Most of my clients approach me after seeing my work on my website or Behance. This was the case with Felicity Tchoufa, founder and owner of Bonday. At the time, it felt like luck as I’d been wanting to work on an eCommerce brand and she needed an eCommerce store for her new giftware business.
First, I asked Felicity about her story. She told me about her vision of setting up this business. She has already run some businesses in the USA and Africa. This time she wanted to create an eCommerce brand and hand over the reins to her children to take over. All of her kids are in school, but they are good enough to understand the insights and strategy of business for the future. Felicity is not very aware of digital things like social media, website techniques, etc. So someone should take care of this giftware business, and her children showed up, ready to take on these responsibilities. I found this passion and vision compelling. So compelling that when she told me she wanted to name the business after her kids’ “smokaytch,” it wasn’t so much a question of “Why?” but rather, a definitive “No,” as I knew I could come up with something much more fitting and enduring. The questions I ask my clients vary depending on the project, but ultimately, what’s most important is to obtain a good overall view of the business and gauge its ambition from a different perspective.
The Design Brief
I have a briefing template that I email to clients to fill out. In it, I aim to discover the background of a project: what the client sees as the opportunity, the target consumer, and competitive landscape; how they are perceived now and how they want to be perceived; and, ultimately, what the tasks and deliverables are. This is just the first step. The answers lead to further questions to fully develop the brief, helping me to understand the client’s objective and revealing specific areas I can improve on. Client perceptions of their brand can often be very different than those of others, so designers and clients must work as partners to be sure about which areas of the brand do and don’t need development.
Initially, the Bonday brief was pretty comprehensive, clarifying strategy, a brand identity, an eCommerce website, and potential merchandise. Training of the website and monitoring followed soon after. I still work with Bonday today on many exciting extensions, including 3D designs for new products, presentation decks, social media assets, etc. I am always honing and refining my process, which I consider a work in progress that should constantly be revisited.
My process is quite flexible, but it usually follows the same staged approach. For a new brand such as Bonday, I’ll start with full immersion, followed by research and a market audit. This then feeds into a workshop that helps to define the essence of the brand—its values, mission, and tone of voice. The outcome of the workshop is distilled into a “brand compass” that informs a naming workshop (if required) and our design strategy and proposition process—research, analyze, and define.
The key to the project is understanding the motivations of the target consumer. I try to fill the gaps in the category in which I was operating while avoiding getting caught up in its semiotics or crafting an identity that is similar to what else is out there. Once we understand the type of person we’re targeting, we can then look at and draw from other categories and successful brands that they engage with. By learning from their nuances, e.g., the way the other brands look and communicate, you can create something that resonates with the consumer from day one. This is especially important for start-up brands. “The key to the whole project is understanding the motivations of the target consumer.”
Filling the gap between strategy and design
The point where strategy meets design is my internal process. It’s difficult to articulate the “how” because it’s different with every project. I wanted to distinguish Bonday by the source of the giftware, which all come from local handicrafts workers from all over the world who represent their culture and ethnicity. It’s what felt right. Strategy is the DNA of every brand; once you’ve nailed that, design is the easy bit.
As I’d mentioned before, Felicity wanted to keep the brand name after their kids. I felt that I could come up with a more fitting business name. The process of naming is not for the faint of heart. It is a complex, creative, and iterative process requiring linguistic, marketing, research, and trademark law expertise. My process of naming a brand includes positioning, getting organized, creating naming criteria, brainstorming solutions, conducting initial screening, conducting contextual testing, and final legal screening.
Naming is 20% creative and 80% political.
The concept of “Bonday” comes from “Good Day”. It is or becomes a good day for someone who receives gifts. Bon (good in French, the first language of felicity) + Day. “Le stands for the So finally, it’s “Le Bonday” (The Good Day). The name is abstract, short, conceptual, and easy to pronounce and remember.
The four hearts and their different colors show red (love), yellow (happiness), green (new beginnings), blue (understanding and softness); these come from the occasions and feelings of gifting someone. and a tiny gift box with a ribbon knot doing the rest of the work.
Presenting the work The sequence is a filtering process. After strategy and predesign, I usually create two or three mood boards with visual and verbal propositions. I present these to the client for discussion. I’ll narrow them down to one or two and base the concept work on them. It means that what the client sees afterward are different visual interpretations of the proposition that everyone has approved.
Clients will know from the outset that I typically present three to five design options. You need to provide variations to explore the design. I use the concepts to gauge how far the client is comfortable stretching the level of creativity used in the outcome. They also help me explore different approaches to communication hierarchy, iconography, and photographic style.
I don’t try to steer anyone toward a specific design direction, even though I usually have my own preference. I am happy to share my thoughts prior to hearing client feedback. I do create mockups as many I can so that the design can be comped onto something that looks closest to the real deal. It makes such a difference when the client is reviewing my work.
Not every project needs a style guide because I am often responsible for the rollout. If a client requests one, I make sure to cover every eventually so that brand consistency is retained regardless of who works from the guidelines, When I provide a style guide, I supply it in whichever format the client prefers — most of the time its PDF, but I’ve also produced printed versions in a style that physically feels like it belongs to the brand. At the beginning of client discussions, I always ask for and cost in, the ability to see and sign off on any design before release. I don’t want any work that has my name attached to it compromised. I like to think of myself as a brand guardian so that even after a project is finished, I’ll get in touch with the client if I spot an execution that doesn’t feel right. The strength of consistency of the brand is all that matters.
I am always keen to learn statistics that demonstrate how my design helps clients achieve their goals. It’s important for my credibility and my own reassurance that what we do actually makes a difference. Usually, I do this by calling the client or going to an official debriefing. For Bonday, I made a zoom call and interviewed Felicity and her customer’s experience. She talked about the success that she and the team had achieved in the initial launch period, and even called me to the Ribbon cutting and appearing in The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce meeting. That meant a lot. Bonday is now trying to stock in supermarkets as trendy gift businesses felt off during COVID. Good design can deliver a compelling aesthetic, but great design delivers on objectives and drives growth. There’s nothing better than knowing you’ve taken a start-up or a brand in decline and made it engaging enough to succeed.
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