Tear Your Brand in Half

The brand attributes of your startup cannot pull in opposite directions

November 25, 2019

A common occurrence I hear from clients when discussing the attributes of their brand follows something along these lines: "We want it to look professional, but still playful."

Reading between the lines, what they are saying is this "we don't want to turn anyone off, so we are cool without adorning a personality that would offend anyone."

You cannot build a brand off that. Professional and playful are polar opposites on the spectrum. Your brand becomes a tied to two horses pulling in opposite directions and you go nowhere.

This comes in common forms, like companies that tout innovation and creativity, yet stick to a corporate blue because it won't offend anybody. Or the companies who claim to be different but choose to speak and act like their already successful competitors.

What would have been an otherwise inventive and distinct brand is torn in half by a lack of commitment.

Rather than trying to be everything, be something.

More you say?

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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Good Logos Do Not Make More Money

What designers need to understand about logos and how they apply to the business world.

1.9.2020

Business is comprised of two key objectives: saving money and earning money. So, if you are in a B2B industry, it is crucial to understand how your service aids a business within these objectives. As an identity and web designer, I'd like to think that my work has an impact on helping businesses succeed. But, I'm not one to throw around lies about my craft either. Which brings me to the point of this punch: good logos do not make more money. 

Believe me, it was hard writing out those words, as I'm sure I've got a target painted on my back now because of them. Sorry design friends, but it's true. A logo is not a magic bullet that suddenly gives businesses a truckload of new revenue. We're not done there though, as logos are important in business, but not in the way we'd think.

What a good logo does is mitigate loss. Do you hear that? It's not about what is gained, but about what you keep on the table now and for years to come.

Here's an example:

Put yourself in the shoes of a SaaS startup founder. She has set a few goals for herself.

Right now, her goal is to have business cards, a website, social profiles, and an email newsletter set up for her SaaS product.

1 year from today, her goal is to have 1000 paying customers, an expanded product line, trade booths, monthly investor meetings, and a suite of marketing collateral in addition to her previous goals.

5 years from now, she wants to have an office, 20 employees, run daily content marketing campaigns, expand the online tools for her users, and also product merch in addition to her previous goals.

10 years from now, she could potentially exit the company but hopes to leave behind a legacy.

Let's break this down:

Right now, her goal is to have business cards, a website, social profiles, and an email newsletter set up for her SaaS product.

Attaching some numbers to this, let's say she gets 1000 business cards printed for the year, gets 80 visitors to her site per month, has 10 visitors between her three social platforms per day, and has 30 subscribers to her weekly email list. In the first year, that is over 7,000 touchpoints and the logo is on every single one of them. 

Now imagine this: the logo is hideous, poorly designed, and sticks out like a sore thumb on all 7,000 of those impressions. Whether consciously or subconsciously, all 7,000 of those impressions could have been better, if it wasn't for that hideous logo.

I was thinking that'd I'd do the math on every single one of these milestones, but let's just imagine the number of touchpoints increases by 25% each year for those entire 10 years (remember this is impressions, not sales, paying investors, or paying users). At year ten, that's just over 65,000 touchpoints. 65,000 opportunities to make an impression on a potential user. Now imagine 30% of them go away because the design of the logo reminded them of something scammy. Or maybe because it looks like a phallus flying across the sky.

Is it worth the risk of putting all of that revenue at stake because your logo makes people feel gross? Or what about the cost of having to reprint 6,000 brochures because the logo was not delivered in proper formats?

It's not about earning more money, it's about keeping what's on the table. Do not let your logo be the Achilles heel of your business.

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