Interview with Branding Guru David Brier

You can listen to the interview on iTunesSoundCloudStitcher or Google Play Music. You can also check out more great interviews like this one on the Logo Geek Podcast page.

The Logo Geek Podcast is sponsored by FreshBooks. Click here for more information.

What is branding and why does it matter? What steps do you need to take to build a brand identity? What makes a great logo? and how can you use social proof to attract clients? We answer these questions and more in this interview with branding guru David Brier.

David is an award-winning veteran in branding, rebrands, design and brand strategy, having received over 330 international industry recognitions for his work. He’s also the author of a newly released book, Brand Intervention.


Davids Beginnings as a Designer


As a native New Yorker, David studied at The School of Visual Arts in New York. After finishing his studies he went into the placement office, but as nothing inspired him. He decided to go freelance instead.

David believes what made him successful was his ‘comfortable numbness’ as he describes, and a combination of hunger and obliviousness. A blind ambition – He was reaching high without realising. He just tried. He was hungry.

He started off by publishing a magazine called Graphic Relief, which was not only beautifully designed but also witty, collaborative and received several awards. That helped him to get into certain circles, however, every client he ever landed he did so by approaching them himself. That included companies like Esteé Lauder, Revlon, New York Times Magazine and many others.

“These were the pre-internet times, so the only way to reach out was to make a phone call, and throughout the phone call make your pitch. You had to put as much enthusiasm into it as possible. Otherwise you would have to have an agent or rep-firm which I wasn’t interested in, because they take percentage of your landed jobs. I got an appointment because I believed I was good.”


How To Get Noticed by Clients Today?


Since his early years the situation has changed a lot. With the internet everybody can have everything online – portfolio, youtube channel etc. So your main challenge is to figure out how to get noticed.

David says to ask yourself how can you provide value that the others don’t? Start writing articles or making videos, but constantly ask yourself what can you provide that’s not being provided.

David started writing articles from the point of the viewer. What’s the value somebody reading this can take out of this article? What are the take aways? What are the insights? What can I do so it’s different?

You can check your favourite leaders and try to be like them, or you can admire them but realise you can also say great inspiring things of your own. How can you best use your own talents? For David it’s design, which is his way of providing more – not just content, but also visually stunning articles.


Leverage Social Proof to Get Noticed


David intentionally makes use of social proof to build his reputation. An example of this is features in famous publications, or reviews. If someone is talking about you, that’s social proof, that you can use to your advantage to attract clients.

There’s an astronomical volume of content published on the internet every day. Therefore, David says that you need to own your reputation to stand out.

To find opportunities, David says that you can read articles on the big publications, and sometimes know that you can deliver better content… If you know you can, it’s your responsibility to do so.

When approaching big publications (such as Entrepreneur Magazine or Inc) David recommends to mention that you’ve recently read one of their articles which was interesting, however, whilst reading you realised it didn’t answer certain questions.

That’s when you can offer your insights – tell them, you can provide their readers those answers, that you can add different values and insights. Then ask if that’s something they would be interested in.
It’s very important how you present it – you wanna be inclusive not exclusive. Exclusive would alienate you.


Why does Branding Matter?


We as customers have a lot of options to choose from. Branding distinguishes one product from another, making it easier for us to decide which to buy. David says that says that if there was no branding at all, we need to research every product ourselves to know which is the best. Branding does the job for you. It helps you to establish which is the right product for you.



Steps To Create a Brand Identity


David states that there are two phases you start with. A Messaging Audit, and a Visual Audit.


1) Brand Messaging Audit


Research the client’s brand, find their story, find what their message is to world, how are they unique, what are their distinguishing features and benefits. Then research the same for their competition.

David says that once you have researched both it should be pretty clear what’s unique for your brand. Once you have established that, start building on it.


2) Visual Audit


As with the Messaging Audit you need to research the competition, but this time visually. What are the common things used in your client’s field? What are some of the clichés that are being used? It could be certain colours, images, typography…

The logo must be a representation of the unique story of your client’s brand. It has to mirror its uniqueness.

Branding is The Art of the Differentiation.


Advice for Creating a Logo


David says that meeting expectations is a death sentence. When something is the way you expected it, it’s forgettable.

The great logos are those that no matter what language you speak, you know what it is. What gives you the uniqueness of the company, that’s what makes successful logo.

When designing a logo, Davis says to study the competition, otherwise you can’t give your client a unique voice. It’s not reactionary but strategic… Has everyone have blue logos? Go orange.

It has to be more modern, more minimalistic. It has to be fresh. Not dwell on your past achievements thinking you don’t need to evolve and be fresh. The logo must be dynamic, alive, welcoming future.


Handling Committees & Clients Disliking Your Work


David says to keep your clients informed throughout the message and visual audit. That way, when you come up with ideas based on your research, the clients are unlikely to dislike your work. Navigate them and educate throughout the whole process. Don’t take ‘I don’t like that’, there has to be actual logic.

Never work with a committee, that’s a death sentence. Only ever discuss the branding with the owners, who should be one or two people, then together should it be presented to the committee. The owners are the people who are actually interested in their values being presented right, whilst the committee is usually motivated by all kinds of different things so it should be avaoided.

When presenting the logo to the committee, only ever ask questions based on strategy such ‘Do you think we met our goal?’, ‘Is there anything we missed?’ – never ask “What do you think” – as David clearly says, doing so is dumb.


Davids Number 1 Logo Design Tip


David says to always ask yourself “if this was the last thing I ever designed, would it be okay?” Would it be a good enough legacy? That encourages you to always strive for greatness.


Davids Book – Brand Intervention


David’s new book has become a number one on Amazon hot new releases and is unlike any branding book you’ve read before.

David noticed that there are only two types of books: The coffee table books and the highly academic books. He wanted to change that.

The coffee table books have great visuals but not much content. The highly academic books are written by theorists without much practical everyday experience. These books usually use marketing and business jargon to sound important, which unfortunately is not practical at all.

In his new book, Brand Intervention, David gives you the straight stuff because he doesn’t want to waste your time. It’s written like a conversation and it’s also designed that way. David says this book will give you important knowledge worth of minimum 2 years of college education.


Sponsored by FreshBooks


Before ending this I’d like to thank FreshBooks for sponsoring this episode, and for making this series possible. It’s a beautifully designed accounting software that makes it easy to create and send invoices, to track time and to manage your incoming and outgoing money. I recommend trying it out for yourself by making use of the free 30 day trial offered to listeners of this podcast – just enter Logo Geek in the ‘how did you hear about us’ section.

You can listen to the interview on iTunesSoundCloudStitcher or Google Play Music. You can also check out more great interviews like this one on the Logo Geek Podcast page.