“I started drawing out some lettering in my sketchbook, which just happens to have squared paper, and I thought, ‘hang on, that looks like an electrical circuit board’. I liked the idea of it becoming this sort of never-the-same-thing-twice repeat pattern. Once I started doing it I thought, ‘holy moly, this could take me quite a lot of time…’ But the thing is, when you set something up like that, you’ve got to see it through; you can’t take shortcuts. It was a bit of a job for obsessives, because as soon as you see one tiny hole in the pattern you’ve got to fill it – but I found it strangely therapeutic.” So says Will Nice, from Brenton Blue Studio, of his approach to designing the cover for our ‘electric’ issue.
This ‘purely visual’ approach was unusual for Will, who specialises in ‘strategy-led’ commercial design, with a focus on branding. “The strategy part is really the thinking part,” he explains, “making sure that when you get to the design stage, the brand has a really strong backbone. For me, doing the design is almost like the reward. As long as we’ve got the strategy right, as long as we’ve looked into all four corners of the problem and made sure that we’ve got a really good understanding of what we’re being asked to do and why we’re being asked to do it, then the creative part almost looks after itself.”
Brenton Blue was set up by Will and his wife Clare in 2013, and in the time since, they have worked on a diverse range of brand-identity projects. “The way we work is – like most design companies – we come to the table with a raft of ideas. But rather than going down a few different visual routes, we come back with a few separate whole spheres of thinking, so when we present that to the client, they can tell almost immediately which one feels the most right for them and their target audience. And hopefully, people would say that’s a bit more scientific than saying: ‘Here’s some beautiful work, choose your favourite one’. Hopefully it’s got a bit more structure.
“We did a project for a drinks brand called Bensons, who were commissioned by Nando’s to produce a cider. Nando’s have a young-ish demographic – you know, going for a ‘cheeky Nando’s’ is a pretty common thing amongst young, student-aged people – and they felt that they didn’t have a cider that appealed to that group. So we said, let’s look at that demographic: how are they going to interact with the brand? What’s going to flip their switches? It’s got to appeal to young people, it’s got to look really cool, but it’s also got to have a kind of a hook – and we came up with something that was quite fun, quite daft, but in the right spirit. It was crazily tight in terms of time, but when they brought it into a few branches of Nando’s, it sold three times what they were expecting. They’re now rolling out across the whole brand, which is the best kind of recognition!”