Hessian.tv, a brand created by Boston designer Ben Pieratt, isn’t selling anything in particular. Yet.

Pieratt, who is the founder of Svpply, created the brand without a client or product.

Hessian is a kind of experiment--could he sell a fully formed brand to a client?

For $18,000, Hessian’s buyer will get everything from a URL to social media accounts.

Not to mention a brand guideline book and dozens of logo iterations.

“The Hessian could be a restaurant, a startup, a clothing brand or more,” Pieratt writes on the website.

He’ll even include 30 hours of design time to customize Hessian to the buyer’s needs.

Here, the brand’s app interface.

While print assets are also included.

Co.Design

For Sale: Hessian, A Brand Without A Product

$18,000 will buy you a beautifully designed identity, website, app interface, and social media presence by Ben Pieratt.

In an era when designers sometimes devote years to client research and talk enthusiastically about “distilling the core values” of their brand, is it possible to design an effective brand identity before a client even enters the picture?

Designer (and cofounder of social shopping site Svpply) Ben Pieratt thinks so, and he’s testing his hunch by selling a “brand without a product,” called Hessian, for a single flat fee. $18,000 will get you Hessian’s URL, Twitter and Tumblr accounts, fully fleshed-out batch of image assets, an app interface, and more. Pieratt will even include 30 hours of design time to customize Hessian to the buyer’s needs. “The Hessian could be a restaurant, a startup, a clothing brand, or more,” goes the pitch. “It fights for life by building meme-hooks through studies in contrasts, nostalgia, repetition and confusion.”

Hessian comes from a simple insight into the strengths and weaknesses of designers. To Pieratt, the conventional workflow of brand research, design development, client review, and launch is backwards. “As designers, we naturally see solutions to problems and opportunities we can’t help but notice in the market,” he writes. “We instinctually know how [concepts] should be launched, how they should look, how they should work, and who their target audience should be.”

The problem is that not all designers have MBAs, and the process of launching and managing a company isn’t always suited to their skill set. At the same time, not every entrepreneur or business manager is great at knowing how their company should be marketed. So we’ve got one party that knows how to create effective brands, and the other party that knows how to manage effective companies. On his blog, Pieratt explains this idea with a quote from Walter Landor, the legendary designer behind the Coca-Cola script, who said that “products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” Putting the product before the brand is like putting the cart before the horse. “So it seems to me that in today’s connected environment, there’s no reason designers shouldn’t be able to create designed product packages, and then sell them to entrepreneurs,” Pieratt writes.

It might seem as if Pieratt is advocating for designers to take a step back from the market, to cloister themselves from reality. But in a way, his goal is to put designers on equal ground with clients. Pieratt is suggesting that designers should become entrepreneurs in their own right, selling a product to their clients rather than providing a service. It’s an idea that he believes could extend outside of design to include all types of creatives, from filmmakers to musicians. Look out for more on that within the next few months, as Pieratt launches Mined, a marketplace that will help creative professionals sell their work to clients.

[H/t Wired]

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21 Comments

  • Keyser Soze

    Id like to buy this and open a store that exclusively sells vintage 18th century German military uniforms

  • Greg Salwitz

    Earlier that day in the office - "Good news guys, with a small rewrite I figured out what we can do with all of these personal branding assets we made for Saddam Hussein!"

  • dtobias

    This fits all my negative stereotypes of Marketing Types... for them, such things as having a product or service that is useful in the real world is at best a necessary evil, and they'd much rather be able to dispense with it and deal totally with High Marketing Concepts like branding, totally divorced from anything real.

  • Jon

    Eh? You need to address your stereotypes. I don't know many marketers at all who wouldn't start with the product or service. Brand is just another word for reputation, so how can you build a brand if you don't have something to sell?

  • Burton Rider

    The crazy thing here is that this branding has been picked up by so many blogs and the like, that now it HAS a brand. Why pay for $18,000 when people already know so much about it - you essentially have to re-brand from the get go. 

  • Kelly Hungerford

    Off the shelf branding -- very interesting. The amount of time, energy and money invested in coming up with the initial branding around a product or service can be overwhelming not to mention turn into a time sink if you can't find the right agency to work with. It can also run far past 18k in fees (it doesn't have to of course, but it easily can). So why not turn the process around? It may not work for every entrepreneur or marketer, but I'm sure it will work for some and boy will they be thankful! Kudos Ben!

  • Scott VanSicklin

     On its face value I think this is kind of an interesting idea the concern I have are the unforeseen adverse consequences this could have on the professional design field that Mr Pieratt might not be expecting. If this idea was to come to fruition and get a foothold in the marketplace the effects to the design, marketing and branding industries could be quite devastating economically. Turning a creative service like what Mr. PIeratt appears to be pretty good at into a "quasi-geneirc" product opens the door further for creative services to become a price driven commodity whose price has no place to go but down.

     If you don't think commoditization should be a realistic concern for something like this think what stock photography has done to the commercial photography industry. In a relatively short time period, about a dozen or so years, the use of stock photography for advertising, design, branding, marketing, packaging ,etc ( initially a well intentioned product, made by creatives, that seemed like a good idea ) has eroded much of the commercial photography marketplace to the point where it is no longer a viable way to make a sustainable living.

    With the digital tools that are available now virtually anyone with a computer and an internet connection can become a design, branding, or marketing expert. All they have to do is go to fiverr or 99 designs  and have someone created something pretty spiffy, sign over all the rights to you and then mark it up and sell it as your own product to whoever. Of course the problem with this idea is that it further devalues the creative process and continues to put downward pressure on the market for creative services. While certainly not all brands will embrace this model the downward pressure it has on the marketplace would be far reaching with the possible exception of perhaps the very top tier of designers which would still no doubt feel the negative pinch on their marketplace.

    It may seem like  $18,000 is a pretty good hunk of change  to make on a project like this, but how many projects can you do like this before someone says I'll do the same thing for half as much and in less time. If your an innovator and get in and out of the market before it gets destroyed you might make a few bucks but is it going to be enough- my guess is probably not.

     While I like the designs that have been shown here I think Mr. Pieratt is selling himself way to short. Personally I think a better solution, that has the potential to be more sustainable for him would be to try and become a full fledged % partner with a business entrepreneur that sees the value of his expertise, talent, and skill. This cuts out the backwardness of the client review launch system flaws that he mentions because he has a much more vested stake in the creative being done " correctly".

    Wow hope I didn't ramble to much here, but this idea just struck a nerve.

  • Sydney Botting

    Absolutely fantastic response. You have written all of what I would and you've done it better because when I was seeing red about this article it was far too early to intimidating to respond first! I think it's wonderful you mentioned the stock photography industry as it is often overlooked by designers, as well as mentioning the devaluing of creative services through crowdsourcing and this Hessian theory. Not only do designers feel the pinch from the likes of 99 Designs, but so do ripped off entrepreneurs who deserve something tailored and that comes with a strategy (added value) for their business. What ever happened to co-creation, Hessian? You're right, he could be so much more. 

  • John Johnson

    If someone can perform the same service for less money, good for them.
    The people that think they are worth more must then differentiate themselves or lower their prices to compete, not chastise the person doing them same or better work for less money.
    Think of it as evolution - those suited to the changing environment will flourish, those that are not will stagnate.

  • Rob

    Wonder how much it would be worth if they had the .com domain instead of just .tv?  Is it just me or does this seem to be a huge oversight.

  • jones19876

    Love it, it's so postmodern - zero substance, but the packaging is beautiful.

  • Jack Curry

    Pharma companies do this with names all the time (trademarking them even before there is a product). It may not be the best way of going about it, but I feel like Pieratt  is certainly onto something…

  • monirom

    From an "out of the box thinking" POV the idea is intriguing. But in real world applications it falls a little short. Much like decorating a room before you know where the entrances, exits and electrical plugs will be installed. Let us be realistic, 30 hours falls incredibly short of the time needed to customize any of the components to the clients needs.

    And no more will that be evident than in Pieratt's development of app interface elements — you build the app and its UI to match the intended function not, the other way around. A great looking UI that does its job poorly is no match for a functional app with poor UI.