Last week we attended a fundraiser for a client for whom we had recently launched a new website. It was refreshing to have the time to stand by the bar and engage in a rambling conversation that flowed from one off-beat subject to another. Suddenly, our client mentioned he was going through our online portfolio and the big revelation he had was that we are storytellers. Exactly. He got it.
As he moved from the topic of one client to another, from identity to websites, he understood our work, he got the meaning – the message is the most important nugget of information and that’s what we focus on first. From there we have a foundation to design from – and to tell a story.
Stories enlighten, bring us together, captivate. Logos condense a story into a simple, memorable mark. Photography, typography, graphics and words explain a story in print and websites. Environmental graphics tell a story and guide. All the pieces come together to create an experience that reflects a client’s business. A brand.
We may not be sitting around a campfire or standing on a stage telling a story, but the visual stories we tell are just as intriguing…and vital to any business.
Photo: Robin Cox
Last year at this time, our client, Sodexo, was reaching the final stretch of their new, modern building construction. This new state-of-the-art building would house the Buffalo service center employees and move all operations from three separate office buildings into one. Gone would be the traditional cubes and tidy corridors. In their place, a completely open floor plan with centralized offices and plenty of collaboration areas.
One of the first problems to be solved was how were hundreds of employees going to navigate through the new complex. Secondly, how would the established corporate (Europe-based) brand be implemented to meet the needs of this regional, American office place.
Working closely with the Sodexo facilities team, key areas of navigation were determined and we began the process of designing signage that complied with the brand, identified area groupings, showed the way, was updatable and complemented the modern elegance of the building.
We searched high and low for certain products – personal nameplates that matched our specific design, steel wall mounts for wayfinding and conference room signs – with no luck. This gave us the chance to work with local manufacturers to design and develop custom pieces. Results were a win-win-win.
With access to thousands of visual impressions a day, there seems to be much confusion in the business world.
New clients for whom we’re creating logo/identity/messaging/branding for have a common mantra, “We want our logo to look like so and so’s and our website to look like so and so’s and our graphics to look like so and so’s, and our photos…” You get the picture. They’re having an identity crisis.
Then we ask, “So, who are YOU?” There’s generally a very clear answer, but one that doesn’t remotely relate to what they think their company’s outward facing persona should be. After explaining that those alter-identities and brands are not them, the fun work begins in uncovering their true identity by homing in on what they are all about, and how they can best make a connection with their audience and clients.
Sure, we’re all influenced by the ever changing visuals we encounter – and it’s cool to be inspired and impossible not to be. But the best thing a business can do is to be true to itself and have the courage to reveal its own identity. That’s how to connect with your real audience.
Learn more about Secret Valley Media Labs.
Photo, Robin Cox.
Last night a few of us from SVML went to the Todd Rundgren concert. He looked and sounded great, the band was tight and energetic and the crowd was having a good time. We had a blast.
What really hit me was the evidence of Buffalo’s ongoing renaissance. Its once defunct waterfront looked alive and inviting. Historic buildings have been renovated and the fusion of old and new architectural elements is successful. The beautiful old cobblestone roads have been restored and new walkways and roads have been built where necessary. Brightly colored Adirondack chairs dot the green grassy park area. The sleek sailboats and colorful kayaks filled the river entrance to Lake Erie. And the bright flags emblazoned with the Canalside logo (which is nice) fluttered in the lake breeze.
Seeing all those elements come together as a fresh Canalside brand made it exciting to be there. You felt like you were someplace special, as though someone (or a lot of someones) cared enough to invest the time and money into creating a new identity and brand. If they cared enough to put forth this effort, then it must be worthy of taking part in. That’s the importance of a strong, well thought out identity. When it looks good it feels important. And that makes people feel good. When you make them feel good, they remember.