Brand in Design vs Brand in Practice

VA is a studio split into several significant parts as far as our income, skills and capacity goes so we think we can claim some ground to discuss this topic.

But first lets backup and explain – On paper we call ourselves a “Creative Agency”.  

We don’t call ourselves a “Branding Agency” even though a significant portion of our revenue comes from developing brands, rebrands, brand updates etc for a range of clients.

We don’t call ourselves a “Marketing Agency” even though a significant portion of our revenue comes from delivering day in day out marketing services for a range of clients.

Over time we have sometimes thought about being an exclusive branding agency and made efforts to avoid becoming known as a marketing agency but perhaps that’s more ego than anything practical. 

Marketing agencies have a reputation as being nowhere as cool as the branding studios – Marketing is the necessary daily grind whereas branding is all green fields and big pictures. Marketing leads to rules being bent in the name of pragmatism vs the branding agency’s purity of a perfect visual identity. 

Based on internal discussions within our team and also on observations that have come from our mixture of disciplines over the last few years we have had a change of heart though.

Dealing daily with the reality of the way that the pragmatic impacts the purity IS a skill all of its own.

There is something stupid about being so pure that you isolate yourself from the market you were originally trying to appeal to, and there is something great about having the skills and timing to bend a brand’s style guide to make something really cool on social media or in a magazine or TV ad.

There is a big difference between brand in design and brand in practice.



We design heaps of brands from scratch. We also inherit heaps of brands – either existing businesses or new brands designed by other teams.

On day one these are brands in design, and because we do a lot of so called marketing work we get to live with those brands in practice and what we see (in our brands and in others) is that the BIG upfront brand process is really really important but also doesn’t seem to fully withstand the heat of being used in the real world day upon day, and will eventually either break or not meet the needs of client.

Thats why VA will stay as a full service “creative agency” – to design in theory and not in practice, is to miss a huge opportunity to not just create a brand from scratch, but also guide it through day to day life to achieve its full potential.

Nil Desperandum

Nil Desperandum

Maybe we are “Brand Parents”

Maybe we are “Brand Parents” more than anything. Brands need to be given a great start with a healthy set of boundaries, but given just the right amount of breathing room and they have the capacity to grow in ways you’d never have imagined if you’re not stuck to your preconceived ideas of what they could be. In short, there’s a lot to be gained from building a brand to be flexible rather than rigid.

When we talk about “Brand in Practice” we’re talking strictly about how the brand operates in real-time, this pertains to a whole range of questions, such as:

  • What is the brand’s media output in 24 hours or a week?
  • What parts of your brand are public-facing?
  • How does your brand communicate with its market/audience? In what tone of voice does your brand communicate?
  • What represents my brand?
  • What is required of the brand on a week-to-week basis to meet stakeholder or consumer expectations?
  • What is my brand doing to stay current and relevant in the market or conversation surrounding the market?
  • But what you may be thinking is “well shouldn’t we answer these questions in brand development or design?” well yes, you should but your answers will change with the growth of your business and changes in the market – what an agency decides is your company voice when they’re designing your brand may no longer be relevant or useful six months down the track when views and needs in the market may have shifted. It almost certainly may need to be different on TikTok than it is in an annual report. 

Brand in Practice” drills down to a micro-level of how your business operates and communicates and avoids pitfalls of big-thinking ‘pie in the sky’ brand documents by remaining extremely flexible to the needs of a brand or brand stakeholders at any point in time. This means the brand can evolve and develop organically to meet its needs and requirements as time goes on. 

If you’re worried about your brand being just a little too rigid or a little too loose get in touch with the team at VA, we’re here to ensure you’re brand’s reality is just as good as its concept.

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