My name is Alexandros Gavrilakis, and I am the Founder and Creative Director of the multidisciplinary design practice AG Design Agency.
Before we start, I would like to say on behalf of the whole AG team how happy we are to be here with you today. This year, the theme of Design Athens focuses on THE LARGE SCALE, and we would like to thank our beloved Dimitris Fakinos for his choice of theme, since we believe it is an extremely interesting subject for our industry.
We chose to overlook the fact that the term “large scale” can also refer to large format applications such as the (banned in Greece) billboards and we will focus on the use of the term many of you may already have encountered in various articles on the evolution of graphic design.
Today we can only look back at the impact the digital revolution made on how we communicate, the way we work, and even the way we socialize. And graphic design is no exception to this change.
As designers, more often than not, we will be asked to help our clients -and their brands- adapt to this new order of things, or more precisely, to this “larger scale” of things where brands need to be agile , to communicate with a vast range of “users” with different perceptions, from different parts of the world and across multiple touch-points.
Sounds awesome and it is!
But, with growth and a diversified global customer base come big responsibilities. And to be able -as a designer- to provide solutions, to create a strong brand frame work and an identity that will help a business communicate effectively with a global pool of funders, employees, partners, new and existing customers, and fans, requires a new way of thinking.
In the past year, our agency had the opportunity to work in 3 such projects, each one quite different from the other, but all with common denominator our client’s need to create a favorable environment for growth to move to the “larger” scale.
These, I will present to you today, aiming to share with you each client’s needs and requirements and the solutions we proposed in order to communicate the values and promise of each brand at its various touch-points with the public.
The first is the rebranding of Viva Wallet. To many of you viva.gr will come to mind. And rightly so, since it is indeed part of the Viva group of companies.
While others may know it as the the 1st Greek e-wallet, launched way before similar products by the Greek systemic banks. Based in Athens, and with offices in London, Brussels and Bucharest, Viva Wallet, directly connected to Visa® and MasterCard®, is the first Europe-based payments provider with a fully cloud based infrastructure.
The company aims within the first half of 2019 to be active in 9 European countries,while its services are already being used by 300.000 individuals & 60.000 businesses in Greece.
In this context, in 2018 Viva Wallet applied for an electronic bank license in Great Britain and activated its UK IBAN accounts for its UK business customers, went for a new “sprint” of funding estimated to reach € 50 million and decided to rebrand!
The main issue raised by the client was the creation of a new brand identity that would support the launch of new services and android apps for businesses and individuals, and help them scale up and compete on equal terms with some great brands such as Revolut, N26, Starling Bank, and others.
Starting to work on this project we came to realize that branding for the fintech industry presented a unique set of challenges and that with the existing logo we would not go far!
Fintech. A compound word, from Financial and Technology.
The term refers to the provision of financial services exclusively through innovative information and communication technologies. It is one of the most rapidly growing digital industries worldwide, with brands like the ones mentioned above, implementing a customer-first mindset and disrupting the established players.
But persuading consumers to take a risk on a relatively unknown start-up especially when their money is on the line, is no easy task. Even though banks have been among the least customer-focused businesses on earth, 39% of the UK population have never switched their accounts!
Having this in mind, in addition to creating a visual identity for a trusted tech product, we went to create a brand which inspires confidence. A brand that is more than customer-centric, a brand that is above all, human!
The new logo is inspired by something very familiar to everyone, the way we traditionally keep our money: Our wallet and more specifically, the classic money clip.
A small and practical gadget typically used for cash and credit cards by those who don’t want to carry a wallet.
The final logo is composed from the V of Viva, the W of Wallet and the money clip creating a “take-off platform” for Viva Wallet’s increasingly innovative products.
In the context of simplifying all banking transactions, the new Viva Wallet brand represents our wallet in this digital age!
The choice of colors was made with the aim to give a breath of fresh air to banking products, with each shade serving as a categorization tool among the different services offered by Viva Wallet. Preserving some of the elements of the original color palette, it works as a reminder for all existing users of the service, stability and confidence inspired by the Viva brand.
So with the new identity, its symbol and tone of voice, we created a brand that is ahead of its curve, a brand that communicates in a playful, distinctive and meaningful way.
Our next client belongs in another industry which is also experiencing the impact of all this growth and the increasing expectations of the public – that of tourism. It is the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos in Crete.
Agios Nikolaos is one of the first regions to be touristically developed, followed by the western parts of the island. It is a small town with a great history
But “visitors from all over the world”? What exactly does that mean? Today’s traveler is a consumer extremely difficult to define. The same person may one day travel to London for business, the next month he might join his friends on a climbing trip in Asia and a few weeks later he might be in Rome for a romantic weekend. During each of these trips, he belongs to a different traveler “tribe”.
In addition, travelers today want more from a destination. They will choose based on the unique experiences it has to offer (which of course they will then share on Instagram).
Finally, another very important issue we had to consider is that such a platform should serve simultaneously a diverse range of stakeholders with different interests – the local government, hoteliers, restaurant owners, tour operators, etc.
With this information, we opted for clear and comprehensive thematic units, providing visitors with the inspiration and information they need based on their own interests.
From gastronomy and hiking, to ancient history, religious and wedding tourism, the experiences one can enjoy in Agios Nikolaos are as diverse as are its guests! Accordingly, the User Experience adapted to the needs of the users who visit the site, offering easy navigation and access to individual themes and practical information.
This project, from wherever you see it, was related to the “larger scale. From the need of our client to reach a huge and fragmented audience, the amount of information we needed to manage, even the framework of cooperation we were called upon to create, with the Municipality, UX designers, photographers, filmmakers, cartographers, copywriters, etc in order to create a digital platform that inspires, transports the mind and provides the first real brand experience for ‘would be’ travelers to Agios Nikolaos.
Moving towards the end of our speech, I would like to show you a third and last project for today, which again concerns the large scale but from another perspective.
This is a case study that we consider to be of great interest for two reasons:
1. It concerns the re-branding of an Athens-based family business that seeks to take its next step towards the wider market and,
2. It is the visual identity of an architectural firm. I imagine many of you might have come across architects who believe they can design apart from blocks of flats and logos!
The paradox throughout this story is that our client, the architectural firm Ioannis & Alexis Vikelas & Associates, after having completed 50 years as the designers and engineers to some of the most ambitious and emblematic buildings in Athens, came to us with an extremely open mind, ready to hear the solutions that we as AG, alongside Vassilis Bartzokas and Design Ambassador who are responsible for the brand’s market expansion and communication, had to propose.
More or less, we all know that family businesses require a special approach. They are also the backbone of the Greek economy with their “resilience” proven several times over in recent years.
And this resilience is not random or accidental. These companies are governed by a common system of values, which ultimately create a single corporate culture and that is something very precious for a brand to have.
In the minds of many people -most likely those among us who are slightly older – the name Vikelas embodies stability, prestige and respect.
But besides those values that are inextricably linked to “history”, it was also important that the new visual identity communicates a brand that is flexible and adaptable to the challenges of the market, a brand that is “open” to the future, to new and challenging projects and customers.
Starting to work on the the new corporate identity, we took a journey from the 1950s until today, pausing at three important milestones.
The first reference.
From the guiding principles of Swiss Design where the goal was clarity, order, and a universally understood visual language that emphasized only on what was necessary, to the great teachers of modern architecture Le Corbusier, Van der Rohe, Oscar Niemeyer
Our second reference were the elements of vertical structure
The concept of high-rise building development that was studied extensively by Ioannis Vikelas. He believed in the creation of small “islets of contrast” within the city, as he says.
For example, if within an area of 10,000 blocks of flats, we replace 50 of them with higher buildings and more green spaces, the volume of “ugliness” will decrease considerably and without enormous interventions.
The third reference is the element of repetition. The Symmetry. The Pattern
The new brand identity for Vikelas Architects tells a success story that is being repeated while at the same time describing a constantly expanding firm led by its work and values.
The logo envelops the words Elevation – Symmetry – Height. Depicted with a modern Sans Serif font, the logo grows vertically, while the two geometric volumes form 2 initial Vs. And has 3 versions, its full expansion as the one we previously showed and the name of the firm in a single or double line, thus, one can select the most appropriate, depending on the application.
The typographic system accompanying the logo was created in order to manage information allowing for the seamless creation of all necessary brand applications.
In closing I would like to say that the notion of building brands as experiences and not as promises is not something new. A brand’s Purpose and Values remain as the fundamental elements of any organization or company as its perfectly coherent elements.
But, never to date as designers did we have such a fertile ground. Never before, our customers had such need to connect with their audience and respectively, as designers, never before, did we have the opportunity to contribute in the “scaling” of brands across so many of touch-points.
Before I say goodbye, let me say a great big thank you to all those who worked for the conception and implementation of these projects.
Our associate Miltos Bottis, with whom we collaborated for the re-branding of Viva Wallet and Vikelas Architects, Vassilis Bartzokas for his enthusiasm and tenacity in all the projects we are working together, everyone involved in the Agios Nikolaos project, Thanos Eleftherakos, my beloved Kiki Tirekidou, Spyros Staridas, Indigo View, the photographers, copywriters, translators and the main man, Yiannis Tsagarakis from the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, without whom we would still not have signed the contract!
Last but not least, to my close collaborator and friend, Olympia Aivazi for her contribution on the preparation of this presentation, as well as for her wonderful cooperation in a large list of Greek and foreign clients. Thank you all very much!
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