February 17, 2010
We all think of ourselves as different, but most people think artists and designers are categorically different. If it’s not appearance issues, such as clothes or hair, then it’s a designer’s outlook, personality or the way they think.
So what are the personality traits of a designer? Michael Roller looked into that. He administered the well-known Myers Briggs personality test to a group of designers and published the result. The test compares things like introversion vs. extraversion and feeling vs. thinking. Two big trends are clear: Nearly 70% of the respondents were “judging” types and 85% were “intuiting” types. That’s exactly the opposite of the general public, who skew towards “sensing” and “perceiving”. (more…)
January 26, 2010
I attended our client Mercato Partners’ Sales Summit last week (an event for which we created the identity, Web site and signage) where I heard a number of great presentations, and connected with others. Among the presenters was Mark Hurst, a long-term business associate, who I’ve known since the early ‘80s. Mark talked about the relationship between brand strategies and sales strategies. After dispelling common brand misconceptions, showed a slide listing seven branding definitions—really more like branding attributes. Here they are, with my own elaborations and thoughts about each attribute. (more…)
November 25, 2009
This spring I bought a road bike and spent the summer pedaling my way to health and happiness all around the valley. I tested several different makes and models before reaching a buying decision. Different factors played into the final selection. I had never actually heard of the bike brand before (Time, made in France), so I strongly relied on the opinion of the retailer, but I was already familiar with the manufacturer of the bike’s major components—Shimano.
The Japanese company Shimano, is known for supplying the cycling components to many of the finest bike makers in the world and is an excellent example of ingredient branding, i.e. an essential ingredient or component of a product that has its own brand identity. Chevron’s Techron, NutraSweet and Dolby are other examples of ingredient branding. Each are essential ingredients of the end product and each possess its own independent identity, marked by its own logo.
Because of its unmatched achievement, the most well-known example of a successful branded ingredient originated with an ad agency in Salt Lake City. Before Dahlin Smith White suggested the tagline, “Intel Inside”, no one knew—or for that matter, even cared what kind of microprocessor was inside their computer. With the help of DSW, Intel became the first PC component manufacturer to communicate directly to the computer buyer and eventually became one of the top ten known brands in the world, in a class with Coke, Disney and McDonalds.
Ingredient branding is most useful when it is aimed beyond your immediate customer to a downstream stage of the value channel. For example, Intel’s immediate customer may be Dell Computer, but by communicating directly to the computer buyer, Intel can pull their product through the distribution channel.
A more limited application of ingredient branding is seen in any product or service named, identified and marketed as a distinctive part of a larger brand. modern8 asserts the trademark on its own strategic methodology, the Perception Branding 5D Process™, to bring attention to, and distinguish the service from our competition. Shimano, Intel and even modern8 enhance the value proposition and points of differentiation for all products and services using ingredient branding.
October 25, 2008
Last week I attended “Gain” in NYC, the business and design conference sponsored by the AIGA. Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO, a global design consultancy, served masterfully as moderator of the event. Kelley introduced a speaker commenting on the idea of how we stop seeing things; how we often overlook the obvious. We go though life screening out things we see as distractions to our immediate objective.
The art of anthropology teaches that observation is the key to understanding and an important part of innovation and design. Simple observation may not be enough, however.
Marcel Proust, the celebrated French novelist said “the real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” Kelley names this idea by turning around the more familiar word and calling it “Vuja de”, meaning, “the sense of seeing something for the first time, even if you have actually witnessed it many times before.” When you go out to observe in anthropologist mode, you should aspire to Vuja de, the opposite of Deja vu.
As noted in the Fast Company magazine blog, “If you want to find untapped innovation opportunities, watch the world around you with “fresh eyes.” Go for a sense of vuja de, and then ask yourself why things are the way they are. Why do people wear a watch when their cell phone keeps perfect time? Why don’t movie theaters sell soundtracks as you exit the film? Why do we all have answering machines to record messages from telephone callers, but nothing to record a message from someone who stops by our home or office?”
June 30, 2008
We just moved into a new building we share with other design professionals, specifically landscape architects on the floor above us and architectural planners below. We have clients who are architects and engineers, who by definition are also designers. Of course we’re graphic designers. Then there’s fashion, product and interior designers. In addition, those who create structured services and activities and the integrated systems of computers and other forms of technology, also call themselves designers. With the vast array of products and services in the contemporary world, one might wonder if there really is a discipline of design shared by all who conceive and plan such things. As Richard Buchanan, a design theorist said, “The scope of design appears to be so great, and the range of styles and other qualities of individual products within even one category so diverse, that the prospect for identifying a common discipline seem dim.”
There is a wide range of beliefs about what design is, how it should be practiced, for what purpose, and what we accomplish through it. Every year for the past 20, I have taught the history of graphic design at the University of Utah. The subject matter of the class is essentially a history of graphic design objects, the careers of the important designers and the development of the technologies used. We don’t really discuss what design is. It’s similar for all design histories.
Unlike other scientific pursuits, designers don’t discover things like natural laws or a natural process (excepting occasional unintentional discoveries). Generally a designer invents something: an object, a new use, a possible application. Discovery and invention are essentially different. As Richard Buchanan says, “Designers deal with matters of choice, with things that may be different than they are… Any authority for the designer comes from recognized experience and practical wisdom in dealing with such matters, but the designer’s judgment and the results of his or her decisions are open to questioning by the general public, as are all matters of public policy and personal action, where things may be other than they are.”
The use of techniques and processes that systematize the discipline of design help to explain and understand how designers achieve their results. Such thinking is the basis behind the modern8 Perception Branding 5d process. We use it to explain and systemize how our design solutions come to be, in a discipline that isn’t easily defined.
March 30, 2008
Have you ever played the game where you are required to whistle a song while the rest of your team tries desperately to guess what tune is coming out of your mouth? You keep whistling the same thing, while they keep guessing the wrong thing, and the time quickly evaporates, and then it’s over. Nobody got it. You whistled so perfectly but they had no idea. Not only is it frustrating because now your team is down a point, but how did they not get that you were whistling the theme to Love Boat? It was so obvious– to you.
Now maybe you wouldn’t go as far as considering yourself an expert at whistling, but the idea played out in the game is a demonstration of the principle of how others don’t always see (or in this case hear) what seems perfectly clear to another–which can stagnate a process whether it be during a simple game or in more serious “innovation.” In the article, Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike, Janet Rae-Dupree, states, “As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off.” As we become more educated in a particular subject, we tend to only know how to do it one way and the innovation gets lost.
In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, co-author Chip Heath (who wrote the book with his brother) says, “experts [are] cursed by their knowledge, and they can’t imagine what it’s like to be as ignorant as the rest of us. To innovate,” says Heath, “you have to bring together people with a variety of skills. If those people can’t communicate clearly with one another, innovation gets bogged down in the abstract language of specialization and expertise. You’ve got to find the common connections.” Cynthia Barton Rabe, author of Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine, suggests using outside help or what she terms zero-gravity thinkers to help keep creativity and innovation on track. When people have to slow down and go back to basics to bring an outsider up to speed, she says, “it forces them to look at their world differently and as a result, they come up with new solutions to old problems. Look for people with renaissance-thinker tendencies, who’ve done work in a related area but not in your specific field. Make it possible for someone who doesn’t report directly to that area to come in and say the emperor has no clothes.”
May 30, 2007
Love songs proclaim you’re the only one but in business it’s not often the case. Do your customers identify you as the only one? Fill in these blanks: Our brand is the only _________ that _________. In the first blank put the name of your category (software training company, auto cooling parts supplier, sign company). In the second blank put the thing that truly differentiates you (that empowers Linux training, that delivers overnight, has offices throughout the west). Can your competitors make the same claim? We’re talking about significant differentiation. “Quality since 1930,” may be a differentiator, but it has limited beneficial value and everybody claims quality.
In my journalism classes at the University of Utah we were taught to get out the primary facts in the first paragraph of a news story. The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. The technique tells the reader whether the rest of the story is worth reading. The same approach tells your customer whether they should be interested in your products or services. Here’s how brand strategist, Marty Neumeir describes the process for Harley-Davidson:
What:The only motorcycle manufacturer
How:that makes big, loud motorcycles
Who:for macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
Where:mostly in the United States
Why:who want to join a gang of cowboys
When:in an era of decreasing personal freedom.
Taking our own medicine, here’s how modern8 fits the bill:
What:The only graphic design firm
How:that offers strategic consultation (in addition to creative services)
Who:for B2B inbound marketing communications
Why:who want to re-position their business
When:in an era of un-differentiated, look-alike competitors
Your own “only, only” statement becomes the litmus test against future brand decisions and keeps you on target and on message.
March 30, 2007
Although questions like these sound like metaphysical explorations, we use them when we consult with new clients before creating any design deliverable. When we conduct an internal company audit, it’s surprising how often we find disagreements between company management on basic questions, like “What does this company do? What is its purpose? Why does it matter?” Speaking to executives of successful companies, you wouldn’t think we’d get a different answer from each executive in the same company—but we do.
Answering what the company does may be the easiest, although the answer is still not always consistent. The company’s purpose, or reason for being is much harder and causes the most disagreement. The question, “Why does it matter?” asks for the beneficial reason the company even exists.
Auditing company literature and Web sites often reveal a similar lack of purpose and benefit. Here’s a test. Cover up the logo of your competitor’s Web site and read the description of the company’s products and services. Compare it to competitor number one, two or three and to your own as well. Can you tell the difference between each? Can you cut through industry jargon and understand the purpose and benefit each company serves? This speaks to brand position as well as to communicating value.
You can use different techniques to help you gain an understanding of your company. We often use metaphorical comparisons: thinking of your business in terms of a model car, for instance. Collecting emotional photographs that represent your company is valuable, as is personal expression using drawings. We use such efforts as part of the Discover phase of the modern8 Perception Branding 5D process.