Behind Brands™: An interview with Jesper Bange from BOND.
We had a chat with Jesper Bange from the award-winning global design agency BOND, to talk about their recent rebranding of the Finnish jewellery brand Kalevala. He also shared some thoughts on how the creative industry is doing during these crazy times and about BOND’s key to success.
How did you get into the world of brand identity design — and what made you stay?
I had one dream job as a child: become a professional football player. That didn’t happen, so I had to settle for option B. Design has always played a role in my life. I am a fourth-generation designer, so it was kind of a given. After graduating, I sort of drifted towards brand identity design and I did not regret it.
Is there a perfect brand identity brief? What does it look like?
I appreciate it when the client has a clear understanding of what they want to achieve with the new brand. It is easier to start the design process with that perspective mind. I also like that the brief is balanced somewhere in between being very detailed and very vague. The best briefs are created together with the customer.
Could you tell us briefly how the design process usually looks like at BOND?
We always have the same process that includes 4 steps; Dive, Direction, Magic & Delivery. We have had good results using it and it is clear to everyone. First, we dive deep into the customer’s brand and explore what the business is all about. With the Kalevala project, for example, our team went to visit their workshop and to see how the jewellery is made. We then seek for different creative directions to eventually come up with a simple idea. Magic phase is all about bringing this simple idea to life visually, and delivery is the basic roll out for all the different touchpoints. This process combines strategy, design and digital.
As you just mentioned, you recently rebranded the finish jewellery brand Kalevala. How do you creatively approach a project like that — from beginning to end?
The Kalevala project started from the pitch phase and we were well prepared. We already had a creative idea ready, so when we presented our idea on the pitch, the customer was impressed. After winning the pitch we proceeded with our standard process to tackle the massive project including the new brand from new logo and identity, store interiors, packaging and design of all touchpoints to the verbal narrative, launch marketing and film.
The cornerstone of the project was to delicately revive and modernise the brand, while at the same time strengthen the bond to their past and backstory. In this process was also the merger of Lapponia, another legacy brand owned by Kalevala Jewelry, into the main brand and a name change to simply Kalevala. As a centrepiece of the project, we created the platform VALA that means OATH in Finnish. The images for packaging and in-store were inspired by Northern nature, but not in the classical sense. We wanted the mythical, mystical and dramatic national epic to shine through. In the same way, all retail spaces are heavily inspired by Finnish nature with its deep pine forests, lichen and lakes, and the new logotype honours the very original logo of Kalevala Koru from the 1930s. Everything we did is respecting the past, ready for the future.
How was the team put together — and how many people are usually involved in a project?
Our teams are usually small to keep the process agile and working effectively. We try to involve people from different studios and nationalities to have a broad perspective as well as a wide range of expertise for each task needed. Each project has one core team: designer, producer and a strategist. Depending on how big the project is, more people can be brought in. For example, the Kalevala project had a very big team consisting of experts from all the various different fields.
What is your preferred client/studio relationship or process when working on a brand identity?
I personally enjoy working with clients who trust our expertise and have an open mind. Of course, it is important that the client is engaged. I really like when the client shares my passion with the end result.
What do you/does BOND do differently than other designers/design studios in regards to brand identities?
Our philosophy; In a complex world, simple wins. This guides everything we do from processes to brand work and distinguishes us from the others. Also, the fact that we have a versatile offering from branding to spatial design and launch campaigns to web design makes us interesting.
Has brand identity design changed in recent years? What do you expect for the future?
Of course, the emphasis is increasingly on digital/motion applications and will be even more so in the future. From a practical perspective, the timetables are becoming tighter and tighter each year, and the time, between a brief and the end results, is getting shorter.
What are your thoughts on brand guidelines? How do they fit into the process?
It is a very important part of the process because it dictates how the brand will look like in “real life”. The guidelines have to be compact and as simple as possible.
Do you have a truth/manifesto/mantra you follow when working on identities — and what is BOND’s?
Usually, it is the simple ideas that bring out the best results. Therefore, Bond’s manifesto is (simply): In a complex world, simple wins.
For quite a while now the Coronavirus has changed our everyday lives. How did it affect your workday routines and the way you handle branding projects and client relationships? How did you/BOND adjust to this ‘new normal’?
I don’t think it has changed our way of working that much, actually. Of course, there are less face-to-face meetings, but we were accustomed to working remotely with our international studios and clients. Instead of panicking and trying to come up with something totally new, we just concentrated on the most essential; working and carrying out projects.
What do you think are the main challenges the creative industry faces in times like this?
Customers are a bit unsure about the future which might result in smaller budgets and fewer projects. Companies are in a challenging situation, which then puts a lot of pressure on agencies. For example, everything we did for Kalevala, all those decisions are huge for the client and if the brand renewal had failed, it could have had major consequences. So the role of agencies is emphasised.
Everyone has their own ways and means to get inspiration. What’s yours?
I get my inspiration from various things like art, museums, streets, books, magazines, dreams, bars, restaurants, trams, taxi, my children, my colleagues, TV, movies, web and the list goes on and on.
Since 2009 BOND has grown and expanded and has built up a great reputation in the creative industry. What do you think is your key to success?
We strongly believe that BOND has something to offer to the international brand field and we have a desire to be where new things are happening. Internationalisation has always been strongly involved in the strategy. Our culture focuses on working as a team across national borders. There are two things at the heart of what we do. The first is the design and development of brand identities, of which Kalevala rebranding is a good example. The other side is the development and building of overall customer experience concepts. An example of this the new Kalevala Store in the centre of Helsinki, which combined spatial & service design and digital & web design. So our offering is rather holistic. And then again, our Simple wins philosophy and our principles that guide our processes and way of thinking are definitely our keys to success.
Jesper Bange is one of the Founders of BOND, a Brand and Experience Design Agency with studios in Helsinki, London, San Francisco, Dubai and Tallinn. Jesper has worked with some of the most distinguished brand projects in Finland, such as Flow Festival and Eero Aarnio Originals. Jesper is a wizard in creating holistic brand concepts, as well as leading and executing creative processes.