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7 questions with Bill Donohue, founder of Emanate Brands

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Bill Donohue at Clemson University

Bill presenting brand activation design ideas to Clemson University staff for their sponsorship presence at this year’s Fall for Greenville.

Photo provided by Emanate Brands

This piece is part of our GVLtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

We chatted with Bill Donohue, founder of Emanate Brands, about how he is celebrating 25 years of design + branding in Greenville, his perfect day in our city, and more.

Q: Tell us a little about your background and current position.
A: I founded and ran an award-winning, full-service agency as Chief Creative Officer for 15 years before deciding to pursue a role as Director of Marketing on the client side. I missed the entrepreneurial challenge of running a creative firm, and after a few years and much research, decided to open Emanate in 2018. In fact, this year I will be celebrating 25 years of design, marketing, and branding in Greenville.

Bill Donohue age 23

“As a graphic design graduate from Ringling School of Art and Design in 1990, I have always been driven by design, branding, and the arts,” Bill said.

Photo provided by Emanate Brands

As CEO and lead creative, running a brand and environmental design firm now combines my passion for design, building, branding, and storytelling.

Q: What is Environmental Graphic Design?
A: Environmental graphic design (EGD) is a multidisciplinary field of design in which the disciplines of graphic design, architecture, art, lighting, landscape, and other fields are utilized as a way to enhance the user experience through the visual translation of ideas in the built environment.

Armada Analytics office

Emanate Brands worked with Armada Analytics in 2020 to create custom sound paneling and additional graphics throughout their office for employees and clients.

Photo provided by Emanate Brands

Environmental graphics provide a layered experience in which brand identity, imagery, and sense of place are enhanced through emotional triggers and touchpoints within a spatial experience.

Earle St. Baptist Our Mission mural

Earle St. Baptist worked with Emanate to develop a wayfinding system, create a historical timeline, and other interior graphics.

Photo provided by Emanate Brands

Environmental graphic design can support the architecture or space where graphics provide identification and guide direction, as experienced in a school or office building. EGD can also be the primary focus of the visitor’s experience, as evident in some retail environments or as placemaking for a destination or venue, such as the mural we did for the city on the visitors center in Unity Park.

Q: What makes you passionate about the work you do?
A: I love the diversity and challenge of working with a wide range of clients. To find key business beliefs, intellectual processes, cultural challenges, and rich personal stories and then use design and the dimensional space to bring those brands and stories to life inspires me. Seeing people fully engage and emotionally respond to our work drives my passion for this business.

Q: What is the best time for a business to consider EGD services?
A: Business owners have several key opportunities to consider EGD. As a capital expense and/or a marketing expense we help clients evaluate effective timing using a few considerations:

  • Is there a key facilities opportunity to address: new building, renovation, or upfit?
  • Is there a milestone anniversary or key historical date to celebrate by creating a timeline?
  • Are there new products or services that could benefit from graphics that educate visitors?
  • Are there cultural or employee/visitor experiences that need to be influenced?
  • And lastly, are there brand activation opportunities as part of your marketing that can play into your overall marketing goals?
Crossroads Treatment Center_Emanate Brands_GVL

Crossroads Treatment Center filled their headquarters with graphics that highlight patient success and reinforced their company’s mission and purpose.

Photo provided by Emanate Brands

Q: How has your work evolved over the last 25 years?
A: When I started in the business, cell phones, the internet, and web resources did not exist. Research and resources, as well as the abundance of technology and tools we have today, were hard to come by, and the art and craft of building and engineering true brand experiences were more hands-on and labor intensive.

EGD is still a very little-known practice in the Upstate, but as the architectural, building, and construction community continues to include more and more focus on end-user brand experiences, the work we do will continue to influence and solve client demand.

Q: What are some projects you’re proud of that people might not know you’ve had a hand in creating?
A: In 2002, I designed and created the brand and packaging process for Ryobi and Ridgid power tools that are still evolving in-store at Home Depot today. We also named and developed the brand for Wicked Weed Brewing, which is a true story about King Henry VIII.

Wicked Weed’s original branding

Some of Wicked Weed’s original branding and moodboard designed by Bill.

Photo provided by Emanate Brands

The first logo I ever did in Greenville was back in 1995 for Two Chefs. The first environmental design I did in Greenville was when the Wellness Center opened (Bi-Lo Center back then). We designed the original graphics throughout the arena.

Bill Donohue's logo wall

Bill’s “logo wall” showing the many identities he has developed over the years, including Wicked Weed and Two Chefs.

Photo provided by Emanate Brands

Q: Describe your perfect day in Greenville.

A: My perfect day in Greenville is being with my wife + kids, enjoying cool fall weather on Main St., Falls Park, or the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and having time to people-watch. I love to see what makes people stop and engage with their surroundings — our family included.*

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