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The Branding Makeover of a Famed Children’s Author

Even if you don’t work in marketing or promotional products, the notion of brand is inescapable. And unsurprisingly, a few have taken exception to the idea that just about anything can be a brand. (It was just a couple weeks ago that Adele made headlines for an interview in Time on the subject. “I don’t like that word,” she says of “brand.” “It makes me sound like a fabric softener, or a packet of crisps. I’m not that.”) 

Nevertheless, successful marketers have learned that brilliant branding – a planned-out vision that examines every creative avenue and integrates them into a cohesive whole – can pay off in spades. While the end result is often a legion of loyal followers, the by-product that will pique the interest of promotional product companies is the creation of wholly unique promotional items.

Which brings us to Roald Dahl. The estate of the famed British author – who penned much-loved children’s stories like Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and much more – is rolling out a suite of products this year based on the author’s work, including apps and digital properties as well as much-anticipated stage and movie productions.

In anticipation, Dahl’s estate tapped Sunshine, a creative marketing agency based in England, to create a unified visual identity for Dahl’s various works and properties. The task, much like Dahl’s BFG, was tall: capture the essence of this “vibrant and subversive voice” in children’s literature that is already so familiar to millions of readers, particularly through the instantly recognizable drawings of Quentin Blake, Dahl’s longtime illustrator.

In going about the task, Sunshine devised three guiding principles to craft the look and serve as inspiration: “masters of invention,” “makers of mischief” and “champions of good.”

The results include crooked typography that instantly imbues a sense of whimsy, as well as a signature image to be shown in all of Dahl’s creations: a yellow paper plane. The plane symbolizes not only Dahl’s experience as a pilot and his life-long enjoyment of flight, but also the yellow legal paper that Dahl unfailingly wrote on. “When you interact with paper it either ends up in a ball or as a plane,” Simon Holmes, Sunshine’s art director, told the website It’s Nice That. “The logo’s a little bit mischievous and it perfectly captures a sense of imagination.”

The reception of the redesign was divided, but as far as promotional products, the ideas are wholly unique. Beyond the spate of Happy Meal and laundry detergent tie-ins, Sunshine conceived yellow business cards and stationary for the representatives of Dahl’s estate that, according to Britain’s Creative Review, can be folded into paper airplanes. The items even include dotted lines to tell recipients where to fold them. Further proof that in this industry, the best ideas will always fly.