Rebranding of a Branding Studio
Suiza de America is a branding and graphic design studio working collaboratively across disciplines and time zones. Originally based in Uruguay's capital city, Montevideo, they now work with associates and clients from all over the world based in the city of London, UK.
'Switzerland of America' was what Uruguay was called by the media in the early 20th century because of its prosperity and financial stability, which made it resemble the Helvetic country.
The studio wants to recover that sense of well-being and productivity in this era of global turmoil. Following that spirit, they renounce the corporate culture that has taken over the creative world to return to a more artistic and frugal approach.
Their main goal is to help businesses thrive in contemporary saturated markets and to create new and alternative value propositions for its both overstimulated and indifferent consumers.
The studio is born as a response towards the entrepreneurship boom that happened both in Uruguay and the rest of the world by 2013. She realized that these blooming new businesses could be an interesting niche to explore and to whom provide her services, since this new companies and start-ups were beginning to get financial support both from the public and private sector.
By that time, it didn’t exist in the market a communications and design firm that offered an affordable, high quality and with a high degree of personalization service that catered to these new businesses’ needs.
The business plan consisted initially in a standard studio approach. The differentiation was based in providing a thorough market and trend research investigation and either an internal audit of the company in the case of a products and services business, or a deep introspective analysis based on psychology and coaching techniques in the case of personal brands.
After 8 months and a drop in sales, we were able to get closer to a series of preliminary impressions of what was working and what had to be changed to remain a profitable business.
Impressions and Conclusions
- We had a virtual work team, online payment systems and streamlined communications via video conferencing or internet calling, which worked efficiently.
- We had very low operating costs and somewhat low fixed costs.
- We had competitive prices in developed markets.
- We offered very high quality design compared to most of the competition.
- The prices were too high for the local/regional market.
- It was not possible to work efficiently in more than three projects at the same time while maintaining a minimum expression of the business.
- Clients were slow to send materials and give feedback.
- The visual identity did not correspond to the breakthrough and avant-garde spirit that we tried to communicate.
In order to continue giving a thorough and personalized service we would require to have a suitably standardized and guided process so that the timings could be shortened even more and thus make the profits grow.
At the same time, for this business model to be sufficiently differentiated, applicable and profitable also in Uruguay and the region, as well as scalable to an unlimited number of clients, it was necessary to change our work methodology. We had to make it much more dynamic, results oriented and with certain "rules of the game" which both the client and ourselves must have to adapt in order to achieve the objectives, being "penalized" in some way otherwise.
We found the need to use some efficient and specific management software for the needs of this new concept of creative studio.
To define the new strategy, the following steps were taken:
- Usage of a management software: to provide order to human and material resources and improve delivery times.
- Definition of a new work methodology: to make it more efficient.
- Definition of penalties in contract: to know what to do in case the client does not comply or vice versa.
- Creation of a new package: to have more competitive prices for the Uruguayan and regional market.
- Definition of key positioning messages: to reach an appropriate tagline to the new studio concept.
- Redesign of the visual identity: to better communicate the design style and philosophy.
- Asana software would be used to manage projects and resources.
- The new work methodology would be based on working via bookings, and one project at a time exclusively. The process would begin with a pre-project stage in which the necessary and obligatory bases would be set in order to be able to develop it. It would have a maximum duration of one month, prior to the date reserved for the beginning of the project itself.
- The pre-project stage would include tasks such as a briefing meeting as well as a series of exercises that would help them understand what needs to be developed and set expectations.
- Payment mechanisms, a series of economic penalties and discount incentives would be implemented in order to prevent the project from being delayed and consequently lose profitability.
- A smaller branding value pack would be created for Uruguay and the region, offering a more competitive price and as a result, a minimally viable brand expression to be inserted in the market. Everything would be developed in 15 business days.
A Neoteric Branding Studio
The Neoterics were a series of poets who lived during the Hellenistic period (323-31 BC). They departed from classic Homeric epic poetry, which was the accepted style at the time. Because of this, the word “neoteric” has been used as a synonym of something new or fresh that goes against what is established or that questions paradigmatic concepts.
The Design Solution
Aligned to the morphology of the original SDA mark, a series of linear and minimalist icons are created that represent some patriotic symbols of both Uruguay and Switzerland. These symbols and the geometric shapes of the backgrounds are inspired on the flags, the national shields, and the shields of the different Swiss cantons, respectively. At the same time, each one of the icons represent a value/concept the studio identifies itself with or wishes to accomplish: Independence, Guidance, Abundance, Hope, Friendship, Responsibility, Rejuvenation, Leadership.
To emphasize the avant-garde spirit, a wide and striking chromatic palette is chosen, on which the metallic gold coexists.
Typographically, an alternative to the Helvetica, the Aktiv Grotesk, is chosen, which also refers to Swiss design but has certain details that make it unique, like some diagonal terminals. Its creator, Bruno Maag, designs it with the specific aim of replacing grotesque sans-serif fonts that have historically represented what’s considered modern design, yet paradoxically have been created in the Victorian era. The Aktiv Grotesk is truly modern and breaks with this tradition.
In all cases we play with the duality of what is considered "good design" and with what is established versus the most avant-garde and contemporary, that breaks the rules and sets a fresh and alternative approach.