Dumbing Down of Brand Assets with Nick Lehrain

Join Our Newsletter

Privacy Policy 



Nick Lehrain, designer and creative director of Oliver Grace creative studio is focused on digital products.

Show Notes

In this episode, Nick shares his views on brand and growth strategies, distinctive brand assets, the trend towards simplification of the unique identifying characteristics used for consumers to notice, recognize and recall a  brand. 

  • What is Blanding
  • Creating a distinctive brand — differentiation and distinctiveness to stand out
  • His  approach to designing the visual identity for a brand 
  • Examples of timeless logos from Logo Modernism book 
  • The brand codes you need to use consistently so you are recognizable 
  • The single most important issue to focus on and not lose sight of to build the brand

LinkedIn: Nick Lehrain
Instagram: @nicklehrain & @olivergrace.studio
Website: www.olivergrace.com.au
Article by Nick: How to create a digital-first lean brand
Suggested book: Logo Modernism 

Valuable Resources:

Brand Tuned Scorecard
Brand Tuned Accelerator



Nick Lehrain: For example, if you're running a brand discovery workshop with a similar set of clients, I'll always ask the unique question or the uniqueness question I'll always say, you know, one aspect of positioning in some people's eyes is this question of, do you have something that is completely ownable by you.

Shireen Smith: Hello, and welcome to the Brand Tune podcast, which discusses all things brand related, including the essential trademark and IP dimension. I'm your host, Shireen Smith, IP lawyer, Brand Manager, and author of Brand Tuned: The new rules of branding, strategy, and intellectual property.

Shireen Smith: Before the episode begins, I just want to mention the Brand Tuned Accreditation course, which is in the pipeline, it will cover how to create a brand strategy, taking account of intellectual property as it arises during the process. Brand protection considerations impact the choice of names or other brand identifiers. So, to make better branding decisions, register your interest brandtuned.com the link is in the show notes. 

Shireen Smith: Nick Lehrain is a creative director and co-founder of Oliver Grace, a creative studio in Melbourne. Nick, welcome to the brand tune podcast.

Nick Lehrain: Hi, Shireen lovely to see you.

Shireen Smith: Great, well tell us a bit more about yourself your background how you come to be here.

Nick Lehrain: Absolutely. So, I'm Nick. I'm the as you say, the creative director of Oliver Grace, we're a small boutique studio based in Melbourne. But you can probably tell from the accent that that's not my, you know, origin. I'm from London originally, and but I've been in Australia now for about eight years. And I think I have trodden you know, the well-trodden path of starting out as a graphic designer and, you know, slowly sort of self-educating my way to the role of perhaps brand strategist or creative director and done a few things along the way. One, a few hacks. And, yeah, it's still going in terms of the journey.

Shireen Smith: So, when you design brands, for companies say it's a startup or something, what is your process?

Nick Lehrain: Well, I think, probably the first thing to say is that, you know, like, like everyone else, I've read lots of books on, you know, the best processes and the best steps to color cover. But the truth is, every client, every project has a, you know, a unique aspect to it. And I think that, you know, it's our job, really to listen hard to what an organization or an individual is trying to achieve. And look at the toolkit that we've gotten and see what's gonna work best for those guys. So, there's, there's obviously key areas that we're going to cover. But you know, typically, you know, our first job is to understand what they think branding means. I think that, you know, as designers and brand people get, you know, quite esoteric with this stuff. And when someone hires a branding agency, perhaps it's the first time they've ever done that. So, you know, the first role is really to dig into I guess, their objectives. And that obviously bleeds into the business strategy space in some conversations, and we might leverage a framework like objective and key results, or something like that, so that we can kind of benchmark where we're at and where we're hoping to get to in a year's time, then we'll look at their market. And if we don't know anything about their industry, again, it's our responsibility to as quickly as possible, try and educate ourselves and understand as much as we can around that, that competitive certain, you know, things that might stand out from the crowd. I guess one thing to say about our little agency is that we're typically not doing a branding piece in isolation, it's usually adjacent or slightly overlapping, you know, a website design or sort of a, you know, a big digital touch point. And we might be looking at as well. So, there's usually a few plates being spun at the same time and where I started to try and make sure that they're all, you know, heading in the right direction. You know, and on the same track. So yeah, I mean, apart from that, you know, all the usual stuff as we get into the back branding, process, positioning, you know, creating that strategy as quickly as possible. And asking the big questions, you know, what's the intentional brand image we're trying to create here? What's our high expectation customer? That's a term that we use quite a lot that I picked up from, you know, Jody Sue Perrin, who's you know, a real loud voice in this space, especially in internal Digital First branding. So, we'll try and isolate, you know, that primary persona that we've got to get it right for first, and then talk about, you know, what do we stand for, you know, haven't really got a point of difference here. And before, obviously, diving into brand identity, and you know, that's when, I guess, you know, the designers get the candy thereafter, and they get to do all the visual creative stuff. So, yeah, that's, I think, success in a nutshell.

Shireen Smith: So, if somebody's starting something, usually they feel there's something wrong, and that they can improve on, is that right?

Nick Lehrain: I think that, you know, well, there's, there's a couple of sorts of classic situations, either that, you know, it's a brand-new entity that doesn't have an identity, and they feel that, you know, it isn't appropriate time to bring this thing to life. And, you know, it requires, you know, a brand to do so. Or as you say, there's an issue, and I guess, you know, our job early in the journey is to try and identify what they think that issue is.

Shireen Smith: Well, what is a brand to you?

Nick Lehrain: What, what, what is brand to me? You know, that? That's an interesting question I wanted to be might ask this, so, you know, a brand for us, I guess, you know, the classic answer is, it's the sum, you know, of all the feelings and, you know, visions that spring to mind when one hears the name of a given entity or company. So, it's, it's an emotion, I suppose, more than anything. And yeah, absolutely. Every, every organization, if they're taking things seriously doesn't need to have a brand that they're managing and leveraging to achieve their goals.

Shireen Smith: So how do you then tackle differentiation and distinctiveness so that they can stand out? What do you focus on? In doing that.

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, sure. Well, I suppose the first thing to say is, you know, I'm certainly a believer that distinctive assets win out over this idea of differentiation. And I think that, you know, the ideas that have come out of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, and the research that those guys have conducted have shown very clearly that, you know, producing unique identifying characteristics, you know, make it far easier for consumers to notice, notice, and recognize and recall, and, of course, by the brand. So, you know, I think that that's front of mind, and I will be honest, I think, you know, for a long time, I was hung up on this idea of differentiation, like a lot of people. And I think that this idea of a unique selling point is something that, you know, it came across quite early in my career, and it was, you know, part of my playbook for a long time, you know, trying to understand what makes you different. But yeah, as I said, very much convert now. And I think that front of mind is creating a distinctive brand that can, you know, be remembered later, and recalled easily. That being said, I think, particularly with some of the newer technology companies that we're working with, where they in some cases are, if that's a big believed creating technology or offerings are really unique, you know, they are building stuff for the first time, I think it is valuable to try and articulate what it is that they're creating. And if they've got a particular type of customer that is also very tech savvy, and looking for certain, you know, aspects of the product, or what have you. It's worth talking about, and I would say that, you know, a new technology offering is probably quite different to a washing powder.

Shireen Smith: Yeah, cool.

Nick Lehrain: I think I think you have to, you know, go case by case on this stuff, and not be too binary on your view between the two.

Shireen Smith: Yeah. So, you would position almost any service or tech, presumably, so that it's got some unique attributes that people associate with it? Is that right?

Nick Lehrain: I think it's genuine. I think, you know, I think that if we were running, for example, we were running a brand discovery workshop with a set of clients, I'll always ask the unique question, or the uniqueness question, I'll always say, you know, one aspect of positioning in some people's eyes is this question of, Do you have something that is completely ownable by you, but as they you know, set about writing whatever they think their unique point is on a post it note, I'll prime them by saying, well, let's just let's just imagine that your competitors in the next boardroom doing exactly the same thing. And I want you to think about that and whatever you write on that post it notes, you know, you genuinely need to be able to claim is only yours and makes you unique. Yeah, often creates an interesting conversation.

Shireen Smith: Yeah, the way I view it is that if you put together two or three ways in which you are going to progress the business, you're unlikely to be exactly the same as a competitor. And everything you do is going to be guided by, for example, I want something that's simple to understand, not legally. So, you know, everything I do is trying to work out, is it actually understandable by people, it doesn't matter to me that other law firms are also trying to do the same, because this is one of my aspirations. And the other is to include knowledge of say, branding and marketing, not just law. So, if you choose two or three things that you are going to focus on, then that's your positioning, it doesn't need to be unique, so much as about what you are, I guess, yeah. associate with you, your brand. 

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, for sure, and I think that you know maybe something else were worth mentioning is that, in my opinion, release, you know, strong brands do emanate from within an organization outward. And I think that if you've got your salespeople, or indeed everyone in the business, banging the same drum very loudly and saying the same things over and over again, that, you know, they will, they will believe that, and, for example, you know, the technology scenario that I mentioned, if there is a succinct, clever way to articulate something that's quite technical, that all of the team can repeat. Every time they're in a sales situation, then that, you know, talks to a point of difference, but I suppose also becomes a distinctive asset, because it's a little soundbite or, or something that becomes memorable over time.

Shireen Smith: Yeah, especially if you can create a tagline that's sort of protectable. You know, like, whatever.

Nick Lehrain: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I used to work in a production digital product studio, and we had this line that was find the shortest route. And it was just so memorable. And, you know, the whole 100 strong organization would remember because we'd said every all hats, and then after a while, the clients started saying it as well. So that's when you know, you're onto something I would suggest.

Shireen Smith: Yeah, so how do you actually come to design the visual identity? What's your approach?

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, sure. So, without going into obviously, the technical detail of sitting down and designing a logo, I guess, there's some key principles that we try and abide by. So, the key thing is, it's got to be appropriate, I think. And I didn't actually go to art school or university for a huge amount of time. And I'm pretty much self-taught from, you know, landing my first gig at a design studio as a young person. And I think that that's given me a certain mindset, which is, you know, really, really focused on the client, what that what they're trying to achieve, rather than just trying to express your own style too much. And I, you know, I look at the organization, and I look at the environment in which they're operating, and I tried to come up with an appropriate solution. And, you know, that idea is stolen straight from Massimo Vignelli, you know, and what, what heroes, he talks about this all the time. And, you know, it is the idea that, if you do if you come to an appropriate solution, it will transcend any issue of styles, and you'll get a happy client pretty quickly. So that's kind of lined, it's good to ask the client, what they're expecting, it sounds simple, but quite often, they'll come in the room with, you know, half-baked idea, or some, you know, if they're the experts in their industry, you know, they should know more than anyone kind of what might be appropriate. So, as designers, I think it's really important to listen, listen hard. And then as you get into the creative process, obviously, the job is to bring to life, the positioning strategy, we're, we're emotional animals and the visual cues, I guess it's the most visceral things that we can, you know, react to. So, we'll be looking basically to create, I guess, a timeless identity, which sounds cheesy, but it's true. You know, I picked up a logo modernism book from Tasha the other day, it's like, the biggest book I've ever bought in my life. And it's got the simple icon logos that could have been designed yesterday, but some of them go back, you know, 60-70 years. And that's what I'm always looking for something that's completely timeless, really, really flexible. You know, I should imagine that when some of those logos were designed all those years ago, they never dreamed that it would end up on a, you know, a social media avatar or something like that. So why shouldn't we be thinking about how a logo might be applied to the metaverse or whatever, you know, application might come next. So, you know, timeless is probably front of mind.

Shireen Smith: Can you just give a couple of examples of those timeless logos that you came across? In that book.

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, absolutely, well, I think, you know, the beauty of that particular book is that it's, it's basically a singular format for many, many pages of just, tiny, tiny little icons do some of my favorite things like, you know, the old Kodak little icon, which is just existed forever. You know, it's just that little, small K, despite the misfortune of the actual company, the logo certainly stood the test of time. So that was, that was definitely one that stood out, but there was there's heaps of really obscure ones in there, there was, you know, ones that have long gone, and, you know, probably aren't companies anymore. But as I said, you know, the, I think there was like a Canadian brewery, which had this wonderful, you know, little very simple logo that sort of had the perfect use of negative space to make it pop off this top of the page. And it was, you know, tiny, little black and white, geometric shape. And yeah, as I said, it felt like as new as any other bit of design that I've seen recently, it was probably about 50 years old.

Shireen Smith: We must put the book in the show notes, just in case

Nick Lehrain: You're any designer that that knows exactly the one that I'm talking about. So that's great.

Shireen Smith: So, will you also be naming something do approach naming and or not?

Nick Lehrain: We do yeah. So certainly, we do more design work than naming. But there are instances where the client is either looking to rename an organization or, you know, creating something from scratch. So absolutely, something that we do yeah.

Shireen Smith: So, what's your approach to naming do? Does it depend on what the client wants? To what extent? Are they involved and so on?

Nick Lehrain: Yeah. So again, I think that we have a process that we lean on. But you've got to go into it, you know, really listening actively in trying to pick up on any ideas that the team might have. And to be honest, and we've been through this a few times, recently, we're kind of managing or, you know, pre-empting, a bit of heartbreak as well, because people are just not aware of the, you know, the dark art of naming an entity and how disappointing it can be if you've got your heart set on something, and you very quickly find out that it's been knocked out for, you know, all of the reasons that you're, you know, very knowledgeable about. But yeah, look, I guess in terms of a process, we set the expectations around roles. So, you know, let them know, really quickly, we are not trademark lawyers. But, you know, we're creative folks. And we can come up with some ideas. And we've got a way that we can, at least at a reasonably high level, tell you if it's, you know, the right type of thing to apply for trademark with. And we've got, I guess, good name anatomy that we rely on as well. And I picked this up off of Marty Neumeier. And I did his course a few, few months, a few months ago. And that's all around just, you know, names should be no longer than four syllables. And, you know, you want to make sure that it's actually enjoyable to say, and there's, you know, and can own it doesn't mean something weird in another language. So, all the usual stuff.

Shireen Smith: I'm doing this course in January actually, I was curious to find out.

Nick Lehrain: He said, he's a fascinating individual. And obviously, I've sort of read all his books, but sort of years and referred to stuff and, yeah, really wonderful. I think one of the one of the best things that he said, which really stuck with me as a creative professional was, you know, once you give something a name, and I think he was talking about his own frameworks, and, you know, descriptions, he said, once you give something a name, it becomes real. And if you read any of his books, you know that he comes up with these fabulous names for you know, these frameworks or diagrams that he's conceived. Yeah, that really stuck with me in probably on subject for what we're talking about.

Shireen Smith: So, four syllables, but no more

Nick Lehrain: Apparently so yeah. But I'm sure there's plenty that break the rules. But I think probably more than anything, it's nice to say rolls off the tongue.

Shireen Smith: Yeah, sounds nice. So, to what extent do you actually then discuss IP around names or the visual identity with your clients.

Nick Lehrain: Yeah. Listen, I'm gonna say not enough. And I think you probably know that. And yeah, I know, that your mission and I read your book last week, which is, you know, really good and sort of taught me a lot. It's been a bit of an awakening. I think that we all know that it's there. And I don't think that you know, we're abandoning it to intentionally, but our focus, at least as creative professionals is, you know, the creative idea, and I guess, trying to get that part of the job done. And I think you've heard a similar story from, you know, other people that you've spoken to. But, you know, typically, there is a bit of a lack of understanding around what even IP means.

Shireen Smith: Especially among clients. 

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, and you know, I really liked the way that you, you described it, as, you know, the expression of the idea, you know, that's what you can really protect. So, you know, that's, that's certainly something that we try to communicate to clients. I mean, there's other stuff that we do, you know, you try to be completely frank, you probably build the most awareness by telling a few horror stories, trying to, you know, build a bit of urgency around, you know, their thinking on trademarking as early as possible. Yeah. But there's some, you know, there's some other times where, actually, it's quite understandable why they're not thinking about it. And, you know, a big part of what we do is helping clients, in some cases, prototype and test, a business idea that's completely new. And part of that prototype we've got to put together typically has a bit of a lean brand, as we call it, apply to it. And it's remarkable how, you know, if that whole process goes successfully, how it can kind of snowball, and before you know, everyone's become quite attached to this name. That was, you know, a bit throwaway to begin with, but has actually stuck. Suddenly, you've spent a lot of money on bringing this idea to life. And, you know, you might have to sort of review it. And yeah, so things can slip for an activity when you're running really quickly, that sort of design thinking design sprint format.

Shireen Smith: Yeah. Well, you see, I think you need to choose very carefully when you're testing the market. So, if you choose something that's descriptive, but can't be trademarked, then at least you can still use that as a tagline and find a name or something if it really takes off. But if there is a possibility that it could take off, applying for a trademark is not a big deal. Actually, people can do it themselves. But you know, they just need to cover the one class and make sure they can use that name. Because the problems that it causes if you have to rebrand after something's taken off is huge really.

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, I think the irony is that, you know, probably people think our lawyers are expensive, we don't need to get them involved just yet. But actually, if you leave it too long, you're probably going to be more expensive, because you're gonna have to ditch a whole load of design work.

Shireen Smith: So, this digital first approach, can you tell me a bit more about it? What does it actually mean? And how does that impact brand designs in particular?

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, absolutely, well, I'll give it a go. So, I think, well, I think, firstly, I understand why the word digital is used, because it, you know, obviously distinguishes the screen from any printed collateral thing, but it's really high time that we move forward from this idea of digital first, anything, digital is the world that we're living in right now. And I think, you know, we should just be in that mindset, I think, you know, 10 years ago, people were talking about digital transformations that should be done by now. And, really, it's just, it's the same old mission of branding, which is, you know, insight, creativity, positioning, all that good stuff, just apply to where your audience are, which, of course, more often than not, is in front of a screen. In fact, I think people spend about eight hours a day on average in front of screens these days. So, it makes sense to focus there. You know, and as I said earlier, often were doing a branding exercise alongside and your website or indeed, you know, dreaming up a new digital product. And what you have to understand is that, you know, the user experience is now an extension of a brand personality. So, you kind of need to think about everything at the same time. And of course, these last couple of crazy years that we've been through had forced a lot of people, but I guess when the last bunch to really go digital to go digital, and so the audience is are in front of screens and you just have to address I guess you know that that forum first.

Shireen Smith: Right, so this idea of Blanding, what is Blanding? Can you tell? 

Nick Lehrain: Well, it's yeah, I mean, I love that Ascot, I don't ever talk about the same one. But I remember it came up on Bloomberg or something and it was, you know, it was actually when I was doing the new mic or, so it was real hot topic at the time. And we had, you know, a zoom Call of 2020 brand professionals talking about it, because it was quite divisive. But yeah, the idea is that there is clearly a ubiquity amongst new brands entering the market, especially, especially in the sort of digital startup space, and they tend to use similar color palettes, similar language, and in some cases, similar, you know, very simple logos and, you know, brand symbols. And so, I think that's what that's the Blanding that you're talking about? 

Shireen Smith: Do they actually use symbols? Because I don't see a lot of symbols being used, it tends to be just the word mark, very simple word mark. 

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, well, I think that I've probably seen a few symbols being used, I think, you know, the word icon is probably what I would use, particularly when you will often if we're producing a visual identity for a company, we might, we might come up with a word mark that can be used in most instances. But if you're going to go down to a 40 by 40pixel avatar on the top of your LinkedIn profile page, it can sometimes be sensible to collapse that into a little icon that even you know, is a monogram, or something that represents the brand.

Shireen Smith: Yeah. Or initiatives or letter or something.

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. 

Shireen Smith: Sometimes is called a monogram. So, is that the same as icon and symbol? What is?

Nick Lehrain: Well, I think, you know, those questions depend on which designer you talk to, but I think, yeah, the official line is a monogram is classically, a small symbol made up of a couple of letters.

Shireen Smith: Like the Yves Saint Laurent, YSL for example.

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, well, exactly. And that's a really interesting example, isn't it? Because, you know, I grew up with that logo being you know, just about the trendiest shirt that you could buy when I was a kid. And that's now not being used so much as they've obviously gone down to that sort of blocky, sans serif Helvetica sample. So, I thought that was a shame, because I thought that was such an iconic symbol, and I don't think they're using it so much anymore.

Shireen Smith: I think that's all part of the trend towards simply simple. Where, essentially, a lot of marks are looking the same. 

Nick Lehrain: I think that there's a, there's a functional aspect to it, clearly, it's just easier to read a logo when it's a very small size on a mobile phone. So, it makes sense that Google and Airbnb and Spotify and Pinterest have all gone from you know, what we're quite unique fonts, once upon a time to just very simple sans serif marks.

Shireen Smith: Yeah. So, it helped me understand really what simple actually means I can understand the concept that for something to appear in a small form, on digital, if you've got an ornate kind of logo, then you would lose the detail and it wouldn't look like itself. And therefore, it's not appropriate to continue using such a sort of symbol or whatever you want to call it. So, I can understand that intellectually, but I can't actually understand what the choices are that is available to designers, given that so many of these logos look the same. I mean, is the choice really so limited? 

Nick Lehrain: No, I don't think so. I mean, you know, I really believe that from constraint comes creativity. And I think that certainly, there are some limitations in terms of the size. And as I say, there's a functional way, you've got to look at the design challenge of creating a logo that's probably going to be used most frequently in a small space. But you know, it's also a good challenge to have and there's, I think, this week, actually, I saw a really cool little sexual wellness company of all companies in Australia called Libido. LBDO, it's, you know, an acronym but it actually says Libido is really small. And that, you know, that's a really small, nicely condensed little logo, but they used a really elegant serif font. And it was a really great example of how you can still do something that looks quite Unique even at a small size. So, yeah, I think as I said, you know, the constraints are there, and it's up to the designers to do their best within those boundaries.

Shireen Smith: Okay, well, I'm going to just share my screen to ask you an example. So, this, this is the logo that I initially had The Azrights, in fact, the Zed was in turquoise as well. So that's the script, presumably, rather than Sara force offs, Sans Serif? Is that called a script?

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, I think that would be called a script. And it's got some really emphasized ascenders and descenders, as I think they call them, and someone's had some fun on the lowercase z as well there. So, it's pretty ornate as logos go.

Shireen Smith: yeah. Well, I really liked that when it was designed for me. And I just really gravitated towards it. And when I was having a brand refresh, I kind of expected to end up still with the same thing, but something looking maybe aesthetically more pleasing than that jumble that it had ended up being. But then I got this. 

Nick Lehrain: Right, you would you like? Would you like me to comment on it?

Shireen Smith: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it's a totally different. So, this tendency to completely scrap everything that's gone before is, I mean, I didn't know enough about branding or anything. So, I just assumed that the designer knew everything there was to know and this was the right.

Nick Lehrain: So that's a big mistake. Don't assume that we know anything.

Shireen Smith: So much more than I did, then, because I'd become interested in it. But then I was, and I think most clients are totally at the mercy of whoever is branding, because they don't know what you know, especially visual language, they assume you know, what, what's right.

Nick Lehrain: So yeah, well, I think, I think it's really easy when you look at someone else's work to become a sort of back backseat, Creative Director, and, you know, after the fact sort of comment unfairly, I think, look, I think designer has done a lot of understandable things. He's gone for a bolder, more condensed wordmark that probably would be more readable at smaller sizes, and still look fine, you know, analog size as well he's got an idea.

Shireen Smith: Do you think another one wouldn't be readable? This, if it was used? 

Nick Lehrain: Fine script fonts, I think that you'd find that as you shrink it down to a really small size, you would start to lose the readability, perhaps? Yeah.

Shireen Smith: Okay. Well, I'll stop the share. But because that's mainly what I wanted to understand exactly. What does simple mean, and most marks seem to be like my new one, you know.

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, I think that's definitely a trend as well, I mean, the sort of trendiest style at the moment, in graphic design scene appears to be a sort of Neo modernist, you know, desperately reductive, simple look and feel. Which is cool. I love it. It looks really great. But it doesn't mean that you got a lot of logos and brand identity starting to look a bit the same.

Shireen Smith: Yeah. And isn't that a problem? Do you think, if you're if the imperative of branding is to stand out and not look the same as everyone else, but on the other hand, you want to be fashionable and in, you know, living in the time you're in? I don't know, what's you?

Nick Lehrain: Well, I think that it's okay to leverage a trend. And I think that you, you cite, April Dunford book, actually, in your book, which is, you know, obviously awesome. It's a positioning. And I think have positioning frameworks really interesting when she, you know, finishes off with, is there a trend that we can leverage. And I think that's a really strategic way of, you know, as you draw to a close in your positioning strategy, just looking around and say, well, is there something we can, you know, leverage just the right amount of so that we win people's trust very quickly, but also remain distinct. And I think that's, that's the job of the designer or the brand strategist is to get that balance, right. So yeah, it's not an easy task. But if you get it right, it really works for you.

Shireen Smith: So, do two people as a deliverable apart from a logo, would you give people as a? Yeah,

Nick Lehrain: For brand identity, well typically, a set of brand guidelines or a brand book, I guess one sort of thing that we always try to dismantle is this notion that you need a, you know, a real tome of a document that, you know, everyone in your marketing team is going to be looking at. And that probably just comes from us, you know, in other aspects of the job running really quickly, and just trying to do the bare minimum so that we can validate an idea or what have you. So, our brand identities are as lean as they can be, so that people actually start using them. And they don't sort of gather digital dust on a server somewhere. No one's looking at them. Yeah.

Shireen Smith: So, I mean Jenni Romaniuk work building distinctive brand assets, and then people like Mark Ritson, have gone on to talk about codes, that, you know, usually you might have three elements of a brand, that you need to use consistently so that you are recognizable as yourself, but able to change it. So, I'm just wondering what apart from color, and the logo? 

Nick Lehrain: Yes, I think key messages, certainly.

Shireen Smith: So that's the, the non-visual, but in terms of visual would you give

Nick Lehrain: Okay, so in terms of the visual, you know, as you mentioned, logo and you know, logo will have usually have a few different ways of applying it. You know, as I said, it, it can fold down to an icon we might have, it might be flexible, or responsive logos, we sometimes call it, so they'll have a few things to play with that, you know, a set of colors across digital, physical, obviously, typography, probably a primary and secondary form sometimes. And then, you know, there might be depending on the ground of aspects of the visual identity that they might want to include. So perhaps it's a, you know, a set of illustrations, or perhaps it's a graphic device that we've come up with, it's to be used in a certain way across a brand and in different collateral. Yeah, they're all slightly unique. But I guess the overarching point is we just try and make it as ownable and usable as possible. I heard a great quote while ago, I can't remember who said it. But, you know, it was this idea of, you know, there's no point designing someone a Ferrari, if they've only ever driven a Mazda before, you know, so you want to put together a set of tools and guidelines that empowers your client, and allows them to consistently, you know, put that brand into the market.

Shireen Smith: Yeah, I think for ordinary people like myself, who aren't designers, that's the most challenging thing is you're on social media, you're doing lots of things, how to actually have a consistent look. Obviously, you'll add your logo, and maybe you will, maybe you won't be, but then how else are you going to look like yourself. And I personally think color is the wrong thing to rely on, it can be an additional thing, but because it's so difficult to own color, whereas something like a symbol can be owned. So, I'm surprised more people don't create symbols.

Nick Lehrain: Yeah, well, there's probably a few reasons for that. I think that

Shireen Smith: Why is that? 

Nick Lehrain: Well I think to be to be completely honest, at least for the vast majority of designers, you know, creating a word like is probably quicker and simpler, you know, as it initially at least involves using an existing font, which you may or may not manipulate, you know, make you need, sitting down and creating a mascot or, you know, an illustration or a symbol, perhaps is slightly more work and perhaps probably a controversial view, provide, you know, requires, as you know, slightly more skill, at least in the illustrated sense, because you've got to be able to come up with something that's executed really well. So that might be the reason that people shy away from it, potentially.

Shireen Smith: And what do you think of my, the one I've created for my, for my brand, I mean, I just had to do it myself, because the designer I engaged a different one couldn't come up with any ideas and I really wanted a visual hammer. So, I came up with that. Do you think that's not easy to use? Does it look old fashioned? What do you think?

Nick Lehrain: So just to clarify, so when you say you came up yourself, did you design it yourself? Or did you work with a designer? 

Shireen Smith: No, I had a very talented designer, but she wasn't kind of my branding brand identity designer that I didn't get. She was actually very, very low cost, but talented. And when that didn't work out with a designer, I asked her if she could come up with some sort of RAM for me to use. And she created that, and I liked. 

Nick Lehrain: I think she's known, I've read the story behind the Ram. It makes sense, and I don't think you've also got an Owl. In other aspects of your life, which I thought was interesting. Yeah, the Owl in Jenni Romaniuk book, I thought that was.

Shireen Smith: They chose one too it was just coincidence that I turned it now.

Nick Lehrain: I thought it was very fitting. Honestly, execution wise this is great. You know, it's the first rule of I think good logo design, in most people's minds is it works in two colors, or black and white. And this clearly does, and I should imagine works at a small size and at the big size. So, you're, you're already winning.

Shireen Smith: Okay, that's funny, because she cost next to nothing. Whereas the design, I paid a lot of money to be able to come up with anything. It's obviously it's not, you didn't get what you pay for.

Nick Lehrain: I did I mean, there's that famous Photoshop quote, which perhaps you borrowed from Vanguard, actually, which is, you know, it might have taken me five minutes to do. But, you know, I've been in the business for 20 years to be able to do it in five minutes. So, I think it all depends who you're working with there.

Shireen Smith: Yeah. Well, this designer is quite young, and, you know, maybe has three years’ experience. 

Nick Lehrain: She's doing well, so far. I'd say.

Shireen Smith: Oh, great. Well, yeah, I'm really interested to discuss this. Just to finish, there's one question I have for you, which is, I guess around what a brand means, but what do you think is the single most important thing a business needs to focus on and not lose sight on in order to build the brand that they want to build? I didn't forewarn you

Nick Lehrain No, it's the single most important thing. Well, you know, the, the word consistency gets bandied around a lot. And I think there's obviously some things that you have to do so that you can be consistent, but providing you've equipped yourself with, you know, the right brand assets, distinctive brand assets. You know, I would, I would argue that in order to really build those memory structures, and to really sort of, you know, get that mental availability that we're all clamoring for. It's about saying the same thing and doing the same thing over and over again, in as many places as possible. I would argue that consistency, we would have to be up there, if not the most important.

Shireen Smith: Great, okay, thank you very much indeed. Nick. It's been great having you on the podcast.

Nick Lehrain No problem at all.

Shireen Smith: If you enjoyed this episode, please do tell a couple of people about it. And sign up to the branch who newsletter over a branch.com the link is in the show notes. Thank you, bye.