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Last week, we were inspired to hear Ben Wright and Paul Stafford, founders of DesignStudio, speak at AGDA’s event on 7th February.

Since 2009, DesignStudio has designed some of the world’s most talked-about identities for brands like Airbnb, Deliveroo and Premiere League.

The designs they presented, of course, were beautiful, but for us what was most illuminating was hearing about the studio’s unique creative approach. From the outset, DesignStudio has aspired to be a studio that breaks the rules and does things differently, and its founders set out to prove that boutique studios can work on global branding projects, too.

It’s always inspiring learning about how other companies operate, and Ben and Paul are both very dynamic, engaging people. Here are a few things we learned from their presentation.

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Logos should be a full stop at the end of a beautiful story

DesignStudio’s founders believe that “Brands are never just a logo, they are much more meaningful.”

Instead of creating complex design manuals that no one understands or uses, designers need to think of brands as stories or experiences. It’s akin to our philosophy as experiential designers – we believe brands are so much more than logos on walls; they are something to be lived, breathed and experienced.

In the case of Airbnb, DesignStudio visited Airbnb listings around the world in 13 countries, met with hosts and spoke to guests. This is how they came up with the brand’s ‘Belong Anywhere’ ethos, which now informs everything from the company’s TV ads to its culture. The logo is simply a full stop – just one piece in a vast toolkit of parts.

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Brands must be confident when they launch or relaunch

When airbnb unveiled its rebrand a few years ago, the identity was likened to boobs, bums and other body parts. Yet because DesignStudio’s designs were so well thought-out and comprehensive, the new identity was confident enough to withstand any criticism.

Instead of defending their designs, they had fun with it, encouraging people to see lots of different shapes and objects within the logo.

 

There’s no room for egos

We love the fact that everyone working on a project at DesignStudio, no matter how junior, gets to meet the clients – something that simply doesn’t happen at big brand agencies.

Ben and Paul often talk about being a studio that takes the “bullshit” out of branding. They don’t create expensive brand strategies and identity systems that no one has any idea how to use, they create experiential brands, and they do this by immersing themselves in their clients’ businesses.

When working on the branding for Deliveroo, the studio worked as delivery drivers to understand how they interact with customers – a process that subsequently informed their designs, including their uniforms.

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Designers are choreographers

We also loved how Ben and Paul spoke about designers as choreographers: “We have to choreograph every interaction that people have with the brand, we have to think about everything, because brands live in the real world,” they said.

All in all, we thought that it brilliant that DesignStudio remains a relatively small studio that works on huge rebranding projects, and we learned lots from their approach. Thanks to AGDA for hosting their talk, too!

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