Debbie Millman, president of Sterling Brands, presented to an AIGA Baltimore audience of approximately 70 people on the topic of the essence of brands. The talk discussed brands, not so much from a pure design point-of-view, but discussed the nature of brands, their development and where they’ve gone and where they will go in the future.
As people, she categorized the human existence as “making and marking,” each with a valued role in the distinguishing of the tools, products and services that are in our lives. The talk spanned the quintessential meaning of what branding was (the physical impression bof ownwership on livestock…) to the development of simple and then more dramatic iconography, the elaboration of which we live with today.
She also delved into the nature of branding and discussed the evolving nature of modern brands with the modern era legalization of the trademark in 1876. She even uncovered the first “modern brand” for the audience.
As for the nature of brands, 5 waves of modern branding:
- brands guarantee of quality (1875-1920) and safety. Brands were often first associated with particular people. (Qualities and values of those folks).
- brands become “human”… (1920 – 1965)
- brand as self-expressive statements… (1965 – 1985) brand –status
- brands as an experience…
- limbic brands — brands as connectors/communicators
Brands are now ways to frame conversations for increasingly divided and singular audiences. These brands now connect people to experiences, initiatives beliefs and ways of living. In an increasingly individual existence, brands and modern technology increase or enhace our connectedness to the world.
She pointed out some staggering facts: Average young people in the US spend approximately 8 hours a day online. Human brains create new frameworks to connect in the computer and digital age to keep up with the evolving technology of communication (low and high-tech).
She maintains: “We can create symbols that create ways for people to understand and live”. We have the power to craft a view of how people relate to life.” All this underscores the value of both the maker and the marker.