The past two Saturdays have been awesome. A client of mine and I have dove deep into the brand of his meal prep company and developed an outline of what his website should look like. It's safe to say that he and I are on the exact same page as to who this website is for, how it should feel, look, and the expected path this person will take. Before diving into the brand discovery, he asked something I thought was fascinating, "do you think we are putting the cart before the horse doing the branding before we do the website?"
I thought about this for a bit, and replied: "not at all."
Looking back at what we've done and the order in which we outlined these deliverables, we are both glad we started where we did.
Currently, my client's branding efforts are minimal and veer toward a male audience looking to get ripped. During the brand discovery, we unearthed that his most successful clients were busy, professional women who valued an easy-going, Southern California lifestyle. Diving deeper, my client had deep connections with farming and the peace that comes from working with your hands. That's a totally different story to tell, for a different audience, and so great a chasm between his current brand and those it was meant to serve.
How would we have come to that conclusion by focusing on building his website first? In short, we would have had a hard time getting aligned and the project would be a bust. We'd still be trying to talk with dudes who want to be ripped. We are going a whole new direction with the entire project. Hell, we're even changing the name of the company.
Here's the thing:
Whether you're building a website, designing a business card, marketing collateral, writing messaging, or coming up with the name for your company, understanding the brand you are trying to build is the foundation for a fluid design process and seeing results.
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.
Almost every startup has a difficult time honing in on a specific target audience. True to their nature, founders of companies believe so much in the success and impact of their product that they believe everyone could benefit from it. They probably could, but it is impossible to build a brand and targeted a message to someone that doesn't exist.
"But won't I be limiting the amount of people I could help by picking someone so specific?"
YES! That is the point. And I'll give you an example using a YouTube channel I came across recently.
This channel has over 90,000 subscribers and each video now boasts 500,000 or more videos. What is it a channel about?
A Scottish dude who trims the hooves of cows. Yep. He crushes it. All because he makes videos specifically for dairy cow farmers.
Here's the thing, I guarantee that not everyone who watches his channel is in need of his services, but if even 1% of his 90,000 subscribers need his services, he is set for life with a solid base of customers.
If this guy, who targets dairy cow farmers can get this many people to buy into what he's doing, so can your amazing startup. You just have to pick someone who needs your services and cater your message to them.