Strategic Design 2 M1

Brief: You will strategically design a brand system using the various tools and methods discussed during the course. The following should be included: A new brand identity with a logo, typography, colour scheme and overall visual style. Vehicle and bicycle branding. Innovative coffee packaging. A concept for custom gift packaging for a book. A brand style guide with all the relevant info and rules.

About Brodie’s Books

Brodie’s Books has operated as an online bookshop for 15 years. Their primary point of sale has been their eBay store, but they also have a booth during the yearly Fringe festival. Their unique business proposal is that they specifically focus on rare, collectable second-hand books; a luxury, high-end product which attracts customers from around the world. From my research, I’ve found that booksellers in this niche are, for the most part, quite posh and conservative in their appearance – this goes for both the companies and the people running them. The photos of the owners of Brodie’s Books reveal a slightly different appearance; I would characterise it as hipster-like. Even the current logo has a hipster vibe to it. This is an excellent starting point for further work on the brand identity; while selling rare books isn’t all that unique, the style of the bookstore and its owners, as compared to the competitors, certainly is. Click to view and compare:

A goal for Brodie’s Books – and a few for their designer

As the business has grown, the owners of Brodie’s Books felt the need for a retail outlet and recently bought an old bar in the Royal Mile area, a busy chain of streets popular with tourists. They will sell their books there and also set up a coffee bar. They plan on furnishing the place with unique items found in thrift shops and creating an inviting community where customers can relax and read or discuss the books. Their apparent goal is to keep selling books online whilst also running a physical store. The store will have a coffee bar, where they aim to build a community of loyal customers. The brief states that the client wants to change and enhance the nature of the business and convey this through a strategic brand system. It is further emphasized in the brief that their primary focus is on the rare, collectable books and that they see the coffee as simply a side product to make the business unique and stand out from the competition. This leads me to think about brand hierarchy and different ways to market each of the two products or business areas. Their coffee is a tool, while books are the main product. All the same, the coffee is a genuine product which they sell to other restaurants.

My goal is to design a brand system which will:

  • create their company’s visual identity
  • assist and guide their marketing efforts
  • help them stand out from the competition
  • establish a brand hierarchy which enables future expansion of the business without having to redesign the brand

To achieve this, I will have to look closely at competing booksellers, work meticulously on the look and feel of Brodie’s Books’ brand style, read up on different kinds of brand hierarchy – and, most of all, try to get under the skin of who the owners of Brodie’s Books are; what their values are, what kind of customers they want to attract, and what would make them feel at home with the design.

Brodie’s Books’ competitors

The leading competitor seems to be the UK bookseller Peter Harrington Rare Books. They leave a solid impression with a modern website which is massive but still easy to navigate, stylish custom graphics, and a clean colour palette. They have two physical stores, both located in London. They also have a separate business for art and prints, and they run a book bindery. The company seems to focus on quite old books – one of their Instagram posts says: “You need to know where you were to understand where you’re going”. An interesting observation is that everyone working there fits the description of a stereotypical upper-class Brit, very classy dressed and each responsible for several of what I would regard as high-brow themes. Their storefronts are typical of the old English style, with adorned wooden panels and glass windows with small panes.

Brodie’s Books can make a unique impression by targeting middle-class/average people and emphasizing that the books are attractive because of their content rather than the era they were written or the backstory of their author. The storefront should reflect the more modern look & feel that Brodie’s Books’ owners seem to represent. 

As Brodie’s Books (BB) operates internationally, another competitor could be US-based Bauman Rare Books. However, since BB has decided to establish a retail store, I instead looked at a more “local” company. Blackwell’s Rare Books is a sub-division of Blackwell’s, a high street bookstore chain with several stores all over the UK – one of which is in Edinburgh, only a few blocks from the Royal Mile. The rare books outlet is located in Oxford, but I would take for granted that a regular Blackwell’s would help acquire items from the stock of collectable books. Thus, I consider Blackwell’s Edinburgh store a competitor, although it isn’t explicitly focusing on rare books.

Blackwell’s is a heritage company with more than 140 years in the business. As with Peter Harrington, their storefronts typically look like their very first one: very traditional and “Victorian”, while the interior is somewhat modern, although bland. Similarly, they have a well-designed and accessible main website, while their separate website for collectable books looks dated and is not responsive. Blackwell’s is arranging community activities like a book group in their store, and they actually have a coffee bar – if not their own (it’s a branch of the franchise Caffè Nero), there’s direct access from within the bookstore.

From my research, the way BB can differentiate itself from Blackwell’s would be by going all in with the (exterior and interior) design and, of course, offering valuable content in the shape of good buyers’ advice and exciting activities targeting a specific demographic (Blackwell’s seems to attract senior citizens to their events).

Brodie’s Books’ target market

Buyer personas will appear here.

  • What is the problem your product wants to solve? Purchase rare books (collection or single purchases?). Content and literary qualities are important factors – not the book’s design, age or provenance.
  • Who is most likely going to experience those problems? Avid readers, intellectuals, activists, and people into arts. Not necessarily in it for the sake of investing.
  • Why would they need your product? Sentimental value and the joy of owning a book that means something to you personally. Trust bookstore owners to find specific items.

Things to keep in mind during the brand identity process

Brodie’s Books’ unique selling point is rare, collectable books. This is per se not very unique; there are plenty of booksellers who offer the same product. From what I’ve found during the research (see above), they do, however, stand out from their competitors by appearance; they have a much more relaxed style than most other sellers of collectable books. The vibe I am getting from looking at their portraits is that they enjoy reading the books that they sell and that they will be able to offer me genuine reading advice – while other booksellers look more like they’re only into this for the money. This is, of course, my prejudice shining through. Still, since I won’t be able to further investigate by talking to any of the people involved, I’ve decided to stay with this concept during the design process.

Coffee is mentioned as something to make the business unique. I am unsure if this is a reasonable goal; the combination bookstore + coffee bar does not seem uncommon. It may, however, work well in terms of getting people inside their store and perhaps opening the eyes of new customers to the world of books. As such, the store’s interior – inviting and comfortable – may prove just as crucial as the coffee itself.

The shop’s name is derived from the book The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. There are two takeaways here: the owners of Brodie’s Books are from Edinburgh, Scotland – as were Muriel Spark – plus, the book is filled with humorous aphorisms which may prove useful in the branding process.

They feel that the current logo is “not memorable and unique enough”. From tutorials. The logo should identify, not explain.

They’ve purchased a vintage Citroën van and a transport bicycle to serve as delivery vehicles and moving billboards.