PERSPECTIVES – FROM BOATS TO BRANDS: THE POWER OF VISUAL SIGNIFIERS
Sam Povey, Graphic Designer at Brandhouse
After a few years of dreaming of living on the water, I moved into a 50ft narrow boat on the London canals. She has a lovely blue and burgundy paint job with a hand painted mural of a wagon, and surrounding it is the name ‘Little Gypsy’. It’s very Rosie and Jim. So far it’s been enjoyable getting into the slow rhythm of boat life, moving every 2 weeks to a new location, winding locks, mooring up, having BBQs on the tow path and meeting fellow boaters. Luckily the boating community in London are a friendly bunch, most are willing to have a chat or at least greet you with a passing ‘Good morning’. The only problem is that I, like many other boaters, find it quite difficult to remember the names of the all the boaters we’ve met.
At first I thought perhaps a distinct lack of social skills on my part might be to blame. But then I remembered the times when I’ve been on the boat, looking out the window and seen just glimpses of other boats as they go past, and have managed to name them just from the paintwork alone. So why do I find naming various boats so easy, but struggle to remember the names of their various owners? The reality is that boats usually display a powerful selection of visual signifiers, such as painted characterful signage and individual structures with unique quirks that help our memories recognise them, often instantly.
This is key when thinking about brands, as their goal is to stand out amongst the competition and be recognised even in the busiest of markets. After all, a successful brand should be able to be recognised without the need for an explicit explanation of their name, and instead, through visual signifiers like shapes, slogans and colours alone.
So if anything else, being a boater has further confirmed something that I’ve always held true as a designer, that visual signifiers in branding are the keys to trigger recognition and therefore paramount to a brands success.