Talking visual design and brand in Copenhagen

The city of design

Last week in Copenhagen, Denmark—where smart design thinking delivers an eminently livable experience to the city’s over 580,000 residents—OXD (formerly OpenRoad) Creative Director Wil Arndt was invited to share his knowledge of branding and visual design to a passionate conference of communicators and digital workplace experts.

Wil Arndt, Creative Director for OXD, talks about visual design and brand at IntraTeam Copenhagen event 2018

Photo courtesy IntraTeam (

You’d think it was the idea of presenting in that design-forward context that had Wil puking rainbows.

But it wasn’t just the nerves.

Great design is for the people

And example of great design in Copenhagen: Garbage cans on the street are angled so cyclists can dispose of their trash without stopping.

An example of great urban design in Copenhagen: Angled garbage bins means that cyclists in this bike-friendly city can dispose of their waste without stopping.

You see, Wil is on a mission to raise the level of design awareness and literacy. Even in the City of Design. And making the point that design is important often requires some extreme imagery.

“Unlike art,” Wil says, “great design is not subjective, even though most people can spot it when they see it. Great design is founded on design principles that can be expressed through a common visual vocabulary. That vocabulary can be learned by anyone, not just designers”.

In his presentation, The Psychology of Design Principles, Wil led conference attendees through a whirlwind tour of the fundamentals of design, followed by some real-world examples of these principles in action. The session wrapped with pragmatic tips on how to use these principles in everyday communication.

Not just design: The relationship between external brand and internal communications

Since IntraTeam was an intranet and digital workplace conference, most attendees there were familiar with the tension between how an organization visually presents itself to the outside world (traditionally thought of as the “brand”) and how that organization speaks to its employees every day.

Wil’s workshop, Be Yourself: How To Build An Intranet Brand That Reflects Your People, addressed this tension head on. Participants worked through a simple heuristic, evaluating how closely an intranet aligns with an organization’s brand. And while the heuristic revealed whether or not an intranet was aligned with the brand, it didn’t say whether or not an intranet shouldbe aligned with the brand.

“When it comes to their intranet,” Wil continues, “clients often ask me which approach is ‘correct’? Should their intranet be aligned to the brand or not? And I tell them that neither approach is correct! It all depends on their organization and the reality of their employee experience.”

To answer this question in an objective, rational way, workshop participants were introduced to a Brand Alignment Decision Framework. By examining an organization’s brand attributes, corporate values, and the real employee experience, they uncovered the right tone and approach for an internal communications platform.

At the convergence of strategy, visual design, and technology

So how does design theory and brand strategy fit into the overall professional services picture at OXD?

“I don’t see visual design as a one-way bridge that sits between strategy and development,” Wil says. “Great design and clear communication offers value at every step of a project. But more than that, I see strategy and technology as critical in creating the constraints within which great design can happen. We need the network of the wider OXD service spectrum to create elegant, achievable solutions that solve real business needs through design.”

And how do rainbow-puking unicorns fit into the picture?

“Personally, I have nothing against unicorns,” Wil adds. “But if I can help at least one unicorn stop vomiting rainbows all over my clients’ communications, then I count that as a victory.”

Let’s chat!

To find out how OXD's creative and visual design team can help with your next project, talk to our Director of Sales, Sara Redpath.

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