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Brand Bible by Debbie Millman

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BRAND BIBLE286
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
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I like problem solving. That is at the core of what
I do and what I’m interested in visually. Branding
and corporate identity projects consolidate all the
attributes you associate with a companys products
or services into a visual form. Distilling those traits
into a mark is a challenge, because the design can
only express so many things. My approach is to nd
the simplest means to express the big idea and depict
the company not necessarily as it is at that moment,
but in terms of what it aspires to be.
31
How to Brand
a corporation

Ste Geissbuhler
C&G Partners
Vocabularies of
design, symbolism, and
what makes a
memorable brand
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Can you give me an example? For instance,
how did you approach the redesign of NBC’s
corporate identity when you did that in the
early ’80s?
NBC originally used a peacock made out of colorful
paintbrushes as a device to indicate that a program
was going to be in “living color,” back in the era when
color TV was a new and exciting phenomenon. The
peacock image was not originally the network’s
corporate identity.
Before we were called in, NBC had gone through all
sorts of logos. The “snake” consisted of the networks
letters linked together in one connected line. Another
was the letter N rendered in a patriotic blue and red
that was very abstracted and looked “hard.” That
design didn’t seem the right tone for NBC, which is
far more entertaining than that mark would suggest.
The letter N didn’t mean anything, and there was no
reason to abbreviate a three-letter abbreviation like
CBS and ABC, even though people no longer know
what the letters stand for. We felt that the peacock,
which the network had used in the past, was actually
a very appropriate symbol. Its a proud bird showing
o its feathers, and its associated with color. People
could relate to that. We redesigned the peacock,
simplied it, and then assigned the colors based on
the color bars the technicians use to calibrate the
broadcast equipment.
The identity you created for Merck is both a
brand mark and a word mark. What are the
challenges in this type of project?
There are many. Merck is one of the oldest pharma-
ceutical and chemical companies in the world. We
created a symbol for the company that was made out
of simple, geometric forms that are obviously related
to tablets, pills, capsule shapes, petri dishes, and
other objects associated with medicine. In the white
space, you can even see a mortar and pestle shape, an
ancient symbol related to drugs and medicine. With
the symbol we created, the simplest geometric forms
communicate what is necessary. At the same time,
the aqua color associated with hospital scrubs made
sense. Previously, every division of Merck had its own
individual symbols and logos. We created a graphic
nomenclature system to allow Merck to be consist-
ently communicated as the overarching brand and
parent company while still allowing the companys
many divisions to be represented within that system.
Even in Europe, where the company name is MSD,
the symbol and type tie it back to the parent corpora-
tion’s brand. We wanted to consolidate it and make it
all one aesthetic.
What trends do you see in branding today?
There’s an unbelievably competitive situation at the
moment. Not just between design rms, but between
brands. Everybody wants to have a very memorable
brand that people recall instantly and associate
with the right attributes and storyline. And it gets
more and more dicult to nd that—especially for
companies that don’t have tangible products that you
Logo for NBC
How to Brand a Corporation
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