On making meaningful work, rebranding a country

"Design is not about designing a nice logo and putting some nice colours on it," said award-winning designer Nathan Reddy.

In the years following South Africa's first democratic elections, there were many firsts, including the country electing its first black president and the project of finding a new identity for the country.

For Nathan Reddy, the founder of GRID Worldwide Branding and Design (which also recently had a rebrand) and recent winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Loeries awards, it was also a time for building a new brand for the country.

He says he remembers attending a trade show in the UK and seeing how other countries like Germany had branded themselves. But getting to the South African stand, all we had was the different provinces.

“It was like one province was trying to outsell the other province."

On coming back to the country, Reddy says he made it his mission to try and help build one brand for South Africa under which all the different provinces, government departments would fall. 

"The timing was opportune. We were launching the World Cup, and we had to redo the airports, and we had to redo the country brand. So we did both these things. We did tourism, trade and industry and the airports."

This is how Brand South Africa was born. 

But his work did not just stop at rebranding the country's identity. He was also involved in building the brand for one of the most iconic radio stations in the country, YFM. The red, black and white colours of the Gauteng youth radio station as well as that huge "Y" still remain one of the most recognisable throughout the country.

Reddy says he remembers working on the branding for the "first liberation black station" and being at the studio's first home in Betrams in Johannesburg with the likes of Greg Maloka, DJ Fresh, Randall Abrahams and Kim Thipe. 

"Creating a brand like that and to see how it still has an effect on people, it makes you feel a certain sense of pride."

As a designer and CCO of GRID, Reddy has been responsible for the reinvigoration of some of the world’s biggest and most iconic brands including the Apartheid Museum, Liberty, FNB and Marble Restaurant in Rosebank.

For Reddy, who has previously spoken at the Design Indaba Conference, design is about more than just designing nice logos.

"Design is not about designing a nice logo and putting some nice colours on it. It’s kind of understanding the nature of the business. We go in there and work out the culture of the place. The culture has to work with what the service and the product of the organisation is."

He adds: "When you do a refresh properly and sincerely, people feel it. Their work ethic changes and there is a sudden spring in their feet."