What is the best way to start a project? I guess there are a lot of different answers to this question. It may depend on a lot of things like the brand, the project type, the client, the budget, etc.
Some time ago I came across this book Branding: In Five and a Half Steps by Michael Johnson and, as I expected (we are talking about Michael Johnson after all), the book was great. But it was by the time I started to put Michael’s tips in practice that the book actually made a huge impact on my work.
The whole book is a masterclass but here I want to discuss chapter 2, Strategy and Narrative, and more specifically about the 6 questions that came to be a must in every project I’m involved in. So, going back to the question that started this post, I think it doesn’t depend. Every project is connected to a brand and you need to know that brand before you start talking or designing like you are a part of it.
- Why are we here? - The brand’s mission.
- What do we do and how do we do it? - What does the brand do and the process to get to it.
- What makes us different? - Brand’s unique points.
- Who are we here for? - Target customer.
- What do we value the most? - Core values.
- What's our personality? - Brand’s character and tone of voice.
These questions are way deeper than they seem at first because they affect a lot of stuff connected to a brand. Here I’m just scratching the surface with the project’s beginning in mind, but you should definitely be aware of the power inherent to these questions.
So, at Onda, it doesn’t matter if we are doing a rebrand or designing a website, we always make these questions in the first meeting. Sometimes clients know all the answers and that’s great, but sometimes they don’t and that is not a problem. It gives us margin to work the answers with them, and that is brand definition.
It also doesn’t matter if a brand has 3 or 100 people, everyone should be aware of the brand’s strategy and narrative. Customers need to have the same emotional experience with the brand when they use the product or talk to a sales person. They need to feel that it all comes from the same source. And the work doesn’t end with the C levels. We help them spread the word throughout the company.
What I’m saying here is that we need to deeply know a brand before starting to work with it. There will be situations when the clients need us to help them align some answers. And leave guides to make it easier to get the message across to their team. It’s all part of the job, we adapt.
Without this extra step at the beginning, the road turns way harder. It’s impossible to translate a message that is not well defined, or that keeps changing along the process.
When we make life easier for the client, ours becomes easier too.