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.
I'm a huge Jordan Peterson fan. I've read his books, I listen to his podcast, I watch his YouTube videos, and I seek him out on other people's podcasts as well.
I've even caught myself repeating some of his phrases to others. Things like "set your house in order before you judge the world," "hierarchies are built on conscientiousness and competence," "tell the truth or, at least, don't lie," and "walk the line between chaos and order, that's where you find fulfillment."
You might think it's impressive on my part (and if you do, stop it, you're making me blush), but it's impossible to forget those ideas if you listen to the guy more than once. Truth be told, he doesn't deviate a whole lot from a few central tenants, which makes them easy to recognize and remember. It's these central ideas that become the pillars for all his other ideas to stand upon. Even when he does deviate, you can link it back to his core beliefs.
What does this have to do with branding?
Beat the hell out of one idea and let your brand become known for it, that's how you gain brand authority.
If you aren't getting tired of touting your idea about how the world should be different, then you aren't sending your message enough.
An anecdotal example: I've tried to become synonymous with the word "rebel," I've been using it for over a year. It wasn't until a couple months ago that I started having others say the word to me. Point being, it took more than a year of getting that idea out there to have others recognize it and associate me with it.
Say your idea. After that, say it again. Finally, say it again to my face. Eventually, I'll remember it.
There are two camps for prioritizing brand elements and how much investment should be given to them:
Doing it Right and Doing it Now.
"Doing it Right" elements can be distinguished by one key characteristic: longevity.
Meaning, they should not change drastically over time because it would diminish their value. Items that come to mind are pieces of the core identity like a name and logo. Without the necessary attention given to them, they easily become lost among competitors or run into issues later. For example, a neglected logo will have difficult placement on varying applications, improper formatting, or general discontent from the owners of a company. Neglected names follow a similar trajectory, as they lose their appeal fast and are difficult to expand. "Do it Right" elements left unattended fall victim to sunk-loss fallacy, working their way deeper and deeper under the skin. Until you finally pull them out and they take pieces with them. Ouch.
"Do it Now" elements can be distinguished by one key characteristic: change.
Meaning, it is expected that at some point these will change because it will increase their value. In the digital age, we have a lot of flexibility to adjust things like a website, social campaigns, email templates, printed marketing collateral, etc. In fact, as technology progresses, it's not even certain whether those mediums will still be relevant. However, it is certain that those elements will change to be better optimized and catered to reflect the brand, or that they will eventually run out of stock and need to be revisited anyway. "Do it Now" elements can start rocky and gradually get better. For example, a website might start out as a single page and move toward a robust, e-commerce site with membership logins, custom CMS platforms, gated content, etc. Change made for the better that adds value rather than detracting from it.
Debating whether or not a brand element needs to be done right or done now?
Ask yourself, "how long do I expect this to stay the same?"
If the answer is, "a long time, hopefully forever," give it the attention it deserves.
If the answer is, "it will have to change eventually," get rolling fast and iterate.