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Turn Your Instagram Into a Playground for Experimentation

Turn Your Instagram Into a Playground for Experimentation

Instagram is incredible. All in one app, you can feel jealous of other people’s lives, hungry for other people’s food, and intimidated by other people’s makeup routines. When it comes to brand strategy agencies and design studios, Instagram tends to be used for either sharing polished client work or photos of employee’s dogs. (Equally important.) But more and more, we’re seeing studios break out from the norm and utilize the platform as a playground for design experimentation. Turning the web into their own personal focus group, agencies are sharing weird sketches, creative side projects,...
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Kick the Door Down with Your Brand Manifesto

Kick the Door Down with Your Brand Manifesto

Building a successful brand can feel like building a ship in a bottle. There are so many delicate and interlocking pieces to monitor and keep safe within a defined system. It’s a process that rewards research, meticulousness, measuring twice, and cutting once. Yet in nearly every project I’ve been part of, there comes a time when the kid’s gloves come off. People get restless, get sick of being extra careful, and want to kick the door down with their idea. Maybe everything feels technically right, but nothing is resonating in an impactful way. The fact is, when it’s time to go to market,...
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Navigating Between Good and Bad Failure

Navigating Between Good and Bad Failure

Silicon Valley loves the idea of failure. In the world of tech startups, messing up is practically a religion. People wield that Samuel Beckett quote – try again, fail again, fail better – like it’s a Louisville Slugger. As Adrian Daub writes, “People take jobs and lose them, and go on to a new job. People create products that no one likes, and go on to create another product. People back companies that get investigated by the SEC, and go on to back other companies. In Silicon Valley, it seems, there is no such thing as a negative experience.” But the thing is, not all types of failures are...
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Five Ways a Meaningful “Why” Creates a Compelling Workplace Experience

Five Ways a Meaningful “Why” Creates a Compelling Workplace Experience

Our experience shows that many brands have been crafted with only the customer in mind and that the resulting “customer experience” does not in any way parallel the “workplace experience.” As a result, the brand – as it is now articulated – is relatively meaningless internally. We believe every brand has a meaningful “why” hidden within. This hidden “why” is powerful because it can do as much internally as it can externally. Our job is to dig that out and shed new light on it, all with the ambition of delivering these five benefits. 1. Increase...
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If You Want People to Fill Out Surveys, Make Them Beautiful

If You Want People to Fill Out Surveys, Make Them Beautiful

Two true things about decision-making in business: 1) You should collect information from all the key stakeholders regarding their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and expectations. 2) People hate filling out surveys about their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and expectations. In an ideal world, there would always be enough time to conduct qualitative data in-person through one-on-one interviews or focus groups. Everyone would feel heard and everyone would have a voice at the table, which would be perfectly reflected in the end product. Unfortunately, we live in this world; the one where you’re...
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Blurring the Line Between Physical and Digital

Blurring the Line Between Physical and Digital

What’s better: shopping online or in-person? Short answer: yes. We’re in a new type of era where the spheres between online and off are blurry, interconnected, and strengthen one another. We’re all trying to meet the consumer where they are. If they can interact in both spaces indiscriminately, shouldn’t your brand? “Phygital” is the concept of using technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world with the purpose of providing a unique interactive experience for the user. While the buzzword is relatively new (and awful), many of the technologies required to fuse a...
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Defining What a Brand Is: Why Is It So Hard?

Defining What a Brand Is: Why Is It So Hard?

The History of Brand A lot of people – even those in branding – struggle with answering the question: So what’s a brand, anyway? The term “brand” first emerged more than half a century ago as a way for cattle ranchers to identify their animals. In the late 1880s, packaged goods like Coca-Cola started taking off. Brands were used to differentiate them from the generic competition. But as branding progressed, marketers realized there was more to the brand of Coca-Cola than just a non-generic name. David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising,” defined brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s...
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A Mid-Year Check-Up Across Business, Brand, and Culture

A Mid-Year Check-Up Across Business, Brand, and Culture

The half-way point of the year is always ripe for reflection. We all survived Q1, the budget isn’t completely spent yet, and with any luck, we’ll live to see Q3. It’s a perfect time to kick the tires of your business, brand, and culture. What’s working? What’s failing? How can you fail better? How can you push things forward and end the year on a meteoric rise instead of a trickle? Let’s run a brief diagnostic check. 1. How is your brand positioning? Are you top of mind? Is it clear, competitive, differentiated? Maybe your sales have declined, your targeted audience has shifted, or your...
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Bridging the False Divide Between B2B and B2C

Bridging the False Divide Between B2B and B2C

Business is made of people trying to sell each other things. That’s it. And yet, there is still this massive gulf between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). You feel it immediately in the design and language used. You don’t need a branding vocabulary to know when you’re seeing a B2B ad, because it will probably feature code, a weird bar chart, and copy like, “Adding code coverage with Slather to Zendesk’s iOS SDK build.” Here’s what I want to know: high-level B2B decision-makers are still people – people with hearts, minds, and feelings who make decisions based on...
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The Myth of Likability and Other Lessons from Font

The Myth of Likability and Other Lessons from Font

Last month, we were visited by the good folks at Dalton Maag, an independent font foundry with offices in London and São Paulo, Brazil. They make type for branding, retail, and corporate clients that perform beautifully across print and digital environments. After running us through some of their work, including an amazing demonstration of variable fonts – responsive type that can store multiple variations of a type family into a single font file – we got into a discussion on the differences between three components of evaluating type: legibility, readability, and likability. And what we...
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Back to School: An Interactive Presentation at Orinda Intermediate School

Back to School: An Interactive Presentation at Orinda Intermediate School

This past October, Design Director Robert Saywitz and Production Director Jonathan Fisher found themselves back at Orinda Intermediate School for the second annual “Power of Branding” workshop. Similar to last year, students were given a brief history of branding – the power of symbols in our culture, logo design, and how brands can evolve over time. Students were then broken into teams and tasked with either creating a new brand identity for a fictional educational startup, or rebranding Amazon’s existing identity. More than ever, it showed the importance of teamwork in problem-solving and...
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Make It Sexy: The Big Impact of Branding “Boring” Things

Make It Sexy: The Big Impact of Branding “Boring” Things

Branding and advertising are infamous for making us covet things we don’t actually need. The super sleek sheen of a Tesla or an iPhone or a bra designed by NASA’s top scientists are alluring, but at the end of the day, they are merely luxuries. The question of getting people to need something they want is sales 101. But more and more, branding agencies are tackling the inverse. How do you get people to want the things they need? Is there a space for surprise and delight in the most boring, pedestrian motions of daily life: applying a bandage, brushing our teeth, wiping our bums? Welcome to...
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How to Tune-Up Your Bullshit Detector


How to Tune-Up Your Bullshit Detector


In the immortal words of Jon Stewart, “Bullshit is everywhere. There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some way, infused with bullshit.” As a brand strategy and design agency, we live in the intersection between people and brands. This is perhaps one of the most fertile, organic spaces for bullshit to thrive. The speed of technology has created a sizeable gap between those who know what they’re talking about and those who don’t. Our job, to the best of our abilities, is to eradicate the nonsense, the fluff, the jargon, the overpromising and...
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Who Thrives at a Brand Strategy and Design Agency?

Who Thrives at a Brand Strategy and Design Agency?

What type of person thrives at a brand strategy and design agency? Looking around our office, we have people from advertising, journalism, psychology, economics, sociology, sales, graphic design, media – and like any successful venture, a few restless English majors. Is there a through-line? In our line of work, we privilege business acumen, technical fluency, big idea thinking, writing prowess, collaborative mindsets, passion, curiosity, empathy, and an obsession for the details. We get just as excited by an experiential brand launch as an exquisitely organized messaging matrix. With our...
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The Super Tough Brands of Fragile Masculinity

The Super Tough Brands of Fragile Masculinity

Last week, the world was given two small wonders: War Paint, a hyper-aggressive makeup brand exclusively for men, and Liquid Death, canned water designed to look like beer. Two “wellness” brands aimed at men, cloaked in the visual language of skulls, tattoos, and violence. What can these two bizarre companies teach us about the role of gender in branding? And is breaking down male stigma in the wellness space simply a design problem? Branding … For Him! Let’s start with War Paint. Their 13-second ad features a heavily tattooed man using various products, flexing his pecs, and adorning...
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