Family (and Friends)

This Friday we once again had a guest speaker coming to the uni to talk about what they do. This week the speaker was Derek, the founder of  a branding agency called Family (and Friends). The theme of his speech was love and how it should be a core aspect of successful businesses, careers and meaningful design work.

A friend of his had asked him what has made it work for them. Derek’s response was view was “love is what makes a successful business”. You must love the visual communications industry when you work in it. There may be bad days or even weeks but you stick with it because it is what you love it.

For them the result was even more literal. He married his workmate and co-founded Family (and Friends) with her. They built the company around their lives, not their lives around the company. In the company some are real family and rest are friends. They never you recruitment agencies to recruit new strangers.

“love your clients”

But in addition to loving your workmates you also have to love your clients. You must have the motivation to work on the project you have taken on. You must love the process. You must love meeting new people, learning about other industries and finding the right solution for their needs.

From that love good design is born. According to Derek, for good design to happen you need to work “in a very open, honest and collaborative way – just how a family works.” You also need: listening, talking, understanding, nurturing, playful experiences, genuine concern for creating positive outcomes and delivering on promises.

“love a lable”

Branding yourself is important, you must focus and find a specialism. There are too many of us designers out there, you can’t be a generalist. Find out what you love, what you are passionate about, and use that to promote yourself.

“love as a philosophy: Our mission is to build brands that people love to love.”

Branding tools for attraction

Derek also listed 3 main things to think about in branding: personality, story, and impact. He explained these through 3 case studies from the work they have done as a company.


As the first case study example he used Gaymers cider whose identity and advertising what based on “an old man from the country”. Family (and Friends) changed the brands personality by changing the design from the old man into “festival loving girls”. They made the packaging more colorful and fun and young.

After the brand’s design changes the sales of fruit flavored cider went up 80% and  Gaymers was named the official cider of Glastonbury 2013.



“story is about identifying your target audience and understanding their world views”

Derek said that in branding you must be able to “tell a story in pictures, supported by words”. He used Seed and Bean chocolate as an example of this . Before the story that you got from the package was “highly ethical, lacking taste, dull”, but Family (and Friends) changed it into “very natural, tasty, bright”. They also re-arranged the information on the package so that it is all centered and vertical, only 4 focal points. In the old package had a poor eye tracking, six different focal points.



The third was about TruVibe and making an impact in your product category. You must stand out and create impact with category disruption. Family (and Friends) took a look at the super foods category and noticed that it was “a pretty flat landscape”. Everything looked quite similar and dull. TruVibe’s message was about encouraging people to live their dreams and celebrate the human spirit, so Family (and Friends) created a fresh and different packaging for them around the message.

Within 24 months the product was listed in over 1,000 stores in the USA, over 100,000 units had been sold, it had been voted the best new packaging at Natural Products Expo West 2014, and they had 18,600 likes on Facebook.

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