So I saw this little nugget pop up early last week, and my first reaction was… that’s cool. Then when I started really thinking about it, I completely shifted gears.
Hessian is a brand for sale–that is, a brand that represents no business or product. The designer, Ben Pieratt, hopes to sell the Hessian brand for $18,000. That includes 30 hours of design time, the URL, twitter handle, identity that’s already been designed, and a whole list of other odds and ends you can find here. The buyer will then apply it to their restaurant, start up, clothing label, etc.
Visually, the design and execution are pretty cool. I like the flying “h” through space effect; it weirdly reminds me of the flying toaster screen savers from the mid-90’s. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just what popped into my head. I must say, if I saw this identity emblazoned across a storefront or wrapped on a vehicle, I’d be intrigued. If I walked into the store and it was a nail salon, however, I’d be disappointed.
Ben mentions in his blog post about Hessian “… it seems to me that in today’s connected environment, there’s no reason designers shouldn’t be able to create designed product packages, and then sell them to entrepreneurs.” I think he is correct when it comes to maybe graphical elements such as icons, or heck, even customizable website templates, but branding? I can’t help but imagine that this type of thinking will turn the identity and branding process into something more along the lines of getting a tattoo. You walk into the store, flip through the book, and say “I want one that’s similar to this”. Now, you can always get a super duper custom one-of-a-kind tattoo, but that will cost extra.
This idea, albeit interesting, completely misses the point – in my opinion – of what branding and identity is. I may be proven completely wrong, and these guys may have invented the next big business model for identity designers. However, in my world (and BOF’s world), branding and identity begin with the client, or more specifically, the business. We have to ask what or who we are creating an identity for. How should that person or business be portrayed to the rest of the world? What are the fundamental values of that business, and how can those be incorporated into a brand mark? The list goes on.
Anyway, I don’t mean to sound cranky, I’d love to hear what you guys have to say. I also promise to do a follow up if this thing sells.
A while back.. well, a while back in internet space/time, the University of California had a new identity system designed – and there was a big to-do.
If you don’t know the story, here’s what happened in a nutshell:
The University of California unveiled a new brand identity. The new system was somehow misconstrued by the public to be replacing the school’s seal. It wasn’t, the seal was updated and was still hanging around for more formal uses while the new identity would be used everywhere else. The design team was able to pull together what had been a largely disjointed amalgam of logos and type treatments and turn it into one unified monogram and brand identity system. There was a backlash from the community (students, alumni, the internet in general), they all signed a petition on Change.org, and the administration pulled the monogram from any kind of usage… until further notice.
For more detail, here are some great write ups that follow the drama on the Brand New blog: post 1, post 2, post 3. There’s also a really nice 99% Invisible interview with Vanessa Correa, creative director of the internal design group in charge of the rebrand, here.
So, I could talk about the identity itself and say that I thought it was a breath of fresh air when it comes to large scale university branding systems, and that it does a great job pulling together many disparate organizations under one cohesive visual umbrella. Yeah, the gradient in the “c” is a little weird, but I could get used to that over time… just like when Nike founder Phil Knight was presented the swoosh logo.. he said “I don’t love it. But it will grow on me.” (quote via Brand New) But I digress…
My point about the UofC rebrand is that I think the design is beside the point when looking at the overall story. The university had confidence in their design team, accepted the redesign, and launched the new system. Then, they backed down because of public outcry over what seemed to be mis-information. Instead of standing behind their decision to move forward with the new identity, or trying to re-explain that they weren’t replacing the seal, they backed down…. and went back to using God knows what… and ended up a little in the same place that they started.
Anyway, I think it’s obvious what I think – they should have stuck to their guns and moved forward. However, that contradicts a lot of what we preach around here in letting the community decide what they want to symbolize them. An argument could be made for bad pr (mistaking the monogram for replacing the seal), but at the same time, if this is what the community wants, shouldn’t they get it? Honestly, I think there’s a time and a place when parents should step in and do what’s best for their kids no matter how much they whine. I’d love to hear what you guys have to say. Go ahead, rake me over the WOM coals… I can take it.
The other day the super shiny talented Eric Whitlock passed this amazing video on to me.
I promise you it’s worth the six minutes it will take to watch it.
Since we’re in the word of mouth business and truly believe that a organization’s greatest asset is other people talking or “remarking” on their behalf, I often think about what separates “ordinary” from truly “remarkable”. There are so many things in the world that are “just okay”.
Don’t you think?
What is it that makes a brand, a community, a piece of art or a cardboard bike remarkable? Is it design? Attention to detail? Beauty? Love? Passion? Purpose? All of the above?
I started my career as a graphic designer. And while I’m pretty good at it (aka okay), I purposely focused on my other strengths as I moved forward in my work. Partly because I am and have always been in absolute awe of truly amazing designers. Those top 5-10% that make magic with their talent and skills. At Brains on Fire, I see the designers I’m surrounded by as true craftsmen. It’s a subtle thing really. They work with their hearts and their hands to bring remarkable and talk-able ideas to life everyday.
They never settle for “just okay”. It’s just how they’re wired as visual thinkers and designers.
So. What in your opinion makes the difference between ordinary and remarkable?
P.S. Brains on Fire is looking to add one more remarkable senior “designer craftsman” to our tribe. If you think that’s you, send several examples of your best, most heartfelt crafting to email@example.com
Above, John Maeda, 2010 AIGA Gold Medalist winner. Isn’t that just beautiful? Looks kinda of like some of the visualizations of community I’ve seen floating around lately.
Last week I got a kind offer and a last minute chance to attend the AIGA Bright Lights Awards in NY. Hanging with some amazing design talent (see above).
As I walked back to hail a cab after the event, two things hit me:
1. The design world at that level is just so ROMANTIC. Full or stories and heroes. Think Herman Miller and Tiffany.
2. Design is a talk-able trait. Always has been. Think Method and Apple. It moves us. Stirs us to talk and to share. Even if we don’t quite understand why.
Okay, a little side story:
I have a degree in art. And even now I consider myself an artist.
I can still remember the very first time that I got my hands on a CA magazine. I think it was a design annual. It was as if a whole other side of my head and my heart flew wide open. Having grown up in a world filled with really bad design, to hold so much amazingly brilliant design in my hands at one time was a gift that is hard for me to describe.
As a struggling art student, I found a way to pay the 40 dollars (a small fortune back then) for a real subscription.
My next design hero wasn’t in a magazine — he was a real person. And the lead creative director at a small southern ad agency. It was the first real job I had in the advertising world. I remember following this guy around and I am not lying, if he dropped something in a trash can, I quietly picked it up. And took it home and traced it. Trying to get a “feeling” for how and why he but things together on a piece of paper.
Makes me laugh now to think of it.
Okay. Here’s the point of sharing that silly story.
In our work and in our world of igniting community and sparking word of mouth movements, design is still a very big part of the work we do at Brains on Fire. Here is what we know to be true:
That “feeling” you get when you see something that moves you — can in fact inspire you to take action.
Now, more than ever, design is helping us to unite and connect people emotionally. Human being to human being. We are helping kindred spirits express their shared feelings, beliefs and passions. And in some cases, the community literally becomes the total inspiration for design as we simply help execute their ideas, their passion.
I love this “designism” from designer Jenny Morala:
“Design is not solely a marketing device that supports consumerism. It can be a communicator of dissent. It can market ideology. It can effect change.”
Design connects. Design stirs our emotions. Design can bring people together for a common cause or purpose.
In a social world where everyone is talking and taking up space with content, are we losing sight of the critical role design is playing to connect and spark action?
Just thinking out loud on a beautiful Tuesday morning in Greenvegas.
What is the best example of design supporting or igniting a movement you have ever seen? Past or present…Let’s get a discussion going. You know I love it when you share.
***Design examples inspired from burning settlers cabin
Yup. Aristotle said it and we love it around here. Apparently it struck a chord with the author of this article who committed — hold on –Facebook Suicide.
After reading Aristotle’s words “We are what we repeatedly do”, this is how Carmen Joy King felt:
I became despondent. What, then, was I? If my time was spent changing my profile picture on Facebook, thinking of a clever status update for Facebook, checking my profile again to see if anyone had commented on my page, Is this what I am? A person who re-visits her own thoughts and images for hours each day? And so what do I amount to? An egotist? A voyeur?
Whatever the label, I was unhappy and feeling empty. The amount of time I spent on Facebook had pushed me into an existential crisis. It wasn’t the time-wasting, per se, that bothered me. It was the nature of the obsession – namely self-obsession. Enough was enough. I left Facebook.
That article prompted me to think (a good thing) and to write this post about Alone Together (also inspired by a book by that name).
Which then lead to a challenge from my email pal @danholm. Seems his church challenged their members to give up something they are addicted to– smoking, over-eating, whatever. And his heart led him to FACEBOOK.
Here’s just two of a long list of the things Dan shared with me about his addiction:
â€¢ I would check Facebook on my phone in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT when I would wake up randomly at 3am.
â€¢ My wife and I would sit in bed at night and talk about stuff and people we saw on Facebook….something wrong with this picture? We would go to restaurants to eat and both have our heads buried in our phones (trust me, we still like each other).
I am not quite so addicted as Dan, but Facebook is VERY addicting. You know it. And puzzling. I have always had a love-hate relationship with facebook and most social media. Several years back in fact, I was close to someone that had such a constant need to connect and tweet, I was frightened for him. I truly believe it changed who he was, how he saw himself and what he came to value. It change his identity.
It was a bit of a constant riff between us.
So a week into Dan’s “fast”, I decided to join him on a Facebook fast of my own. I jumped in when there were 17 days left. And we agreed to update each other on how it felt, then share with you the three lessons we learned while taking a break.
I need to tell you I actually felt a little jittery when I wrote these words. “I am going on a Facebook Fast until Feb. 18th. Bye. Bye. OXOXOXO”
What if something earth shattering happened? Could I stick to it?
BTW, I did fall off the wagon once and posted a promotion for a webinar I where I was the presenter. My “off the wagon moment” did not go unnoticed. Hey, who wants to do a webinar if people aren’t listening?
So for what it’s worth, my three lessons:
1. I am not my Facebook status. This is my favorite line from Carmen’s article and sums up how I feel: “Is this what I am? A person who re-visits her own thoughts and images for hours each day?” I think the happiest people and the best leaders for that matter have this “outward attitude”. An ability to take themselves out of the equation. A self-forgetfulness. Facebooking forces you to focus on you. And that is not really me. Make sense?
2. I missed the photos most. Facebook is like an online scrapbook and better yet, it’s like a collection of scrapbooks from the folks I love. Like my kids and friends and family. I really do like to capture and share my life’s best moments. A sunny day. An amazing view. A flower found on a walk. I realized that visual sharing is what I truly DO love and in fact missed most when I gave up Facebook. Maybe it’s because photos capture what’s real.
3. I felt calmer. Maybe it was one less thing to do. Maybe it was just letting go of a habit. But maybe, just maybe… I was truly more outwardly focused. Listening to my kids stories a little deeper. Asking folks at work about their weekend instead of reading about it. Maybe I truly was less focused on me.
Okay. Dan — your turn:
1. We don’t need Facebook. Facebook Needs Us. I never thought of Facebook needing us. Lately it seems that everyone and everything tells us we need Facebook. We need to create an account, we need to update our profile picture and have witty statuses and sign on to get discounts from brands. What I found during my 21 day fast was that Facebook relies on me (and all of you) to keep their site interesting. If we don’t share, post and connect then Facebook dies. We should never forget that we own Facebook, Facebook doesn’t own us.
2. Life is only exciting if you’re engaging. I have 500 friends (impressive right? Not really). Guess how many of them noticed I went missing for three weeks? Not. A. Single. One. No one asked where I was, what I was up to or wondered where I went. I was shocked when I logged back in after my absence and only had 5 notifications. Only 5!?! How can this be possible? It’s so simple…..if we’re not engaging, generating dialogue and having a conversation….no one is going to talk back with us. The same principle goes for life in general: we must engage with our personal communities in order stay relevant. This applies to your brand as well…
3. Real connections live on without Facebook. We don’t need Facebook to connect. It just makes it a whole lot easier to connect. During my absence, I still was in contact with “my real friends”. We still hung out and guess what? I had the opportunity to ASK them about their lives and hear what they were up to in REAL LIFE. In past instances I asked them, and then already knew everything because I had stalked them on Facebook. There is something to be said about hearing people’s stories, looking them in the eyes and having a genuine conversation vs reading several status updates and attempting to piece the story together on your own. How many of my friends on Facebook are my real friends? Good question….probably a handful (please don’t tell my other “friends” they’re not my real friends). Check out this article on how many friends your brain can hold.
BTW, thanks to @thebrandbuilder for sharing this article with me (via Facebook I might add) in the first place and to Dan for inspiring me to take a little break and time to reflect.
And now your turn. Do you have a social media fasting story to share?