Branding, Agency, Design, Communications, Brand

Research DRG corporate identity
The Birth of a Corporate Identity: Part 1/4 Brief and Research

We’ve just completed a corporate identity and branding project with market research agency, DRG and I thought it would make a great example to show what you can expect when you work with us.

The process can take weeks or even months, so I’ll serialise this development into four parts.

Part 1: The brief (and fact-finding)

John came to me earlier this year with the brief. His empire of seven research companies was turning 20 years old and they wanted to create a group ‘umbrella’ brand to mark the occasion.

Most of their customers may have only worked with one or two of their companies so this new identity would make everyone aware of the actual scope and scale of the whole group.

The identity needed to establish DRG as a global and cutting-edge brand, serious and corporate but also ‘sexy’ and modern.

With his marketing background, John had a very in-depth brief and a clearly-identified target market, but for any client who doesn’t, this is a crucial fact-finding step that we will go through with them first.

We have a two-page questionnaire that we ask new clients to fill in. This helps clarify everyone’s thoughts before we begin: e.g. Who is your ideal customer? What problem are you solving for them? What is their lifestyle? What is your message to them? What is your USP (why would they come to you)?, How do you want to be perceived by them…?

We also discuss at this stage any ideas or concepts the client may already have and any strong likes or dislikes (FYI, I hate Comic Sans).

Part 2: Research and referencing

Research is an important step for any corporate identity or design job, large or small; it really must not be overlooked.

We start with a competitor analysis. As DRG wanted to position themselves on a global playing-field, we looked at worldwide research agencies. It’s good to know what else is out there (and then do something else!)

Inspiration can come from anywhere – I take photos, trawl Google images, save inspirational images, postcards, leaflets, etc. all the time, but for each brief we also look at related (and maybe not-so-related) industries and keywords. So, for example, for DRG we also looked at technology-driven companies and global companies.

Pinterest is great to create a digital ‘moodboard’, we collate research with annotations, to then share privately with the stakeholders so they can discuss, add any comments and even their own ideas.

corporate identity research

DRG identity: analysis excerpt with annotations.

We like working collaboratively with our clients, and this part of the process allows them to voice their honest opinions “I hate that!” – without fear they are going to injure anyone’s feelings!

It also allows discussion of a vast number of ideas – more than anyone could generate in the space of a couple of days.

The research stage is vital for us in order to…

  • Learn the visual ‘language’ and ‘trends’ around an industry (typefaces, colours, motifs).
  • Ascertain quickly what visual language a client likes – and doesn’t like! A lot of clients don’t know what they like or don’t like until they see it. This stage acts as is a quick ‘Litmus test’ – they can look at maybe 100 ideas in an hour.
  • Help formulate an original look by avoiding the industry clichés you’ll certainly unearth.
  • Help protect against trademark infringement (if you know what your competitors look like and avoid cloning them.)
  • Be a source of some inspiration (ignoring the clichés and clones).

This fact-find stage is usually completed in under a week (although it took a bit longer with DRG as we had the input of seven stakeholders).

For this particular job, I also took time to look at the current DRG company logos and websites, because anything we produced had to ‘go’ with their existing brands as their ‘parent’ company…


As you can see above, the company logos are all brightly-coloured and employ either gradients (fmcg, field & fab, Panelbase and Explore) or flat colours (Dipsticks, Other Lines… and Public Knowledge). They were all very different in size, format and shape and even the websites did not all look like they were from the same family. We felt the prevalence of black looked perhaps too heavy and a little dated, although the client was keen on having his logos reversed out of a dark background.

So everything we did had to take these factors into consideration…

Next…ideas generation.

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