Known by Its Counterpart

Sometimes the only way to see the right way is by understanding the opposite.

April 22, 2020

I normally work from home and, for the most part, it's pretty easy for me to get into a groove. But there are some days, especially during the COVID-19 quarantining, that make it difficult.

Specifically because the elements of my routine are barred. New floors are being installed in my house so there are quite a few construction workers here playing music, hammering in pieces of flooring, and moving around. My desk is in pieces and all of the furniture is scattered. Even the garage where I normally do workouts in the morning is unavailable.

In short, I'm in a massive deviation from my routine and it is taking a toll on my effectiveness. But, there is a silver lining in that it has never been more obvious the kind of routine I need to function at my peak.

What does this have to do with branding? Well, you can understand what you want for your brand by understanding what you don't want. By cross-examining your competitors, other brands, or even something as granular as aesthetic, sometimes the fastest way to understand what you want to become is to discover the opposite.

More you say?

Brand For One, Market to Many

What to do when your startup has multiple market segments.

4.9.2020

I was chatting with my friend Brian yesterday about his startup. He asked, "what did you think of our branding?"

I asked, "it depends, who are you trying to talk to and what do you want them to feel?"

He wasn't sure. It sounded like there were multiple target markets he was trying to reach with his product and he wasn't sure how he could build a brand that would reach all of them.

Here's the thing:

You cannot build a brand for everyone. In fact, it's smart to build a brand for one person. Since the brand is an emotion, an already vaporous concept, you make it far less tangible with the more people you try to affect. The best brands are constructed for one person. This allows you to focus entirely on making something that somebody will love. Fortunately, there is always spill-over and, because humans are so complex, chances are that we all have a piece of that one persona within us. You have to accept the fact that your brand cannot win over everyone. Even Nike and apple have their haters.

Marketing your brand, however, can be done to multiple people. I gave Brian the analogy of seasoned salt. Seasoned salt is like the brand, it's essence, flavor, and makes whatever meat it's combined with taste like seasoned salt. You can put it on fish, chicken, steak, pork, whatever, it's hasn't changed. Same thing with applying your brand to your marketing efforts. You might have a very specific message or offering for different target markets, but you make sure it's still contains the essence of the brand.

In short, you build the brand for one person, but you can market it to many.

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Show and Talk

Why designers need to get over the idea of crawling into a hole to make changes.

12.19.2019

I was giving an identity presentation to a client today and everything was going phenomenal. He liked the strategy behind the mark, thought it had a lot of character, and he was overall pleased with it. He did ask if he could see a slight variation of the mark.

What he had asked for was not going to work (I could see it in my head and it would've ruined the integrity of the logo). But, in the spirit of transparency, I replied with "let's try it out, right now."

Within five minutes, we had the options side-by-side and could clearly see that the previous mark was the better option.

If I had said, "ok let me get back to you in a day with these revisions," we both would have been frustrated. It's an unfortunate trope within the design community to never show the client your workspace or your design files. Which I don't understand, because I certainly feel engaged and have more respect for other craftsmen who show me their process. More important, it helps me hold it in reverence and respect the decisions they make.

Design is no different. If we are willing to be transparent and walk clients through the entire process, show them how our opinions are formulated, and talk through the solution, everyone is happier.

Show your work and talk about it. Being creative is simply not enough, you have to be able to articulate your thinking.

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