With an imaginative approach and tenacious work ethic, Sander Leech is giving a fresh face to a 300-year-old British financial institution. The transformation of Barclay’s Global Investors as a modern, human brand is consistent with the company’s global status as a foremost player in a dynamic industry.
“I never thought corporate design was an option for me,” said Leech. “My father was an architect, so I grew up with the notion that pursuing a job in design would involve more individual or small studio work.
“While working on corporate identity projects for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley (as part of the Abrams Design Group), I was approached about a career opening at Barclay’s. At first I worried that corporate financial design would be too dry but an interview with the company proved me wrong. The opportunity to work with such a dedicated staff and learn from top-flight creative directors at agencies around the world has played a significant role in my development as a designer. It’s been an experience that’s been anything but dry.”
Originally hired to direct Barclay’s small in-house design studio, Leech’s work evolved into the larger responsibility of developing and maintaining the company’s brand identity. Some of his most successful projects involved leading an effort to refresh the commercial product brand iShares, an exchange traded fund launched in 2000, and photo-branding the company—using photography in their print and Web marketing to emotionally connect with their audience.
“The brand had taken on a dated, conservative identity since it was launched,” explained Leech. “I was given one year to revitalize its look and feel. Together with Landor & Associates, one of the world’s leading brand identity firms, I worked on logo redesign and unique Web sites for markets in the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Today iShares has more than 60 percent of the market share, making it the leading brand in its category. I consider this one of my greatest professional accomplishments—to have elevated a commercially branded identity to the point where it has brought real results to the business.”
Some of Leech’s other branding projects include reaching new markets through out-of-home advertising, sponsorships of events (Cirque de Soleil touring show, Tribeca Film Festival, Barclay’s Classic), using environmental design to create the ambience of a new 10-story headquarters (graphics, exterior signage, wayfinding, lobby design) and branding the interior and exterior of Barclay’s Center, a premier entertainment venue opening in New York in 2010.
Leech’s ability to conquer such diverse design challenges stems in part from the foundation he developed at CCS. Some of those lessons continue to impact his career at Barclay’s and freelance work branding the up-and-coming rock band Hollywood Rehab.
“My work ethic was already strong, but CCS developed it even more,” Leech said. “Camaraderie among students and the opportunity to learn from working professors was invaluable. I learned how to do things ‘old school.’ Instead of using computers and software to conceptualize, I can quickly explore ideas by drawing out thumbnails first. I’ve noticed that a lot of younger designers skip this step… Sometimes when I’m scanning sketches at 3 a.m., I get a CCS flashback. The experience influenced my approach to design as a career choice still breathes life into my wo