Bruce Mau Design tells Tom May how an international mix of designers, a focus on brand mission, and pop-up design studios are helping it attract big brands worldwide
Bruce Mau Design explains how its international mix of designers helps attract big clients worldwide
Launched by the eponymous Canadian designer after he left Pentagram in 1985, Toronto-based brand consultancy Bruce Mau Design has gone from strength to strength.
Despite its founder departing in 2010, the agency has continued to win awards and attract big name clients from across the world, including Sonos, the V&A and ASICS. Here, we talk to some of its creatives, including president and CEO Hunter Tura, creative director Chris Braden, senior strategic designer Kar Yan Cheung and graphic designer Kyosuke Nishida, to uncover the secrets of their success...
You pride yourselves on ‘mission-driven design’. What does that mean, exactly? Hunter Tura:
It means branding ‘the mission’, rather than the product, service or building. So we start by defining the higher purpose of an organisation, and focus on developing a brand platform around that mandate. That opens up so many new possibilities around how a brand can make meaningful and long-lasting emotional connections with its customers.
Chris Braden: It’s about more than just aesthetics, so it leads to deeper, more meaningful solutions and opens up possibilities. Our aim is to help people rethink what it is they do. That’s one of the most exciting parts, when you unlock that moment for them.
How difficult is that to achieve in practice? CB:
The older and more complex an organisation is, the more challenging it becomes, because you start to encounter entrenched ideas. Take for example, our work for Metrolinx, the transit authority for Ontario.
Historically they’ve had super-smart engineers and policy makers trying to figure out how to make connective and seamless transportation across the city. But we’ve been helping them realise that the thing they’re really doing is creating connections – between people, between locations, between modalities of transit – and to build an identity that expresses that.
As another example, Sonos saw themselves essentially as a multiroom, digital audio system... which is another way of saying they made speakers. But we helped them realise what they’re actually about is making the ultimate home listening experience. And that totally unlocked different ways of doing things for them.
How do you attract these big clients? HT:
Energy can be a differentiating force, and I think ambitious and forward-looking companies respond to the spirit that our team brings into our projects. I make sure we establish in every kick-off meeting that design is a fun process and if we’re not collectively having fun then we need to figure out a way to do so.
We’re also less concerned about budgets than we are about ambition and values. If we share a world view with the client that great design can drive growth, engagement and awareness, then we can find a way to work together. Client size isn’t so important: we work with startups and younger companies as well as more established ‘legacy’ brands looking to reinvent themselves. ASICS is a great example of the latter.
Kar Yan Cheung: We get a lot of referrals and recommendations, thanks to our clients loving
Bruce Mau Design reveals how an international mix of designers, a focus on brand mission, and pop-up design studios are helping it attract big clients from all over the world