Digging deep into the creative process
For those who just want to get it done and sorted so you can get on with your business.
In my 4-step brand development process – creation is not where most people expect (or would like it) to be.
1. CLARITY – Get clear on what you do, who for and what makes you different
2. STRATEGY – Find a Unique Brand Essence that will set you apart
3. CREATION – Design and develop your visual identity and communication
4. DELIVERY – Connect with your audience and deliver your brand consistently every day
When someone wants a brand, they usually want it right now and they usually think it’s pretty much JUST the creative -- a logo, website, colours, fonts, maybe some images and other stuff -- the visible stuff. They want it to be "done" so they can move on with delivering whatever it is they do and when I tell them it takes months to create a brand if you do it effectively, that’s not normally what they want to hear.
So why is creation down the ladder at # 3? Because once you’re clear and have a clear strategy around what you’re really offering and to whom, creating something that fits the bill is so much easier.
In this article, I’m going to introduce you to a few key pointers that will help you embrace the creative process and understand why it’s important, but not the only thing to consider when building a brand.
What is Brand Creation?
It’s the visual and verbal identity that give your brand its personality, its style and its character. It’s what you look and sound like. And it’s evolving and growing and it’s fun! The brand creation phase culminates in the development of a brand visual identity and associated brand assets. It’s probably the most rewarding stage because it’s real and it’s tangible.
Pure brand creation is the whole big picture, not just a logo you add on a website once you’ve worked out what it is you want to sell. It’s a cohesive series of messages, experiences and visual cues that deliver your heart and soul, your purpose and your value. This phase is bringing it all together and adding the visual cues that best express what you want to say.
I love creation – do you?
Just the word creation to me is like music to my ears. But I know for some, it’s not such a sweet word. My aim is to help you see that we are all creative and creating a brand is a way of expressing who we are, what we’ve created and delivering it to the world. For some though, the word evokes a painful process that most people avoid.
That whole illusive "how the heck do I get that out on paper" feeling that wannabe writers and would-be artists fear is what keeps them away from the canvas and the writing desk.
This phase brings the first 2 phases together and gives you the satisfaction of seeing something tangible and real to showcase your ideas and your offerings. It’s exciting to see it evolve and develop into a complete story that reflects your thoughts and ideas and bundles them into tools and communications that speak your language. That connects with your audience. Well-designed brand creative evokes emotions and ignite actions in people that you wish to help. I know you won’t all fall in love with the art of brand creation as I have, but I do believe that it’s possible to see it with fresh eyes and turn something fearful or unknown into an adventurous discovery of self-expression.
So you need a brand…
For those of you that are wanting or needing to ‘do a brand’ but are not too sure where to start, or maybe wondering if you’re capable or creative enough, or are struggling to find the brand identity that speaks and looks exactly the way you want it to, this series of articles will help:
- Dispel the myth that you are not creative and it’s best to get someone else to look after that stuff without getting too involved
- Remove the fear around launching into the creative process, learning how to sit with the discomfort of a brand (or anything) that is evolving rather than trying to get it done so you don’t have to think about it any more.
- Removing the fear of "getting it wrong." A brand is not tattooed and hard to change. It's Iterative, moving, evolving, growing and that means adapting.
- Encourage you to take control of some of the aspects that you could easily manage if you chose to – your website, your copywriting, your overall brand image, but know when it’s best to outsource to give you the best, most professional result
- See your brand asset creation and delivery as a creative playground. A website as a constantly evolving process, rather than a once a decade chore.
A brand is a blooming flower that needs nurturing rather than a painful overgrown garden of weeds that is sucking up your time. It is your communication material as opportunities to engage and delight rather than terrifying jobs that you don’t feel qualified to create or deliver! And it is your social platforms as places to express your unique and valuable voice rather than scary playgrounds full of noisy judgmental chatter! Yep, I’ve felt it all, so I know what it’s like…
- Alleviate any fear you have around learning a process that is new. Fear is usually fuelled by a lack of knowledge or understanding around a subject.
- Help you embrace the creative process in all areas of your life – open up to possibilities rather than close down with problems and avoid creative tension. That’s the beauty of creativity. It flourishes and expands when you nurture it.
- Understand how to develop a good creative brief to communicate your ideas to your creative consultants – and most importantly get design solutions that work!
- Build a comprehensive bank of brand assets that deliver your brand to the world
- How to select images that reflect you and your brand – and how to create a cohesive look that is intrinsically ‘YOU’
- Building a professional and reliable team that know you and your brand to will help create and deliver your individual brand assets.
- Avoid a shallow approach to brand creation – all style and no substance
Now I don’t expect to get through this whole list in one article. It would be more like a book! But I will work my way through these comments so you’ll get really clear on each on. Let's start with the first 3:
- Why is it NOT a good idea to get someone else to look after the 'creative stuff' without getting too involved?
- How do you remove the fear around launching into the creative process and learn how to sit with the discomfort of creating a brand (or anything) that is evolving rather than trying to get it done so you don’t have to think about it any more
- How do I remove the fear of "getting it wrong." A ‘brand’ is not tattooed on your skin and hard to change. It's an iterative process, always moving, evolving and growing and that means adapting.
There are 2 main reasons why people would prefer not to get involved in this creative process – wish it would just be "done."
- You're scared and think it’s going to be too hard, or your just not creative type
- You don't have time and would rather be getting on with something else.
Your brand is your business. That means that you should make it your business. If you’re embarking on a branding process either to create a new brand or recreate an existing one, here are simple guidelines you should consider upfront, including some common themes I’ve seen when business owners "try to avoid the creative stuff…"
Start at the top
Over the years of working with large organizations, I’ve learnt one thing for sure. A brand program does NOT work if you don’t start at the top. So if the owner of the company is not running the brand program, I won’t do it. WHY? Because good brands and good businesses are built from the top down. Creating brand values, crafting brand personalities and devising brand promises mean nothing if you don’t live and breathe them every day.
No-one knows your business like you do
If you in business on your own, then you are the top, bottom and middle. So you are the one that needs to run the creative show too. If you are in a small business, your team is smaller but still very much reliant upon your direction and involvement. No-one is invested in it as much as you, no-one stands to gain as much as you do by being immersed in the creative process. I’m not saying you have to design it all yourself, although for some people it is becoming more realistic to do this. There’s plenty of people out there that will help you to create your whole brand assets if you’d like to give it a go.
Be nice to your designers…they're really rather smart!
Of course, it’s preferable to hire a professional to help you when it comes to hands-on creativity. A good designer will help translate your vision into tangible reality, but expecting someone you just met to understand the nuances, personality and vision that you have without getting personally invested in the process, well, is just silly and leads to frustration from both parties. Expect to play a substantial part in the creative process; knowing what you want, preparing a creative brief, being patient and open to ideas, delivering effective feedback – it’s all part of the process.
Allow a few months to do it well
Brands are not built overnight. They take time to evolve and space to grow. Nor are they trophy accomplishments that sit on your shelf and shine without ongoing effort and work. My brand program takes upwards from 3 months and is not uncommon to take up to a year. That’s why I’ve created two options. A personalized program to take you through step-by-step and a longer, slower more creative process that gives you time and space to fully immerse yourself in the process and enjoy letting it evolve more naturally.
Allow time each week to be happily involved in the process yourself
You’ll need to be on call for regular meetings with your consultant, designer, developer, copywriter, photographer etc. If you’re constantly stressed about fitting it in and wishing it was done, you’ll only prolong the job and stifle everyone’s creativity. So accept that you’re the boss, embrace the process and be in the moment when you’re with your team. A creative team is a highly intelligent and valuable part of your business when engaged effectively. Learn to value them and you’ll enjoy far more value in your business than surface deep designs.
Follow a process
Taking an ad-hoc approach to building anything doesn’t work. You wouldn’t consider building a house (well you might…) without a clear plan, so use the same approach here with your brand. Take the time to understand what the process entails. Sit down and focus on it and cultivate patience. It’s like anything, if you immerse yourself in the process rather than wishing it was done, or you were doing something else, you’ll not only get a better job, but you’ll enjoy it too! My brand process follows a very clear path that leaves no stones unturned. You can see it here…
Value the Art of Brand Creation
Slow down and do it right. Branding done well adds significant value to your business. From first impressions, clear messages and maximizing pricing, getting your brand right is critical. Rushing through and putting something out there cause you need it is going to backfire. I’m not saying you have to get it right first time or that you have to strive for perfection, but glossing over and rushing this process is going to reflect badly on your business and not give the impression you need to deliver your product or service to the world. Your brand should be as carefully crafted and lovingly designed as the work you deliver.
Get used to that "not finished" feeling
As a creative, I’m used to – actually I thrive on – that unknown wonder of what I’ll create next. Not knowing is just (the juicy) part of the process. Having a problem to solve is what we seek out and working through the steps to uncover the best solution is pure heaven. So for someone who’s not used to creating I can see that this might be a little – well – new. And probably uncomfortable – to say the least. And for all those of you that want to get your brand done and dusted, I’ve got bad news for you - a brand is never finished. It’s in a constant state of evolvement – or at least it should be. Have faith in the process, trust your consultants and let the creative evolve.
Avoid perfectionism - enjoy adapting and growing
Standing still today in business is not possible. The world is changing faster than ever, and with it are our customer’s expectations. So our business and our brand must keep up or die. The good news is that it’s not hard, it’s just being consistent and listening. But it’s also being brave and being creative and being new and being fresh. And it’s not being satisfied with what you’ve created – but constantly adjusting, growing, developing, tweaking. Of course that’s not to say you’ll have to change every part of your brand design constantly, it’s just more about keeping it fresh and keeping it relevant. And if you’re not precious about getting it perfect and are happy to allow it to evolve, then you’ll be more comfortable with making decisions to move forward now and updating later.
Next time, we'll discuss taking control of your asset creation and delivery and seeing brand creation from a whole new perspective - alleviating fears and embracing the creative process!