Design and thinking. Sometimes together.


Branding is thinking made real. Here are some thoughts on design, branding and other miscellany.

What's the Big Idea?


Designers and branding folk are generally tasked with the job of distilling a company's culture and services down into simple statements and images. In a perfect world everything is communicated in a logo and a tagline. This is challenging. Actually, it's insane.

As a profession we often talk about "the big idea." Designers, writers and thinkers are brought into a company that has an existing culture (which it cannot define on its own) to help decide what it is that makes their product or service different from competitors (which most often there is very little difference) then generate an idea that seems to be the driving force behind the company that resonates with consumers and employees.

So to recap, the designer needs to generate an idea that is the result of how a company operates but actually seems as though it is the genesis of how a company operates. The idea is it's own mother.

So , we have this already confusing task that is often made doubly confusing by the fact that in many instances (most!) companies don't have a great deal of practical differences. This is particularly true in service industries like healthcare and higher education. These are arenas are rife with , for lack of a better word, sameness. That's how you get this (so many shields!), and this (so much blue and green!). You also find that you get a relatively monotonous list of services that are supposedly "state-of-the-art" or "cutting edge". Which is hard to imagine considering that they all have, literally, exactly the same stuff.

How do designers navigate this maelstrom of sameness and arrive at the big idea? Sometimes the big idea isn't a what, it's a how. When the widgets from two places are basically the same, the way you make them different is in how you talk about them not what they do. You illuminate things in a way that resonates on a personal level, not a technical one. In healthcare you focus not on the type of surgery, but on the idea that the institution cares about what the patient can do after surgery. The widget isn't any faster and doesn't last any longer, it fits into your lifestyle in a certain way. Sometimes that is communicated in a one big idea headline sort of way, but often it's communicated in a variety of ways but using unique language and a unique tone of voice.  

Visually it really can become a matter of style. Designers hate this thought. They want to be more than stylists. But sometimes tailoring something to a lifestyle involves styling things. And this can be just as important as a logo or a tagline. It's equally as important to the bottom line and just as important of a business investment. Designers need to understand that not everything is rocket science, not everything carries the weight of a thousand strategy meetings, sometimes you just need to make something more likable and that can be a big idea.

Jason LaughlinComment