Want Better, Faster Design? Bring Your Creatives to Strategy Meetings

Creative Strategy

Emotive Brand Expert #4: Eve Maidenberg

Continuing our Emotive Brand Experts series, we’re interviewing past and present Emotive Brand clients to discover what they do better than anybody else – and how that expertise can be used to embolden your brand today.

In this post, we speak with Eve Maidenberg, the Creative Services Director at Stitch Fix. Before that, she was a VP of Marketing at Marqeta.

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Left Brain vs. Right Brain

Strategists and creatives are the left and right brains of a branding agency. In every project, you need the right mix of sequencing and imagination, linear thinking and intuition, science and humanity. Simply put, an idea can’t live on half a brain.

Nonetheless, in most cases, strategy dominates a project in the early stages. Strategists are often the ones conducting the workshops, interviewing clients, and identifying brand staples like core narratives, value propositions, and positioning.

After this generative, foundational work is completed, the results are typically sent off to the creative team to bring these ideas to life. And this critical handoff is what Eve Maidenberg refers to as “the most common point of error in translation.”

Lost in Translation

At Stitch Fix, an online subscription and personal shopping service, Maidenberg acts as the liaison between the left and right brains of her company. With a varied background as a Senior Designer, Creative Director, marketer, and strategist, she’s seen it all. According to her, the quicker you can bring your creatives into the strategic process, the better.

“Creative is only as good as the strategy behind it,” says Maidenberg. “If there’s no tight strategy, it’s hard to be creative in a timely fashion. I’m a strong advocate for bringing creatives into your strategy meetings from the very beginning, if possible. It only makes the work better.”

Even the most detailed, thorough creative brief in the world pales in comparison to actually being in the room when strategy is being formed. Maybe a client makes an off-hand remark that doesn’t make it into the notes. Maybe it’s an expression a client gives or the culture of their office building. Hundreds of intangible elements shape a client’s visual identity and personality.

Break Down Silos

By the end of the project, strategists have the luxury of knowing too much about their clients. But often they don’t have the visual vocabulary to make this abundance of information useful for designers.

A strategist might be thinking, “If you only knew x, you would have never made it this way.” At the same time, a creative is thinking, “I made it this way to solve for x.” The result is more revisions, more iterations, more meetings, and higher costs.

“It’s easy for people not to talk to each other, even on small teams,” says Maidenberg. “I always try to bring people together to break down those silos before they form. Technology allows us to do amazing things, but I still believe in-person conversation is the best way to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Treat Creative Like Strategy

Creative and strategy are deeply intertwined, but measuring and evaluating creative is not as easy. It doesn’t have those hard APIs that executives want to measure. Maidenberg suggests that if you want to bring creative and strategy even closer together, you should treat them with the same level of respect and objectivity.

“For us, we constantly share and ask for reporting on how a piece of creative performed,” she says. “When an ad does well, we’re always asking: what are the pieces? Is it the copy? The image? Is it a format that we can recreate? These questions help us understand what’s working so we can apply hard metrics to creative.”

The most successful agencies are the ones that avoid thinking about creative and strategy as two separate parts. Instead, they embrace the strengths of each group to make something that’s both analytical and artful. To see how we bridge the gap, you can view our work here.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.

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