If you know Belgian brands then you’ll know Tom Andries work and the work of his company: Branding Today is one of the few branding agencies in Belgium. We have a word with creative director & partner.
How big is Branding Today, with how many people do you work?
We are not big: we are a core team of 6, focused only on brand design. Our team consists of my strategic partner, 3 brand designers and a project manager. We have a network of preferred partners for specific strategy or design skills which allows us to work in a flexible way with the best person for a specific assignment. For almost every assignment we create a brand team that services the client on every level.
How did you enrol in design?
Even at a young age, I loved to draw and was interested in arts. People said I had the talent for it… I wanted to do something in free arts, maybe painting, but my parents wanted me to choose a ‘safer’ option. After art school, I studied graphic design and typography and ended up in design. I still have a big interest in modern art and architecture.
Why did you choose brand design as a specialisation?
My first job was at a Brussels design agency called Marketing Design. It was a classic design company focused on packaging and brand identity design. Their choice was to work mainly with English designers. My creative director back then was Jeremy Dawkins (who later became creative director at Landor New York). I think I was fortunate to work together with him for a long time. He had noticed that most Belgian designers do a bit of everything. He told me to focus on brand design as a specialisation.
Do you believe there is a big base for branding agencies in Belgium? Are clients receptive to branding?
Branding agencies in Belgium… True, it’s not very easy. Most of the Belgian brands go to advertising agencies for a full communication package, even design jobs. Many good designers end up in advertising agencies, doing minor design jobs, having to listen to a creative director who doesn’t know a lot about design and doesn’t know how to work with designers. Most of the time designers are used for ‘helping’ a creative team… That’s a pity.
For most branding assignments Branding Today joins up as a design partner, working side by side with other communication or marketing agencies. The difference is that we have direct contact with the client and they respect us as a design expert.
More and more marketing and advertising people know that branding is a craft, a specialisation. You have to work within a design environment to create good design! A lot of classic design agencies are losing clients because they don’t want to co-create with other agencies. We build on a reputation of ‘craftsmanship’, quality design work, and on always being an open and honest partner. That’s why I think we attract a lot of clients and have big branding cases in Belgium. Most of our clients find us through their network, word of mouth or our reputation of well-known cases I designed in the past.
Of course, there is room for a branding agency like Branding Today in Belgium… A lot of big Belgian brands used to go to branding agencies in Paris, London or Amsterdam for their brand design (Landor, Interbrand…). I think that’s changing. Clients are looking for more personal and regional approach as well as closer and more flexible relationships, especially for long rebranding projects.
Many Belgian agencies say they do branding, but very few can really claim it. Education in Belgium is a problem! Brand design isn’t taught here. It’s very hard to find good brand designers in Belgium.
What is a regular working day for you?
Every day is a new day where I can meet new people and try to make good design. After bringing my children Cas and Toke to school, I start the day reading my emails, after a small roundup of running jobs I try to review the work with our designers. I’m helping them in any way I can. I’m a creative running a design agency, so I have to be very careful that there is a harmony between creativity and business. I have about 4 to 5 presentations a week, so I spend a lot of time in meetings and on the road… I love to present creative work, nobody can sell design better than a designer! So it’s a part of my job. At Branding Today we try not to work too late. There is a time for work and a time for life: we want to create a workspace where people are passionate about their work and love to come to work.
Of what project over the years are you the proudest?
I’m very lucky to have designed some major logos and brand identities with — like City of Antwerp, Brussels Airport, Veritas, Sony Center, O’Cool, etc. I’m happy to work with great clients such as Thomas Cook, Xandres, JBC, VMMa, Ecover, Torfs and bpost. The Antwerp city-branding case gave me a lot of credits, I’m very proud to have designed the identity. But it’s not always the biggest cases I’m proud of. The work I did for i-materialize, SVR architects or Druglijn are great design cases: I was looking for the creative edge, there was an interaction between the client and the creative, and the client really pushed the creative process.
I love the design that provokes, design of which people talk about. The i-materialize case is very special to me because it’s all about the concept and the thinking — much more than the pure design!