It's common for people to ask 'So, what do you do' as an opener in conversation, opposed to 'who are you'. Same with a project brief for a logo or identity design.
People believe that asking 'what we do' defines who we/you are and once an answer is given, we are labeled accordingly. The mass stereotype begins.
Society often steers definition away from the self to the collective. When we are asked 'what do we do' before anything more personal, we are demoted to being just a performing entity rather than a unique and sentient being.
Next time you are talking to someone new, and before you have asked anything personal, except maybe their name, show some real interest and defer from asking the 'so, what do you do?'.
An identity is not so much what you do
I had an interesting conversation the other day with a new client. During the process of the client providing me with information on the company for the upcoming logo design, I realised something far more important was being totally left out.
I really couldn't of asked for more information on what they have done and what they do and how they do it. (Bear in mind this this is a rebrand, so the company has been around for some time.)
The missing information was the personality of the company, it's soul, it's own unique characteristics that stand it out from all the other similar companies. The personality differences that help contribute to a company having a USP 'Unique Selling Point/Proposition/Position'
The client was so enthusiastic about telling me what they did and how they did it that I had little idea on the 'who' other than than how I perceived the them. How and where it all started, it's early formative years and how it has grown, how clients perceive and talk about it, and how the company had evolved was all unknown.
This wasn't a huge problem, but it was an interesting observation.
It's easy for a client to explain why and how they do what they do, but not so easy trying to verbalise the companies core identity. It's not something that all companies even really think about. I have worked for quite large companies that had a distinct lack of vision in this area.
Defining a companies personality and identity can be hard, not all of us like the idea of opening ourselves up to friends and families, it can leave us feeling vunerable. But for a company to have the best shot at being around a few years down the line, they need to 'really open up'. They need to put themselves out ther and that is scary stuff to commit to.
This is how I like to explain it.
You have ten companies, represented by ten naked manquines. They represent the companies but are devoid of anything really unique, 'who' they really are isn't particularly apparent.
The company that starts to show an interest in it's visual appearance/identity, how it looks and acts, will start to dress the mannequin up and work on expressing itself both visually and verbally.
It now becomes more attractive, more of interest than the other nine.
Then some of the others see this change, see their competitor wooing the customers, and they start to play 'dress up'. Some do it for the right reasons and some do it for the wrong reasons. Some play copy cat and some just do it because they feel they have no choice rather than really believing in it.
The companies that 'believe' in this transformative evolution will have higher odds of succeeding. It's not just a once over makeover though, it has to be maintained and altered as the mannequin gets older and starts performing other duties. In other words, once you start, you can't really stop. Hence company rebrands and logo updates and refreshes. All part of a company growing up.
This doesn't guarantee success of course, they are so many more variables, but a companies identity is just one crucial ingredient.
With your next client, make a point of poking around a bit more. Once you know what they do, found out about the more intimate stuff. You can't really design an identity for a company if you don't have all the juicy details. The logo may look pretty and cool but it will be skin deep, it will lack depth, character and real personality.
The more you know and understand, the more options and choices you will have to work from.
This isn't just about working on a larger identity project, it's just as important when working on the logo design. The more you know about 'who' the more you will be able to craft something that contains more than a descriptive icon of what they do.
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