How Harry And Meghan Used Design and Branding To Build Their Own Media Empire

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are design-savvy entrepreneurs

Whatever your take on Harry and Meghan’s explosive Oprah interview is, chances are you can’t avoid hearing about it everywhere you go these days.

There is so much to unpack in this interview, but this is not what this article is about.

Photo by Nick Page on Unsplash

As a designer and entrepreneur myself, I have been observing this royal couple since they came out in public.

It is unfortunate that when one becomes famous (or born to be famous, in the case of Harry), one’s lives inevitably becomes a spectacle to be picked apart by opponents, the jealous, the bored, or the evil.

On the other hand, it is also quite interesting to see that despite all the larger-than-life family drama, this young couple has managed to build a powerful media empire of their own because they understand how people think and how to tell captivating stories.

Taking Ownership Of Narratives Through Web Design

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may not be designers themselves, but they surely know what good design can do for them.

Their exit from official royal duties was well-planned.

They launched the Sussex Royal website in 2020 to reclaim the narratives traditionally manipulated by the press and owned by the Palace.

…reclaim the narratives traditionally manipulated by the press and owned by the Palace.

Of course, it wouldn’t stop the tabloids from creating stories for clicks, but it did one important thing — they now have their own virtual press office, and a very elegant-looking one.

If we look closely into their website, it is not only very well-designed visually but also impressive in storytelling.

Website by: madebyarticle.com Copyright: SussexRoyal

The site was designed with a very “royal” color palette — a beautiful purplish navy blue with an elegant mix of thin san-serif fonts and serif fonts.

The storytelling aspect of the site was divided into three parts: community, monarchy and Commonwealth, as you can immediately see in their beautiful navigation menu design.

Website by: madebyarticle.com Copyright: SussexRoyal

The designer of this website has a beautiful grasp of white space, which often elevates the elegance and premium-quality of a product, physical or virtual.

In this case, the website absolutely needs to convey that luxuriousness in order to establish their royal brand identity correctly.

Website by: madebyarticle.com Copyright: SussexRoyal

The website also has a great balance of text and photo, which is in contrast to the Royal family’s official site: royal.uk.

The Royal Household © Crown Copyright

While visually similar and elegant in its own way, the Royal family’s site is rather photo-heavy.

There is nothing wrong with telling stories with photos, but a good balance of text and photos can certainly make the stories look more personable and engaging.

The royal couple also understands that in order to tell convincing stories that resonates with people, they can’t be all about “me, me, me”.

The royal couple also understands that in order to tell impactful stories that resonates with people, they can’t be all about “me, me, me”.

Website by: madebyarticle.com Copyright: SussexRoyal

That’s why they scattered quotes from other influential figures in beautiful serif fonts with an elegantly-treated quotation mark throughout the site.

Despite their feud with the Palace, the couple seems to really respect the Queen as evidenced in them quoting Her Majesty several times.

Website by: madebyarticle.com Copyright: SussexRoyal

At the end of each page, there is a highly-visualized bottom navigation with overlapping typography and stylized images that encourage readers to keep exploring other areas of the couple’s lives.

Even Famous People Need To Build Their Personal Brand

You’d think that the royal couple wouldn’t need a site like this, being as famous as they are.

Many famous figures don’t have a website because they “need no introduction”.

What’s the purpose of Harry and Meghan launching such a site?

Was it because they are obsessed with themselves and have too much money to spend for web design and development?

Far from it.

They understand that once they stepped outside of the Royal family, they need to establish their own identities in order to do the things they want and in their own terms.

The Royal family was like a company they had worked for, you know, until they burned out.

The Royal family was like a company they had worked for, you know, until they burned out.

They quit their jobs and now they are self-employed. Not in the same way as most people, but similar enough.

To survive being “self-employed”, even in Harry and Meghan’s unique and privileged ways, they need to find “clients”, just like any other self-employed person does.

Before, they were just two members of the Royal family, shadowed in mystique.

Now they are officially “Harry & Meghan, Co.”

Now they are officially “Harry & Meghan, Co.”

And that’s how they scored a partnership with Netflix and Spotify — not that it wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but the fact that they came prepared with a fresh new brand identity and stories to tell made it a lot easier to sell.

Companies don’t care if they are royals — they care if the couple has interesting stories that sell.

The royal couple understands that despite the numerous shortcomings of the Institution that made them want to escape, the general public still look at the monarchy as something straight out of a storybook.

They also understand their unique brand advantage — Meghan Markle is a biracial woman, a divorcee, an American, an activist, a liberal who is fairly outspoken.

Harry was somewhat of a troublemaker back in his partying lifestyle.

Together, they represent a breath of fresh air because they are the exact opposite of the old, rigid, proper, pretentious and unchanged monarchy.

…they are the exact opposite of the old, rigid, proper, pretentious and unchanged monarchy.

If I was an executive at Netflix or Spotify and had to choose between striking a deal with Harry and Meghan or the “responsible and proper” William and Kate, I’d choose Harry and Meghan any day.

You may choose to believe that the Duke and Duchess are rich, whiny and ungrateful, but I look at it as they are doing their best building a life of their own through smart branding and impactful storytelling.

With the tell-all Oprah interview that exposed many problematic facets of the royal institution, they have once again strengthened their brand — one that is forward-thinking, daring and unorthodox.

Meghan and Harry were not trying to get our sympathy. They never needed it.

They simply understood the market — people love to hear stories of struggles filled with drama and conflict.

People love to hear stories of struggles filled with drama and conflict.

With a backdrop of a high palace beyond the reach of the commoners, it just turned into a blockbuster movie.

They are co-founders of their own business.

They are co-founders of their own business building a brand so that they can rally people and resources to achieve their goals — making a difference in the world while making money.

Archewell, the video and audio production company with a philanthropic arm founded by Harry and Meghan.

Why Should We Care

I’m not into celebrity gossips. I believe I’m not alone here.

So why should we care what these two do?

Well, if you are an entrepreneur like myself or an aspiring one, there are a few things we can learn from Harry and Meghan.

Your personal brand is the foundation of your business

Especially at the early stage of entrepreneurship, your personal brand may very well be the same as your business.

If you are in service-based industries, this is even more true.

People buy your services and products because they like and trust your expertise. Knowing how to build that trust through personal branding is key in winning over customers.

Never skimp on investing in design

As a designer, I may be biased in this one, but I can’t remember how many times I looked at the websites of some businesses and immediately lost interest because it looked very unpolished.

Blame my sensitive eyes, but I can tell that this business is in the very early stage and likely still improving on their products.

As a customer, I am not sure if I should purchase from a company that can’t get its website right.

Just like Harry and Meghan understand that their websites should reflect their status and influence, entrepreneurs should invest in design to ensure that their digital presence reflects the quality of their services or products.

Entrepreneurs should invest in design to ensure that their digital presence reflects the quality of their services or products.

If you are a designer, no matter what kind, then you already know the answer — if you don’t have an amazing personal brand and outstanding portfolio site, you will struggle to find clients or employers.

Harness the power of storytelling

Not a writer?

Neither is Harry or Meghan. But these two are master storytellers. They are content creators who understand the needs of their target audience.

So should any entrepreneurs.

If you are building a brand, think of your story first. Why are you building this brand? What needs are you addressing that hasn’t been addressed before?

It doesn’t need to be some groundbreaking invention — as they are rare.

But it has to have an interesting twist to a problem. A new take on existing solutions.

…it has to have an interesting twist to a problem. A new take on existing solutions.

Then you will create content in the form of text, images, audio, video or experiential events to promote that story.

People don’t care about your products — they care what it can do for them.

People don’t care about your products — they care what it can do for them.

Tell them a story why your products or services can transform their lives. They will come running to you — no hard-selling needed.

Stella Guan is currently running a creative education company called Path Unbound and designing her first mid-century modern furniture line.

Her school, Path Unbound, offers a free, full-length visual design course with 120+curated lessons and 50+ custom-designed exercises. This course will be forever free and updated as an effort for the company to democratize creative education. The course also comes with on-demand and affordable 1-on-1 mentor sessions.

Her school offers a portfolio accelerator program where students receive individual guidance on personal brand, portfolio building, website technical knowledge and storytelling skills.

She is an award-winning designer and educator. Originally from China, she enjoys sharing stories about entrepreneurship, career advice, real estate matters and her love of fashion on Instagram.

She writes a monthly newsletter just for her readers.

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