All Design is About Mitigating Risk

Sometimes the greatest gain is not a gain at all.

January 10, 2020

Yesterday, I wrote about how good logos do not make more money. The essential premise was that a good logo is not meant to earn people more money, but counters the cost of having a bad logo. Such as having to reprint collateral when a good logo finally emerges, losing equity in an image that changed, negative impressions, or having to repurpose/reconstruct the logo for various applications (social icons, favicons, app icons, small scale, etc.).

It got me thinking though, isn't all design about mitigating risk or cutting cost? Some would argue that design can earn more money, like going through a rebrand to appeal to a more affluent market, designing an ad meant to drive revenue, or building a streamlined website to increase conversion. But, I'm not convinced this means design's core function is to earn more money.

When you're rebranding to appear to a more affluent market, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of appearing cheap or scammy.

When designing an ad to increase revenue, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of being off brand or having a Peleton faux pas.

When you're building a streamlined website, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of user confusion and discomfort.

Focusing on how you can make more money is great, but that doesn't seem to be design's core capacity. Design is meant to mitigate risk.

The risk of appearing unprofessional.

The risk of having a rigid, difficult identity system.

The risk of looking dysfunctional.

The risk of making a user's experience negative.

Whatever it may be, good design is about mitigating risk.

More you say?

The Lie

What it means to genuinely build an authentic brand.

1.6.2020

Last year, I was talking to a man at a networking event. He asked what I did for work and I told him, "I work with rebels. Rebels are the startups challenging the status quo. I help them gain more confidence through branding and design."


He paused. "Ok, how would you help me?"


I told him that a brand is a person's gut feeling or perception of a business. The art of branding is using the business's personality, image, and beliefs to foster that gut feeling. This creates trust and an emotional attachment between the customer and the business.


He told me he had named his company Best ______. He said that his industry wasn't exciting, his business couldn't have a personality and that the only actionable "branding" route for him to take was calling himself "the best." His next sentence was what shocked me the most though:


"If I was to build a brand, I'd have to lie."


"You'd have to lie?" I questioned.


He believed that creating a brand would mean that he'd have to create a false personality for his company. I kept talking with him, asked him what he liked to do in his spare time, and what he valued.


Turns out, he builds full-scale medieval catapults in his spare time. He loved comedy. Diving deeper, his greatest desire was that his team would show up to after-work team-building events.


I looked at his logo, the name of his company, their colors, and the way they presented themselves online. Nothing about those elements aligned with who this man is. The brand was stoic, staid, and lacked any character.


What he had built was a brand that others would expect of him. He was putting on his business face, trying with everything that he could to be something he isn't.


If that's not a lie, I don't know what is.


Branding is not covering up who you are in the hopes of appealing to somebody. It's the direct opposite, it's showcasing who you really are and going all-in on it. That is what creates an emotional connection with someone else.

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Cain

Are you focused on what your brand could be doing better or how others are beating you?

12.17.2019

In Genesis, the first sin recorded outside of the Garden of Eden is the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Whether you believe the story to be historically accurate or not, there is a provocative truth to it. Cain had become extremely bitter and resentful of his brother, as Abel's offering to God was accepted and Cain's was rejected (due to his lack of reverence and thoughtfulness in the offering). These emotions boil to unrest as Cain wields a rock to bash in his brother's skull. He rids the world of his competition so that his own subpar efforts have nothing to aspire to.

What does this have to do with branding and being rebellious?

While competitive analysis and an understanding of the market is a good thing, comparing the shortcomings of your brand to others is a recipe for bitterness and resentment. If Cain had instead looked inward and been in competition with himself, he would have slain hi sown inadequacies instead of his brother.

Rebellious brands inherently take on a different mission from the rest of the world, and without a doubt there will be times when it seems like the competition will be doing it better.

Let them. Make friends with them and leave behind the scarcity mindset.

Focus on improving your brand, having a greater understanding of your faults, and figuring out how to be better than you were yesterday.

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