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.
Ask anybody who has ever stood up on a wave and they’ll tell you there’s nothing like that first time. It’s an incredible feeling you never forget, one that can change your life. The same is true of skateboarding and snowboarding. Mastering these admittedly challenging skills is so exhilarating, not only because of the pure joy we experience when performing them, but the self-confidence we gain as a result. Such moments lead us to believe that if we can accomplish these feats, then there’s likely much more we can achieve from having the courage to try.
Mikey Bondoc understands this concept. A talented surfer, skater, designer, writer and illustrator, he also understands that self-confidence doesn’t come naturally for everyone, especially kids. While all of us are born with unlimited potential and a desire to believe our dreams can come true, those feelings can easily fall by the wayside if not purposefully encouraged and pursued. So Mikey’s using his own unique gifts – some he only recently discovered- to help others understand this concept. He’s created a children’s book series centered around a singularly unique, memorable, character: a blue-billed, web-footed platypus who loves to surf, skate and snowboard.
The Hatch: The Radventures of Radimus Platypus is the first of Bondoc’s seven book series. He has written all seven volumes and published one for proof-of-concept to line up investment to be able to complete the rest (one very well-known, highly respected global brand has already expressed interest in helping Bondoc, based upon the success of The Hatch).
In this first book, the curious, creative Radimus bursts into the world. His mother worries for his safety, but ultimately allows Radimus to follow his heart. Each subsequent book takes Radimus, who expresses himself through his love for board sports, on another surprising “radventure” where he learns new things, discovers what makes him happy, and grows as an individual. In subsequent books, Radimus surfs, skates, snowboards, wakeboards and even discovers yoga.
Parents of all children will enjoy sharing “The Hatch” and its encouraging messages with their little ones. And parents who happen to be into surfing, skating and snowboarding will quite likely want to set this brilliantly illustrated rhyming tale right up alongside classics like, The Cat in the Hat and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. To be certain, Radimus channels the positive spirit of Dr. Seuss and other lovable, iconic characters of youth like Kermit the Frog. At the same time, Radimus’s unique, modern context allows the playful platypus to connect with today’s generation in ways that are more relevant and thus, likely more meaningful to them.
Bondoc’s own story of self-discovery is a radventure unto itself. An accomplished graphic designer, art director and apparel consultant with more than 20 years of experience working for big-named brands, Bondoc moved from New York City to Orange County in 2008, craving more time outdoors and in the ocean than he was getting where he was at.
Once there, he rented a 100-year old oceanfront cottage in Laguna Beach and began practicing yoga to invigorate his creativity while freelancing. In 2009, a friend -an intuitive medium- told Bondoc that when she looked at him, she saw the Sesame Street character, Big Bird, and felt he had the potential to work with children. Exactly one week after that event, the name Radimus Platypus came to Bondoc, along with the entire storyline for “The Hatch”.
Bondoc, though creative, did not envision himself as a writer, nor an illustrator. But he continued thinking about developing Radimus while working, surfing, practicing yoga and meditating. In 2010, while on a weekend juice cleanse, Bondoc wrote volumes 1-3, and completed volumes 4-7 within the next two months. “It is still the most creative experience I have ever had”, says Bondoc. “I never aspired to write anything. The books seemed to write themselves. The words and sentences just seemed to flow out of me. Each storyline came in one shot, and I knew exactly what was going to happen in each subsequent book.”
With stories in hand, Mikey reached out to about two dozen publishers and a handful of agents, but received little response. One agent indicated that he liked Bondoc’s character and stories, but felt he was the wrong person to represent Mikey.
In 2011, undaunted and realizing he had to take the next step, Bondoc commissioned an illustrator to work on the books. But after a year of trying, he terminated the contract because the feeling just wasn’t right. Too heavy. Too much color… It just wasn’t what Mikey was envisioning. He put the project on the back burner for two years, occasionally researching illustrators, but with little money to commission another one. In 2013, with work ebbing in Orange County, Bondoc decided to return to the creative energy of New York City. A few months later, he would experience another transformative moment on his path to personal growth and the development of his book series.
“Through daily yoga and continuing meditation, I was given the confidence to illustrate Radimus Platypus, myself. Since day one, all of my friends insisted that I should illustrate the book. I was the only person who did not believe in myself. I did not think I had the skills and talent to do it.”
“Over the years, I had journaled a lot about my vision for Radimus. I wrote about traveling the world and inspiring millions of children and adults to follow their hearts and be their true selves. After a yoga class that involved journaling and deep meditation, that message came through loud and clear: “I can illustrate the book.” It repeated over and over again, until I heard it, and felt it in my heart. For the first time in my life, I felt fully capable of illustrating Radimus and all of the books. I loved to draw as a kid, but always of things I could replicate– characters, band logos, skate logos- I never drew from my imagination. That’s why I thought that I couldn’t illustrate the books. But it was only my own confidence and self-perception stopping me”
In 2014, with only some sketches of Radimus in hand, Bondoc launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance production of his books. His campaign was selected as a “Staff Pick”, but Bondoc says he set his goal too high, intent on using one of the best eco-printers around. The campaign reached 18% of its goal, before stalling.
In 2015, Bondoc completed illustrating The Hatch. He made his first printed copy and held a few readings around NYC, where he found kids were both stoked on Radimus and enjoyed engaging with Mikey. Bondoc launched a second Kickstarter campaign and was again selected as a “Staff Pick”, but pulled the plug after two weeks, due to a lack of traffic.
Determined not to give up, Bondoc decided to front the costs of a small run of books and sell them himself on his website. In early 2016, he signed with Bookmasters in Ohio to print a limited quantity of high quality hardcover copies and opened sales on his website.
Since then, Radimus has been steadily gaining traction. The character’s made-for-Instagram IG channel boasts over 1,700 young fans and followers, who, along with their parents, are posting fantastic pictures of themselves doing things they love to do– the things that make them unique… and rad! Radimus encourages kids to tag their posts with the hashtag, #imradtoo.
With the groundswell of interest in Radimus rising and the likelihood of finding investment also stacking, both Bondoc and Radimus may soon find themselves living out the very lessons they’re both so committed to imparting: Be yourself. Follow your dreams. And don’t be afraid to go for it. Because all of us are rad in one way or another. And if we’re just brave enough to live that out, we might surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish.
Note: This article was originally written for and published on The Inertia. To see the original article and response, click here.
Wow, Kelly has certainly led a magical life. And to have this at his disposal once he retires from the tour… Wow. What an incredible wave and technology.
No doubt, by now, you’ve seen this video. It’s “making waves” of epic proportions around the surf world- Kelly Slater’s Wave Company technology at work. It’s revolutionary and poised to change surfing, just as the champ himself, always has. The unveiling of this wave caused me to reflect on a piece that I wrote 5 years ago this month, about this very moment in time. I’m not one to pat myself on the back too much, but it’s worth taking a moment to read, because everything that’s being said now, I predicted we’d be hearing back then. Check it out… I told ya’ so!: http://www.timhamby.com/kelly-slater-wave-company-the-next-ultimate-w/
A little Instagram love from the boys at The Inertia! They used an excerpt from an old article I wrote for their 2015 Thanksgiving Day wishes. I wrote this piece for them back when they were just getting started, before their site was getting hundreds of thousands of visitors every month– far more (incredibly) than even Surfer or Surfing’s online properties! I’ve always been so impressed with what Zach Weisberg, Alex Haro and their Team have accomplished. And they’re great humans, to boot. I’ve really enjoyed writing for them, and watching their business grow. I just love seeing people step out to pursue their dreams with passion, courage and determination- making it happen! That’s exactly what these guys did. I’ve been working on my own side project lately, but look forward to getting back to publishing on The Inertia again, very soon! Thanks for the shout, fellas!
A few GoPro shots from the recent Hurricane Joaquin swell. These were all taken in the Ponte Vedra Beach area and inside Guana River State Park on October 3rd and 4th, 2015. Good times after an unusually long, flat summer due the global El Nino weather pattern that brought waves to most of the rest of the world, but which inhibited tropical storm development this year in the Eastern Atlantic. It seems all of that stored up energy was released in a single storm which provided some pretty epic Florida conditions.
Can you imagine what this might have been like? This guy didn’t have to. Pretty magical moment.
Another good one here from Portugal- “The Flying Machine” by Maquina Voadora on Vimeo.
Wow, love this one from Tyler Haft. This is Dane Zaun surfing in LA. It looks so fun, if a little chilly! Beautiful waves, beautiful surfing, gorgeous cinematography and great music selection, here. Check out the opening sequence. What a beautifully planned and executed shot… Really nice! The music is “Ambient Guitar” by Alex Weinstein and “Song of a Sinner” by Top Drawer. Hat tip to SurfSleepTravel.com for the call on this one.