Contributed by designer and writer Clinton Duncan.
It’s not often this sort of brief walks in the door — startup company, design savvy audience, and the best bit: “we haven’t chosen a name yet” — but that’s exactly what happened. The client is an importer of Scandinavian furniture, a start-up with a point to prove, and a tight budget at that. The industry they were about to launch into was a challenging one: established, entrenched players with large footprints and long-term relationships with target markets. This challenge however would become the key to the creative solution (as is usually the case).
We began the creative process with some brainstorms around naming ideas, creating a long list, which became a short list, then became long again. In parallel to naming ideas we also took a long, hard look at the category, understanding who the competition was, the products they were looking to import and trying to find a way to position this new brand to ensure it had an ownable and compelling story to tell.
The name we decided upon was more than a bit tongue in cheek — as a high school student I worked on the school paper, and it’s name was also Fred. The apocryphal tale of it’s naming is that a group of students had come up with a number of naming ideas, and the teacher responded, “These are all so awful, it might as well be called Fred” — and the name stuck.
One of the things that stood out for me was how boring, sanitized, and emotionless all the names were in the category. The established players were DeDeCe (pronounced as the letters D,D,C), Stylecraft, Corporate Culture, and my favourite: Space. As in, something empty! An expanse of nothing? It seemed like a real opportunity existed to create a name, and a brand, with a real sense of humanity, humour and fun. Something that would feel like a breath of fresh air. Something to brighten an interior designer or architects day, with a bit of the old ‘smile in the mind’.
I’ve always been intrigued by the ‘evangelical’ type — people who love and believe in something so much they feel compelled to spread the word, at any and every opportunity. Most Apple tragics are of the evangelical type, and many other tech companies recruit bloggers, broadcasters and other gifted communicators to work as evangelists spreading the word of how fantastic their product, service, or technology is.
The creative idea for Fred became ‘be friendly, be resourceful, evangelize design’. This idea underpinned everything we designed. The character of Fred, the brand, and the (entirely fictional) man we started to create was extroverted and talkative — never missing an opportunity to tell you about his latest and greatest product.
Considering the design-aware nature of the audience, and the prevalence of the old school ‘rolodex database’ approach of many architects, the business card became an object in itself, beyond simply listing contact details. Four panels with big, bold typography set in Fred’s favorite font told the brand’s story in an engaging and memorable way. It was essential to explain the products Fred imported, and why he chose to — and lastly how to get in contact with him.
As the rollout progressed this idea of an invented identity, and the way furniture, and in particular designer furniture, was deployed to tell the story in a deeper and more engaging way as Fred’s relationship with his new contacts in the industry developed. We developed a web-based magazine (considerate of the environment) and used it to play with the idea of Fred as a person, with friends, who’s been on travels, and who you can get in touch with.
The end result was quite pleasing — we were all very chuffed with ourselves. The toughest part was convincing the client to name his new company after an invented person. But after some gentle persuasion (an essential skill in a designers repertoire) all concerns were addressed and a rather smart outcome was achieved. More importantly, the client himself became the biggest fan of the brand, to quote, “Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t comment positively on my branding, I know it’s opened doors for me and I appreciate the role it has had in launching my business successfully.”
Creative director: Clinton Duncan
Designers: Clinton Duncan, Emilie Mottet, Chris Maclean
Studio: War Design