding studio Lantern, who worked with Red Setter co-founder and managing partner Claire Blyth (left), to bring our new brand alive.
On being a client…
There’s surely always a certain sense of trepidation involved in creating anything that’s going to be seen by best-in-class peers: imagine being a fashion designer tasked with creating an outfit for Vivienne Westwood, for instance; or being an artist hired by Lucien Freud to create his portrait.
While these are extreme examples, the same principles must apply when designers have to design for designers, which is exactly the challenge that Lantern faced when brought in to create new branding for Red Setter, a PR agency for the best brand and design agencies.
Add in the fact that Red Setter’s founders - not unused to hearing designers’ gripes around nightmare clients – were very aware that they might become a tricky client. This was definitely not a run-of-the-mill design project.
On the creative brief…
Claire Blyth: We told Ryan what we'd like and what we needed as an outcome, then Lantern helped us shape the brief.
Ryan Tym: Briefing-wise, a lot of the detail came out of some interviews that we did with your clients and the team at Red Setter as well. One of the key bits of feedback was that the website looked like an accountancy firm for the creative sector!
CB: Everything was just a bit beige before. We wanted to show how the design and branding world excites us and that we love being part of it.
On appealing to design agencies...
CB: I always consider design, rather than PR, to be my industry. The rebrand needed to appeal to the best design agencies in the world. That’s a really hard brief in itself – designing for designers!
But it also needed to be explicitly clear about what we do and who we are as a PR agency, because I don't think anyone else really offers what we do as such a niche specialist.
RT: As designers we’re the target audience, which in itself made me a bit nervous. Obviously with any project, regardless of the industry, we have to appeal to the right audience. We could see this project on the inside, because if we like the look of it and it feels right for us as a design agency, then that's a good start.
On creating a holistic brand…
RT: You don't necessarily see design channel by channel, so the early brand development stage is about creating a system that can work across everything and starting with messaging.
We created a library of messaging to use from day one to write manifestos to help capture the attitude, spirit and character of Red Setter as an agency.
We then translated that into the visual side of things, this particular identity system looks to capture the pace of the constantly moving world of media, design, and our ability for storytelling at the speed of culture.
Those were the key things that came out of the early workshop stages: capturing a sense of pace and urgency, then making a system or ‘visual timeline’ where you've got the headlines and imagery moving together so that it can work on everything from social posts or to website headers or presentation slides.
On avoiding clichés…
RT: I think the clichés would come if you were to look at the traditional PR side of things, where here it needs to be very specific to the design industry.
CB: It’s so different to any other PR agency brand that I’ve seen. It has enabled us to connect with design agencies better. I really feel that the tone of voice and the look—the whole brand—just feels like it’s our core, expressed visually and verbally. By connecting with design, and just getting to the heart of what we do, it naturally avoids PR clichés.
The language and the messaging is very Red Setter not only because it plays off the name, but it also evokes our values and personality. For us, it's always about the attitude of the brand. It feels very right for Red Setter.
The final result…
RT: Design agency websites traditionally showcase the work, so they’re often led by big pictures and case studies. We couldn’t do that with Red Setter, but we could focus on their principles and what they stand for with a visual style that’s really bold, striking and strongly design-led.
Maybe that's the thing about designing for designers: they’re very aware of what makes a strong brand, so it’s about ensuring you have that point of difference and that the visual and verbal side of the brand is communicating that as clearly as possible. I think it’s extremely clear now who Red Setter is, what it does and what it stands for. It’s got an exciting urgency to it that’s unimaginable from the original brand!
CB: It definitely has an attitude to it and communicates who we are and what we do really well for the agencies we work with!
It doesn’t feel like a design agency website, but like a business immersed in the brand and design sector. A business that understands the power of and value of design. We live and breathe this and I think our new brand reflects this.
The feedback has been amazing and importantly, beyond clients. Internally it’s been a real boost to our team. Everyone is deeply proud of the new Red Setter. A great rebrand has a major impact across many levels!