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P*DA x TODAY AT APPLE: Larry Peh on why branding matters

The President*s Design Award (P*DA) and Today at Apple are presenting a series of complimentary workshops throughout the year. Conducted by P*DA recipients, these workshops will focus on different areas in design. Here’s a low-down on Larry Peh’s session at Apple Orchard Road on 4th May 2019.

Decked out in a minimalist outfit, Larry Peh took the stage with all smiles. Pointing to the white Undercover Jedi tee he was wearing, and drawing a round of chuckles from the workshop participants as a result, he said, “It’s May the fourth, and that’s why I’m wearing this.”

Larry’s affable nature belies the fact that he is a highly successful – and sought after – designer in his own right. He is the man behind Singapore-based creative agency &Larry, which was founded in 2005 and today boasts an impressive list of clients that includes Google, Louis Vuitton, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and GIC. These big names tap into the firm’s services, which range from branding strategies to design of spaces, digital content and more. Larry’s work has already been recognised by the industry, with a number of awards under his belt. The designer clinched the President*s Design Award in 2014 and 2016, for instance.

Armed with such experience and qualifications, Larry was therefore an apt candidate to speak about the driving forces behind a strong brand. He first kicked off the introductory workshop about brand building with a quick overview of &Larry’s creative approach, citing examples from the agency’s portfolio.

Take &Larry’s work for Bynd Artisan, Singapore’s oldest custom bookbinding and leather-craft atelier. The creative studio was tasked to articulate a brand story that celebrates the relevance and knowledge of the company’s elderly craftsmen in today’s world of digital convenience.

Focusing on the insight that most people enjoy expressing their creativity with the help of a guide who they trust, the agency came up with a brand essence that highlights the exchange of ideas between Bynd Artisan’s craftsmen and customers: “Something’s Worth Sharing.”

With this brand essence, &Larry collaborated with Mr Chong Beng Cheng, one of Bynd Artisan’s master craftsmen, to come up with a series of posters. The essence of “Something’s Worth Sharing” also permeated all other Bynd Artisan touchpoints – from a brochure that showcased the brand’s technical capabilities to the interior design and retail experiences at their Holland Village and Raffles City ateliers. The thorough and meticulous execution of Bynd Artisan’s revitalised brand identity and essence led this project to be conferred “Design of the Year” at the President*s Design Award 2016.

After sharing his studio’s creative approach, Larry turned to a series of exercises designed to help the workshop participants – who were mostly existing or aspiring entrepreneurs – better define their own brand strategies. Using iPads and Apple pencils, participants began to brainstorm, write, doodle and draw on worksheets that revolved around four concepts: brand vision, brand promise, brand personality and brand essence.

The mood was contemplative. Participants were encouraged to reflect on their aspirations and commitment to customers when filling out the worksheets on brand vision and brand promise, respectively. For the exercise on brand personality, they were prompted to imagine how they wanted their businesses to be perceived. Brand essence, or the core characteristic that distinguishes a brand from others, was to be distilled only after understanding a company’s vision, promise and personality.

Various individuals shared their ideas after filling in these digital worksheets. One spoke about her vision of cooking Asian cuisines and hosting intimate suppers. A former journalist talked about creating a platform to tell stories that engage all the five senses. A creative revealed his dream of setting up an art school. These were but a few of the motivating stories heard.

To further inspire participants, Larry ended the workshop with a presentation of his work for Tong Heng, a traditional Chinese pastry business known for its diamond-shaped egg tarts. He explained how he revamped their logo, packaging and retail experience, and emphasised how branding a business in an appropriate manner could lead to positive outcomes, such as greater emotional resonance with customers, engaging a new, younger audience segment for brand longevity and an increase in sales revenue.

Larry left the participants with a final takeaway about designing brands: “We are all about getting to the heart of a brand, to discover its soul and create meaningful connections with people.”


Q&A with Larry Peh

How did you think the workshop went?

I think it went well, but it could have been better! I didn’t have much time to rehearse and it’s my first time doing such a workshop… I definitely need to do more to improve!


How has &Larry evolved since its beginnings in 2005?

We started out as your usual design company but realised over the years that there was a bigger role that we could play. Being just a graphic design company then, we were often told to wait till a client’s brand consultants were finished with their work before we could do the design bit. We were always at the tail end of the food chain.

Problems arose when we got the brand strategy deck from the clients. We would look at it and think, “We can do a lot better than this!” There were a lot of questions we wanted to ask. When I asked my clients these questions, I realised that some things were lost between them and their brand consultants. Or they seemed to be reading from a script.

That started my journey of discovering how we could fill this gap, so we started doing small branding jobs and sometimes not even charging for them. We collaborated with people who had their own methodologies. We shared what they didn’t know and learnt what they knew. That’s how our process evolved, and we are still in the process of evolving.


What brand are you particularly drawn to at the moment?

A local brand called billionBricks. They won the President*s Design Award last year. Like what their name suggests, they make shelters to help people who have no homes or have limited resources, especially in places prone to natural disasters. I am curious about their business strategy. I like companies like that. Not just big brands.


And is there anyone who you would love to work with right now?

I don’t have anyone in mind right now. Giving you an answer would mean that I am not faithful to the clients I worked with or am working with… Well, okay, I think I probably like to work with Buddha. I mean, how do you go around evangelising your ideas and not worry about worldly things?


What is &Larry busy with at the moment?

We are getting involved with more brand stories, much like the GIC and EDB projects we have done. We are working with a local brand that has somehow lost its soul in Singapore, but has become big in neighbouring countries, and wants to return to Singapore now. I find that interesting, because these guys are doing well overseas and yet, they want to come back and say, they are a Singaporean brand and will always be. I thought that’s unique. That’s one of the projects which we are putting our heart and soul into.


Article written by Ng Hui Hsien. Watch this space for the next P*DA x Today at Apple workshop, scheduled once a month from March to December 2019. Upcoming workshops will be updated here!



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