Why do ‘boring’ companies suddenly care about branding?

After an influx of compelling design from unexpected sectors, we ask why it’s happening, if it’s really going to make CEOs happy, and discuss the lessons still to learn from the corporate identities of yesteryear

Concrete, cleaning, insurance … they’re not the names you’d put on a list of the most exciting and innovative businesses in the world. They’re also not the sectors you’d expect to invest in excellent design and branding, and yet we’re in a world where steel companies commission custom typefaces, solar power providers build slick digital platforms, and insurance companies make advertising that actually raises a smile.

Cleancult is rethinking what cleaning products look like, Biozeroc is exploring how branding can spread the word about carbon-neutral construction materials, and Cabinet Health is promoting refillable medicine with a visual identity that’s a radical voice in an industry almost uniformly oblivious to good design. It’s worth looking at what the investors are doing as well, with many venture capital firms also embracing design; for example, Thrive Capital’s spinning logo and mysterious website.

“We had a rush on vet brands last year,” says O Street co-founder David Freer, “a client and industry we had not encountered before. We must have done about four different brands…. In general terms, what makes these unexpected services investing in design surprising is that it suggests people are putting more value on design. They realise that investing in design gives them an edge over their competitors.”