Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 40
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

DESIGN TEAM: “The size of our company is nice. We’re nimble. We can turn things out quickly and with a proven level of expertise.” Sarah Smith (left) and Cameron Manning are owners of Smith + Manning Design & Branding, specializing in creating new graphic identity programs for businesses.

Smith + Manning Design & Branding Offers Updated Look for Companies

What is your look? What is your image? How do you see yourself? How do you want others to see you?

Whether you are a one-person business, part of a small firm, or a giant corporation, the identity and image projected is crucial — never more so than in today’s high-tech world of sound bites, virtual images, and short attention spans.

“We are concerned with what makes a good identity and a good impact,” explain Sarah Smith and Cameron Manning, owners of Smith + Manning Design & Branding. “Establishing visual identity and corporate identity is the purpose of branding.”

Opened in 2006, the company specializes in branding design that includes print, signage, and the web. Creating an identity for a new company or updating the design of an established firm is all part of the job. It can incorporate an entire program for a company — from business cards and stationery to print ads to a website — or any one of the above.

Creative Experience

“We recently designed a billboard for a company, and that was new for us,” says Ms. Manning, who is the managing partner of the firm. “I like learning about new industries and companies, and all our projects are different.”

The two partners bring years of creative experience to their endeavor. Ms. Manning was a former vice president at the New York City-based design firm Doyle Partners. While there, she served as project manager for the launch of Martha Stewart in Kmart and the re-branding of Barnes & Noble, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, and Wamsutta home textiles. Prior to Doyle Partners, Ms. Manning worked in advertising and public relations for Ralph Lauren, and also created programming for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

Creative director Sarah Smith, a Princeton native, is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, and spent more than a decade working for Landor Associates in New York, London, and Hong Kong. She created brand identities for Alfred Dunhill, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, Singapore Telecom, San Miguel, and SilkAir. Among packaging clients were Heinz, NutriSweet, and United Distillers.

In Singapore, Ms. Smith was creative director at Addison Design Consultants, and projects included re-branding bankPOS, Jollibee and packaging design for CocaCola, Danone, Heineken, and Unilever. Developing the identity of China Airlines was a special design thrill.

Impressive List

Since opening their own firm in Princeton, the partners have acquired an impressive client list. Princeton area projects have included Lasley Brahaney, Liv Natural and Liv Organic, Princeton HealthCare System, Princeton Project 55, Princeton Young Achievers, and Rosetta Marketing Strategies. North Brunswick Transit Village, Sweet Hollow Herbs (in Long Island, N.Y.), Beth & Kate’s Custom Nutrition, InfecDetect, and Johnson & Johnson are other clients.

In the case of Johnson & Johnson, Smith + Manning was asked to create a cohesive identity for J & J’s Global Marketing Group, which is responsible for Olympic Sponsorship, training programs, creative and marketing consulting, and all media buying for this giant corporation.

“We wanted to create a comprehensive visual identity for them,” report the partners. “They needed a branding to complement the familiar J & J logo.”

When a company moves to a new location or there is a change in leadership, these are appropriate times to consider new branding. “When there is a change at the helm of a company, it is often the right time to change their branding. Your brand matters. It can help unify your company, position your products, and share your vision with the world,” notes Ms. Manning.

When the client is pleased, it is always a feather in Smith & Manning’s cap, and at this point in the life of the firm, there is much to be happy about. “Clients say that with new branding and design, everything comes to life. It invigorates the client, and refocuses the company,” reports Ms. Smith.

“It also has a positive impact on the bottom line, and brings increased recognition,” adds Ms. Manning.

Updated Look

Janet Lasley, owner of the respected Princeton company Lasley Brahaney Architecture + Construction, is enthusiastic about the new branding package Smith + Manning created, including new logo, complete website design, advertising, collateral materials, uniforms, and job site signs.

“After 23 years in business, we felt we needed an improved, updated, and more sophisticated look. Smith + Manning were fabulous. In a couple of weeks, they came up with 12 different design logos. Of the 12, I loved at least eight! They said they wanted to project an image that was a clean and cutting edge design, while maintaining the traditional elegance we have been noted for. We couldn’t have been more pleased.”

In order to do their best for clients, Ms. Manning and Ms. Smith make a point of getting to know the company and its focus. “We do a very in-depth interview with the client which includes a questionnaire about their company, their targeted audience, etc.” explains Ms. Smith. “We work very closely with the clients, listen to them, and then we envision a design and identity.”

Adds Ms. Manning, “Every client is different, and what Sarah and I try to provide is clarity. It is important to project a clear message.”

Because of their extensive background in the field, Ms. Smith and Ms. Manning have worldwide contacts whom they call upon as needed. As creative director, Ms. Smith works with a team of expert design free-lancers from all over the world, who contribute their design specialties to a project.

“Even when other designers are involved, Sarah always maintains creative control over the entire project,” points out Ms. Manning.

Today’s World

The two partners meet every day, either in person, or via email, to discuss the job list. A project can last anywhere from two weeks to a year, with a typical assignment taking eight to 12 weeks to implement all the details.

The emphasis on the web in today’s world is clearly apparent in Smith + Manning’s modus operandi. “We keep abreast of the latest technology,” says Ms. Smith. “More and more often today, the website has replaced actual brochures. In terms of web technology, we keep up-to-date with the latest software, which changes all the time. Every year we can do more things. What we can do today would not have been possible ten years ago,” adds Ms. Manning.

Both partners enjoy the wide spectrum of clients and the diversity it has brought. “The variety of our projects keeps things exciting and fresh,” they note.

They also belong to the Women’s Entrepreneur Group (WEG) an informal group of women in Princeton who own their own businesses.

“We talk about our business challenges and help each other out. It’s a wonderful support group.”

Smith + Manning can be reached at (609) 683-4949. Website:

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