Just a little forenote for you: The "we" in this article, and in fact in most posts concerning A Sunburnt Country, refers to myself and my wonderful husband. Tim is the master behind ALL the visuals - he is a talented filmmaker, graphic designer and photographer, so I am just about the luckiest brand-builder there is! His dedication to the project is amazing and it certainly wouldn't be manageable without him.
Throughout the early process of organising and developing A Sunburnt Country, one element which I completely underestimated was that of brand identity. What began with the design of a promotional video soon grew into designing social media pages, flyers, banners and a website, among others. Before all else, we had to design our unique logo, which took a lot of time and consideration. There is so much to think about when designing a promotional campaign or building a brand - everything must have a sense of continuity and connectedness. Brand identity is much more than just a logo or title or colour palette. It's your essential differentiation from competitors, and it's the ultimate decider for your audience - they will engage if your company speaks to them, not only if it looks good. Identity plays a role not only in our branding but in the underlying concept of A Sunburnt Country - where you come from and how you connect with that as an artist and as a human. I would like to share some of the design process in our branding; you might find it interesting, or even useful. Don't hesitate to leave a comment (or tips!)
The logo, the first element we tackled, was particularly tough to design and to finalise because of its importance. After deciding on an appropriate image, we went through many versions, and we (well, I) found it very difficult to say, "yes, I'm happy with this, it's set." There were many "umms" and "ahhs." Logo design is practically infinite and of course we wanted it to be just perfect (as the creator, this is especially critical - you do feel a lot of responsibility not to get it wrong and a lot of hesitation to greenlight). A logo is an incredibly important element of a business: it represents the WHOLE concept (think of the brands which don't even need their title to be recognised: Apple, for example).
Using an image of the sun, the earth, or an element of native flora or fauna was immediately important to me, as the Australian natural world is unique, recognisable, culturally sacred, and close to my own heart. I also wanted to incorporate an element of indigenous culture, as they were the first people of Australia and their contribution to Australia's culture today deserves the highest respect. The Aboriginal attitude towards the environment is so incredibly significant and remarkably beautiful, and their artistic traditions define a large part of modern Australian culture.
The symbol used in the logo for A Sunburnt Country is a variation on the Aboriginal symbol for sun or star. When I stumbled upon this symbol I was immediately drawn to it - its simplicity, its shape, how recognisable it is, and its significance to the project (and not only in the title; Australia's relationship to the sun defines our way of life). The hand-drawn effect harks to the communication of the Indigenous and the way these symbols were notated. The colours used in the logo are always earthy and textural, but the symbol itself is the unfaltering element in the logo - the colours or background are interchangable, but the symbol always remains the same. A border around the symbol gives a succinct, clean, circular logo, appropriate for many mediums.
The font in our title was another important consideration - I did not want to use a pre-configured font, although we first played around with many. There was nothing special about using someone else's design! So, we decided it should be hand-drawn, giving a unique and personal affect to the brand. This, however, came with its own difficulties. The problem was again in perfection - we wrote and rewrote countless times, and there was always something not quite right. However, technology came to the rescue.
Basically, we wrote the title with a big fat marker (Tim wrote the final version, my handwriting was... subpar), and then took a photo on an iPhone. Tim transferred the image to the computer and used image tracing in Adobe Illustrator to convert it into a vector (a vector is a simple image created with a mathematical equation which can be scaled up or down infinitely without loss of quality - an amazing tool for graphics! I would highly recommend anyone looking to create a logo or something similar to look into this). Below is the handwritten version of the title. As you can see, in the final version we were able to change single letters in Illustrator, by writing lots of versions of one letter and choosing the favourite, then doing finer tweaks in the program. Now we have a complete logo which is not only unique, but personal and personable.
Our colour palette is based on my perception of Australia, and strongly linked with the landscape. Our brand is about Australian culture and art, so the first point of thought is the country itself. The landscape and wildlife of the continent is certainly widely appreciated, and one of the strongest defining features of the country. Australia has many different kinds of environments and vegetation, making the choice to link to the land very open-ended, but I settled with using colours that would depict the iconic Australian "outback" - the bush, the open, ever-stretching space, the rugged, arid landscape. Some of my favourite childhood memories are travelling through the outback with family and visiting Uluru, so this array of vibrant colours comes to mind when I think of my country. We have beaches, rainforests, mountains and all kinds of land, from semi-arid to tropical/subtropical, but the outback is quintessentially Aussie (Google "australian landscape" for images and you'll see what I mean). The most important colours are shades of green, orange and red, representing the wildlife and the burnt earth. There is a lot of opportunity with this palette - many different shades can be incorporated and they match well with browns and certain blues. As our front image is Uluru, we needed a palette to complement and harmonise with this scene. Not least important, a brand needs a colour palette which is inviting and attractive to the audience.
There have been many studies done on colour psychology, and it's all fascinating. However, although there are very general, broad statements thrown around ("green is calming", "red is exciting"), perception to colour is in fact very personal, and can completely change from person to person. So what's the best, attractive option? This study shows that the perceived appropriateness between a brand and its colouring has an impact on consumer reaction (as they point out, "an appropriately chosen color for a brand name (logo) can bring inherent and immediate value to a brand.") Our brains also prefer immediately recognisable brands, so using colours which fit tightly with the brand is highly beneficial. Rather than pinpointing a few attractive colours which might incite certain reactions in a person, we went for an overarching scheme which fits with the first point of reference (Australia - distinct landscape) and has relevance to the brand, making it recognisable. Whether or not people find the earthy tones grounding or calming, or the reds exciting and innovative, or the greens reliable and secure, does not matter, as there will be different reactions everywhere. What matters is that it fits the brand and tells the story of the company in the most vibrant and impactive fashion.
We're still working hard at our branding, and keeping things consistent is made more difficult with platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and other mediums where one can post images and videos galore. Careful thought must be put into every post, every picture, every word, to keep things relevant, interesting, and forward-looking. Our identity is more than the logo, the title, and the colours; this was only a small insight into our design process and how we are working to have people connect to and understand our brand.
My top suggestion: Become well-versed in Adobe software - Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign etc. This is a no-brainer for designers, but I have to admit I'm limited to a little bit of Photoshop use, and without Tim, creating a brand would have been a long, arduous and expensive process. Tim uses Illustrator the most for this purpose, although all of the programs have their perks. Also, do your research on brand psychology and stay connected to your concept.
It's early days for us, I'll share any updates as they come. If you liked this content or found it useful, including the linked articles, please share this post! I will continue to blog with project updates and how we are overcoming our biggest challenges in this journey. Next week, I'll reminisce on our recent trip back to Australia and our productive meeting with William Barton.