Scale Down

A counterintuitive way to hone in on your brand

December 4, 2019

Most of the startup world is focused on getting bigger, expanding, scaling, and a long list of adjectives all pointing to gaining more.

Unfortunately, this mentality leaks into startup branding efforts as well.

Have more colors, have a bigger logo, more subbrands, more typefaces, more messages. More, more, more, more, more.

The issue with this mindset is that it is the complete opposite of scalable because you are reinventing the wheel every time you embark on a new branding effort.

Ask yourself, what is in the way of us getting our point across and connecting with our tribe? Then get rid of it and cut straight to their hearts.

More you say?

Lesson Learned No. 1: Get All the Copy

Real-life chronicles of moments that make me say "shit happens."

1.20.2020

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.

Shit 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.


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All Design is About Mitigating Risk

Sometimes the greatest gain is not a gain at all.

1.10.2020

Yesterday, I wrote about how good logos do not make more money. The essential premise was that a good logo is not meant to earn people more money, but counters the cost of having a bad logo. Such as having to reprint collateral when a good logo finally emerges, losing equity in an image that changed, negative impressions, or having to repurpose/reconstruct the logo for various applications (social icons, favicons, app icons, small scale, etc.).

It got me thinking though, isn't all design about mitigating risk or cutting cost? Some would argue that design can earn more money, like going through a rebrand to appeal to a more affluent market, designing an ad meant to drive revenue, or building a streamlined website to increase conversion. But, I'm not convinced this means design's core function is to earn more money.

When you're rebranding to appear to a more affluent market, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of appearing cheap or scammy.

When designing an ad to increase revenue, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of being off brand or having a Peleton faux pas.

When you're building a streamlined website, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of user confusion and discomfort.

Focusing on how you can make more money is great, but that doesn't seem to be design's core capacity. Design is meant to mitigate risk.

The risk of appearing unprofessional.

The risk of having a rigid, difficult identity system.

The risk of looking dysfunctional.

The risk of making a user's experience negative.

Whatever it may be, good design is about mitigating risk.

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