20 Years On...
2014 marks an important year for IE as we’ll begin a whole slew of activities to celebrate our 20th year in business. Obviously, our growth from a small studio hosting one brand expert in Birmingham’s Custard Factory to 26 talented developers, designers and consultants has been momentous, but also organic. The game-changing rebirth of the creative industries have certainly been a more rapid evolution. I’d like to travel back to 1994 for a beat – to tell the tale of the journey we’ve all travelled in our industry in the intervening years, to a time when IE still meant ‘id est/that is’, back before a certain web browser redefined it all…
1994 presented many new beginnings – the Channel Tunnel opened to international acclaim, Michael Schumacher controversially won his first formula one championship, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president and Tony Blair became leader of the Labour party after the untimely death of John Smith. 1994 also launched several new brands that later became household names and changed the world as we knew it.
Sony had dipped their toes into the world of computer gaming by introducing their PlayStation console. Yahoo – a fresh new search engine – was unveiled, promising to revolutionise our use of the burgeoning Internet. And a tiny American company calling themselves Cadabra revealed ambitious plans to change the retail market forever (later changing their name, the following year, to Amazon). Considering all of this, it makes sense to be overly modest regarding our own achievements, but since even the most conservative estimates suggest that the majority of companies sadly fail within their first year, we are rightly proud of our achievements.
The 1990s brought about software applications like Adobe Photoshop and many agencies started to realise they had to keep up with the changing tools of the trade or get left behind. In hindsight, it’s apparent how rapidly technology has grown and easy to believe that the Internet’s rise was inevitable, but 1994 was a very different world. Most UK homes had no computer, much less a dial-up Internet connection. The rare few that did would have had only 10,000 websites to browse at a snail’s crawl. Who could have predicted the growth and potential to bloom in web design and digital markets? It would be a further seven years, not until 2001, before IE met the trend by acquiring a digital web consultancy.
Admittedly, technology has largely impacted our work by affecting the nature of the projects in which we participate and the way we complete them. IE is still here 20 years on for reasons more than the distinction between ‘design for print’ or ‘design for web’. We are communication experts who strive to understand our clients’ objectives to help them reach wider audiences through fantastic design. The end result doesn’t matter, whether it be a website, poster or an app – pixels and paper are merely the format, and as time has proven, formats change – as such, the foundation of our service of communication and storytelling remains unchanged.
The best brands are timeless. 1994 saw the iconic rebranding of the international courier company formerly known as ‘Federal Express.’ Often lauded as one of the most successful logo designs of recent times, the newly renamed ‘FedEx’ has won over 40 industry awards, in large part due to the ‘hidden arrow’ contained in the negative space created within the letters ‘E’ and ‘X’. Since then, the 1994 redesign has remained unchanged, the mark of a widely successful rebrand. In contrast, we only need look at the Coca Cola logo, which has remained largely unchanged since its beginnings in 1887. That’s 127 years of a consistent visual identity, loyal customer base and constant set of values.
Similar to brands, a business cannot survive without trust and loyalty. IE thrives because of the support of our valued clients. We are truly grateful to all those who have travelled with us these past two decades and for providing rewarding work for dozens of families, for setting countless creative challenges and for blessing us with generous referrals and enthusiastic testimonials.
While 20 years is certainly something to celebrate, it also bears noting that a great brand can span centuries so 20 years can really be just a drop in the ocean. This is only the beginning. The best is yet to come.