Monday, December 16, 2013

Season's greetings

This year, each of us had just one word. But put in a row, these words make sense. 
In a way, this poster illustrates that when individuals get together for a reason, meaning is created. Meaningful experiences and well known brands. With more meaning hidden inside. 
Click on an image to open the gallery.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Designing a Friendly Marina

Port Noblessner is a small marina within a short walking distance from central Tallinn. Originally a Soviet submarine base, it is now converting it’s military heritage into modern, welcoming funk. Development has been ongoing for several years – opening quays, a boat yard and a restaurant – but there is still a long way to go.

We approached their business from the service point-of-view. How could they deliver a better experience to their visitors and increase repeat business? Based on Port Noblessner, the aim was to design the ideal marina, which was presented as a case study at the Hanseboot Boat Fair in Hamburg to German marina developers and owners.

Although the client base of a marina is very wide, we focused on one particular group to keep the case compact and comprehensible: sailboat travellers. This group is vocal, spreading their impressions willingly around their community. They are not frugal racers, but tourist kind of boaters, who care for some pampering and expect assistance from their hosts.

Brand Manual had an unspoiled outsider’s viewpoint. We saw weak points, which were most likely to be overlooked by regular visitors. Aside from thoroughly reviewing Noblessner on site, approaching it both from land and sea, we also conducted extensive interviews with existing and prospective customers, domestic and foreign. We noted what is expected from a marina, what is taken for granted, what is not important and what was remembered because it was unexpected (surprises both good and bad).

Our case study focused on this customer approach, the marina seen through the eyes of a firstcomer. We also built a service cloud that can be applied by most marinas.

Sailing visitors are not the backbone of a regular Nordic port’s income, especially considering our short sailing season. While improving the customer experience clearly improves the financial performance of the marina, it is the combination of better customer feedback that allows the “secondary” services, such as winter storage, services for the local government and events to happen. The attraction to all parties is that of a well functioning marina. Nevermind that most people never come by boat.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Service design is just that: making sure everything works on purpose.

The article was published in September issue of Estonian business magazine Director

A hospital wanted to improve patient satisfaction. Long having understood that it was the patient that needed to be healed, not the injury treated, they thought about what it was that improved patient care above and beyond the doctor's competence. Finally the hospital hit upon the notion that people are always grouped by their disease. But why? Why does it make sense to have people with broken bones in one room and cuts in the other?

The problem is that none of these people know each other and really have nothing in common. Therefore also nothing to talk about except their injury, which in many cases can be a very depressing topic. So "how do you feel" is answered by, "bad". The hospital took this insight and started grouping people in rooms by interest instead. Football fans left, current affairs people to the right.

Suddenly patients found themselves with like-minded people and weren't bored out of their skull. They stopped thinking about their ailments and started answering the same old question with "pretty good". For doctors the re-organization of patients didn't make their route longer while patient satisfaction, and rate of cure, both increased. As an added bonus for doctors, it was much better to treat people who were in a good mood.

This "service design" came about from one simple change in management thinking: putting the patient in the center of the problem, not the hospital. This same approach applied to signage results in the unmissable "way out" sign on the London Tube. The presumption is that the traveler doesn't know where the exit is, whereas in most traffic situations the organization responsible presumes always, that the signage is for people who know, and places it in locations that a first time visitor will never reach, because they turned around too early.

Design is uniquely suited to meeting and resolving these challenges. Not for aesthetic reasons but rather because design is a problem solving discipline. In all cases, where things work well, it has been designed. It is done on purpose, and meets the requirements of the task at hand. Be this an arched aqueduct dating from the Roman Empire to today’s smart phone that a three year old can operate without having to understand how it works, design is the unifying feature. The esthetic value is simply a collateral benefit rather than the goal itself.

The key difference in applying design to business problems, instead of analytical thinking or engineering or brainstorming or just plain guessing, is that design asks “why”. Not what we have to achieve, but why. Ask why often enough, and you get to the core of the issue. By resolving that, you can change behavior and make people happy.

In this modern world that we now inhabit, where the rate of change is accelerating exponentially, where 70% of the economy is made up of services, where social networks and internet search provides people with instant information overload on every topic, interaction between customers and companies is the key brand building component. If the website is poorly written and ugly, if the product doesn’t make sense to anyone outside the group of people who invented it, if to get what I want I have to follow rules that don’t make sense, then it will not work. If the people I meet don’t care, then why should I? If the employees don’t feel like they matter, then they won’t care. No service will flourish in these conditions, while management mistrust, employee dissatisfaction and low financial performance will.

Customer satisfaction is our goal. Easy to say. 
What have you done to deliver?

The difference between products and services is that a service is co-created with the customer. Each contact is unique and cannot be packaged. In defining services, one can go even further. Cars deliver services. The goal is to get from point A to point B. Is owning a car the best solution for this? Need is never a thing. A need is what you can do with it. Thinking in this direction, each product becomes a potential service and the world becomes more complex. Just ask Nokia, if effective product manufacturing delivered success?

What you, as a service provider know, and what your customer knows is different. This information gap can also be called the presumption gap. "Oh, I thought you were going to do it," is commonly heard when information exchange is incomplete and instructions confusing. For private businesses the feedback is usually less customers. If the customer doesn't understand, and an other option exists, then she'll choose that.

Services are often designed from the wrong end. From the service provider's point-of-view. Following procedures, fitting into work schedules and meeting complex, for customers, impenetrable conditions. For example, if you buy a phone that doesn't work, and return it in three days to the dealer, she still has to send it to repair at least three times, before it can just be replaced. To do so, the customer has to play stupid, receive the phone back after two weeks of "repair" to discover the same fault again in 15 minutes, and return it once more. At no fault of the customer, 7 weeks are spent, most of the time without a phone, because of "internal process" and "rules". In whose interest?

Most organizations are in the process of optimization. Business wants to earn more money and therefore efficiency gains are seen as beneficial. When these efficiency gains are executed from the business’ point-of-view, when the customer is an afterthought, then efficiency is gained only at the expense of the customer's benevolence. If she get's fed up with efficiency, she will choose a different service provider that is less "efficient".

It is an oft cited statistic, that banks are closing their branches because people are no longer using them. On the other hand, 75% of up-selling of services happens at face-to-face meetings between customers and bankers. Therefore, eliminating branches also ends up eliminating the opportunity to sell a useful service! Optimizing efficiency perfects the formula that goes out of date.

It is reasonable to argue, that most efficiency drives, which are made from the point-of-view of optimizing budgets, not customer value, end up undermining the longterm business in favor of short term gain. To look at this another way, consider price promotions. The logic is seemingly infallible: in a situation of tense competition, the lower priced product tends to sell better. Therefore, to sell more, price promotions, which offer greater customer value, are completely logical. As customers demand lower prices it is inevitable, that quality must be compromised. Sugar is replaced with fructose. Meat is replaced with soya. Cream is replaced with milk. Free range chicken is replaced with factory, force fed chicken. At the end of the cycle the price is lower, but so is the value to the customer. Furthermore, the company is forever locked in a spiral where price is more important than value.

This above presumes that price is really the only motivator. However, the brands that people admire are rarely price driven. Business performance wise, the stars are never price driven – in any category. HBR research from April 2013 cites data from 44 thousand companies, which clearly demonstrates that in each category the most profitable business was quality driven and earned it’s profit from higher margins, not lower prices.

There is a second aspect to delivering a great service. The employee. If decision making authority is devolved to the front line employee, the one that actually meets real customers, then service quality improves remarkably. Gary Hamel brings the example of the Indian IT company, that has publicly declared that it is the employee, not the client, who is most important. The front line before management, management before board. However, this presumes that the employee knows what the goal of the company is, what the real purpose is. Only if the employee understands the business strategy can he or she make correct decisions that benefit both the customer and the company. Statistically speaking, however, only 5% of employees understand their company’s strategy (Robert Kaplan, David Norton - Balanced Scorecard). Usually because they’ve never been told, or told only once and quickly when they were hired.

To deliver a service, be it online, face-to-face or remotely, the people responsible for delivering must be able to make independent decisions based on company or product strategy. If they are not able to do so, because they don’t know and have more than likely not been told the strategy, then decision making is delegated up the management chain of command. Depending on how bureaucratic the business is, it might be that only the boss can make any decisions. Efficiency can never happen in such an environment nor a good customer experience delivered. Remember the mobile phone case.

Analytical thinking looks for the shortest route. 
Design thinking looks for the best route.

In October 2011 Brand Manual together with SEB held a two day service design training and workshop session. One of the goals of this was to come up with a tool that would allow people who don’t save to save some money. The conventional bank approach was to sell the opportunity to save with the benefit of interest earned. This works fine for savings above a certain limit. But when you don’t save at all, then interest earned on nothing is nothing. During the workshop we looked at human behavior with money and quickly understood that coins are a pain when paying in cash. Eventually you get home with coins in your pocket, and you put them away. From this insight we developed the digital coin jar. It rounds up each card payment to the next 00 and deposits the difference (cents only) into a savings account.

Since it’s launch in Estonia in November 2012, over 40 thousand people have saved over 2.4 million euros. With cents.

This wasn’t an accident. It was by design. Mr. Holmes would concur.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Usutavad uudised Brand Manualist

Brand Manual avab septembri teisel päeval oma esimese välisesinduse – Stockholmis.

Sellega seoses on aset leidnud mõned olulised muudatused ja täiendused meie meeskonnas. Esiteks liitus Brand Manualiga tiimiga Göran Crafoord, kes hakkab juhtima uut ettevõtet Brand Manual Sweden AB. Göranil on üle 25 aasta kogemust kommunikatsiooni ja marketingi vallas nii strateegia- kui ka loovjuhina. Tema tugevuseks on inimeste alateadlike motivaatorite mõistmine ning seeläbi sihtgrupi reaalsetele vajadustele vastavate teenuste kujundamine.

Göran Crafoord
Enne Brand Manuali oli Göran tegev- ja loovjuht B2B ja avalike organisatsioonide teenindamisele spetsialiseerunud büroos Clinton Agency, mis juhindus teatud määral ka teenusedisaini põhimõtetest. Seetõttu kulges tema ületulek Brand Manuali uskumatult ladusalt ning tema lähenemine tööle on juba positiivselt mõjutanud Brand Manuali metoodika ja tööprotsesside arendamist.

J.Margus Klaar

Stockholmi projekti elluviimiseks siirdus oma sünnimaale tagasi üks Brand Manuali asutajatest, J.Margus Klaar, kes on enamiku elust elanud erinevates välisriikides ja viimased 20 aastat Eestis. Alates 2009. a on ta ehitanud Brand Manuali kindla teadmisega, et ettevõtte oskuste ja meekonna kasv võimaldab laienemist rahvusvahelisele turule.

Margusel on üle 20 aasta kogemust strateegilise turunduse, kommunikatsiooni, reklaami ja teenusedisaini alal. Tema käe all on sündinud tööriistad ja metoodika, mis on muutnud Brand Manuali teenusedisaini valdkonna teerajajaks kogu Põhja-Euroopas.

Göran ja Margus, koos taustajõududega Tallinnas, asuvad Brand Manual Sweden’ist tegema Rootsi parimat teenusedisaini ettevõtet.

Usume, et 2014. aasta septembris kutsume teid Brand Manual Sweden’i esimesele sünnipäevale, et tähistada esimese eduka aasta möödumist. Asukoht täpsustamisel :-)

Helistage meile. Või kirjutage. Või tulge külla – Stockholmi vanalinn on väga ilus!

Brand Manual Sweden AB
Stora Gråmunkegränd 3
S-111 27 Stockholm

Göran Crafoord
+46 (0)722 52 30 63

J.Margus Klaar
+46 (0)722 52 30 64

Brand Manual OÜ
Rotermanni 5
10111 Tallinn

Kaarel Mikkin
+372 511 6555

Read it to believe it!

On September 2, Brand Manual opens its Stockholm office. To do this, some changes have taken place. Namely, Göran Crafoord has joined the team as CEO of Brand Manual Sweden. Göran has over 25 years of experience in communication and marketing as both strategist and creative director. His insight and empathy allows him to quickly understand the underlying motivations of people and tailor messages and services to meet real requirements.

Before joining Brand Manual, Göran was CEO and creative director at Clinton Agency, a specialized B2B and public service communications bureau with a distinct service design mentality. This has made the transition to Brand Manual smooth and his approach to projects is already driving process development ahead.

Göran Crafoord

Joining him in Sweden is one of Brand Manual's founders, J.Margus Klaar. Originally born in Sweden, Margus has spent most of his life everywhere else, not least of all the past 20 years in Estonia. Since 2009 he has been building Brand Manual in the knowledge that eventually, growth of the company will allow expansion abroad.

Margus has over 20 years of experience in strategic marketing, communication, advertising and service design. As a new industry and discipline, Margus has helped develop many of the tools and processes that have made Brand Manual one of the pioneers in service design in Northern Europe.

J.Margus Klaar

Together, Göran and Margus, with the back-up from Tallinn, will build up Brand Manual Sweden. We expect to be able to boast of some success in one year, and cordially invite you to Brand Manual Sweden's first birthday party on September 1, 2014. Location to be disclosed next summer:-)

Call us. Or write or visit.

Brand Manual Sweden AB
Stora Gråmunkegränd 3
S-111 27 Stockholm

Göran Crafoord
+46 (0)722 52 30 63

J.Margus Klaar
+46 (0)722 52 30 64

Brand Manual OÜ
Rotermanni 5
10111 Tallinn

Kaarel Mikkin
+372 511 6555

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Excuse me, where’s the ketchup?

This article was originally published in Estonian, August 2013 in the annual salary review by Palgainfo Agentuur.

Source: Internet
The customer is king, they say. As a rule, however, the customer only interacts with the lowest paid employee of the company. Rarely is it the company's president or chairman of the board - the only worthy representative to greet the king.

“Where’s the ketchup?” is a common question to the guy stalking the store aisles, dressed in the company uniform. The multiple choice answers are, “I don’t know, all you see is all there is!” or “I just work here!” or “Can’t you see that I have a customer!?”. None of the above helps solve the customer’s problem.

The Cleveland Clinic in the United States researched how satisfied patients were with its service. As it became apparent, not at all. Although their professionalism and health care service are the best rated in the US, it isn’t only the doctor that the patient meets. In fact, the patient interacts with up to 100 people in some cases, all of whom wear similar clothes and each one represents the hospital in the eyes of the patient. When the patient asks, “How am I doing?” she would be very happy to receive a comprehensible answer. Often, however, hospital staff responds with medical jargon or simply don’t know the answer, or in some cases, don’t even know the name of the attending physician, while doctor’s treat the disease rather than the patient. All of this led to patients not knowing how they were doing, leading to mistrust and misunderstandings. Dissatisfaction.

Who builds the image of the company in the eyes of the customer? The marketing department or the actual service representative? Clearly the image is built in interactions between the customer and the product or service at every point of contact. This is true also for partners and suppliers. What the boss does affects the attitude of employees towards the company. What does it say about the product, if the boss doesn’t use it? How should the employee sell it convincingly, if he doesn’t believe it himself?


We’ve entered the information age. The social information age. 90% of transactions are motivated by word-of-mouth recommendations. WOM is trustworthy. It’s based on somebody’s experience. Somebody’s actually tried a product and came away satisfied. The companies that sell their products at full price, that don’t have image problems, that have loyal employees are as a rule, also the companies where it’s fun to work, where you grow professionally and where employees have the authority to make decisions, not just responsibilities.

Imagine the company as a pyramid with the boss on top and employees on the bottom. If decision making is delegated, then the bottom of the pyramid can make decisions and solve problems quickly, at the point-of-contact with the customer. If the right to make decisions is only at the top of the pyramid then a bottle-neck is guaranteed. Management will quickly become disillusioned with employees (because they don’t take responsibility). On the other hand, employees will be completely dissatisfied with management, because nothing happens, nobody makes any decisions and its impossible to serve customers. Only responsibility and process are communicated from above, to ensure service quality, which can’t be delivered because every little decision requires process, which guarantees customer dissatisfaction. At the end of the day, employees are stupid, churn is high, salaries stay low since no one sticks around and even more procedures are required, to make anything at all happen.

To visit the bike shop, where you are served by an enthusiastic biker, is fun. He knows what he’s talking about, knows what he’s selling and is morally responsible, not just legally. In the sport's store in the big huge mall it’s often not possible to buy, for example, running shoes because the staff doesn’t know anything about it. Why is that? Same job. Same product, basically. The difference is in the organization. And in the attitude and values of the management towards staff, customers and people in general. This attitude is what creates the image of the store, how the staff acts and behaves and in the end, how satisfied customers are.

What should you do, so that your staff loves working in your company? (Yes, loves.) The Harvard Business Review just researched this question and found out the following:

No stupid rules
Illogical rules are incomprehensible. We don’t imagine that the world is really safer because the drink that we buy before the safety check at the airport is confiscated while the drink we buy after being x-rayd is allowed on board. Nobody has explained it. If you ask the security guard, he’ll say that its the rule.

Everyone in the company must understand the rules and why they are necessary. There should be as few rules as possible. The rest is regulated by culture.

Information about the company reaches everyone
Everyone should know how it is really going. Managers want to know what is not going well. Nobody should be punished for delivering bad news. People must feel confident to sign off on their opinions. It’s a lot more fun to work when management appreciates what you do instead of being treated as a resource to be used or discarded.

People are themselves
At work you should be able to be the same person you are at home. No one should be forced to think and act alike. Political correctness and the need to be similar takes away the motivation to be extraordinary. The grey mass does what the grey mass does – becomes unnoticable. Personality is what sticks out and draws attention to oneself. To do that, the people in the company, while sticking to the rules, can still be themselves. Personalities. Team’s work efficiently when everyone has a defined role and understand the goal.

In this context work must be meaningful and tasks justified. 
Working towards a common goal. 
Being proud of where they work.

Inside out

Brands are built from the inside out. The first step is moulding a business plan into a company. From there on in, if every person joining the company is indoctrinated into what the idea is, how it is expressed then every staff member can translate this idea into actions through the product or service. Presuming that the business idea is also important to customers, then the company grows. Often, however, people forget the initial business idea. Compromises are made to be faster or cheaper or bigger. Decisions are made in board meetings and delegated through orders to be brought to life. Why decisions were made isn’t communicated in-house. Instead an ad campaign proclaims it to the world, where also staff finds out.

Research clearly demonstrates, that while 80% of companies believe that they have a unique product or service, only 8% of customers agree. Similar research shows that although 90% of managers understand the company’s strategy, then according to Robert Kaplan and David Norton only 5% of employees do. But if the customer asks, “why are you doing this”, then he’ll ask the front line employee! Instead of having effective and consistent internal communication, which ensures that staff understands and believes in the company’s product or service, massmedia ads are published, which promise qualities which the employee may have a hard time believing.

The company brand is in reality created by the company’s culture. With what logo is of little importance. People appreciate authenticity. This doesn’t mean expensive or cheap or fast or slow. Just authentic. That the offer isn’t made just to earn greater profit, but that the company has a sincere desire to do something better than the competition. If this is true and it works, then profit will come anyway. If the product or service is memorable, either virtual or real, and the price and quality is in balance then a real brand will grow out of it.

This isn’t rocket science. Building a company is like raising children. The basics need to be repeated every day not just on the first day and nevermore. A newborn won’t remember everything.
Neither will a new employee.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What will the machines eat?

As a service designer, I'm often asked to develop new service models. The new service models have to provide more value to the end user. They do this by automating tasks currently performed by humans. Machines compute fast, have no "human" flaws and most importantly, cost less. Consequently, I've started asking where do the people go that have been replaced by machines? 

Recently a book was published by Jaron Lanier called "Who owns the future?" which directly addressed the same problem: the middle class is becoming obsolete because of automation. It stated that "at the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140 thousand people and was worth $28 billion. Kodak even invented the first digital camera. Today Kodak is bankrupt and the face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear to? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?"

Step back and think. Once the only way to get something done faster was by force: someone ordered someone else to perform a task. By introducing tools the work became more efficient and that brought an additional element into the mix. Ownership. Wealth allowed owners to acquire better tools and the efficiency this enabled started to accumulate. More efficient technologies increased the difference between the cost of production and making things by hand. Yes, we still value so called hand-made goods, but these are often not necessities but luxury items. But what happened to the people who lost jobs because of the machines?

Today's machine is the computer. At first a cumbersome computational machine, the computer is now omnipresent. Faster and more accurate than people, they already operate most tools. We no longer use the tools directly, but instead give orders to computers that use the tools instead. Production lines are fed with 3D models and coded messages and no one is physically touching anything anymore. As a result we need even more money and even less people to make anything. Automated plants outperform workshops and products have become even cheaper.

Once making things required people. Until machines made things better. Then came the rise of services, where humans were considered an asset until they were replaced by computers. But everything that is made and all the services provided are still there for people, who pay for them. With what if they've got no money because their job was replaced by a computer?

Jobs that require people are dissapearing at a time when the planet's population is expanding. Technological innovation is accelerating. While prices are falling the amount of goods and services are growing and limited natural resources, especially for technology products, is creating opposite forces driving prices up again. Environmental impact considerations are also driving prices up while the financial crisis is still destroying jobs and opportunity in numerous countries around the world. 

In this context, it seems that in order to maintain social harmony, we need to create a new social contract that seeks not greater efficiency, but rather greater value for society at large. In Dancing with Robots, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane, from MIT and Harvard respectively, make a compelling case that the hollowing out of middle class jobs…has as much to do with the technology revolution and computerization of tasks as with global pressures like China…The collapse of the once substantial middle class job picture has begun a robust debate among those who argue that it has its roots in policy versus those who argue that it has its roots in structural changes in the economy.

The authors make a strong case that in the future "the human labor market will center on three kinds of work: solving unstructured problems, working with new information and carrying out non-routine manual tasks. The bulk of the rest of the work will be done by computers." In order to make this transition for people, business and government must start planning not only for greater efficiency, but also to create jobs that computers cannot do.

While it is clear that machines don't eat, it isn't clear at all what people will eat if they are replaced by machines that do what people did before.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What do you stand for?

Infomelton has been importing great stuff for years – Jura and Cimbali coffee machines, Lavazza coffee. But just representing someone was not what they were about – spelling it out was a bit of a stumbling block, though.

We helped them regain their passion while rebranding them as Kafo. There was one thing that all of their staff shared, what made them want to go to work every morning – they hated bad coffee! So by whatever means, that's what Kafo was really about.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Englishman in New York a.k.a Lewis sharing his first impressions after joining Brand Manual Tallinn team

"Arriving without any knowledge of the language, I lived in a world without words, where, almost like a baby, I had to learn everything from scratch. I think the experience of being illiterate and then slowly growing back into society has made me a better designer. When you can’t read or write and you need to interpret everything you encounter by deciphering visual clues, you begin to understand how things and people function behind the words…it was a magnificent training in basic interface phenomenology."
— Oliver Reichenstein (on arriving Japan)

One of my first thoughts of Estonia was that it was a very new country. Very new. That perhaps, in the 90s, a governmental/business delegation had travelled to the west and taken extensive notes on how a country should look and be. Except the delegation had forgotten to take pens with them, and could only find somewhere to buy disposable cameras. And so this emerging country of Estonia became a nation based on piles of fuzzy disposable camera pics. What I mean by this—and it surely says more of being an alien than a native—is that more often than not things didn't quite work for me. In shops, why were the baskets stacked over there? Why did the automatic doors only half open? Why did the Elektriraudtee train timetable keep changing? Why were the plastic forks not right next to the salad bar? And who the hell thought putting six logos on a business card was a good idea?

When I joined Brand Manual I found out they had the same questions, I knew I was on to something special. Working here is about making the world make sense. Whether it be organising information or helping someone realise their business plans, Brand Manual's style of service design is not only about looking good but about intelligibility and efficiency in everyday life. Which is something in my experience design agencies can lack. Pretty brochures are nice, but they aren't always the answer!

I should mention that I am first and only non-Estonian/Russian speaker (potentially a disadvantage) in the BM team and the only member with English as their first language (a significant advantage - translation: I know where to use definitive and not definitive articles). Before joining I had worried whether the force majeure of English be welcomed? How would basic meetings go? Would clients mind that they would be required to speak a little English in my presence? Who would know the most English curse words in order to properly reprimand me when I did something stupid? A few of these questions have been answered. A few remain to be seen.

But one thing I know for sure is that the office life and the working ethos of BM is built on empathy and clarity of thought. And that I've found myself very welcome here. Brand Manual practise what they preach. Things work here and problems get solved.

And not fully speaking Estonian? (In my defence my vocabulary is reasonable, I understand most of what is going on now) Well … I could blame the difficulty in the pronunciation, the fourteen grammatical cases or that most Tallinners seem to relish the opportunity to speak English with anglo-foreigners … whatever it may be, not speaking the local language has undoubtedly benefited me as a designer. It has given me, as Oliver Reichenstein notes (above quote), a far more developed visual and semiotic language. Every colour, symbol and non-alphabetical marking carries a far deeper wealth of meaning for me now. It has also taught me to not rely on English idioms when conversing, and to communicate with more clarity and effect than I ever would have thought necessary in the UK. All things which continue to benefit me and my work here.

Not to sound trite, but I can happily say the world makes more sense when you spend some of it in a 'language vacuum'. And working with Brand Manual, it's about making the world make sense. And when it all gets too much, I've got Google translate bookmarked.

Lewis McGuffie

Thank you, Slothrops, for so kindly sharing one of the photos

Thursday, May 2, 2013

From kiosk to convenience store

After three years of meticulous work with one of our prime clients, R-kiosk, we have something to show now. The kiosks are really changing – not just the looks but the whole approach to servicing their clients.

This is one of the cases where we didn't draw a new logo (this one came from Finland), but helped the client to design something that really matters – new business model, shop layout, product range, service concept, communication templates.

We're just half way and a lot is yet to be done. Bringing this concept to life would not have been possible without the help of the best retail specialists from KAHAL, who spent sleepless nights making it all happen. And will spend a lot more, as there are over a hundred kiosks to upgrade!

But we can already be proud as the first new kiosks are operational and are quite easy to find by the smell of freshly baked pastry and good Italian roast coffee.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Future Perfect: the Book

Our fourth book is finally out there and in some ways it summarises what we’ve been up to since 2009. The first book was about branding. In 2011 we took a look at innovation and last year we dissected service design. 

This book puts those topics in the context of how we all meet our new challenges.

All our books you can find online. Or, even better, you can collect your paper-and-ink copies at the Brand Manual office. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sagmeister: An uncommon touch of sense

About a week ago our long wait to greet Stefan "The Sagmeister" Sagmeister in Tallinn finally ended. There he was, drinking bottled water at our office, happily accepting a job offer as Brand Manual's receptionist ;)

This happened many years after we made our first approach to Stefan through ADC*Estonia. A year ago at the festival in Cheltenham Dan, Brand Manual's founding partner, again approached Stefan with the offer to come to Estonia. This was followed by months of thorough preparations by the Estonian Design Centre (thank you, Sirli!) to organize the event, because Stefan said YES.

The wait paid off handsomely. The seminar was sold out and the 95 head audience kept Stefan talking for hours and hours. The longest seminar for him to run, EVER, Stefan confessed afterwards. What he talked about, seemed to move a lot of people in the audience. Some had arrived to meet an idol, others expected to see a stiff celebrity, some had professional interest, but few expected to be launched into a personal journey of Stefan's career.

Stefan didn't preach, teach, or try to prove anything other than what he does, rather than what he knows. He showed what good storytelling was all about, sharing his personal experiences in staying true to his gut feelings as well as those little clever thoughts he has put down in his notebook over time. "A good reminder of things you often forget at daily work - just dig a little deeper with your ideas and designs" as Ville and Tony from the Finnish design studio Kuudes Kerros saw it.

People were all ears and took priceless notes. And still it was only after the seminar that the audience realized that all this time they were part of yet another Stefan's project – the event was filmed and parts of it will probably be used in his newest work in progress – the "Happiness" documentary project.

This was all so common sense, that it felt uncommon. And inspiring. Thank you, Stefan.

Visit Estonian Design Cetnre's FB page to see more photos from the event.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Judging at the Russian Packaging Competition

In May, one of Brand Manual's partners, Dan Mikkin, will have the honour of participating in the jury of Part Awards 2013 ((Packaging: Art, Research, Technology). This packaging design competition is confined to all of Russian cultural space, not just any geographic or administrative borders. Judging by the level of work we witnessed in Moscow recently, the level of entries should be excitingly high.

The competition itself, by the words of the organisers, is a unique format not only by Russian standards, but on a much broader scale. These are packaging-focused awards, where brands and creatives measure up, not producers and printers. The jury is comprised of top notch pros from across the globe, both Eastern (Alexandre Kovalenko, Vasili Andreev) and Western (Sam Stone, Nocola Zinic).

If you want to participate, the deadline for entries is May 19. But you could just check out last year's winners, there's some world class stuff to enjoy.

Один из партнеров Бренд Мануал, Дан Миккин, вошел в состав жюри свежего русского конкурса упаковки Part Awards 2013 ((Packaging: Art, Research, Technology). Именно русского, так как участники не ограничены государственными границами, а соединяют весь русскоязычный ареал. Судя по упаковкам, которыми нас удивили недавно в Москве, уровень конкурсантов будет высок и работы сногсшибательные.

По словам организаторов, формат конкурса уникален не только в Российских маштабах, но и мировых - сфокусированный именно на дизайне упаковки, где мерится силами будут не производители и типографии, а бренды, студии и самостоятельные творческие единицы. Жюри высокого уровня по международным меркам - от Васи Андреева (Беларусь) и Саши Коваленко (Россия) до Сэм Стоун (Великобритания) и Николы Зинич (Хорватия).

Заявки принимаются до 23:59 17 мая 2013 года. Но советую и просто посмотреть на победителей прошлого года, это воистину крутые упаковки.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Camp Berlin: re-thinking the future of television

In the beginning of February a group of design and media professionals were on stage in Musiikitalo, Helsinki. We were delivering presentations about the future of television to the decision makers of the Finnish television industry. For a week we had been in Berlin, brainstorming on the topic and developing our ideas into bigger concepts, guided by a team of talented coaches and guests like Juliette Powell and Damian Kulash. We let serendipity and process guide us and it carried us well. Many of our ideas got instant approval from the executives but most importantly, the concepts were not a set of features to be developed, but a holistic view of how the whole television industry can be re-invented as a powerful alternative to the non-linear internet, it's biggest adversary.

There is a strong current toward virtual experiences, where we can get lost in computer generated environments, transmitted to us via screens of all sorts. We have user generated content that creates an enormous long tail of cat movies. Yet we still have professional storytellers and performers, who keep surprising us with their ingenuity and skill, which can be enjoyed on any channel or device.

What will happen to television then? Many trends are already described on  the CampBerlin home page, but I would emphasize a few trends that can make television relevant even in 2020. One differentiator is that television is a shared experience, as opposed to experiences people have on their personal devices. The second difference is curated content: television does not happen. It is performed. How to make that experience more relevant for different audiences, and still have a curated structure, was one of the central topics that was answered.

In 2007 I had the pleasure to visit the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow, where John Logie Baird transmitted the first long distance television signal to London in 1927. The hotel was longing for refurbishment, so the atmosphere nicely suited this ancient fact about TV history. The hotel, once at the centre of technological innovation, was as outdated as the machines used back then. Technology remorselessly rides roughshod over those, who revel in the status quo. At the core, however, is a human need – never a device. And that need, being entertained, will never go out of style. We just keep having better devices for keeping us entertained.

The audience has control now. They like to be entertained, but they like it on their own terms. The TV industry has been operating the business model of limiting access to content based on the premise, that people can't get the same content anywhere else. Today, they can no longer afford to produce high quality content because there is no longer a guarantee of an audience. People's attention has become the new currency and the industry must re-learn to monetize it. There is an answer to "why do I watch television in the future?" It is based on human needs and soon this answer will have its debut on Finnish television. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stefan Sagmeister's coming to town!

Graphic design superstar is having a special session in Brand Manual's home city Tallinn. A full Saturday of design action - a seminar + workshop - will take place on April 13, 2013, facilitated by the Estonian Design Centre.

Austrian-born graphic designer and typographist Sagmeister has worked for the Rolling Stones, The Talking Heads, Lou Reed, The Guggenheim Museum and Levis. At the seminar moderated by Dan Mikkin he'll be talking about things he's learned in his life so far, teach you how to touch someone's heart and briefly disclose how to run a design company.

Incidentally, Stefan was just named the most influential graphic designer working today by the GD USA magazine.

So whether you're in Riga, Helsinki or St.Petersburg, this is your best chance to see the living legend in flesh!