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Interview with David Pache of Helvetic Brands

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This post is part of a series called Logo and Identity Design.
Profile: Bojan Stefanovic, AKA Logoholic
Inspiration: Fantastic Logos Across the Color Spectrum

David Pache is a branding expert from Switzerland. His work is grounded in design principles, which gives him a strong platform to create unique identities from. He has recently rebranded his studio under the name Helvetic Brands, as that better describes his services.

David prides himself in not overcomplicating identity solutions. He feels a solid brand is easier to remember when delivered simply. While he has a well developed approach to creating client solutions, he consistently experiments with various tools, such as markers, legos, paintings, and photography.

In this interview, David talks about creating custom typographic logo designs for clients. Learn his process for this and how it elevates the solutions he's able to offer his clients. He also talks about his sketching, conceptual process, presenting solutions to clients, and more.

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what training do you have, and how did you get started in the field?

I'm the owner and founder of Helvetic Brands (previously Dache), an independent design studio based in a small mountain village near Geneva, Switzerland. I am formally trained with a degree in Graphic Design. I am passionate about what I do and have been since an early age. My earliest memory in life is that of mother teaching me how to draw animals. I guess this is what set me on a creative path.

The concept of creating my own design business was one which occurred to me when finishing design college. I wanted to contribute to my own business, rather than a design agency's, so that I could develop my knowledge of all aspects of the industry. I therefore decided to take the plunge back in 2005 and launch the business. I already had an online presence, which I had developed through displaying some of my amateur designs and these had received positive feedback. This is what gave me the confidence I needed to back the launch.


2. How long did it take you to get a foothold in the industry and establish some regular clients? Did you get experience working at agencies before going freelance? Or did you travel another path?

I would say that I got a real foothold in the industry after about two years of having an online presence. I have some regular clients which have revisited me for work, however the bulk of my work is with one-off clients. Since 2007 the amount of clients approaching me for services has doubled, therefore this was the real turning point for me.

Formally, I have always been a freelancer however I did do some internships during my studies, which gave me a good insight. I knew that this path was not for me, as I wanted to provide a personable service, and this can often be lost within the larger firms.


3. How important are geometry, grids, and other fundamental design principles to your logo and typographic work?

Fundamental design principles, geometry and grids are all elements which I factor into my designs but they are very much support functions to give me a platform on which to create. Only when you have the basics, you can begin to really push the boundaries and let your creative interpretation take the foreground.


4. What makes a memorable logo and brand identity? How do you achieve that with consistency when working on numerous projects? To what extent have you refined your approach to identity design?

A memorable logo and brand identity has to be clear, relevant to the industry and create the image for the company which it intends. The simpler a brand is, the easier it is to remember for the target audience and therefore create an instant association between the brand and the company.

I pride myself in not overcomplicating the solutions I produce for my clients. In order to manage this consistently, I prioritize communicating with my clients through the whole project. This enables the flow of ideas in both directions to achieve high-standard results. In terms of my approach, I still believe in providing a personalized service, no matter the number of projects I have going at one time, however I think what has changed is my planning of a project and getting a full brief before I take it on. This allows me to manage higher workflow whilst retaining the level of service.


5. Your tutorial "Dache: Logo Design Process" over on WebDesignerWall shows an interesting color experiment before you ever step onto the computer? Do you often work out color possibilities before entering Illustrator, or was this more of an experiment that fit this project?

The use of various tools to create my designs is very important. I always experiment before I transfer to Illustrator as it keeps my inspiration fresh. In this case, it was suitable to use colored pens but I have used lego, paintings, photography and other mediums for different projects in the past.

It is important to change things up for every project, as you never know what you will create, or when a eureka moment will occur. Inspiration can come from everywhere and by stimulating the experimental nature of the creative process, I maximize the options for my clients while keeping things interesting for me.


6. Could you walk us through the process of the creation of one of your custom typography solutions for a logo? And could you outline the advantages of this kind of custom solution for clients?

This side of identity design interests me greatly and I am providing this as standard on all my projects now. If the branding involves a symbol, I will analyze this element first, paying close attention to the message the client is wanting to portray, and then design a typography that suits the symbol in most cases. I take angles or elements from that symbol and mirror these in the font when relevant, which creates a consistent branding solution. For other projects, which involve just a word-mark, I focus entirely on what the client needs the mark to represent for their business and work very closely with them to achieve this.

The main advantage of a custom solution for clients is that they will receive a bespoke branding that will instantly set them apart from their competitors which, in the case of start-ups in fairly saturated markets, is essential.


7. How much of your time is spent working on conceptual solutions on paper before going to the computer? How much of your process involves sketching to work out ideas?

I would say that the majority of my time is spent working on paper. I travel everywhere with my sketchpad and whenever an idea hits me, I note it down and keep drawing until the final solution appears in its most raw form. There is no limit to sketching and it does not even have to be that good; it is the idea that counts.


8. Could you tell us about your recent redesign? Why did you decide on a new direction and how did you resolve the needs of the new direction with the brand you had already developed?

The redesign was something I have been thinking about for a long time but really started working on in August this year. I felt that the name dache, although it had served an excellent role in gaining the support I have received so far, did not communicate anything about the services I provide. I am marketing the business both locally and internationally therefore wanted a name that communicated what I offer but also that keeps a reference to my roots.

In order to not lose the audience I have already, I decided to retain the symbol of my branding under dache but to re-work it so it fell more in line with the design principles I value. The company ethos has not changed, I still offer "out of the box design, Swiss style" and the previous branding illustrated this well. It was just a question of refinement. You can read more about the logo and redesign on my blog.


9. To what extent is Adobe Illustrator and other design software an integral part of your workflow. At what stage do you go to the computer to finalize a logo. And what tools do you find essential to your workflow?

Although I will never start a project using design software, it is 100% essential for perfecting the precision elements for the solutions I create. In addition to the software, my most essential tools are my pen and sketchpad and more recently my permanent markers and whiteboard which I use to change mediums.


10. How do you usually present solutions to clients. Do you often provide complete identity solutions, including websites, printed material, logo in multiple formats, and other unique requests? Do you create style guides for your clients, or is this only for larger clients? What was the first identity guide you created and how successful was it?

For presentation to my clients at each stage, I use a web-based slide show presentation. As a design and branding studio, I specialize in all elements of branding so I provide whatever the client requires. The majority of requests are for identity design and/or websites plus business cards, letterheads and other business stationery, however I have had some more specialized requests such as stickers, posters, employee t-shirts etc.

I created quite a few style/identity guides during my internships at college. This was a great first experience to have as I was mentored by corporate designers. Since setting up the business, I provide a style guide to any client upon request irrespective of the size, however I find that it is usually the larger clients which require this, as there is more risk for them in terms of how they will use the branding.


11. What is your favorite part of creating brand identity solutions? Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now, or even further into the future?

The best moment for me is the anticipation and suspense in waiting for a client's feedback on my ideas. In five years, I would like to be able to grow the business to the next level. For now I am working at improving the services I can provide and to increase my exposure, following the name change.


12. What are your favorite ways to promote your services online? Are there any communities you've been involved with that have been integral to your growth as a designer or helped to bring new clients through the door?

My favorite would be Twitter. I have recently introduced a feature where I update my followers on a daily basis to show what I have been working on. I have set up a live feed on my homepage which is for people not on Twitter. I also display my work on gallery sites such as Behance.net where my future clients will see it.


13. Thanks for the interview David! Is there any advice that you'd like to give aspiring designer who are working hard to grow professionally?

Be confident in your product, persevere and never stop finding new ways to engage with people.


David Pache on the Web

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