Colchester: Design-led agency Silk Pearce undergoes its own branding make-over

Peter Silk, holding the laptop, and Jack Pearce are joint creative heads and co-founders of Silk Pea

Peter Silk, holding the laptop, and Jack Pearce are joint creative heads and co-founders of Silk Pearce which is rebranding for the first time in its 29 year history. Photo: Bruce Head - Credit: Archant

Branding and design agency Silk Pearce is targeting expansion into new markets as it enters its 30th year in business. And to help achieve that it has applied its diverse range of talents to creating a new look for its own promotional materials, both print and digital. DUNCAN BRODIE spoke to founders Peter Silk and Jack Pearce about their approach

Essex-based branding and design consultancy Silk Pearce is gearing up for its 30th anniversary next year by unveiling a new look of its own.

The Colchester agency has adopted a new visual identity covering its website, its stationery and other promotion materials which is says will better reflect its market profile and underpin ambitious growth plans.

Silk Pearce was formed in 1984 by Peter Silk and Jack Pearce who first met while students at the Royal College Art and became friends while working together in the in-house design team at paper company Wiggins Teape.

Redundancy set them temporarily on different career paths, with Peter going into teaching and freelance work while Jack joined a London design company, but they remained friends and this led eventually to a decision to launch a company of their own.

The experience they gained at Wiggins Teape in working with different types of paper has remained a key element within their approach to design.

“Design is not just visual,” says Jack. “Texture is also important.”

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Peter adds: “In today’s nominally paperless society, where everything is usually viewed on screen, printing something means it can have a different impact when it lands on someone’s desk.”

The onward march of technology has, of course, been a major factor in design and branding over the past 29 years and Silk Pearce became a relatively early player in the online market when it designed its first websites for clients in 1998. However, while the company has developed a considerable level of technical expertise in building websites, its approach remains very much design-led.

“We have built up extensive knowledge of the technical side but a website has to be part of a company’s overall brand,” says Peter.

“There are plenty of web design companies which are well up in terms of technology but there is a danger that the client will end up with an efficient but slightly bland site because the designers were coming at it from the technical point of view, without considering brand identity.”

Early websites often largely involved putting a company brochure online but, says Peter, sites now have to be a completely integral part of the business, with functionality to make the business more efficient. This means viewing the website as a tool and understanding what the client needs its site to do.

Jack says: “The first thing we ask a client when designing a webite is to identify who will be using it and what they will be looking for, both on their first visit and on a subsequent visit, which are likely to be different. The design follows on from that.”

They have successfully applied this approach on behalf of a wide range of customers, spanning sectors including, arts and culture, heritage, business-to-business, professional services, consumer, medical and charity,

“If people know about us at all they probably think in terms of heritage and tradition, for our work with clients such as Royal Mail or Aldeburgh Music, and perhaps think of us as being very much print based,” says Peter. “That is very much part of what we do but it is not the whole story.”

Getting this message across is key to the firm’s own rebranding, which was officially launched yesterday and follows an in-depth strategic review which will also see the firm, which currently has a full-time workforce of 10, create new design and management roles with a view to strengthening its presence in growth sectors such as healthcare, technology and property development.

The new look covers both print and digital and involves an “it does what it says on the tin” type of strapline, reading “Silk Pearce Brands Websites Graphics.”

The website, which has been optimised for mobiles and tablets as well as PC/laptop screens, also includes “About”, “Clients” and “Case Studies” buttons, while the approach in print has, in keeping with the founders’ roots, involved the creation of a bespoke papers.

The new visual identity is centred on a typographic logo with teal blue as a primary colour, a pallet of eight “accent” colours and new typography. The design team has also developed a specific banner image to brand Silk Pearce’s Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.

The main website, silkpearce.com, has been completely re-designed and re-structured with the new branding, improved signposting and a main section for each of the three design disciplines. For example: users can now review more than 20 of the latest Silk Pearce-designed websites on one screen, then click through for more information.

The “Crush” papers for the firm’s printed materials, developed in partnership with Italian paper manufacturer Favini, are unique in texture thanks to the inclusion of crushed food materials otherwise destined for landfill.

“We felt we needed to demonstrate on our website and in print what we can do for others,” says Peter.

And Jack adds: “Our bolder, more confident look has been designed to remind existing clients and prospects that we offer a far reaching and integrated design approach, as we have done for many years, covering everything from corporate and product branding, in some cases advising on product development through to PR and social media.”

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