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Story of a brand identity #1: How we developed Norrsken Ko


Ever wanted to see the runners-up that nearly made it as a final brand identity? Or learn how long it all took? Our client, Norrsken Ko, kindly agreed to share their recent branding journey.


With every new brief, there’s a fresh buzz in our office. Every time. Because even the simplest-seeming projects have their special challenges.

You might be launching a craft beer, an ice cream or a consultancy. And you know all the images associated with that sector. Your competitors’ logos are emblazoned on the insides of your brain.

But you have to park all that, because your brand has to stand out. Really stand out. All while remaining true to the unspoken rules of your sector.

Here’s how all those considerations were weighed against the business goals of Norrsken Ko, and against what timeline.

Week 1 – “We’re about beautiful, practical design. It’s not an exercise in ego. Our work is designed to save clients money, and to get through council fast. Oh, and by the way: our business name means ‘northern lights’. We love Scandinavian design.”

With these words, Norrsken’s principal director set us on a fairly clear path of research and discovery (a non-negotiable part of every branding project). First, we crafted the client’s brief into a short, powerful sentence. Then we put together a mood board of possible visual styles to reflect this. Also non-negotiable. After all, does she mean mid-century Scandi? Contemporary Scandi? Or only the very loosest reference to Scandinavian style? Without an initial mood board, we risk wasting a lot of everyone’s time.

After a few days, several of our directions reveal special potential for us. We mock up some wordmarks to go with these, using fonts and graphic elements that feel right.

Week 2 – Of eight possible directions, at the first meeting our client narrows the choices down to two. We say meeting, because even when clients are based out of Sydney, it’s vital to talk through everything while looking at the presentation at the same time.

Week 4 – We’ve quoted Norrsken three days to take their two preferred brand options to the next stage. But we phase this across a couple of weeks. Creative work needs to mature, like a good wine might rest in its barrel. It needs to be looked at from different angles, tested, adjusted and slept on. Finally, we’re ready to roll out both creative options, across sample business cards, websites and more, for our second in-person presentation. Because a brand is never just a logo – it’s far bigger than that.

Our client has a clear favourite, but decides to think it through another few days and probe a handful of trusted associates. This part always prompts some nerves at our end. We know all about those last-minute preferences via the client’s wife/boyfriend/child, resulting in off-brand requests like: ‘use more pink’ or ‘add a dog photo’.

So we’re rather pleased when Norrsken calls to say they’ll choose this option, which we think is the more original interpretation of their brief.

Week 6 – Two weeks later, we’ve produced and delivered the highest-priority items, such as business cards, letterhead, logo pack and more. The brief expands, and we’re asked to produce some other items, so we set about creating those too. We also work closely with Norrsken to craft about 20 blog posts.

Week 8 – The brand story is complete, with Norrsken now using all our materials. They’ve also commissioned a few pieces themselves, guided by our mini brand kit. No client of theirs could walk away, even after a short meeting, without knowing exactly what they stand for, or what they look like so they can be recognised again at a glance.

As Norrsken’s creative team on this project, that split-second understanding is everything. Everything that we believe is the real value of a strong brand.

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