Design Case Study: Margherita Baldi’s Typeface for FLOW

Margherita Baldi is a Shillington Manchester graduate and a freelance visual designer living and working between Florence, Berlin and Manchester. In this case study, she discusses the design process behind the typographic project for FLOW—from brief requirements to the concept development and brand identity.

You worked on a rebranding project for FLOW—a company that encompasses a broad range of disciplines including interior design, paper craft, woodwork and 3D printing. What is FLOW’s visual style?

FLOW’s visual style focuses on representing the beauty of technology with graphic elements and colours that embody innovation, beauty and elegance.

What was the project brief?

The client asked for a total rebranding of the brand identity. The main goal was to create an identity that would represent FLOW’s team skills and personality while being appealing to their clients who usually belong to a more traditional field but looking for avant-garde solutions.

When I was working at Ensemble Studio, I was asked to work on the rebranding for FLOW. Later on, a name change and consequently a business model shift of the client dictated another direction of approach. I continued developing by myself the route I started previously, as it was something I was very passionate about. I also created a typeface called WLOF Mono, an anagram of FLOW that is now available on my website’s online shop. Here’s the link to the case study on my website.

How did you approach the concept development?

I started with a quick brainstorming where I collected different keywords and phrases from FLOW’s website to then create new ones in line with its business, team and goals. From this research, I selected specific keywords that would represent different routes/styles I was going to work on.

I then started moodboarding, looking for images of all kind that could represent these routes (design, visual art, architecture, paintings). I further developed some of these routes creating different options, each one with a different visual style and approach, but still related to the main route. I then selected the routes I thought were the most valid and efficient.

Relating to my previous research, I made thumbnails of possible logos and graphic elements. I then jumped on Illustrator developing the most relevant options and creating new ones. During this process, I went back and forth several times between the different phases (keywords, moodboards, sketching) that then evolved to what is the result now.

I strongly believe that concept and design don’t need to follow a one-way process. Jumping from one phase to the other allows you to refine your previous ideas and create something very unique.

After the logo was done, I started working on the typeface. Some letters were already finished as they are part of FLOW’s logo. I first sketched a few numbers and then continued on Illustrator, starting from the most difficult letters and numbers. The most important thing was to set some style and structure guidelines every letter and number had to follow (with flexibility as well).

Tell us about the colour choice.

The main colours—white and grey—are chosen in order to give as much space as possible to FLOW’s work without overcoming it. White contains all the other colours, it fully embodies the symbol of elegance and innovation. The colourful gradient represents the fearless creativity of FLOW’s team, always keen to create avant-garde and original solutions.

Walk us through the brand identity.

I would describe the brand identity combining FLOW’s statement “We believe in creating the impossible” and the new one I made while working on the brand “The Art of Technology.” The result is something very tech-oriented, based on a modular system that can be deconstructed and reassembled in many different ways. It embodies the power of technology and creativity unified together, with elegance.

The bespoke type follows FLOW’s aim: exploring new ways of creating, thanks to new technologies and to the power of creativity. All of this allows FLOW to clearly display its identity in all its facets and to meet its clients’ expectations.

How important was your process to the finished result?

The process helped me a lot to clear things up in my mind, to find the reason why I chose a style and visual language instead of another and to gradually develop the brand identity.

Any tips for other designers working on a branding project?

I think the most important thing is to find your way of doing things, a process that suits you and your way of thinking.

For example, I’m a very messy person but it’s how it works for me. On the same page of my notebook, I can have keywords and sketches all together and mixed up. This is how I usually develop my ideas but this also changes depending on the project.

It’s good to be flexible during the process phases and when setting the brand style/guidelines as well. It’s important to have guidelines but also to break them while keeping the brand visual style, in order to have a unique and engaging flexible identity.

Another thing I believe is very important are the moodboards, don’t stop at graphic design stuff, you can take inspiration from practically anything surrounds you!

Big thanks to Margherita for sharing this in-depth look at her typeface project. Be sure to check out the rest of her work and read about her Shillington experience!

For more typographic inspiration, find out how to approach your creative work and take on the design industry from Dani Hunt’s Melbourne guest lecture.

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