Both Bou believes Cambodia’s typography design industry is in its infancy and does not have a foundation yet. So, he has set off on a mission to transform the industry and bring positive changes by rebranding companies to help them stand out.
Both Bou is the co-founder and creative director of design studio, Anagata. His co-founder, Tep Sovichet, who is a type designer, has created signature Khmer types, Kantumruy Pro and Kdam Thmor Pro, on Google Fonts.
Both said, ”Cambodian people usually go to a website called Khmerfont.info to get Khmer fonts. The fonts in this website are good but are not suitable for professional use in a corporate environment,” he added.
Anagata’s Work on Rebranding Forte to Help Them Stand Out
His first project was for insurance company, Forte, which faces strong competition from other insurance companies. Therefore, Forte decided to rebrand to stay ahead of the game.
Forte had an interesting problem because in three social media posts from three different insurance providers in Cambodia, all three companies use red as their hero color.
Talking to Kiripost, he said, “This is a really big problem since people get typefaces and resource design elements from the same sources, often they generate mostly the same looking design language for brands.
“If I were to ask everyone here to guess which ones belong to Forte, you guys would have a hard time,” he said to attendees during a TypeLab Asia by Typographics event last month. He said, “To be fair, I've asked Forte employees which one belongs to Forte and they didn't even know.”
He mentioned that the main problem that causes companies to utilize the same design language over and over again is because of a lack of resources.
He thinks Forte was not promoting its own brand. Instead, the company was promoting its own category.
“If you're using cliches in branding you're not really promoting your brand; you're just promoting your category,” said the Anagata co-founder.
Brand identity is an important part of any business. A company uses a set of visual and verbal elements to communicate its brand identity to its target audience. That is why it is important to have a strong brand identity to help a company to stand out from the crowd of competitions, build brand awareness, and to create a positive impression with customers.
Both’s work was to differentiate Forte brand from other insurance companies and create a more modern and relevant brand identity for the business.
Both said that Forte’s old logo type presented some visual issues that were not aesthetic. Thus, he started rebranding Forte by redesigning the logo. He also changed the font to a lowercase typeface, which made the logo more compact and visually appealing.
The designers also added repeating elements to the logo to help unify the design. He said, “The kerning was not really unified because the RTE had a lot more spacing between the letter forms. To help solve that, we actually designed three different directions.”
The old color of Forte was maroon red, so the next step was to choose a new color scheme. Both said, “We pitched them to get something a little bit more vibrant, along with the change of red.”
By introducing a new color system to help fix the visual communication issue that Forte was having, Both integrated a navy and white, and had a secondary color palette to help balance everything out.
“For the typography, we licensed one of our own retail fonts to them, so this is kind of like cheating. But the way that we've been able to solve visual identity problems in this In Design Cambodia that we just started, is we tried to do more retail fonts so that more good typography is more available to everyone to use,” he said.
Both designed a flexible graphic system that can be applied onto a variety of different materials ,such as billboards of all sizes, other posts seen on roads, social media, stationery and a variety of different things.
Anagata’s Work on Rebranding PlerngKob to Have a Distinctive Logo
Another project his company worked on was PlerngKob, an entertainment company in Cambodia. The company's name means "campfire" in Khmer, and its logo features a stylized campfire symbol.
There were a few problems with PlerngKob’s logo. The company's previous logo was not very effective. The Khmer and Latin texts were not consistent, and the symbol was too similar to the logo of another company, Ream. Additionally, the logo was too literal and did not reflect the company's progressive values.
The PlerngKob case shows the importance of having a strong logo. Both explained, “PlerngKob didn't really have a strong brand presence because the company created a misconception that PlerngKob was a sub brand of BonnPhum.”
Before the team behind PlerngKob started it as a social and creative enterprise, it was born as a mini festival called BonnPhum, which translates to Village Festival. The festival happens a few weeks ahead of Khmer New Year.
During the festival, a bunch of young people go to the Buddhist pagoda to play traditional Cambodian games and dance to traditional songs.
“This is a common issue you see in Cambodia when people or companies have to make a bilingual logo,” he pointed out.
“Due to the lack of good quality typefaces or consistent typefaces on the market, most of the time people don't really have access to make the Khmer and the Latin logotype consistent with each other,” he added.
“So, they opt to do something more like this where the Khmer and Latin are totally communicating different visual directions on what a company is.”
PlerngKob translates to campfire, bonfire or sacred fire. So, the symbol draws inspiration from traditional Khmer ornament designs. Both said, “You can see all the little sharp pops here; right little tips so it presents an issue.”
In Cambodia there is another company called Ream, which is a film production company. The two colors of the two logos don't really really look the same.
“But if you were to reduce the logos, strip them of their colors and reduce the size down these two logos become indistinguishable from each other. It's really difficult to tell them apart,” he said.
The CEO of PlerngKob attended an event where she saw some production people from Ream company wearing black crew T-shirts with the Ream logo printed in white on the front.
The CEO thought that these were her team members, but when she got closer, she realized that she didn't recognize them. She quickly turned around and walked away.
This story highlights how important it is for companies to have distinctive logos that can easily be recognized. “This was something that we needed to fix for a brand because you don't really want your logo to be confused with other companies that are in the same industry,” he said.
In the context of PlergKob, it goes back to the case of Forte when they’re using cliches in branding not really promoting their own brand. “It's not really doing the company a good service to not promote your brand, but another in the same category,” Both said.
For the direction, Both pulled a lot of inspiration from Swiss design. He said,
“Swiss design can be very very expressive, but they are very humble in the way they express a lot of minimalism.”
His design team went back to the drawing board and created a new logo based on the hexagon and isometric grid system. His team has a book in the office called Kbaj Khmer, which is a Khmer traditional ornament design book.
By going through the book, Both found out that Khmer ornament and decorative design is based heavily on geometry. So, he decided to geometry basic squares as a grid system to lay everything out and then the decoration goes on top.
They also created a new color system and a set of abstract graphics. The new logo and branding system were applied to a variety of real-world materials, including tote bags, stage design, t-shirts, and folders.
Yet, these grid systems tend to get lost because people only see the final result which is a little bit more intricate like on the temples in Cambodia, he said. Thus, his team went back to basic geometry and they turned the hexagon into an isometric grid system. In that way, they can easily generate a simple fire emblem.
The new branding system gives PlerngKob a strong brand presence and makes it stand out from other Cambodian brands.
The Anagata design team also mentioned that they are in the process of rebranding their own studio. “But I've been saying that we've been rebranding for two years now, but it's like they say, the worst client is yourself,” Both said.