We’ve noticed something. Behind a lot of brands with good writing, there’s a founder who penned the words themselves. Someone who had a clear idea of what they wanted to do, knew who they wanted to be and how they wanted to sound. It goes to show that good writing and clear thinking are one and the same.
We’ve been meaning to try Dishoom for a while, so last week we went to their restaurant in Shoreditch (there’s one in Covent Garden too). Right away, everything felt really well thought-through (and pretty slick, too). From the overall idea – it describes itself as ‘a Bombay cafe in London’ – to the food, the music and the sparky words on their menu.
We know how hard it is to write a good menu. There’s not a lot of space, and you have to balance some personality with getting information over quickly. Most do one or the other, but this does both well. So we asked the manager about their words. Who wrote them? Was it a branding company? Or maybe a writer we already know? It turned out one of the founders had written it himself.*
There’s more. Other brands with words written by their founders:
Here’s the brochure from Stutterheim, our favourite if-only-we-could-afford-them Swedish raincoat company. Words by Alexander Stutterheim himself:
Most companies are obsessed with sounding ‘positive’ (it pops up in briefs we get all the time). Stutterheim’s idea – ‘Swedish melancholy at its driest’ – sets the tone for everything they write and design.
Who says pharmaceutical products can’t have beautiful branding? The co-founders of US-based Help Remedies worked together on their simple packaging – both of them used to work in branding and advertising.
Another ex ad-man, David Hieatt set the tone for howies a long time ago. He’s a good writer. But he left howies (and went on to start Hiut Denim, where he, the founder, pens the words again). The interesting thing about howies is that the spirit of David’s style stayed after he’d gone. Years later, the commercial director, the web team and their creative team all write in the howies way. David’s style stuck. Not through a big fat guideline that nobody read, but because howies are clear about what they stand for, and everyone who works for them gets what they’re about.
Peppersmith has a simple idea: chewing gum made from natural ingredients. And the words are as smart as the packaging (with a slip of paper for you to put your chewed gum in).
The founders of Peppersmith used to work at Innocent, the patron saint of blog posts about brand writing. And while Innocent’s creative director, Dan Germain, wasn’t one of the founders, he did work with them from the very beginning. Everyone else followed his wordy example, learning as the company grew, and as they left to set up their own companies.
That’s not to say all founders are good writers, or that you have to be. But good words and a good idea do go hand in hand. Writing is a good discipline: it forces you to keep your ideas tight.
* Since we wrote this, Shamil Thakrar, the founder of Dishoom, got in touch with us to say that although he wrote the original menu and many of the words on the website, this latest menu was written by Elise Valmorbida (and Shamil edited it). We stand corrected, as does the manager of Dishoom Shoreditch! Nice work, Elise.