Brand identity remains an integral part of corporate culture, and now companies are going beyond logos and marketing campaigns to influence consumers’ perception of their brand. As founder and chief executive officer of the corporate brand-art firm Propriartary, which started in 2012, Phil Davis advises companies on how to embed art into their branding practices.
“It’s not just the big companies that are being more receptive towards corporate branding, but also small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which understand the significance of brand art,” says Davis, who swapped his corporate career for a creative one.
“Initially, I was surprised to see that only a handful of companies took advantage of this,” he adds.
Davis says that while most companies spend a lot of money on creating a brand identity, working with interior designers and public-relations firms, the focus can often be limited to the typeface, which sets the tone for an identity.
“The wall spaces are largely left blank, or even if they do feature any artwork, it’s usually got nothing to do with their brand,” he says.
“Generally, it’s because the boss likes it or has a favourite artist. This could be counter-productive to what the company stands for and give an entirely different message.”
Now, however, he says organisations are slowly moving away from seeing art as purely an aesthetic addition and are beginning to harness the power of art to make a statement about their company’s values. A thoughtfully-curated art collection can reflect a firm’s history and demonstrate its character and spirit to employees and clients, Davis insists. In reception areas, boardrooms, and throughout the workplace, branded art can communicate and reinforce brand values to employees and visitors, and act as a conversation starter, he says.
Not every business has an art budget to invest in museum-quality pieces. However, alternative ideas and new technologies supporting cost-effective contemporary art are now easily available. “With the advent of new printing techniques, there are many reasonably priced options available to make an immediate and visible change,” says Davis. “You are not buying from a commercial catalogue. Every artwork is unique and exclusive to the company for which it’s being created .”
Despite having made the transition from the corporate suite to a creative studio, Davis admits that being a brand artist had never occurred to him as a viable professional choice. But with the concept gaining traction, he’s also getting savvy about the medium of choice. “Printing technology has opened up so many more avenues than just canvas painting,” he says. “You can produce so much more quickly using digital methods. Unlike traditional painting, you don’t have to start all over again if the client changes their mind about the piece, and you can print on practically any surface, such as leather or metal.”
Citing the example of a piece he was commissioned to create for a start-up financial and technology recruitment firm, Davis says the picture reflected the firm’s ethos.
“It was a scenic representation of their offices, located in Jumeirah Lake Towers, and looking out on Sheikh Zayed Road,” he says. “In the picture, which is painted in varying shades of blue, a tiny yellow dot represents that they’re working long after everyone has gone home.”
Davis adds that this client is now moving into bigger premises, and that the company has commissioned him again to create another piece, this time charting their successful journey.
Workplace art is gaining particular foothold in the hospitality sector, according to Davis. Although, art has always been an integral part of the design process of hotels, art and branding have historically been mutually exclusive in the hospitality industry, he says.
“Hotels can often get lazy with their art – it shouldn’t be used, for example, to cover a crack in the wall or to match with the sofa – which is often not relevant to the hotel brand itself,” says Davis, adding that brand art can go a long way in referencing the niche virtues of a hotel property, such as its geographical context. “In my opinion, Rove Hotels by Emaar is a good example of how a distinct branding [can be supported] with the help of art,” he adds.
While the idea of brand art is creatively driven, ultimately there still needs to be an economic rationale for businesses to invest in it. Davis explains that although the process of producing artwork involves creativity, he is happy to let the company’s business statement underscore it.
“I’m not a frustrated artist who wants to find a viable way to practice his creativity,” he explains. “When working on commissions, I put on my business hat, and look at it from the perspective of my client.”
Davis adds that while some clients have a clear idea of what they want in terms of art, others are less sure. “To me, the challenge is not the fact that they don’t know what they’re looking for, but getting them involved in the process,” he says. “Sometimes, steering them in the right direction takes as little as sharing with them my other commissions. Incredibly, some of my best works are not my ideas, but those contributed by the companies themselves.”