Just a few blocks from the CBD office in Chicago, I found myself at the Brand New Conference, a two-day event organized by UnderConsideration, focused on the practice of corporate and brand identity. It was my first time attending the event and it did not disappoint. It was packed full of inspirational stories and lessons learned by 20 creatives from around the world.
Following a similar schedule as Day One (my colleague has the skinny here), Day Two’s speakers shared several examples of how they were able to help turn good brands into great brands.
Here are some of the key takeaways.
1. Fail, love, create.
Founder and creative director of IS Creative Studio, Richars Meza, showed us that anything is possible. Really. You just have to have the idea and the passion to drive it forward. “Don’t be afraid to fail,” Richars told the audience. “failure is a great start.”
He shared several examples from his career, many of which started off as passion projects based on his own interests. For example, his love for food inspired the IS Creative Kitchen, a unique restaurant that opens its doors one day only in cities around the world. Love for his birthplace of Peru inspired his updated branding to the national symbol, generating pride within the Peruvian population.
In addition to being colorful and fun, Richars’ presentation was incredibly authentic (a key theme at this year’s conference—more on that below).
2. Always think like the consumer.
Sharon Werner, founder of Werner Design Werks, Inc., told the audience, “It’s easy to please a client if you think like the client. But that’s not ultimately what your job is.” This may seem like obvious advice, but it can be easy to forget in the midst of a project. All parties benefit when the focus remains on the needs of the consumer.
Sharon shared an example of a time when her client insisted that they didn’t include a certain graphic from their brand elements. However, after learning that their customers really connected this particular design element with the brand, Sharon insisted on using the legacy pattern in the updated design. In the end that’s the design that they moved forward with, following the consumer’s lead as the priority.
Sure, you may have a personal hatred for the color orange. Or maybe you love puns. But what about your customers? It’s their reactions that ultimately matter.
3. Authenticity rules!
Authenticity was discussed throughout the conference. Jodi Navta, chief marketing officer for Coyote, discussed what she called “credible creativity.” This, she explained, is the practice of creating an authentic brand voice through collaboration and discussion with all members of the company—building a brand from the inside out. This creates an honest brand that the whole team can get behind and feel connected to. Coyote is known for its mission to change the industry’s expectation of service with its “No Excuses” mentality, and Coyote’s award-winning culture fuels that commitment.
In a refreshingly candid presentation, Jennifer Kinon, co-founder of OCD and Design Director of Hillary for America in 2016, described the challenge of conveying authenticity in a political brand. She explained that “working for the most scrutinized woman in the world made us feel like the most scrutinized design team in the world.” Jennifer talked about what worked and what didn’t during the 2016 campaign, making reference to both the Clinton messaging and also the Sanders campaign, which was fueled by authenticity over polish. “You can’t design something to be authentic,” Jennifer explained, “a brand gets its meaning by what it represents.”