The following is a post I wrote for the Creative Kinds agency blog. Creative Kinds is a consortium of independent creative professionals that operate remotely as a full-service agency. I was a partner in that firm before accepting a role as Creative Director at Beson4.com in Jacksonville, FL.
No, this isn’t another blog post about Millennials. I imagine they are as sick of being exploited for clicks as we are of clicking on stories about them, for the simple reason that, “there’s nothing else on”. And while not focused on this extraordinarily well-documented generation of tastemakers and trendsetters, it is about evolution– specifically, the evolution of brands.
You see, just like everything and everyone, brands must evolve. Not just the bad ones but also the good ones. Especially the good ones. This subject is on my mind because our team here at Creative Kinds is currently in the midst of refreshing a great brand.
Harrell Construction is a 41-year-old commercial construction company based in Jacksonville, Florida that is one of the country’s most trusted general contractors and builders of pre-fabricated metal buildings. Their footprint is especially strong in the southeast. Because they are so good at what they do and have been so well-trusted by so many, for so long, they barely have to worry about marketing at all. Large, global companies know them well and simply call on them when help is needed.
Heck, they don’t even promote some of their highest profile work out of courtesy and confidentiality, but we’re talking about BIG jobs for BIG clients like various appendages of Uncle Sam, one-time medicinal companies that have evolved into soda companies, and one of the world’s most beloved organizations based here in Florida that is headed up by a mouse.
This is what things like quality, integrity and great people, products and services beget when all are delivered with consistency over time. But even the greatest companies cannot afford to rest on their laurels, not with respect to their products and services (looking at you Kodak, Blockbuster, Xerox), nor their brand identities.
Why is the evolution of brand identity so important? For all of the same reasons that product evolution is so critical: for relevancy with respect to the latest consumer and cultural trends, and market tastes.
Logos are, of course, the most recognizable visual symbol of a brand but they are just one component of the overall brand identity which also includes visual and verbal elements such as colors, fonts, positioning copy and taglines, imagery, graphic layout styles, and website.
All of these elements need to work together seamlessly in concert to express the core attributes of the brand and foster an emotional connection with targeted customers who themselves evolve over time.
A brand that allows itself to become tired and dated runs the risk of sending a subliminal message to consumers about the other facets of their company, messages that can lead their prospective customers to ask, “If they’re this behind-the-times with respect to their marketing and branding, what might I expect to be the case with their products, services and methods?”
On the other hand, a company that stays on top of their branding communicates a message that says, “We’re on top of trends and technology, connected with our customers and we care about details. We’ll never rest on our laurels or stop pushing for continual improvement.”
We’re excited to be helping Harrell Construction update and upgrade its brand identity to one that is befitting of its work and longstanding industry reputation for quality and integrity. We’ll share a few before-and-after’s with you right here, once we complete our work later this fall.
Until then – if you know your brand is due for a refresh, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We can discuss where you want to go and how we can help you get there.
Now, we return you to your original programming. (If you have to read another article on Millennials, here’s a more thoughtful and entertaining one.)
A few GoPro shots from the recent swells generated by Hurrican Florence. After a long, hot, flat summer, it was great to get back into the water and catch some good waves. Prayers to all of those who were negatively impacted by the effects of this storm, including my own relatives in South Carolina.
The following is a blog post I wrote for the Creative Kinds blog. Creative Kinds is a consortium of independent creative professionals that operate remotely as a full-service agency. I was a partner in that firm before moving to a new role as Creative Director at Beson4.
“Everybody’s a genius…” – Albert Einstein
What started out as pro-bono work for an upcoming local stair climb event turned into something much larger and more exciting for the Creative Kinds team. It also provided a great example of how to avoid a common creative trap: assuming that your professional (creative) opinion, based upon years of experience should always outweigh the client’s because “they don’t do this for a living.”
In actuality, the single goal of every agency should be one thing: Delight the client.
But more on that in a minute…
Sharon Baroncelli, Director of Development for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) was originally looking to brand an individual regional 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb event with a new logo. The events, held in various locations throughout the country, raise funds that help the NFFF create and maintain programs that support fire service survivors.
This includes providing assistance to the surviving families and co-workers of the 343 firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001. Each participant pays tribute to an FDNY firefighter by climbing or walking the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.
In a day and age where Americans seem to increasingly have trouble agreeing on anything, I think it’s safe to say that most in our country still hold our firefighting heroes in the highest regard, and recognize the importance of honoring and supporting those who gave their lives to protect our own. Naturally, we were very excited to help.
Subsequently, via karma, great creative, or some combination therein, the work we submitted to the NFFF was deemed so strong that it was forwarded to the national Board of Directors who voted to use one of our marks for the NFFF’s new national logo for its 9/11 National Memorial Stair Climb events.
The only problem: Which one to choose? There were many great options and the Board loved all of them! 🔥🔥🔥
Here are a few of our original concepts.
Of course, being the creative experts, we felt compelled to voice our own opinion about which mark we felt should be selected. We decided that #9 (L to R, Top to Bottom), the mark with the American flag-themed stairs would be the best choice. The rising stairs perfectly portrayed what the stair climb events are about, both physically and spiritually.
The shield form made for a perfect patch (which firefighters love) and the logo felt crisp, light and modern while simultaneously classic and timeless. We’d need to sharpen the feathered edges of the stairs for vector art applications but overall, felt this was the mark that needed to be selected and that would be.
Until we asked our client and an audience of, ahem…non-professionals.
You see, to confirm our flawless instincts, we put $5 behind an Instagram carousel post (a great survey tool, by the way) targeted to our firefighter audience, and quickly racked up over 400 “Likes” and dozens of positive comments. People loved the marks, all of them, and many noted that it was difficult to choose a favorite.
But ultimately, by an overwhelming margin, our test audience chose their preferred mark: option #5, the silhouette of the kneeling firefighter. In short order, the NFFF agreed.
At this point, we might have strongly encouraged the NFFF to reconsider our preferred mark, the one we wanted to see promoted on their highly-visible national platform. After all, as design professionals, we’re often told by our peers that we are obligated to steer our clients in the “right” direction.
Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody’s a genius…” But he finished that statement with “…but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” In other words, we’re all great at different things. Non-profits are great at organizing events and raising funds. Firefighters are great at fighting fires. And designers are great at design. Ergo, we, the designers, really needed to push our client and their audience to make the “correct” choice.
Because who’s to say which design was the “right” one?
We wouldn’t have presented any marks to the client that would have been wrong.
Design, you see, is subjective and quite frankly, logo design can sometimes be overrated, with more importance placed on it than what might sometimes be merited.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Great logo design is not easy. They take a lot of time and surprisingly few graphic artists are really good at it. The best logos can become foundations for iconic brands and be relevant for years with only occasional evolution for the passing of time.
At the same time, the great thing about design is the unlimited nature of ideas. There’s always more than one right answer, always another possibility. We provided the NFFF with several. Their first choice was our second choice. But theirs was the only one that mattered.
Take it from someone who’s been there. Don’t ever assume there’s only one best answer and that only you are informed and insightful enough to understand it.
Remember that there is only one imperative in business and it doesn’t take a genius to understand it: Delight your clients.
I recently took a trip to Payne’s Prairie to hang out with my oldest daughter, Kendall, for Dad / Daughter weekend with her sorority at the University of Florida. Kendall and I decided to go for a hike in this spectacular state park and came across a lot of wildlife (although we didn’t run into any wild horses or bison -yes, bison- that live in the park). Nonetheless, it was an awesome time adventuring with my daughter, who’s always up for exploring with me.
My daughter Kendall and I came across this fellow while hiking in Payne’s Prairie in Gainesville, FL recently. Ironically, I had literally just finished telling her seconds before, about how the area reminded me of other places in North Florida I’d explore as a child, and that we’d occasionally find rattlesnakes living in abandoned gopher tortoise holes. Then lo and behold, as soon as I finished that sentence, we came upon this good-sized rattler splayed out right across the trail. Great experience! You don’t see these guys as often as you used to.
Here’s some bad cell phone footage of Jack Johnson on his recent (2017) stop at the St. Augustine Amphitheater in St. Augustine, Florida (Sorry, I was too busy watching and listening to try and film him!) Fantastic concert, as always! Here’s Jack doing a cover of Sublime’s Bad Fish and Boss DJ.
The Blizzard Branch Syrup company in Middendorf, South Carolina makes pure cane sugar syrup using fresh cut sugar cane and a hand press. Sugar cane goes in. Sweet stuff comes out. Then it’s off to be strained boiled and strained again. Willy Wonka has nothing on these guys! I’m pretty sure this is where they recorded the sound effects for that movie, anyway. This is a great example of sustainable farming and agritourism. Interesting stuff! We had a good time romping around up there while visiting family in Hartsville, SC over the Thanksgiving holidays.
One of a few shots from our family’s annual trek up to Hartsville, South Carolina at Thanksgiving. This is from the nearby Blizzard Branch farm where they make pure cane sugar syrup, yellow corn grits and blueberry wine by traditional methods. Fascinating, beautiful and delicious.!
A few interesting GoPro shots from the Hurricane Maria swell earlier this year. I’m not sure if you would call this “stuffing in” or “getting stuffed”. At the very least, you can’t call it barrel-dodging!
The capability of the GoPros (in this case, a 4 Black), never cease to amaze me. In the first shot, you can clearly see seaweed flying past my face inside the wave.
Between Irma and Maria, our beaches were packed with all kinds of debris, making surfing sketchy at times. Even after larger debris like pylons, branches, 2×4’s, etc. had cleared, there was still quite a bit of vegetation in the line-ups for weeks following each storm.
These shots were two days after the peak swell size for Maria, but were the peak for overall size + quality.