Goodbye brand

Emma Parnell
4 min readNov 21, 2022


A hand waving in front of a mint green wall. The shadow of a person waving back is on the wall. Overlaid is a semi transparent speech bubble with the words ‘Goodbye Brand’. Bottom left is a yellow lozenge with the word Joy.

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When I launched Joy, over a year ago now, I thought I needed a ‘thing’. A tangible position in the market that people could connect with and say ‘I want some of that’. That’s why I combined brand and service design as Joy’s proposition.

When I launched people were excited and so was I. It made sense because it combined both halves of my career. It filled a gap in the market, services and brands were being designed in silos and that was affecting peoples experiences. I even was commissioned to write about how important it was.

I started pitching, and losing, brand projects. I found a wonderful collaborator and we pitched together. That helped me feel more comfortable and confident with that type of project but sadly we didn’t win anything we pitched for and Maddy now has new adventures ahead of her.

Most of the brand related projects I was being offered or pitching for were traditional brand projects. I did do a few of those. Working with Clare Finch from R Kids to help her establish her charity will always be one of my proudest achievements of Joy’s first year in business. Equally working side-by-side with my brother and my Dad to rebrand my brother’s business, AquaGarden, was also a highlight.

However there was only one project I did all year that really fit the bill of combining brand and service design. That was partnering with Open Inclusion to help Vasant Chari and team to define the brand strategy and service offering for the CPC’s Inclusive Innovation Institute. This was a recent project and is not public yet. I was proud to contribute to an important cause but the project itself didn’t bring me joy. There are several reasons for this but one of my own mistakes here was continuing to back a ‘thing’ I wasn’t truly passionate about.

I really do think you do better work when you do what you love. And that’s one of the best things about being freelance. I can be honest with myself as I say ‘I love that’, I don’t love that’ and adapt accordingly. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I gave up brand design almost ten years ago for a reason. So it’s time to say goodbye again.

I have so many thoughts about where I will focus next year and how I’ll adapt Joy’s proposition but one thing is for sure – I want to focus more on pure service design. That’s what I do, that’s what I’m good at and that’s what I love. Simple.

A big learning for me this year has been realising that people are buying me, not a business proposition. I didn’t have the confidence to own that when I launched Joy. I thought I needed an idea that was bigger than me. But now I realise my business is me and I’m pleased and proud to own that.

I’ll still be operating under Joy. I love the name and the brand. Having a business that is separate to me logistically has also made it easier for me to see the business as a prototype I can iterate and change over time. So that will remain.

In December I’ll be taking myself off to Broadstairs (where I was when I incorporated Joy) to reflect on the year, document my learnings and refine Joy’s proposition for next year. I’ll be sharing openly as always and I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

In the meantime, this will be my last weeknote of 2022 as I fly to the Philippines for two weeks on Saturday to watch a dear friend of mine get married… while reading books and drinking cocktails on a few white sand beaches with my teammate.

Writing these notes (almost) every week has honestly been a real highlight of my first year in business and I’ve loved connecting with so many of my readers via walk n talks, project work and more.

I’m looking forward to sharing more in 2023. In the meantime, wishing you peace and joy this festive season.

I’ll see you in January.

Thank you for reading today. If you enjoyed what you read please consider buying me a coffee. The money you donate will go towards funding my development as a writer so that one day I can hopefully get paid to write as well as design. Donate here or click the green tip button below.



Emma Parnell

Freelance specialist in user research, service design and brand development. Previously @wearesnook, @nhsdigital, @wearewithyou.