Research or Besmirched

Why research is the key to getting work done effectively and pleasantly

October 15, 2020

Identity design and website design are partnerships. It is someone coming to a designer asking them to solve a problem, create something awesome, and do so with as little bumps as possible.

Now here's the problem with that statement: you have no idea what problem to solve, what constitutes "awesome," and what could be a bump.

All of those are subjective elements. If the designer and client are not aligned on what these all mean, then the project is not gonna end well. Both sides will feel unhappy.

How do you mitigate against that?

Research. You develop styles capes.. together. You sitemap and plan out features... together. You define the goals and success of the project... together. Client and designer, you work together to sift through the nuance.

More you say?

FFF 2021

Returning with ambitions for 2021.

1.4.2020

Things are going to change for this series.

For the longest time, I've been writing about branding, but it's hard to distill such a big concept into something tangible and practical. In light of this, I'm going to channel my thoughts on branding and design through a specific market: software and digital products.

Why? Because they fascinate me and there are so many amazing examples of software companies that have leveraged design with authentic precision (Dashlane, Uber, Mailchimp, Notion, etc.). It is also evident that we are entering a new era where creating software is becoming less exclusive, but good branding and design services aren't poised to service company's smaller than $1M MRR.

This is going to become a place where SaaS Founders and Digital Pioneers can come for inspiration and guidance on design. More importantly, where they can learn how to leverage it as a tool to delight their users and build a badass brand.

Here's to a fearless, focused, and forthright 2021. 🤘 😎

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Auditing Your Startup's Brand

Assessing the causes for a low brand score.

5.1.2020

Yesterday, I wrote about measuring a brand's effectiveness and actually assigning a value to it. It followed a scoresheet with specific levels of customer appreciation for the brand. This article is going to address some of the tangible assets that lead to getting those number higher.

Level 1: Satisfied

The company/product has met my expectations.
People don't want to buy shit products, at least not more than once. Even the least affluent customer isn't stupid enough to buy something that continually breaks simply because it's affordable. At the most core level of your brand, you must be able to live up to your promises and deliver. Be it a product, service, experience, whatever. If you don't have this in order, fix it first.

The company charges a fair price for the product.
Aligning with the fulfillment of your promise is the value it is worth. This in part has to do with who you are trying to make something for. If said target wants to pay a premium for a premium product, you better give it to them. If they want to spend middle tier, you need to let them. "Fair," is relative and is determined based on the person you are making something for.

$100k is a fair price for a brand new Tesla if experience, ease-of-use, and being on the forefront of innovation are what matter to someone. $100k for a Honda Civic is not.

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Improving products or creating new ones
  • Customer avatars
  • Journey mapping

Level 2: Delighted

I've been pleasantly surprised by the company/product.
This is a build up of small things that were pleasant surprises. Things like a special email follow-up after purchase, nice packaging, good design, or something as simple as saying, "my pleasure" (thank you Chick-Fil-A). It's hard to pin-point exactly what these elements would be, but I'd offer this general statement: if a customer comes into contact with it, can you make it special and unique to your company?

I would happily recommend it to others.
I'd ask this: do you make it easy and worthwhile to get referrals? If not, how could you make it a win-win-win for you, the new customer, and the one who referred you?

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Touchpoint audit
  • Brand identity refresh
  • Improved messaging
  • Referral program/process

Level 3: Engaged

I identify well with the other customers of this company/product.
We do business with companies and people that have the same values as us. That being said, you have to offer something that isn't found in other players in your market. You have to ask yourself "who would choose you over your competitors and why would they do it?" It can be for subjective reasons too, not just pricing or features. Some people just want things to match up with their lifestyle. Someone who values sophistication, aesthetic, and craftsmanship is not going to shop at Walmart.

I would go out of my way for the company and its customers.
Something to keep in mind with this statement, in order to go out of your way, there have to be other options available. This is about differentiation and why someone would seek you out, even it if wasn't the most convenient.

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Brand positioning
  • Competitive audits
  • Voice and tone
  • Look and feel
  • Establishing brand values

Level 4: Empowered

The company/product is essential to my life.
Here is where you assess the value and permanence of your product. You own a couple items, I'm sure, that fit this category. Your phone, favorite pair of jeans, necessary software, or a favorite restaurant. Not only is the product so good, but the entire experience is enough to make you a repeat buyer.

I would be very sorry if it went out of business.
Are you irreplaceable or not? Have you impacted a core area of your customer's life?

Things that can help affect this level:

  • User experience design
  • Product line expansion
  • Knowing your customer's biggest challenges

What are you going to work on first?

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