How to approach a new branding project the Wolff Olins way

Wolff Olins creative director Chris Moody goes behind the scenes on the global agency’s design process.

We talk a lot about how the world of branding has blurry edges nowadays. Everything we do now stretches into different areas. You'll find more and more that, even if you concentrate on pure graphic design, you're still going to have an influence on product design and service design.

In our process at Wolff Olins, we use something we call 'the butterfly'. This sets out two things that you really have to answer in your brief: what's special about you, and what does the world need?

There's a crossover point between those two things. You need to be clear about why you need to do whatever it is.

Creating a clear hierarchy

We look at different elements of what's creating our brand palette, which starts to give a hierarchy early on. When you're creating a new identity, everything is new to the audience and it can be hard for them to take on all the meanings of all these different things. So you need to create a clear hierarchy.

Here, if it's all about being global and universal, maybe we make iconography the hero and everything else is in a supporting role, so colour is used purely in an applicational sense. It's like a mixing desk: not everything is turned up to 11.

Words: Chris Moody
Image: Little Sun branding, by Wolff Olins

The full version of this article first appeared in Computer Arts issue 232, a design education special. To find out more about how the world's biggest design agencies tackle the dark art of brand strategy, don't miss Computer Arts issue 234: Branding Secrets.