Uncertainty is one of the difficult things about being an adult. We have to make important decisions when the implications are ambiguous at best. We love stories of certainty because we experience it so rarely. We want to be like Moses listening to God talk from a burning bush. But we are lost in the woods with an outdated map and a compass that either doesn’t work or we don’t know how to use it. No strategy can be found.
It is, therefore, natural to look for certainty in the branding process. We hear people say they want something that speaks to them, something that feels right, something that pops out. Sometimes the work does and that is great. Enjoy it. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the choices are difficult and ambiguous. The way forward isn’t clear. And we still have to be decisive.
A lot of this ambiguity can be alleviated. We constantly refine our brand design process to that end.
We start every engagement with an exploratory meeting. That meeting allows us to understand why the client does what they do. No one working on the project hears about it secondhand. It also gives us a head start on the next check-in, the strategy meeting. Here, we reiterate our understanding of the client and we start to lay out goals, tones, audiences and an aesthetic strategy for the project. Without this, the work is unmoored. Subjective. Our goal is to move towards an objectivity that gives us clarity.
We are careful about how we discuss our work. You will rarely hear us say we like a specific element of language or design. More often, we will say something works given the agreed-upon strategy.
Because it doesn’t matter very much if we like it. It matters a lot if it helps your organization meet its objectives. If a piece of language is on-tone, speaks to your audience, and works towards your goals, it is a lot easier to confidently give it the thumbs-up. It isn’t about a subjective like. It is about reaching our objectives. It is about discussing the work in strategic terms.
This is a tactical thing, but essential. Death by a committee is a cliche because it is true. It is natural to want to be inclusive when going through a rebranding exercise. And it is appropriate. We want to hear from everyone during the exploratory and strategy phase. Our work improves through a broad range of feedback. But when it comes to talking through the concepts, it is best to keep it tight. Group feedback isn’t helpful. It doesn’t improve the end result. It fights against objectivity. People feel obligated to speak from their perspective. That perspective is usually reflective of their agenda and not in reference to the agreed-upon strategy.
Working this way requires all invested parties to be involved throughout.
A decision maker cannot give constructive feedback in relation to a strategy she has not seen or helped create. When someone steps in at the end of the process, it nearly always derails. This isn’t the decision maker’s fault, exactly. They haven’t been active in creating the vision so the only fallback point of criticism is what they like and don’t like. And, as noted above, that isn’t helpful – nor does it matter very much.
We want to create work that improves your organization. If you like it, great. If it speaks to you, great. But, ultimately, we want it to work for you.