Branding: In Five and a Half Steps


In early 2014, Michael Johnson started work on a key book he felt was missing from his shelves – a definitive guide to the entire branding process that wasn’t biased to either strategy or design, but treated both as equals. Two and a half years later the project came to fruition in Branding: In Five and Half Steps, published in Autumn 2016 by Thames and Hudson.

The book strips some of the world’s most successful brands down to their basic components, enabling readers to understand how their verbal and visual approaches affect our daily choices and decisions. It shows how branding begins; not by jumping to instant visual solutions but how research, insight and strategic thought can identify the correct place to start. Johnson then analyses all the elements involved in creating a successful brand – from the words that gives brands a clear narrative and purpose, to the design approaches that unite with language to reinforce a core message.

With more than 1,000 vibrant illustrations showcasing many of the world’s most successful brand identities, plus a universal six-question brand model that enables readers to begin to define brands for themselves, Branding is an accessible and authentic guide through a complex process, allowing readers to understand the steps, then create the simplest and most compelling brands for themselves.

Branding: In Five and Half Steps has become a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic and sold out in Europe within months. The Observer’s Robert McCrum described it as ‘probably the best thing on its subject – and even a book for civilians, too’. On-line reviewers described it as ‘The best reference on branding I've ever seen’ and ‘very straightforward, passionate, concise, with many great case studies and examples’. Johnson toured the world in 2017 talking about the book, including speaking at the Edinburgh Festival, and has started work on his next book, for publication in 2019.

If you’d like Michael to speak about his books at your event please email info@johnsonbanks.co.uk

Branding: In Five and a Half Steps is available to buy from the following places, as well as all good bookshops:


Problem Solved: A Primer in Design, Branding and Communication

Johnson’s first book was Problem Solved (Phaidon Press), originally published in 2002 and updated in a second edition in 2012. In this publication, Johnson’s aim was to stratify and simplify the vast array of issues that designers and communicators face into 19 simple questions – then answer them with comprehensive case studies and examples. Typical questions were ‘The evolve or revolve’ problem, which looked at the decisions that brands face when updating, and ‘The one size doesn’t fit all’ problem, which examined the recent explosion of brand designs that twist, turn and modulate.

Johnson’s other written works as a contributor include Rewind: 40 years of Design and Advertising (Phaidon Press 2002) and The Education of a Typographer, edited by Steven Heller (Allworth Press 2004).

Problem Solved is available to buy from the following places, as well as all good bookshops: