Virgin By Design marks the 50th birthday of one of the world's most daring and versatile brands.
The brief was to go behind-the-scenes, and share the lessons learned from successes and challenges, highs and lows, with an audience of brand designers, creative marketeers and ambitious entrepreneurs.
The design had to encourage different levels of engagement with the content, catering to readers who want to flick through for visual inspiration as well as those keen to deep dive into each chapter’s themes. It had to speak the language of a high-end design book, but with a playful twist.
Rather than a chronological retrospective, the book takes readers on an inspiring visual journey through 10 themed chapters, representing the values that have helped Virgin shake up so many different sectors – and will help the brand stay relevant for the next half-century.
Virgin is made by many, and the book captures first-hand perspectives of over 120 of the people responsible for shaping its past, present and future. Fascinating archive photography, striking campaign visuals and playful commissioned illustration bring those stories to life.
Varied content formats help achieve pace and variety, from bite-sized captions detailing specific moments, to longer self-contained stories exploring how different Virgin companies have evolved and adapted to make their mark.
Each chapter leads with several spreads of full-bleed images that capture the essence of the theme. Longer reads that dig deeper into each topic are bound-in as smaller inserts, giving readers the option for richer engagement without compromising the overall visual impact. At key points, gatefolds are also used to expand the canvas and do milestone moments justice.
The polished visuals of campaign artwork and branded environments are interspersed with more intimate personal moments – humorous anecdotes are playfully illustrated, while hand-drawn typography on chapter openers and quote pages adds a fluid, human touch that make the book feel accessible as well as inspirational.
Virgin's iconic red is one of its most distinctive brand assets. It is used to full effect on the subtly debossed canvas cover, employed throughout the flat plan as a spot-colour accent, edge-painted on the pages and also used for twin marker ribbons.
These ribbons are printed with phrases that capture the brand's unique appeal from two different perspectives: 'Screw it, let's do it!' is Richard Branson's mantra, symbolising Virgin's entrepreneurial drive to explore and experiment; while '50 years of changing business for good' emphasises how the brand's modern-day purpose has been there from the beginning.
The short section of the ribbons dangling beneath the book combine to form a rallying cry for readers keen to apply the insights found inside to their own practice: 'Let's do it! For good'.
Each chapter is colour-coded with a different pastel that complements the core Virgin red. Chapter openers and giant pull-quote spreads introduce simple typographic twists on the theme, from the 'e's in 'Cheeky start-up' peeking over the page edge, to the 'A' in 'Future ready' pointing skywards like a giant rocket.
FSC papers are used throughout and the book makes ample use of tip-in sections and gatefolds to fully immerse the reader in the design stories and key moments in Virgin’s history.
Virgin By Design has turned out to be a comprehensive and yet dynamic visual feast depicting the evolution of the Virgin brand over 50 years.
Our brief was to a) convey the key principles and moments of the brand and allow people behind the scenes, b) to do that in a way that weaves together many voices, be it through first-hand accounts, or the overarching chapter narratives, and, c) ensure that we are celebrating the great work that’s defined the brand to date, but also gives a sense of the exciting milestones on the horizon. Finally, we wanted to ensure that those who were reading the book might absorb some of the brand’s attitude and experience, and leave inspired to pursue their own adventures, whatever they may be.
We set out to create a book of style and substance, and working with Pete Rossi and the Thames & Hudson team, we explored a number of ideas of how to do that. The different design touches throughout the book ladder up to create something that is interesting as an object in itself – the sprayed edges, the subtle deboss of the title, the playful marker ribbons, the wayfinding marks on each page, the clean layout, the quotes in the end pages – but leads you into and doesn’t distract from the meat of the stories, the visuals, the captions which tell the rich story of the brand over 50 years. People will get a sense of the brand from a quick flick through, but have multiple opportunities to go deeper and learn more however they wish.
Though it is too early for us to have commercial results (the book is published on 26th March), in our initial launch market (the UK) we have seen a great deal of interest from publications such as It’s Nice That, Creative Review, Design Week, Blueprint, etc. and we anticipate similar responses in our other major markets, the US, Australia, South Africa and the UAE. In addition, within the first couple of days of announcing the title Amazon had listed Virgin By Design as number one best seller in a number of charts: Advertising, Branding & Logo Design, Graphic Arts in Advertising, as well as being top 10 within a number of other charts. We’re thrilled with the book, and with the reception to it so far.