Case Study: élan

Client: Kichler Lighting
My Role: Creative Manger, Senior Graphic Designer
Timeframe: Over the course of ten years
Scope of Work: Branding | Logo Design | Catalog Design | Print Design | Website Design | Interior Design | Art Direction | Photography Direction

The Challenge

Kichler Lighting launched a contemporary lighting brand, élan, that featured products in new and artistic forms. The desired goal was to create a brand look that conveyed the unique and modern style reflective of the products. The initial launch of this product took place at a bi-annual Dallas International Lighting Show held in the Dallas Market Center, where the brand would be showcased in a showroom separate from the Kichler brand.

Process

Part of the preliminary plan and process was product development. I was not originally part of this product development process as the initial research was done by the executives that initiated the brand idea, as well as managed the preliminary élan brand and product team. This research was integral in setting the tone for the brand. After I had worked with the executives in the capacity of art direction, I was later asked to additionally take on the role of Product Manager for the élan brand.

Product Management was a new and exciting challenge for me. As part of this process I researched the target customer and worked on a brand statement for élan. I researched contemporary home and lighting product trends and then developed inspirations for product designers. I worked on product plans, learned how to review engineering drawings as well as understanding the lifecycle of product development. Communicating at all levels for this project, with executive leadership, sales teams, product designers, engineering teams, and customers, was a rewarding and educational experience.

Over the course of four years, I named many of the product collections. The research for the process of naming proved challenging in attempting to complement a product’s aesthetics, while staying within legal and copyright parameters.

Branding & Logo Design

In the initial development of the élan brand, I assisted in naming the brand.  I created over 400 brand name options alongside others from my colleagues before the “élan” name was chosen.

While the brand name was in fluctuation, I created many logo options to correspond with the brand name options, until the élan name was chosen. Once the élan name was chosen, a logo with a black diamond shape was chosen as the favorite option by Kichler executive staff. The logo was later simplified to just the text of the brand name.

I developed additional materials for the brand, such as business cards, showroom hangtags as well as print ads.

Catalogs

The concept around the initial catalog to convey the unique look of the products with mainly photography and images while having minimal copy.  The first catalog was perfect bound with a soft-touch aqueous + spot UV cover.  Most of the fixtures were originally chrome and crystal so I chose a mostly black layout to showcase the product. Several years of catalogs then followed the predominantly black concept.

For subsequent catalogs, I worked with additional Kichler Lighting teams, while also fulfilling the art direction and production of layouts. I have since worked on over a dozen catalogs that have ranged from 30 to over 300 pages.

The brand look has evolved from a mostly black style to incorporating a range of gray tones.  In continued development of the brand, I created a look and layout design that included angled layers and an integration of white.  I developed a brand guidelines manual, that included the new color palette, to reflect the new brand look.

Showroom

Along with executives and team leaders, I additionally helped design the original élan showroom in the Dallas Market Center. I designed both 2D and 3D signage, window branding and wall photography; as well as assisted in designing the floor, furniture, and product layouts.

Learnings

The brand look was also integrated into a new élan website. I collaborated with an outside vendor on the design of the original website. Subsequently, this was a wonderful learning process with the outside vendor who also provided training on how I could manage the website in WordPress, along with another Graphic Designer. The élan brand website was later merged into the Kichler website.

Challenges & Insights

Since launching the élan brand involved a new product category for Kichler Lighting, I was mindful of the budget constraints. For the first several years of catalogs, I performed all of the art direction and production, managed the proofing process and attended press approvals.

To additionally keep costs low, I worked on the photography plan with the team at the Kichler division managing the élan brand. This developed plan for the product photography was for the first several catalogs. For the initial launch, I directed photographers as well as worked with the team to create schedules and help coordinate product samples. I assisted in the planning of building a photography studio within the Kichler product warehouse to save cost of shipping products to an outside photo studio. For photography direction I created room scene options and mood boards and was on set to direct product photo shoots.

Outcome

The élan brand was well received in its initial launch with sales of the product. It has continued to grow, and the brand is still a part of the Kichler Lighting portfolio today.

Personally, this is one of the most rewarding projects of my career. From the research and designing, to the management and collaboration at all levels of teams, to help develop and launch the élan brand as well as see the élan brand grow has helped me expand my skills and grow as a professional.