The client was a 40-year-old investment bank, specializing in regional business and industry. They hoped to rebrand themselves from a smaller member of the Lehman Bros. category into a nimbler, intensely regional and personal alternative to those larger houses. This identity was meant to be the vanguard of that effort. It was well-received (except, sadly, by the company's founder, who remarked that he
wouldn't give that business card to a dog), but its life was brief; Black & Company was acquired shortly after the new brand's adoption by a larger, San Francisco-based brokerage house.
Full disclosure: McIsaac did this when he was a partner at The Felt Hat; but coincidentally, when Black & Company was sold, the part that remained behind named itself Mazama Capital Group and was serviced for many years by Hillerns.
If you're an investor, you want your investment bank to be sharp and aggressive; you also want to be able to trust that your money is being responsibly handled. This system seeks to address both of those concerns. A dynamic rendering of a weathervane refers to the predictive nature of the analyst's work; oriented to the northwest, it implies the company's focus. Lettering is elegant yet austere, speaking the the dignified history of banking, and the company's role in it.
The third element of the brand language (after the weathervane and wordmark) is black ink, which appears throughout the range of applications as a wry capitalization on the company's name and on the positive symbolic associations the color enjoys in the fiduciary community. Here is the basic set of working papers: letterhead (two-sided; the security is built into every page); two-sided business card, and envelope.
9x12 presentation folder and envelope with mailing label. How much more black could it be? None. None more black.
We prepared a two-color pre-printed shell, with accompanying word-processing templates, for in-house production of custom research reports for clients.
This was in some ways the most interesting part of the project, and points to the most difficult part of brand development: designing a system so that the people who actually have to use it will do so.
This is much easier said than done. The toolset available to office workers (in this case, the familiar suite of office applications) is of course much less visually sophisticated than ours, and damnably inconsistent. These were Word templates that worked fine when they left our office, but required a great deal of hand-holding (and profanity) before they could be used by the client.
Accordingly, we tend to allocate a sizable chunk of the budget to allow for adoption support at the client.
A twelve-page capabilities brochure, More was to be the anchor for the company's new brand. An audit of the competition's materials persuaded us not to use pictures of well-fed men shaking hands, gold foil stamping, or marble backgrounds. Instead, we delivered an assertive, elegant brochure, built around Michael Jones' still-lives of common, natural materials – twigs, stones, leaves – meticulously arranged to illustrate the company's values in an unexpected and compelling way.