Design Doyenne: Branding in Motion
Having looked broadly at the range of work from Hornall Anderson Design Works in Seattle in my last letter, I want to focus this missive on the work the company is doing on the Web. What is fascinating here is the paradigm shift from the interviews I had with HADW just two years ago (published in print in U&lc). At that time, Jack Anderson, partner and co-founder with John Hornall, was not truly enamored with the Web -- not only where it was then but where it was headed. He felt that whatever the potential for Web sites, much of what he was seeing had more to do with "smoke and mirrors" than content and form.
Now, even amidst the rubble-strewn landscape of dot-bombs, HADW is deeply committed to providing its clients with Web and multimedia services. This is not just because multimedia mavens Chris Sallquist and John Anicker are now HADW partners in this brand-building empire, but because HADW has fine-tuned its strategy to "evolve the client's brand into motion," says Sallquist, who with Anicker is a director of HADW's Online Media department.
To get some insight into HADW's online positioning, look again at the HADW Web site. It is packed with content on what makes Hornall Anderson Design Works the branding force it is. The site is easy to navigate, easy to read with effective design devices. These include subtle moving type and images, a detailed interactive portfolio, and an emphasis on the HADW story including the firm's rationale in working with clients.
HADW's Web site offers up an abundance of information about the design fim. It's also a worthy example of HADW's design capabilities.
Much of what HADW does for clients on the Web follows the HADW expertise in branding. This design firm is known for establishing identities that move beyond products or services, and that infuse the cultural milieu with their presence. Peruse the lengthy HADW client list for the marks and established brands that resonate in our collective consciousness.
The Web challenge for HADW is tailoring a site that conveys each client's story as clearly and memorably as possible. This also means meshing the content of the Web with a total branding program, from the unique identity to what's on the retail shelf to the entire retail environment.
But there are some clients and some sites specifically tailored for a Web identity like Twelve Horses. However intriguing, the name of the firm does not immediately convey the business-to-business expertise it offers. HADW worked with the company to develop detailed graphics displays describing the company's specialized services, namely allowing businesses to integrate traditional print with digital services, and to create a myth-influenced mark. The "legend" explains the origin of the company's name and mission in motion graphics with a swelling soundtrack.
HADW worked with Twelve Horses to come up with designs that help reflect its business-to-business expertise.
According to HADW's Jack Anderson, the Web-site challenge for another client -- Mahlum Architects -- was to capture of synergy of two firms coming together: Mahkum Nordfors, known for public architecture and classically conservative architecture, and McKinley Gordon, which was considered more innovative. Anderson relates that the intention of the combined businesses was to convey the natural, humanistic, organic underpinnings of the Mahlum approach. So the site focuses on the romance of space and the artistry of building. Here impressionistic Flash films and tracking typography, accessible through an organic navigational structure, subtly convey the Mahlum message. One animation presents the text "What makes a building beautiful?" as the sound of seagulls gently squawking rises in the background.
The expressive, flowing site HADW designed for Mahlum Architects focuses on the humanistic, organic aspects of Mahlum's approach.
The venture capitalists behind Maveron (whose unconventional stance in approaching investments is highlighted with the reversed "e" in its logo) asked HADW to add "passion" to its Web site along with hard-hitting information. These clients wanted to push their commitment as well as their expertise in attracting entrepreneurs and new investors.
A teaser for a start-up company was the idea behind the Web site for another client -- Impli. The company was positioning itself for a launch and recruiting staff for its specialist software services
This relatively simple site for Impli hinted at better things to come for the client, which was then preparing to launch.
In the same mode, HADW introduced Gettuit as a Web presence, suggesting the full potential of a company still in the planning stages.
This HADW site for Gettuit, then a start-up company, also pointed promisingly toward the future.
Chris Sallquist makes the point that HADW extends the experience of the brand in on-line design, and then provides clients with the tools and guidelines they need for the upkeep of the site; seldom does the company have maintenance contracts with its clients. What HADW does provide, he emphasizes, is the expertise of the HADW multimedia teams, where, as he puts it, everyone from engineers, programmers, developers, and designers has creative input.
Jack Anderson still scrutinizes the role of the Web for what he calls the "Universal Studios" model of Web sites -- that is, the artificial semblance of something that isn't there, referring to the facades without actual buildings that are common on studio sets. He reiterates that the HADW team involvement with clients begins first and foremost with the premise that if the business model is good, the brand can be developed effectively, and the Web site can implement the brand and tell the client's unique story.
Unsurprisingly, Anderson quotes the futurist and international business strategist Rolf Jensen's recent book, "The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination will Transform your Business" (McGraw Hill). For Anderson, the transition from an information society to the next phase, a society where psychology and emotion play an important role, is key to branding. "We have to not only create a brand, but to effectively tell the story behind each brand, to convey emotion as well as meaning for each product or service." Some might say HADW has been doing this for almost two decades.
I'll be back home in Portland and checking in on your friends and mine at Plazm Media Collective next.
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