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Deconstructive Brand Design; how it can help you make more impactful and meaningful designs

Encer, the design division of The Oyemaja Group.

Business, Advertising, Marketing, Entrepreneurship.
Oyemaja, Why We Love Bad People. Photocredit: Unsplash

Process is essential to design. How we design determines how well we design. This demands a regular review of our approach and methods. In this review, efficiency, ease and practicality are key factors to consider. Design, is after all, not only about how it looks, but how it works. A pretty but complicated design is not a good one.

The conventional process is to ‘build’. In essence, you establish the base, then design the entire system based on that foundation. The base, for many brand designers, is oftentimes the logos. So, graphic designers make a logo and pick a set of colours that they feel works best with it. They sample a long list of fonts and create an elaborate typography for the brand; flyers, posters, banners are built upon these chosen colors and typography; marketing materials are designed. On and on, layer upon layer, until a robust, comprehensive and complex system and identity is birthed.

The conventional process is to ‘build’. In essence, you establish the base, then design the entire system based on that foundation..

This method is constructive in process and is the norm. It makes sense because you build anything from the ground up. But design is not bricklaying, and the rules can be revised for convenience, efficiency and durability.


What’s better than building from the ground up? Building from the top down (guess we shouldn’t call that building anymore haha). It’s like backtracking…or you can call it digging. Here, you start from the finish line, and design backwards until you strike the core. Rather than applying layers, you’re peeling away at an orange, squeezing out the juice, until you touch the seed. That seed, that raw form, the source, that’s your base. That’s your foundation.

But you’d say “building a brand is not a historical process. It’s creation. You have to create a finished work to discover how it was created.”

You’re looking at it wrongly. Deconstructive brand design is not a design process, but a design-thought process. It’s how you think about design. Starting from the finish line means that you are looking at a service, product or individual as a whole, examining its features and deconstructing the bulk into parts until you get to the unit.

Nothing New

Subconsciously, designers already make use of this deconstructive process. You want to create a logo that looks like a bird, for instance. What do you do? You google bird photos. If falcons appeal to you, you download some pictures and sketch. Then, you strip it down to its most basic discernible features - what we now call minimalism. A few tweaks here and there and your logo is ready to be delivered to your client – an airplane company. This thought process is deconstructive because you have examined the services and products of your clients in its complete form - they are into air cargo transport. Your mind likens anything air to birds, insects, kites and other flying stuff. You go for birds, remove the eyes, delete its feet till you have a twitter-logo-looking logo.

Practically, Packaging Designers apply this principle. You don’t design a carton or box off the top of your head and expect your client – Coca Cola, to go produce coke bottles that fit into your box. Packaging designers first observe the product, whether it’s a bottle of coke, a fridge, books or detergent, examine its features and design a pack that works well for the product. The other way round will be a disaster.

Industrial designers in companies also make use of this process. A fridge manufacturer does not just slap parts together and leave customers to figure out how to fit their vegetables into it. Industrial designers consider the shape of vegetables, fruits, bowls, bottles etc. in designing a refrigerator. That’s why we love Haier.

Automobile designers deconstruct as well; they consider the anatomy of humans (and even animals, since we travel with pets) before they design cars. Top-down process. Deconstructive Design.


How can brand designers utilize this technique? If you were designing for a real estate company, for example, you’d take a tour of the company’s properties, observe their structures and styles; what is peculiar about their architecture? Do they use more arches than other real estate companies? What is so unique about their roofing technique and style that anybody can spot from a mile away? Is it the windows? Do they specialize in sky scrapers or bungalows? You make rough sketches, write some notes, ask some questions.

Now you have the full picture. You march to the drawing board and chip away, merge, adjust, chip, modify, chip and chip and chip until you arrive at the lowest indivisible unit.

In your process of deconstruction, you derive your brand patterns. Like an epiphany, you can spot unique and original brand icons that are cannot be easily duplicated. Your colors would come naturally. The typography will reveal itself to you in a dream.

Backtracking is an advantage in brand design. The future of anything, after all, is best predicted by studying its history.

Yours in brand,

Encer, Oyemaja.



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