Brand human: great design builds brand story

Not long ago, Clive Jones (our designer here at OH)  wanted to re-design our business cards. I resisted the move at first but he convinced me that it placed the real story of Only Human, front and centre. (And confirmed our ‘artistic’ aesthetic.) Since the change I’ve had to ask myself (more than once), ‘Damn, why are designers right so often?’ And also, ‘Why don’t I listen to him more!!??’

The new design has provoked a lot of great questions and oohs and ahhs both from long-standing clients and new contacts alike: people love it and it gives me a chance to explain the heart of our brand. It provokes conversations around the things about Only Human that are important to us.  I thought it might be worth a blog post to elaborate on the story.

Our company came to life back in 2005 when the name Only Human (Communication) popped into my head. Suddenly, all the bits of my thinking about the essence of my still imaginary company came together.  I remember that I was sitting at my desk after registering the URL ,  and feeling pretty damn good about myself, when my husband Ross Nobel came home. As I regaled him with all that I thought the name would bring, he grabbed a post it note and drew this image.


In a minute or two he had encapsulated our story brand: the listening, the respect and the quiet simplicity. The added bonus was that the cartooney figures reinforced our playfulness too. Designer Clive, ‘got it’ immediately. We decided cartoon figures would be a feature of design across all our collateral and because Ross is a musician (and didn’t suddenly want to become a cartoonist), Clive came up with a series of ‘humans’ that he drew on the computer and that could be put together easily for lots of different purposes. (For example, see the splash on our home page)

Our first business card is a good way of seeing where the thinking took us. It helped me to clarify our different services and reminded me always of the twin values, playfulness and sincerity, that are at the centre of us.


Over the next few years, as the company developed, we didn’t need to remind ourselves of who we were so often so we moved to a simpler design. Our computer drawn zen men became our logo and our calling card.


I thought it was working fine until Clive knew it was time to take the leap back to our authentic story beginnings . He took Ross’s original drawing, with all its post-it note imperfections and let it simply say who we are. He trusted it.

This is the front  of our cards now.


It breaks a few rules. For example, this image is not exactly the same as the computer drawn zen men that is our logo and in terms of brand recognition, some people might say that’s a no no: The brand name is conspicuously absent from the image and only on the flip side too. But the response to the card has been overwhelmingly positive and so confirms what we already know. There are no rules.

A defining characteristic of Only Human is that all our humans maintain lives as practising artists across a range of media: film, publishing, design, photography. And they bring that experience to our approaches for commercial strategies. The card appears to be subtly confirming this side of us.

Are you listening to your designer?


About Moya Sayer-Jones

Moya Sayer-Jones is one of Australia's foremost experts on story; she consults with government, NFPs and corporate clients to help them access and use story to support their strategic objectives.


  1. This is a great story of evolution and taking risks, collaboratively, based on instinct and trusting the extended judgement of your networks. Plus, having the role of a different eye to help you see. It reminds me of David Cotterell’s view of his role as an artist when he was embedded with the British troops in Afghanistan.

  2. Thanks for your comment Victoria. I followed the link but it didn’t take me anywhere? Any ideas?

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