Think more, design less
Helsinki-originated, internationally awarded Bond Creative Agency has been designing distinctive brands and customer experiences since 2009, by fusing branding, digital and spatial design. Their new studio in Tallinn is the creative force behind the bbrand new, bbold identity for Balticbest 2018.
There are many design agencies in Tallinn, so it is difficult for clients to choose the right one. How is Bond different from others? What type of clients would be the perfect match for you?
Nils: Someone said that out of all of the cities in Europe there is probably the highest amount of design agencies per capita in Tallinn. Indeed, there are a lot of design agencies in Tallinn, and a lot of good ones, but the main difference is that we are through and through international. We have studios in Helsinki, Dubai, London and now in Tallinn. We work as one agency, across all the studios. This is automatically something that sets us apart from the others. We don’t only have all this international experience, but also experts from different nationalities. So, we are for example a perfect match for clients with international ambitions.
But if you talk to any big advertising or media agency in Estonia they will tell you exactly the same, that they are part of the international network. Can you give us an example – if you are working on a project, how this international aspect comes to life?
Ivan: I think Balticbest’s identity is a good example, we went to Helsinki studio to work together with the guys over there, so this was definitely a joint project.
Alina: And every day, basically with every project we are in contact with the Helsinki studio.
Nils: And not only Helsinki. There are plenty of international projects, pitches and clients. Sometimes we are serving the same client in different studios in different cities, both separate and joint projects. I also have a lot of experience from big, international chain agencies, but actually what you get is an once a month a newsletter from New York or London and that’s about it.
In our case, the size of the operation is much smaller so you personally know people from London or Dubai. It makes a big difference when you have a personal contact.
Secondly, when it comes to advertising agencies, then yes, there are international chain agencies in Estonia, but when we talk about design agencies, this is not the case.
There are all kinds of freelance websites, where you can buy a logo from a designer in India with 5 or 10 dollars, but the same logo from a design agency can cost you 20 000 dollars. How to evaluate the price of design?
Ivan: I think it`s a clear difference. If you go to some crowdsourcing website, then you get a logo and nothing else. But if you go to an agency or design studio, you rarely just get a logo. You at least get a small identity or small branding scheme. The scale of things is completely different. The identity can also work in multiple ways, maybe you don’t even need an actual logo or need a dynamic one and so on. There is much more effort and thought put into it, when you deal with a design agency. All of this simply can’t cost 5 or 10 dollars, because hours and hours of work invested into it, and all the possible routes are looked through.
Nils: It’s important to say, that yes, we are designers, but it is not only about drawing logo, it is more about solving a business challenge or developing client`s business. Though of course we also do logos, if someone comes in and asks for a logo.
But usually our starting point is not so narrow-minded, unless the client demands it. We are approaching the challenge with a much broader view. Yet we are not creating strategies for the sake of having a strategy, we think that design and strategy go very much hand in hand. But we put a lot of thought into projects. In Helsinki studio we have a text written on the wall that says: think more, design less.
What would be a good pricing model for design work? Usually, consultancies sell hours.
Nils: We are not selling hours, we are selling processes with specific prices for specific phases of the process and clear deliverables to go with each phase of the project. But of course, we have to think how much time we can spend on each phase of a project. We always want to deliver top quality work, so we can’t make phases of the project too tight and think that we will finish it in half an hour.
Helsinki studio also has clients with whom we have profit share system in place, so that our money comes from the money the client actually makes with our work. Also when working with startups, we sometimes lease the design work.
This also makes things easier when you are not stuck with just one hourly rate model. We can find a perfect pricing model for each and every client.
Ivan: But there is still overwork happening now and then. If you are in a creative industry you have to deal with it and be ready for the unexpected. Sometimes we just need to stretch ourselves to come up with a perfect idea, and then you have to work more. But this is also part of professionalism: making things in certain hours and being efficient.
Alina: And since we are not a big factory but a boutique studio, we always spend as much time as needed with every project, in order to create something cool.
How to avoid plagiarism in design?
Ivan: It’s almost impossible to avoid certain similarities with something that already exists. Like John Lennon said: “It’s all in the air.” But it is not what you have, it is how you use it. If you take a look of all the logos of big companies like eBay or Google, they all are very similar, but the way they use their identity, the way they communicate their values, that makes them different from each other. Having a logo that resembles another logo is not really the problem, to be honest. When the actual creative ideas are the same, then it is getting complicated. Sometimes you just have to take a stand and say: “Yeah, obviously they look similar, so we have to come up with solutions.”
Nils: This also has to do with professionalism, once again. If we are not just drawing a logo, but also thinking, doing research and offering so much more, then it is much less likely that the outcome of the thinking process is exactly the same with someone else. If you just start drawing a logo, there’s much bigger probability to end up with something that is already out there. I also think that creative agencies can protect themselves against ending up with works similar to others by being aware of what is happening around them. Also, not trying to come up with work that someone else would come up with, rather having some kind of a design philosophy of their own. Like we do. We always try to go for something simple, but unexpected.
Google recently made a new logo – it still looks like the old one to most of the people, but it loads one millisecond faster, which is very important. How much do you care about those things?
Ivan: It’s something pretty important. When using a logo on a website you definitely want to use .svg logo over a .jpg logo, vector based and it should load as fast as possible. But all this is important to huge brands that have enormous traffic to their website.
Nils: It comes down to how you define good design. It is definitely something that works in its context. With Google, what is more important for them than their site loading as fast as possible? Then again, if we are talking about some lifestyle brand, then how quickly their logo loads is not necessarily the most important thing. Maybe for them, the most important thing is that it works on textiles or something. Each client has different challenges and criterias for good design. This takes us back to the question that can anyone design a logo. Yes, anyone can design a logo, but not everybody understands what is essential for the client, what is the business challenge or what might make their business better. Sometimes the client has a quite simple brief talking about one thing, but us asking the right questions leads to the project turning into something completely different during the process.
Alina: Like said, think more, design less.