The Brand New Conference blew through Chicago in early September, bringing with it a palpable passion for the art of branding and design. As a copywriter surrounded by talented designers and brand gurus, it was interesting and inspiring to think less about words and more about design (but don’t worry, words were not overlooked).

Throughout the first day of speakers and presentations, three key takeaways bubbled to the top for me:

    1. Find a creative process that works and stick with it.
    2. It’s good to keep things in perspective.
    3. Words are essential.

1. Find a creative process that works and stick with it.

Joe Duffy, founder of branding house Duffy, has always followed a simple creative process. Imagine. Design. Activate. While other aspects of his business have changed and evolved, this tried-and-true process has not. And for good reason. It has brought large success to his team, including his son (and co-presenter) Joseph, a Partner at Duffy.

“If anyone thinks [the design process] is more complicated than that,” Joseph told the audience, “they’re full of sh*t.”

For me, the most important part of this process is “Imagine.” This step can easily get squashed if time is tight. But it’s crucial. This is when you do your homework about the brand. You put together a visual brief that synthesizes your vision with the client’s. And you get inspired to do great work.

2. It’s good to keep things in perspective.

“We design business cards.” Futura’s Iván Garcia playfully reminded the audience of this several times throughout his presentation. It was his way of encouraging creativity, risk taking, and mistake making. When he freed himself from fear of failure, he could make meaningful, interesting work. And, as he said, “everything is fixable.”

Designers should feel empowered to follow their instincts, even in corporate settings. Maybe the client will love it. Maybe the client will HATE it. But then you go back and make adjustments—and know that you put out your very best work.

3. Words are essential.

The presentation from Mike Reed, head of Reed Words, was (obviously) a favorite. He talked about the importance of establishing a visual and verbal identify for a brand. Sometimes words fall to the wayside in branding exercises. But verbal nuances can go a long way in developing a unique, ownable brand. After all, “words are idea bombs” that introduce another layer of meaning and emotion to a piece of work.

The trick is to find the right words, and then manipulate them in a way that expresses the tone and sentiment of the brand. Oh, and don’t forget about the power of subtext. And context. As Mike Reed aptly put it, “words are bloody difficult, complicated things.” But when done right, they will make your brand sing. ­

Check out CBD’s Day Two recap of the Brand New Conference from Designer Erin Fioretti here!