Friday, July 16, 2010

A Fish Story

The one that got away

The process of branding is fraught with difficulty. Often times, in addition to creating the brand image we are also called upon to educate the client being branded. Sometimes the client is a willing pupil. In the best case scenario, the client is visually neutral but has an understanding of the importance of a strong brand and realizes that hiring a team of professionals is the best means to that end. Of course this only happens in my dreams.

Generally the process begins with conceptual discussions, we get to know the subject of the branding on paper. We make lists about what it is, what it should be and eventually what it could be. We consider similar brands, we take the pulse of the clients visual savvy. As concepts begin to appear and float past me I attach form, color, and typography to otherwise shapeless ideas. I create visual parameters based on our findings. We do this in a timely fashion, it's possible to spend a lot of time thinking about things, discussing concepts and possibilities but eventually you have to put mouse to mouse-pad and make something concrete. Logos are by far the most challenging thing I do in large part because of the public perception about them. The most simple logos that are out there in circulation took hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours on the part of trained designers, illustrators and creative directors. Often this simplicity of form is misinterpreted as simple and easily achievable. To hone an idea down to it's very essence takes time and experience. The saddest and most frustrating thing about brand development is that there is no accounting for personal taste and sometimes the perception of a client can derail the creative process to the point of unavoidable crash. I have heard careless words spoken in a meeting throw a project irretrievably off course. I never claim to have all the answers in these situations but I have my process and I have instinct which has developed over 2 plus decades creating things that communicate ideas. Like I said it's never easy and it can often be very frustrating for both sides of the equation.

The most surprising element of the whole process is the fear that often grips a client. I have seen clients, rather than choose a brand and put it out into the world to see what comes of it, retract their mission completely and do nothing. I am an adventurer and branding is a journey. We make determinations about our audiences needs and we trim our sails and set our ideas free to be received by the larger world. Shots across the bow are to be expected and learned from. The key thing being, it is more valuable to be on the branding journey than left without a voice or visual identity, tied tightly to the dock. If the idea sinks you go back to the drawing board and plot a new course. For the most part though, once a brand lives out in the world and is seen and understood by it's audience, over time the message overtakes mere graphic structure, the language of the brand develops and word spreads.

My team and I had the pleasure of working on a branding project earlier this year. Sadly, due to circumstances beyond our control and despite our years of informed experience the branding was stopped. I was quite pleased with the logo we produced for the budget that was available. We gave a lot of thought to what this logo would stand for and the message it would relay to a waiting community. I was happy that we were able to keep the form of the logo out of the hackneyed realm of pictorials involving salmon and coastal mountains. We asserted the brand was about making the concept of urban development feel acceptable to a suspicious public. It was about process and collaboration and the environment. It was a map, a streetscene, a neighborhood quilt, a community forming itself for the public good.

It's easy to come away from these experiences bruised. With this project though I feel that we listened well and we did our homework. We understand the process of branding very well and we were all disappointed when we were not able to see the project to fruition. Our loss was not monetary but philosophical in many ways. We take what we do seriously and we know the power of our work. It's too bad this one got away.


syd said...

I quite love it. As always, a fan of your work.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Nice Blog. :)

i will wait my site.

Have fun

Anonymous said...

I remember you telling me about this job/experience. Love the logo. On it goes...

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