Taking the Brand Outside

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Left to right in group photo: Pentagram designer Jesse Reed and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut meet with White & Case lead designer Kim Robak and global director of creative services Robin Colangelo to discuss details of the firm’s rebrand.

Left to right in group photo: Pentagram designer Jesse Reed and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut meet with White & Case lead designer Kim Robak and global director of creative services Robin McLoughlin to discuss details of the firm’s rebrand.

Text by Ed Roberts, Photo by Camera One, Larry Lettera

After an InSource board of directors meeting, I caught up with Robin McLoughlin, the global director of creative services at White & Case, a 113-year-old law firm founded by Wall Street attorneys Justin DuPratt White and George B. Case.

McLoughlin told me about a major rebranding initiative she and her in-house design team were wrapping up in collaboration with Michael Bierut’s crew at Pentagram. I was immediately intrigued by the scope of the project and wondered how the marriage between her team and Pentagram was faring after a year and a half of collaboration.

Assessing the Brand

A year into his tenure at White & Case, chief marketing officer Michael Hertz asked, in analyzing the state of the firm’s brand, the following question: Why White & Case? Hertz reviewed the global effectiveness of the White & Case brand and determined that the firm needed to strengthen its brand to differentiate itself among the elite international firms.

“There was inconsistent messaging across our organization, and Hertz felt there was a clear need for the firm’s employees and clients to be able to answer this simple question,” McLoughlin says. White & Case took a hard look in the mirror and realized its brand no longer coincided with its evolving corporate goals. “Our brand messaging and visuals were perceived as being neutral, dated, cool, and not focused enough on the issues that interested our clients the most,” McLoughlin says.

With McLoughlin’s in-house crew entrenched in global execution tactics, she realized there was a need to pair an outside agency with her team to develop the basic structure of the new visual identity. She crafted a solid brief and included her lead designer Kim Robak in the early stages of the process. “It needed to be a team effort,” McLoughlin says. “The design firm we chose would be viewed as an extension of our in-house design team.  “We chose Pentagram because they didn’t just answer our brief—they came to the table with fresh ideas we hadn’t thought of and were able to look at our challenges from a new angle. Of course, the best cutting-edge and innovative designs from a world-class agency will never get off the ground if the in-house team isn’t on board to make it fly.”

Both teams commented as to what makes a successful partnership between a corporate in-house team and an outside design agency work:
Bierut: “Bring the whole team together at the beginning, match responsibilities to strengths, and have a transparent, collaborative process from start to finish.”
Reed: “Michael has taught me a lot while working under his direction. One of the most important tools he emphasized was to listen. Meeting with a corporate team and listening to their needs will tell you a great deal about your relationship.”
McLoughlin: “Choose a true partner, one that is willing to collaborate and work as part of a team to design the best possible solutions.”
Robak: “In the end, it’s about creating a successful brand that extends beyond the initial concepts. Collaborating, sharing ideas, and paying attention to what each team brings to the table are important components for success.”

For the complete look inside White & Case’s collaboration with Pentagram, including the five initiatives that fueled the rebrand, pick up a copy of HOW’s August 2014 print issue.

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