We spoke to Melbourne Design Studio, Mildred & Duck, about their restrained and minimalist brand identity for B.H Embroidery.
First of all, tell us about your studio.
Mildred & Duck is a small studio run by the two of us (Daniel Smith and Sigiriya Brown). We met during university over seven years ago and we’ve been working together ever since.
We work with a wide range of clients, choosing deliberately to avoid specialising in any particular industries; which helps keep our approach to all new projects fresh and exploratory. We help our clients craft solutions that communicate and connect with their audience, delivering a visual identity and experience that aligns with the core values and intentions of their business.
We work with a wide range of clients, choosing deliberately to avoid specialising in any particular industries; which helps keep our approach to all new projects fresh and exploratory.
Can you tell us about the initial project conversations with the client?
The client was introduced to us through another client we had worked with previously. A family-run embroidery and customisation business in operation for over 20 years, B . H . Embroidery was looking to create a completely new visual identity that would reflect their position at the forefront of progress and technology in the embroidery industry.
What did the design process look like for this project?
For us, the first step with any new client is to really understand their business. In this case, as the business has been in operation for over 20 years, this involved taking the time to understand how the business started and where they wanted to head in the future. In this initial phase, we ask a lot of questions and combine this with our own industry research and experience—the result of this process ultimately dictates the direction the design takes.
As we got to know and understand our client’s business as a result of this process, it became really important to us to respect the connection to their past experience and heritage, whilst creating a visual language that would position B . H . Embroidery as a market leader to reflect their position very much at the forefront of technology within the industry.
Design exploration and the creative phase followed, and the resulting concept was then produced and refined. We always present a single concept, as opposed to multiple options. To us, an identity is much more than just a logo which is why we always present the entire concept and applications in as close to complete a form as possible, so our clients can really see how the visual language functions.
To us, an identity is much more than just a logo which is why we always present the entire concept and applications in as close to complete a form as possible, so our clients can really see how the visual language functions.
Can you talk us through the thinking behind the final design?
Our focus was to create a timeless identity with a corporate sensibility, honouring the contemporary side of the business whilst remaining grounded in their history. In application, the identity becomes a contemporary take on the traditional customisation of garments using owner’s initials, an effect achieved using a combination of letterpress and blind letterpress finishes to reduce the identity down to its abbreviated form.
The identity will often be seen alongside other brands and garments, so keeping the colour palette neutral was something we had decided on early in the design process. Utilising soft greys and the letterpress finish prevents the overall design from becoming too clinical and allows the understated confidence of the identity to become the focus.
Our focus was to create a timeless identity with a corporate sensibility, honouring the contemporary side of the business whilst remaining grounded in their history.
Did you face any challenges during the project?
Sometimes working with an existing business to create a new identity can be more challenging than creating an identity for a new business, but in this case we were lucky to be working with clients who embraced the change and process wholeheartedly and were committed to creating a high-quality brand and execution to align with and cement their position in the market.
What was your favorite part of the process?
A part of this project we found particularly rewarding was working Kirsten and James of Taylor’d Press to create the printed collateral. To achieve the finishes we had specified was technically fairly demanding, and so it helps to be able to work with printers who care as much about the details as we do! The Taylor’d Press team are very accommodating and happy to have us drop in for press checks to have a look at everything during production, and we spent quite a lot of time talking through the job discussing things like the advantages of forme cutting the business cards (to avoid any issues the pressure of a guillotine cut may have on the double-sided blind embossed type that runs off the edge of the duplexed cards).
Of course, it’s always nice to hear great feedback from our client and see their business grow. The embroidery industry, within Melbourne at least, is visually fairly stale and it was really rewarding to be able to introduce something new into the market and help our clients further define their niche as a premium option within the industry.
In what ways did the initial concepts differ from the final execution?
As we mentioned, we spend a lot of time getting to know our clients and their business during the initial phase of the design process, and at the same time we also educate our clients about our own process and make sure they are gaining some knowledge about the conceptual side of creating a visual identity. We invest a lot of time in our concept before the initial presentation and present something that is as fully-formed as possible. Ultimately, we only ever present a concept that we feel is the best solution for the needs of our client, and this results in almost every concept we present changing very little (in fact often not at all) from concept to final execution. In this case specifically, the concept is exactly the same as what we had originally presented (right down to the printing specifications).
You clearly put a lot of effort into presenting your projects. Do you have any advice for other hoping to up-level their own portfolio presentation?
We’d definitely suggest investing in a good photographer, and potentially a stylist, to help showcase your projects. Don’t be afraid to look beyond the more typical graphic design “folio-style” photography for inspiration; experiment with textures, colours, and compositions to present each project in a way that compliments the design and concept.
Whose work is inspiring your studio you right now?
It’s a hard question to answer, as we see so much great and inspiring work being produced internationally… but we feel especially lucky lately to live in Melbourne; a city with a vibrant and varied design community. There’s a lot of strong work being produced within the many layers of the Melbourne design community from many sectors, and we try to remain receptive to inspiration from anywhere and find inspiration often comes from places outside of the graphic/communication design industry. Some fellow Melburnian graphic designers we’re inspired by at the moment are Mike of M.Giesser, and Suzy Tuxen & her team of A Friend of Mine.
Behind the Brief is an interview series celebrating the creative process where we speak to the team behind the project, pulling back the curtain on their design thinking, strategy and process to learn how they arrived at the final design.