Interview: how to enhance your business with a visual identity

A picture says more than a thousand words, the old saying goes. Experts in design and communications sometimes have trouble explaining the importance to company owners. It is quite hard to explain to the hardcore tradition aficionados how a brand and a company’s visual identity have to be contemporary and communicate with the customers and clients. On the other hand, some companies are aware of just how important this is when positioning on the market and have therefore demonstrated an enviably agile approach with rebranding.

How can a visual identity and branding help in accomplishing your business goals? We talked about that with Mila Marina Burger, the co-founder of Filburg, a Zagreb based studio for branding, design and communications. During almost two decades of working with brands, cultural projects, startups and local municipalities, the studio won awards such as Art Directors Club New York, UK Sign Design Society or Hiiibrand for the best brand design.

[Nikolina Oršulić] When opening a company, the owner has to do so much which causes a lot of stress, so can branding and design be done later? Does anyone even dare to leave it for a later date?

[Mila Marina Burger] — Visual identity is not a legally binding condition for opening up a company, but it is necessary for building its reputation, especially nowadays when photos and visuals in general are a dominant way of communicating. All of the companies which are founded in order to accomplish certain business goals need to set up a basic visual code for communication. That is especially related to the ones who work with end buyers and need strong marketing, meaning the ones in the B2C segment. That way they will start building a relationship right from the beginning. For the companies which plan to be sold, the recognizability of visual communication directly contributes to the price and sales multiplying.

How much harm does a bad visual identity do to a company?

— Whether we want it or not, our companies communicate and are recognizable. The only question is are we going to lead that communication according to our business goals or we will let it happen and come what may. If we know which profiles we need to target with our communication in order to sell a product or a service, and we use a tailor-made visual identity for that audience, that will certainly bring results. And the other way around, if a visual identity is not targeted well, it will draw us away from accomplishing our goals, the same as a wrong communication channel would do.

Which examples of visual identity and branding did your company create?

— We at Filburg had a chance to work for a whole variety of visual identities and branding projects, from shopping mall Point located in Zagreb’s neighbourhood Vrbani, The Garden Brewery, ShoeBeDo, the leading regional office for intellectual property Tana, the Primorsko-goranska county, or the city of Dubrovnik, just to name a few.

What is the main advice for optimal branding and a perfect visual identity?

— You need to define what you wish to accomplish, on which market and have as clear as possible perception about who your buyer or a client is, and that is a big part of the assignment. The other part is to identify the internal values and the culture you want to build. It is important for the visual identity to appropriately communicate with the targeted audiences, but it is equally as important for the owners and employees to identify with it. They are the first brand ambassadors.

How can we accomplish that?

— Like in any other job, it is important to know who will do it and what kind of an approach they will take, therefore, we should consider a professional. My recommendation is to ask for a few offers and check the references really well because looking at previous work you can best see if the approach and the level when it comes to shaping the message, is suitable for you. Once when you decide to work with a certain studio, put all your trust in them and, more importantly, as hard as it is because you are coming from a different profession, try to give meaningful feedback and opinions about the solutions. Without that, it is hard for the team working on your visual identity to know how to integrate the corrections. Lastly, you shouldn’t look at identity and branding as you look at building a house that will not be changed once built. Identities are, especially nowadays, dynamic and need to be of good quality, but they also need to be done. Meaning, there is no point in waiting when it comes to the decisions.

A few Croatian companies recently underwent a rebranding process. When do we need to think about these moves?

— There are multiple reasons for rebranding and they are mostly connected with a poor reputation and a negative heritage, turning to different target audiences in your business or maturing from an early to a growth phase. This all means that a moment for rebranding is the one in which we set up new business goals and there is an obvious space for growth, but it seems like we don’t have a good tool for that. We at Filburg have taken multiple companies through a process of rebranding. For example, the ones with established sales channels and income who, after 5 or 10 years in the business, needed to communicate better with their existing audiences, start communicating with new audiences and consolidate their visual communication. Doing so, their budgets wouldn’t be dispersed on messaging and solutions of varying qualities, rather focused so they all work for the same goal, visibility and strong recognizability of the company. We have, for example, redesigned the whole system with the goal of developing a digital business for Fine stvari, all amidst the pandemic. For Pile i vile we redefined the target audiences, and therefore the identity. For ZDL, an architecture studio from Rijeka, we created a visual identity complimentary with their values, and for the measuring laboratory Metroteka we transformed their existing communication approach.

What is trending right now?

— Trends often change so it is not crucial to follow them. But what is important is to work according to the times we live in. In that sense, it is extremely important to adapt visual identities to digital channels, animation, and social media. That is, in fact, something we can’t do without. Even the British Queen has Instagram.

Oftentimes people are not familiar with licencing and copyright. If you order a solution from a designer, who owns it?

— Generally speaking, when you order a visual identity, it needs to be delivered to you with unlimited time and geographical usage rights. However, according to the Copyright Law in Croatia and the EU, the authorship is inalienable so an author can always publicize and present the work, online and offline, without any restrictions. Everything else, such as the identity applications on envelopes, business cards, brochures, web pages and promotional material, is subject to an arrangement about the extent of usage, therefore the price too. If someone designed you a poster and you want to apply that visual onto a cup or a bag, you need to arrange a licence, otherwise, you’re breaking the law.

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