Designer, Adele Littler, looks at the value of brand for small businesses retaining traditional craftsmanship in a mass-produced world.
Once upon a time the power of a small business was limited. Primarily because of reach but also because of a culture built around association. There was an idea that by wearing or owning a particular brand you would have an instant association with it’s gravitas or values. Today, however, the lines have blurred and the scales have tipped from the importance of a logo to the integrity and quality of product. It is here where small businesses come in. They’ve always been around, producing thoughtful and unique products but they were often handicapped by a poorly crafted identity produced quickly in word or at the local printers.
In recent years, the gap between the brand of a multimillion-pound organisation and that of a few person strong business has started to close. Perhaps this is to do with small business owners wising up to the value of branding or maybe it’s to do with the design community championing like-minded craftsmen. It’s becoming more common for agencies and designers to take on jobs that have little financial benefit in favour of creativity. When working with established brands there’s normally a large portion of the process that’s set aside for insight. Time to delve into a brand and try and understand what’s at its core. With small business that never gets lost, that integrity and belief is already there so the branding becomes a personal process. Some of my favourite brands are no bigger than a single shop but with the help of honest branding and affordable platforms such as square space they have the power to cross oceans.
With that in mind, I’ve chosen a few retailers that are all about craft, the brands that drive these business are in my opinion what good branding should be: it’s simply a vehicle to tell the world about what they’re made of. There is an association or even a culture around these brands but it’s no longer about owning something because of its logo it’s about owning a lovely hand crafted piece of design that will last a lifetime.
Raleigh Denim is a Jeans retailer based in New York. These guys and girls are very passionate about jeans. All of the jeans are hand crafted using old school machinery. Just watch some of their videos and you will quickly come to appreciate the thought that goes into their products.
Shinola was created for much the same reason as all my examples, to bring back hand crafted manufacturing. Specifically to it’s home town of Detroit, where it has a factory employing a full fleet of makers and doers. Much like Raleigh Denim the branding is used as a platform to showcase their crafted wares through a series of short films.
Best Made started out with the sole purpose of making design conscious axes. After only a year of trading they branched out and took everyday outdoor items and re-imagined them. The branding again is all about championing the quality and beauty of the products.
Finisterre is a slightly different example in that it’s taken what could been seen as a negative and turned it into something desirable. They specialise in cold weather surfing and outdoor apparel. They are a British based company that collaborate with home grown manufacturers to create products that combine traditional techniques with innovative technology to create desirable necessities. There brand film is one of my favourite brand videos, some how they’ve taken the cold British weather and made it desirable.
Hard Graft is another British based company. They specialise in leather and felt goods from key belts to travel bags. Again all there products are designed with thought and made to withstand the everyday wear and tear they were intended for. The branding in a way reflects this it’s tough and robust but at the same time crafted.