Andy Docherty discusses the process behind NDUK’s recent re-brand.

Adapt were approached by Manchester – based construction firm Network Developments in November 2013, with a view to re-branding the company. The original branding had been in place since the very early days of the company’s existence, and didn’t reflect the growing stature of the business within the Northwest construction industry.

Lots of talking, lots of listening.

So where do you begin? Well, design is essentially a problem-solving activity. So the first stage is to establish the problem. We held a series of initial meetings with the client to begin to understand not only how they felt the existing Brand was inappropriate, but also what they wanted a rebrand to achieve, and how they saw the business developing in the future. This is perhaps the most crucial stage of any design job. You cannot hope to fully answer a question unless you fully understand the parameters of the question in the first place. The ability to listen to your clients plays a vital role here too. As a creative you can usually begin to formulate some initial thoughts fairly quickly but a willingness to be responsive to your clients ideas and aspirations can really help to steer a project in the early stages. The brief was essentially to produce a brand identity, which reflected an assured and reliable presence within the sector, and which also reflected a more prominent stature as the company continues to grow. However the nuances and subtleties of where we felt the brand should be positioned really became apparent during the initial discussions and research phase.

Data Capture – old style.

As any designer will tell you, there is no substitute for a pen and a piece of paper at the concept stage. As an exploration tool there is nothing quite so fast in terms of capturing ideas in a flash – the good, the bad and the ugly! So that’s where we always begin. Concept sketches, and plenty of them. This is also a really great vehicle for dialogue with our clients. Ideas can be discussed without the ‘clutter’ that additional production processes may add. Production methods may add further issues in their own right, so it’s better to be able to discuss the merits of an idea in it’s purest form from an initial sketch. The concept sketch serves to keep the discussions…well…conceptual.

The initial concepts phase can often involve several rounds of sketches. However in this case, we highlighted a few preferred solutions, which we felt were communicating in the direction we wanted to go. Each option presented a viable route for further development, and whilst we had some favoured routes, we aimed to present a good range to the NDUK team. During the resulting meeting, the preferred solution presented itself. One sketch was an abbreviated adaptation of the initials ‘ND’, drawn in a three-dimensional style to reflect folded surfaces. This instantly resonated with the NDUK team as it reflected their core business of partitions and ceilings finishing. So, with a happy client, the development phase could commence.

Systematic growth.

Whilst the initial phases focussed upon the development of the marquee in sketch form, the developmental phase served to broaden the scope of the project to incorporate other elements of the system. A brand identity is indeed a system of separate elements, which need to work together. The main identity would need to be drafted in 3-D and lock-ups produced, along with several sub-identities for separate areas of the business, as a clearly identifiable set. Typographic styles would need to be developed to include web-based typesets, along with colour palettes for both print and screen use, and the first main application would be the development of a new, responsive website.

This really required a holistic approach, the development of several areas in tandem. Each separate area of development would inevitably present it’s own challenges, which could have an impact upon other areas, so by taking a broad approach at this stage, we felt that a more unified system would evolve.

Again, we involved the client as much as possible along every step of the journey in order to maintain a strong creative dialogue. This was a really productive part of the process as any difficulties could be ironed out fairly quickly, and new opportunities arose out of some of our discussions.

As the system developed, the build of the new website began to take priority. At Adapt, we recognise the importance of mobile technology, so we developed a new, block based design for the site, which utilises a responsive framework. As a result, NDUK now have a site, which has been optimised for use across a range of devices from PC to table to mobile.

The success of the rebrand was reflected in the response from Steve Froggat, Managing Director at NDUK:

“I would like to thank Andy and the team at Adapt for our recent rebrand. They demonstrated a thoroughly professional and knowledgeable approach, and their understanding of our strategic requirements led to outcomes, which were beyond our expectations.”

Ultimately, we feel we have been able to develop a very successful new Brand Identity for NDUK, which reflects their stature in the market more effectively. But the key to this has been a strong, flexible process, a willingness to change direction when needed, lots of talking, lots of listening and lots of tea and biscuits!

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