Q&A with Isis Goldstein about designing her brand. A client’s story.

I have had the pleasure of working with Isis on her brand and website. This project was a real treat and a collaboration through and through. We went from rebranding her old logo and look and feel to creating a new creative and elaborate website to designing marketing collateral (read: businesscards, postcards, posters etc.) and a crazy sign above her shop. What a journey it has been!

I was interested in what the experience had been for Isis so I decided to ask her! Read about Isis’ view on her experience of working with me and redesigning her brand and website.


I love seeing my intuition interpreted by you.

Tell me about your shop Knutsel Frutsel. What do you sell, when did you start and what is the story behind it?

I began the shop just before I turned 28. I am an expat and without diplomas, a combination which in 1998 meant there was no challenging job available for me, even though I felt up to the task. I really wanted to dive into something and feel knowledgeable, so I looked to creating my own work and expertise. I had been working with children for a couple of years and realised that was something which came easily to me. I wanted a job which incorporated children but not the education sector. I had already noticed that compared to Toronto, where I grew up, the independent toy shops here were lacking. The shops had put themselves in a elitist niche where they were known as ‘the wooden toy shops’. I missed the fun factor, the discovery, the WOW! I decided to open a science toy store but the Nemo beat me to it. I looked about for another hole in the children’s market and settled on Arts and Crafts. In the late nineties, craft materials had to be gathered at at least 3 different shops: The Hema, an office supplies shop and the bigger sewing shops. I wanted all the necessary materials for children to create under one roof. Slowly the shop evolved to what it is now, with arts and crafts as a speciality and supplemented by WOW! toys and all things that promote fantasy. Six years ago we built in a children’s book section, and since then the shop feels complete, rounded.


Knutsel Frutsel had an outdated logo that still stemmed from the first days of the business.


What is important to you regarding your customer?

I want the customer to have a happy experience. To be a child in a sweets shop. Whether the customer is the child or the adult…I still want to them to be enthralled and experience a sense of wonder. Wonder at the amount, the colours but definitely also the beauty of the products. That beauty can be aesthetic, but also clever, novel, exciting and functional. I want the shop to feel available and abundant. We do that by filling the shop and bringing order in the abundance. The products are to be found and not put on a pedestal, like in a boutique. We let our customers wander about to discover and offer extensive information and advice to those who want it. It’s a shop where neighbours bump into each other and chat while another customer can rush in and out with a well sought out wrapped present. Though we have many higher end products, the shop caters to all price ranges. I want it to be available to all the neighbourhood, no matter the budget, so I make an effort to have gifts for those budgets.


The new branding for Knutsel Frutsel. 


What was the reason you sought out a designer to design your brand and website? Why did you think you needed a new brand?

The necessity came from the website. We had a website which had not been touched in years. A product of the early 2000s, it had not evolved with the ever evolving internet. It looked outdated, stagnant and with old information, it made website visitors wonder if we were still open. The website had become a liability. It no longer exuded any wonder, no sense of discovery or abundance. It looked like a hobby website instead of a professional shop of 19 years of age.


I remember you once told me you didn’t like the word “branding”, why is that?

Branding is a concept word. I like fingers-in-the-clay words. Words one hears and knows and feels what they mean. To me Branding it’s a vague word, with no roots. A marketing term. And even though I have a commercial shop, I am wary of marketing. A Brand also evokes visons of Nike and the horror stories of pumping money into marketing the ghettos of New York to ensure that poor people think they need that Nike to be cool. So the word itself internally causes friction. I’m sure this is a personal thing, but perhaps others also recognise the megalomania concept the word brings to mind.


What was it like for you to start with the branding process? From exploring your vision, your wishes, gathering visual inspiration and ideas to having someone interpret all this into a design? For example, was it exciting, scary, clear cut, boring?

I really loved it. You first asked me things like who are my customers. It became a page long answer and I really liked putting the knowledge down on paper. I KNOW who my customers are, but had never been asked to spell it out and didn’t know I knew what I knew till that moment. You asked me to make a mood board. So I discovered what was visually appealing to me. I ended up making 2 mood boards. I love certain colours, but sometimes the colours were tautly organized, and that didn’t appeal. I recognised both what appealed and what didn’t, so made two for you. In doing so I recognised the organised busyness of the shop. Certain values became clear: adventure, discovery and a certain amount of crazy. You made your own mood board and than I could comment on what that evoked. Everything that said ‘fairy tale’ or ‘story’ grabbed my attention. These things were what you filtered out and worked with in your own process.
I found commenting on your work scary. Even though I am the customer, I recognise that it’s your creativity I’m commenting on, and that feels precarious. It was important to me to realise that a first draft is a first draft… to understand that THIS is also the collaboration. That it is a process and that I am welcome to comment on the work in progress. But I also felt my responsibility in being as clear as possible, so as not to send you on wild goose chases. It is no mean feat to, literally, draw out what I intuitively want.


After I presented you with your new brand, the logo, colour scheme etc. you said you understood what it meant to have a well designed brand. That it became clear to you why it is good to have a consistent matching look & feel for your business. Could you elaborate on that?

I am still not a fan of the word or concept branding. But I love that you created a feel for my shop which now can be put on everything from store signs, to bags, to business cards. I understand now that this feeling, this story, is recognisable to my existing customers and can provoke a good feeling upon that recognition. That the brand is playful and beautiful and grabs the attention of those who do not yet know the inside of the shop. I get that the branding of Snow White is the apple, the mirror and a cute, naïve dwarf.


designing branding toyshop
The designs for postcards and bookmarks. 

What was your favourite part of this process, of our collaboration?

I love seeing my intuition interpreted by you, the tweaking, the ordering of the product and then having the finished product in my hands. I love that my enthusiasm spreads….that I now see that the branding can go onto everything from gift certificates to price cards to information signs on the door. I didn’t realise when we started that our relationship would be so long term. I now see that branding for my shop is an ongoing process. That the story continues as does your creativity.


What was the reason you chose to work with me?

I chose to work with you because looking at your portfolio I recognised the need to play. And that was the only portfolio I saw doing that.


What has this branding process, and the designs, given you and/or your business?

I have formulated where I have come from and where I am going. That is sometimes a better feeling than ‘winging it’. I feel that the branding, the website and the logo are now in line with the experience the customer has in the shop. They augment each other. I feel that the message I am communicating to the outside world is proud and fun and that the shop, with the branding, is now taking it’s rightful place.


Click here to see the project.


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