The Sure Hand

How Strategy Guides Design

The first book I read on branding was nearly 40 years ago. Only we didn’t call it “branding” in 1981. And it wasn’t even a book that belonged to me. A friend gave me Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, a renowned marketing classic that clearly stated if you want to stand out, your company must create a position inside your customer’s head.

The importance of that idea hasn’t really changed in the four decades since. Successful branding starts in the head. When we do a Head and Heart Workshop, we are establishing the brand connections between our client’s strategy (the head) and the matching design (the heart).

We believe that a brand exists as an emotional response to design, based on strategic definitions of who you are: the brand personality, voice, archetype, and only/only (amongst others). So, clearly, brand design is much more than a logo. That’s simply the vehicle that identifies your brand.

A couple years ago, a Bay area tech subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker contacted us about developing a brand identity for a company, then known as Aura. They needed to define who they are and how they are different from their competitors—and they needed a new name and identity.

Strategy comes first. Then we design. 

Based on the approved brand strategy, we proposed a selection of new names and identities for Aura. Since our client brings together employers and job seekers in an underserved industrial workforce, Surehand became the new company name. The name was selected based on the idea that a sure hand guides the use of technology to improve job satisfaction. 

We launched into our next stage, and presented logo proposals that were all figurative, as we recognized the metaphorical power of both animal and human based symbols. We proposed an ox and a horse, as well as the chosen concept; the universally recognized handshake. Each had merits and reflected the strategy, but the name and selected logo clearly reinforce each other. 

The typography that accompanies the symbol was chosen to reinforce the idea of a sure hand. It is a sans serif typeface, yet it’s not a modern, perfected sans serif, like Helvetica. This is a Gothic type from the 1800s, with a character that matches the focus of the images from our emotional response exercise and were selected by the client; they were care, craftsmanship, and simplicity. 

Like people, brands have personalities and can be categorized according to universally recognized traits. There are twelve primary brand archetypes that represent recurring character themes that surface time and time again, such as the Hero, the Ruler, and the Caregiver. Our process showed that Surehand fit squarely into the Citizen, with qualities like respect, fairness, and accountability. Those qualities are clearly represented in Surehand’s purpose and technology, that brings together job seekers and employers, and builds upon the Citizen archetype and the handshake symbol. Other Citizen types include Habitat for Humanity, Rosa Parks, and Tom’s Shoes.

Beyond personality, we’re strategic about color. Tangerine Orange, a primary Surehand corporate color, combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It stands for enthusiasm, creativity, and attraction. These qualities fit perfectly with the outcomes associated with finding a new job or hiring the perfect employee. Additionally, Prussian Blue is the complementary color for orange, as they’re directly across from each other on the color wheel, and is the additional Surehand corporate color. Blue is oft associated with knowledge and has always been the symbol of truth. 

To embolden the brand even further, photography for Surehand has a focus on real people connecting. A photojournalistic style, rather than staged imagery, captures personality in an authentic, humanistic way—all integral attributes of the brand as well. Color blocks and hairline details are complimentary graphic elements that, when consistently used, become recognizable brand identifiers.  

So, did our “heart” based solutions for Surehand reflect the “head” based and approved strategy? We think so.