Branding (Because It’s Not Just What’s For Sale)

WHEREAS creating taglines/slogans for me remains the most challenging aspect of my job as a copywriter, the most fascinating is my involvement with developing branding for our various clients. Perhaps as a consequence of being not so far removed from the existential angst of my college years, identity is always an interesting topic for me; expressing/concretizing it is all the more interesting. That said, I’ve discovered in my two years in design that branding can become a most challenging task since many start-ups (even many older companies) have yet to articulate to themselves what they’re about — their identity. Often, differentiation from other companies is expressed by a service or product that others don’t offer (or offer in a different way), but that’s different than having an identity, or it’s certainly not what makes up the entirety of a company’s identity. (Having cheaper products certainly shouldn’t limit a company’s identity to simply being cheap.) The reality is, it is often the designer’s task to help companies realize who they are.

In our company, we take the creative brief seriously, especially for branding, and we aren’t afraid to ask as many questions as needed to fill that brief up with as much information as we can, knowing that this will help with the branding task at hand. As much as we don’t want to pester our clients, we certainly try to persist in attaining the information we need. Often, I’ve discovered, clients haven’t fleshed out for themselves a most basic consideration: How would you like to be viewed by clients, by competitors, and by your own employees? Often, the answers are too simple — cheaper, faster, better — and are far from unique. I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of being put in a position to not just design the identity but actually enable clients to discover it for themselves — often for the first time.

Years of private, liberal education schooling has brainwashed me into actually believing in the hullaballoo of the holistic. Even in the practical and capitalistic work of commissioned design, effectiveness seems dependent on one’s ability to view something functional as having to be rooted in something ideological, philosophical, humanistic. Output-based thinking is boring to me — it leads to dead ends, both on the part of the designers and that of the client-entrepreneurs. I personally hate being given free-reign for a job. It is the enabling aspect of the design job that remains interesting and true. A client’s clear vision enables designers to create ways to visually concretize it, while the designers’ awareness of what they need to concretize also enables a client to reaffirm (if not uncover) their own vision. The processes that good branding necessitate are most compelling, and these are the ones that point clients to themselves and what they’re about — or what their products and services should be based on.

— Martin Villanueva

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