When you are first starting a new habit, the key is to first get the motions right. For example, when I started writing these posts Monday-Friday, the goal wasn't to write perfectly, it was just to write every Monday-Friday.
Similarly, when you first get a new brand identity, you should follow your style guide to a "T." Why? Because you are learning to walk within your brand and if you start running you will fall, chip your teeth and look stupid.
Think about it, the kid who can consistently walk at a steady pace will get further than the one who pushes himself too far.
What's more? The kid who walks will get faster with time and practice, naturally.
Treat the design of your brand the same way, walk before you run.
Positioning is the spot your startup fills within the head of your customer. It matters because most people already have a go-to brand for most products and services they need. For example, Apple is positioned as the leader for personal technology, for most, non-technical people. Unless you are a developer in which case, you probably prefer PCs and Android phones. They claim different positions for different people and it gives them authority as a an option for people to buy.
Here is where startups go haywire with their positioning,: they play the wrong game. Specifically, this one: they try to look, feel, and act like a large company and go head-to-head with the ones already out there. This trickles into their branding efforts, making them appear sterile, stoic, and dehumanized. Why? Because they see large companies they are trying to compete with do the same thing. Here's the secret: large companies have to act that way so they don't get sued for upsetting people with their character.
As a result, customers long for something more personable (someone to claim a different position). This is something your startup could offer them if you weren't playing the "we're a big company too," game. You will lose every time. But if you gave a minimal amount of effort into giving your startup a personality and stopped trying to look, act, and feel exactly like the companies you are looking to dethrone, you'd win more often.
Play the right game.
New projects are exciting. After leaving a kickoff meeting with a client, it's impossible not to get amped about the work that is going to be created. The problem is that all the excitement propels my lizard brain to override anything strategic and necessary to ensure the project runs smoothly. This rarely happens because I have checklists and things of the like reference, but it happens.
Here is the number one thing I've learned this month from a design project: get ALL the copy finalized before handing off to a designer.
Before starting, it is completely my fault as the designer if I don't ask for all the necessary materials upfront to get the project moving and on track to be seamless. With that in mind, here is why it's important to get all the copy needed for a project upfront and ready to go:
Type rules the design
Because typography is the core of all graphic communication, if the verbiage changes, so does the design. For example, developing a series of covers for a magazine is going to be seamless if all of the titles have a similar structure (say a 1-2 word headline and a 3-5 word subhead). Easy to manage.
But if the headline length varies from 2-20 words, more thought will go into the initial strategy of making all the covers uniform.
Things fall through the cracks if not packaged succinctly
Hand a designer one word doc with final copy and the transition from ugly word doc to beautiful PDF is easy. Multiple docs with Frankenstein-like parts that need to be communicated in separate emails, things are bound to go haywire. Granted, things do change. But the point is to get as close as humanly possible to final copy before handing off to a designer.
This small shift of getting finalized copy will save you weeks on your next project, guaranteed. Whether you are a designer or someone working with a designer, everyone involved in the project will be happier with getting all copy before moving into design.