Project: Brand development, for Black & Company

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Black & Company
Brand development

An identity for a regional investment bank

A 40-year-old investment bank, specializing in regional business and industry, hoped to rebrand itself from a smaller member of the Lehman Bros. category into a nimbler, intensely regional and personal alternative. This identity was meant to be the vanguard of that effort. It was well-received (except, sadly, by the company’s founder emeritus, who remarked that he “wouldn’t give that business card to a dog”), but its life was brief; Black & Company was acquired shortly after the new brand’s adoption.

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Marque

If you’re an investor, you want your investment bank to be sharp and aggressive; you also want to be able to trust that your money is being responsibly handled. This system seeks to address both of those concerns. A dynamic rendering of a weathervane refers to the predictive nature of the analyst’s work; oriented to the northwest, it implies the company’s focus. Lettering is elegant yet austere, speaking the the dignified history of banking, and the company’s role in it.

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Stationery

The third element of the brand language (after the weathervane and wordmark) is black ink, which appears throughout the range of applications as a wry capitalization on the company’s name and on the positive symbolic associations the color enjoys in the fiduciary community. Here is the basic set of working papers: letterhead (two-sided and painted in black on the reverse; the security is built into every page); two-sided business card, and envelope.

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Stationery

9×12 envelope (black, of course) with mailing label.

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Internal publishing

Presentation folder, and two-color pre-printed shell, with accompanying word-processing templates, for in-house production of custom research reports for clients. This was in some part the most interesting part of the project, and points to the most difficult part of brand development: designing a system so that the people who actually have to use it will do so. This is much easier said than done. The toolset available to office workers (in this case, the familiar suite of office applications) is of course much less visually sophisticated than ours, and damnably inconsistent. These were Word templates that worked fine when they left our office, but required a great deal of hand-holding (and profanity) before they could be used by the client.

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Capabilities brochure

A twelve-page capabilities brochure, More was to be the anchor for the company’s new brand. An audit of the competition’s materials persuaded us not to use pictures of well-fed men shaking hands, gold foil stamping, or marble backgrounds. Instead, we delivered an assertive, elegant brochure, built around Michael Jones’ still-lives of common, natural materials – twigs, stones, leaves – meticulously arranged to illustrate the company’s values in an unexpected and compelling way.

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Cover
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General introduction
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Overview

Pages describing the company’s background and reach.

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Narrative

Pages describing the company’s strategic advisory services.

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Narrative

Pages describing the company’s expertise in corporate finance.

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Narrative

Pages describing the company’s equity research offering.

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Narrative

Pages describing the company’s acumen in trading.

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Credits/colophon
Agency
The Felt Hat
Art directors
Adam McIsaac
Don Rood
Paul Mort
Designers
Adam McIsaac
Mark Conahan
Don Rood
Consigliere
Thom Smith
Photographer
Michael Jones
Copywriter
Terry London
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