It Looks Like a Toyota: Educational Approaches to Designing for Visual Brand Recognition
Toni-Matti Karjalainen


The aim of this descriptive paper is to suggest an educational approach and analytical methods that are useful in helping students grasp the theme of design for visual brand recognition. Visual recognition of brands and products has become a central competitive factor within various product categories. Companies must develop products with designs that not only appear attractive but also carry distinctive references to the ‘character’ of the brand, manifest in defined core values. This paper suggests that such ‘value-based’ design features involve explicit or implicit references, and depending on the brand’s strategic approach, can be consistently or flexibly used over the product portfolio. To be better prepared to face the challenges of design practice, design for visual brand recognition is a theme that needs to be embraced by new approaches also in design education. To meet the aim of the paper, examples of student projects are presented. They were co-organised by the author in the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden in 2004 and 2005. In projects, students analysed visual design strategies of selected brands and created new fictive design concepts on the basis of their analyses. In addition to educational contribution to the field of design, these exercises generated insightful qualitative data concerning the design of visual brand recognition, open for further exploration and development of research approaches.

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