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So what's in store for the branding industry? Here are the themes and challenges that I believe we'll be focusing on in 2018.  

Personality. In a world in which technology is advancing at an ever-quickening pace, it's heartening to see that those brands that can create human connections and raise a smile are still cutting through the noise. In fact, personality and character are becoming more crucial than ever because so many brands – in their quest to appear modern, progressive and digital – are stripping away their existing personality and moving towards a default visual formula that appears modern but so often comes across as alof. Clients need to understand that existing online means building and maintaining their own personality – one that’s as at home in a digital space as it is anywhere else. 

Technology. Talking of technology, designers are beginning to notice ingredients of automation creeping into some corners of their creative software, to improve some of the tasks we undertake. The efficiency gains are marginal at present, but will inevitably improve. As to whether technology is affecting the work we're creating, it feels like we’re still on the cusp. Many brands are experimenting with VR, kinetic typography and other cutting-edge applications, but it’s not yet become a frequent demand from most clients. In fact, the biggest technological changes have come through working practices; live collaboration is starting to change our clients' expectations and the relationships we have with them.

Adaptation. The branding industry has fragmented and is now increasingly dominated by small and medium sized players. Through informal partnerships and affiliations they are able to offer breadth and flexibility. The competitive landscape has been blown wide open, and clients are gaining confidence in the new model and enjoying the benefits of the increased choice that it offers.

It's been a radical transformation, and all of us in the branding industry are having to adapt. Larger businesses are having to rethink some of the extraordinary budgets they've been privileged to work with in the past – they now need to justify their fees and multi-layered team structures, and show how they can add value. Meanwhile, small and medium sized business are having to professionalise their approach to communications, and build their own brand awareness, for instance through participation in awards and by maintaining a robust and dynamic digital presence. In some ways there's a beautiful symmetry about the situation – larger companies need to think small and smaller businesses need to think big.

Nurturing. At the same time, we also need to think about ourselves. We live in exciting times with great opportunities to create standout work, but too many studios continue to instil an over-demanding work ethic that's neither healthy nor conducive to great creativity. Ideas come from anywhere and anyone, but they need the right conditions to flourish. So it's crucial to respect the process and give designers the space to think and the time to explore. For all of us in creative agencies, our people – and their ability to come up with those amazing ideas – are our very lifeblood. Nurturing and collaboration are key. So forget working in silos; brainstorm as a group, share your ideas, and have fun doing it. Hold on tightly to your work life balance; go to exhibitions, craft something with your hands, visit the theatre, read loads and stay in touch with the world around you. Do everything you can to create an atmosphere in which great ideas thrive – because the future of our sector depends on those very ideas.

 

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