“Taiwanese and Swiss are much more similar than I had originally assumed.”
Living & Design Magazine
Jimmy, Living & Design
In his interview with Living & Design Taiwan our Group Managing Partner, Martin Kessler, speaks about his experiences building brands in Europe and Asia, his take on Swiss design and the very little differences between the Taiwanese and the Swiss.
You have a wealth of experience in branding. Tell us, why is it important for a company to have a strong brand?
A company’s brand broadcasts its DNA to the world. Your brand personifies your company’s core values, what you promise to potential clients, how you position yourself in the market and how your company sees itself. It’s also a strong icon with which your company’s employees identify. A good brand functions like a lighthouse in a sea of brands, beaming a clear signal to potential buyers.
Could you name a brand that you think is successful—one that implements the theory of branding design well—and tell us why you believe that brand is so successful?
The way I see it, it is impossible for one single brand to be deemed “successful” overall because first, we would first need to set how we measure success. Turnover growth? Market ranking? Reputation? In my mind, a successful brand has to meet many different goals at the same time. This is a challenge because the more well-known a brand is, the more expectations there are of that brand. Take Apple, for example. It’s not just that they use a pure and simplified design language. And it’s not just that they are innovative leaders in their industry. And not just the way they link all their different devices into a unified whole. It is all these aspects of branding in combination that has made Apple one of the most respected brands worldwide.
Considering they are facing global competition, is branding becoming more and more important for small-and-medium-sized enterprises in Taiwan? (Note: 97.8 % of all businesses in Taiwan are SMEs.）
It doesn’t matter if you are a family-run SME or a global juggernaut; in today’s competitive world marketplace, every brand faces challenges. Each company must stand out from the mass of its competitors, or face falling into oblivion. A strong brand is recognizable and lets your target audience choose you as their preferred brand.
What is Process’ greatest strength?
Our name is what we do: we follow a specific process to create a strong brand for our client. We follow the principle «think before you design» on every single project. Before we get to the point of designing a new logo a client has requested, for example, we use our knowledge and experience to critically evaluate a company’s brand overall, to ensure it is robust. Our branding experts’ holistic approach supports all of a company’s undertakings.
Over the years, Process has successfully worked on many branding projects in Greater China. Which project impressed you the most?
Oh, that’s difficult. I see a unique challenge in each of our projects and find it satisfying to see the unique solution we offer every time. Personally, I am proud of the work we did for EWAI, an analytical solutions company. When we began working with the EWAI head office in Beijing, they had a visual appearance that did not do justice to just how high-end their technology was or just how innovative their solutions were. Looking at EWAI today (www.ewai-group.com), you can’t imagine that this is the same company. The whole branding process was a matter of wrangling with key strategic questions, debating the company’s mission and vision, defining values and core messages, until we could finally present EWAI a tailor-made visual identity. This consistent branding now allows EWAI to increase its bottom line.
The Process Group was founded in Switzerland. What do you think are the traits of Swiss design?
Swiss design has a long tradition and has been successful outside of Switzerland since about the early years of the last century. I would describe Swiss design as modest, objective and precise. Swiss design has to be functional and logical, doing without unnecessary details complicating the result. Swiss design definitely follows function.
And what do you do when you have to stick out of the crowd? You pare down your message, because you have to be quick and precise. You simplify.
You are a frequent flier from Zurich to Shanghai and Taipei. What, if any, differences do you see in the design aesthetic between these three cities?
I wouldn’t say that I can see such big differences between Taipei and Shanghai. Design in both of those cities seems full of illustrated figures and all sorts of games, which we see much less often in Switzerland. To me, as a Swiss, Taiwanese and Chinese design seems overloaded with messages, banners, pictures, illustrations… you name it, whereas Swiss design is much more simple and direct. I would not be surprised if Taiwanese and Chinese design would become simpler in future. One fact holds true both in the West and the East: we have too much of everything. Too much stuff, too much information, too many brands, too many news items fighting for our attention every day. People are forced to filter this mass of messages. And what do you do when you have to stick out of the crowd? You pare down your message, because you have to be quick and precise. You simplify.
According to what you have seen so far, how is the design process different in Switzerland and Taiwan? What made the biggest impression on you when you first started working in Taiwan?
In the beginning, I was surprised at how Taiwanese clients expected to see design results fast, before we had even talked about the foundation of the branding process: analysis, strategy, concepts. This required a different mindset from me and I spent much of my time convincing my clients of the benefits of following these steps and branding overall. Later, I learned that the Taiwanese and Swiss characters are much more similar than I had originally assumed. Maybe that’s why Taiwanese and Swiss work so well together: we understand each other.
Finally, could you please describe the interior design of your home?
My home could be a case study of Swiss design as I described it earlier. I like interior design to be modest, simple and reduced so much as to be almost minimalist. My home contains very few decorative items. Functionality is important to me, as is precision. That might be why I like electronic gadgets so much and why I have quite a lot of technology in my home. Then again, most things in my home are made of natural materials. To me, living in a simple environment leaves room for creative thoughts and ideas.