So I saw this little nugget pop up early last week, and my first reaction was… that’s cool. Then when I started really thinking about it, I completely shifted gears.
Hessian is a brand for sale–that is, a brand that represents no business or product. The designer, Ben Pieratt, hopes to sell the Hessian brand for $18,000. That includes 30 hours of design time, the URL, twitter handle, identity that’s already been designed, and a whole list of other odds and ends you can find here. The buyer will then apply it to their restaurant, start up, clothing label, etc.
Visually, the design and execution are pretty cool. I like the flying “h” through space effect; it weirdly reminds me of the flying toaster screen savers from the mid-90’s. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just what popped into my head. I must say, if I saw this identity emblazoned across a storefront or wrapped on a vehicle, I’d be intrigued. If I walked into the store and it was a nail salon, however, I’d be disappointed.
Ben mentions in his blog post about Hessian “… it seems to me that in today’s connected environment, there’s no reason designers shouldn’t be able to create designed product packages, and then sell them to entrepreneurs.” I think he is correct when it comes to maybe graphical elements such as icons, or heck, even customizable website templates, but branding? I can’t help but imagine that this type of thinking will turn the identity and branding process into something more along the lines of getting a tattoo. You walk into the store, flip through the book, and say “I want one that’s similar to this”. Now, you can always get a super duper custom one-of-a-kind tattoo, but that will cost extra.
This idea, albeit interesting, completely misses the point – in my opinion – of what branding and identity is. I may be proven completely wrong, and these guys may have invented the next big business model for identity designers. However, in my world (and BOF’s world), branding and identity begin with the client, or more specifically, the business. We have to ask what or who we are creating an identity for. How should that person or business be portrayed to the rest of the world? What are the fundamental values of that business, and how can those be incorporated into a brand mark? The list goes on.
Anyway, I don’t mean to sound cranky, I’d love to hear what you guys have to say. I also promise to do a follow up if this thing sells.