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 letting creativity rise to the forefront to find the most interesting solutions. The enthusiasm of the kids was infectious and, just like last year, we as working professionals learned quite a bit from them as well.

The most successful teams absorbed the things they saw in our presentation and found unique ways to make their brand stand out. For example, utilizing the strength of owning a color and applying a logo consistently across various applications.

As with the professional world, there was a misconception that rebranding an existing company isn’t as challenging, fun, or creative as coming up with something from scratch. A lot of teams this year came to the hard realization that it is actually quite difficult to create something new and exciting while still maintaining the core essence of the brand.

While this team kept close to Amazon’s current brand idea – we have everything from A-to-Z – they were able to reimagine the brand through color and form, crafting a dynamic paper airplane to signify their delivery capabilities and soaring to new heights, which created a consistent graphic thread through the applications. It was a challenging assignment, and they brought a renewed energy to an old idea.

Time management is something that plays a role in these workshops and may be an area to iterate on for next year. Do we structure the day differently, or make time management more of a focus for how the students can approach the design challenge?

“It was interesting to see how some groups really took to the challenge, figured out what needed to happen, understood the time constraints, and got to work,” said Jonathan Fisher. “While others spent a good portion just chatting about it, getting distracted, and it wasn’t until we gave the warnings that time was running out that they dove into the ‘panic mode’ of trying to get everything done.”

“The one disadvantage of working with so many classes in just one day is obviously the time, so we’re thinking of different ways to get creative with the time we have for next year,” says Robert Saywitz. “I think a big missed opportunity is that the students finish their assignment and just turn it in for us to judge later. A big part of our process at Emotive Brand is not only creating the work but presenting it, both internally and to our clients. I’d love for students to have a chance to actually present their work back to us and the other students.”

One area where the students surpassed the previous year was really dialing into the naming and tagline aspect. There was so much interest in this that we created a Best Name and Best Tagline category for the awards list. Names and taglines didn’t get a lot of attention in the presentation, but the students really took these on with gusto, and it showed.

For instance, “School Tools” had the tagline, “Keeping everyone on the same page.” More than just a functional descriptor, a great tagline should play off the name and logo, and be strategically on point with intellect and wit in order to win the hearts and minds of your target audience. They excelled on all accounts.

“Classmate” and “Pencils Down” tied for first place in the Best Names category. As in business, a great name needs no explanation. When thinking about an online app that streamlines the interaction between students and their classes, “Classmate” and “Pencils Down” says it all.

“At this age, these kids are not as jaded as our professional counterparts,” says Robert Saywitz. “We adults usually weigh our ideas against the usual guardrails: Is this going to work? Is this realistic? Will we be able to sell this through? These students are not bound by any creative limitations and this showed in a lot of the work with their ‘reaching for the stars’ mentality of making something creatively out there.”

In the end, we witnessed the same vibrancy, excitement, and creative tension that we see in our own studio every day. In a way, creating a workshop for children is an exceptional exercise for how to create a foolproof exercise for clients. If there is any ambiguity, any unclear directions, any room for chaos, children will find and exploit it. So will clients. Balancing time management, crystal clear instructions, and just the right amount of creative freedom are all transferable skills to the world of branding. Every year, we learn something new from this presentation. We only hope they left as inspired as we did.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in Oakland, California.

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