make my logo bigger

There’s probably no line more common—or more disliked by designers and art directors, than “Make the logo bigger.” It usually comes after the client has seen the first mock-up, while there’s still a chance to edit things.

Designers think that whatever attracts the viewer is most important and that almost any size logo will work if you first have their attention. The client tends to think that there’s little point in marketing or advertising anything if the viewer doesn’t know who it’s for.

Paula Scher, a highly respected partner at Pentagram, and designer of the Citibank logo, titled her monograph Make It Bigger. On the first page of the book, she describes the first ad she designed at her first job. She submitted the ad for approval and was told to make the headline and the product name bigger. On the second submission she was told to make them bigger still. On the third submission the headline and product name were huge. The ad was returned with a memo to also make the logo bigger. The fourth submission came back with the notation that there was not sufficient room for the body copy describing the product.

The instinctive urge of the client to make things bigger is based on common sense. Bigger brings more attention and presumably more commercial success. Designers are concerned with the hierarchy of all the elements involved and yet designers are notorious for liking small type.

The difference between these apparent opposing directions is indicative of larger issues. Where do intuitive, aesthetic and design considerations intersect with pragmatic, strategic and business issues? What’s more important—look and feel, or an unseen strategy? Are design-driven companies like Apple Computer and Target successful because of their emphasis on aesthetics? Are Dell and Wal-Mart strategically driven?

Let’s face it. Design is the means to an end, and that end, like it or not, is commercial in nature. Design can make a Web site, a brochure or an ad more memorable and therefore more effective in influencing its audience. But ultimate success combines artistic and strategic elements in a symbiotic relationship.

Marketing and advertising cannot be reduced to a logical, rational discipline that can be defined, measured and predicted like rats in a science lab. The fact, figures and projections of research, when done right, can play a vital role in marketing, but you can’t stand on that alone. As Jon Steel, brand strategist at Goodby Silverstein & Partners said, “In the scientific method, there is no place for art, inspiration, instinct, intuition, magic or luck, because they cannot be measured, predicted or easily repeated.”

If your marketing or advertising isn’t memorable, or doesn’t touch your emotions, it’s probably the fault of execution, not strategy. Execution—the design, the writing—is the hardest part of the branding mix to control.

Art is where the true magic lies, but art alone is not enough. When combined with strategic and business considerations to achieve a shared goal, creativity has the best chance for success, no matter what the size of the logo.

tag(line), you’re it!

Taglines are a significant opportunity to position a company—not only to help explain what the company does, but what makes it different. But don’t write your tagline until you’ve determined your Brand Promise. The tagline is a more polished, succinct and catchier version of the Brand Promise.

What is the one thing you can say about your brand that your competitors can’t say? Something that is both credibly true and valuable to your customer—something you can promise them. And most importantly, something you’ll want your customer to take away from every engagement with your brand. That’s your Brand Promise. In marketing-speak, it’s called the value proposition. In human-speak, it’s simply why it matters.

This past weekend I was browsing the web site for Lending Tree. Their tagline is, “When banks compete, you win”—nice and succinct, and clearly valuable. Their Brand Promise would be something like “Lending Tree is the largest resource for obtaining online bids from lenders.”

When it comes to crafting a tagline and a brand promise, branding guru, Marty Neumeier, says, “The key is to focus on a single proposition. If you find yourself using commas or ‘ands’ to write your tagline, you may need more focus. The rule? One proposition per brand.”

the elevator pitch

I remember a story told by Glen Mella, now president of Control4, of how he attended a seminar where company executives were graded “Olympic style” on their elevator pitch. Each participant delivered a 3-minute pitch, about the time of an average elevator ride, while judges sat ready with cards reading 7.0, 8.5, etc. Upon conclusion, the executives were hit with almost instantaneous, gut-level grades on their pitch. It was an intentionally stressful situation, not unlike real-life pitch opportunities. Those that did best, were those who had practiced, maybe even memorized, their pitch well in advance.

The June issue of Business Week magazine says the elevator pitch is far too important to take casually. “Being able to sum up unique aspects of your service or product in a way that excites others should be a fundamental skill. Yet many executives pay little attention…” More

the only, only?


Love songs proclaim you’re the only one but in business it’s not often the case. Do your customers identify you as the only one? Fill in these blanks: Our brand is the only _________ that _________. In the first blank put the name of your category (software training company, auto cooling parts supplier, sign company). In the second blank put the thing that truly differentiates you (that empowers Linux training, that delivers overnight, has offices throughout the west). Can your competitors make the same claim? We’re talking about significant differentiation. “Quality since 1930,” may be a differentiator, but it has limited beneficial value and everybody claims quality.

In my journalism classes at the University of Utah we were taught to get out the primary facts in the first paragraph of a news story. The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. The technique tells the reader whether the rest of the story is worth reading. The same approach tells your customer whether they should be interested in your products or services. Here’s how brand strategist, Marty Neumeir describes the process for Harley-Davidson:

What:The only motorcycle manufacturer

How:that makes big, loud motorcycles

Who:for macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)

Where:mostly in the United States

Why:who want to join a gang of cowboys

When:in an era of decreasing personal freedom.

Taking our own medicine, here’s how modern8 fits the bill:

What:The only graphic design firm

How:that offers strategic consultation (in addition to creative services)

Who:for B2B inbound marketing communications

Where:in Utah

Why:who want to re-position their business

When:in an era of un-differentiated, look-alike competitors

Your own “only, only” statement becomes the litmus test against future brand decisions and keeps you on target and on message.

who are we anyway?

One of the defining characteristics of modern8, and how we differentiate our business from that of our competitors is our inclusion of strategic, as well as creative services to achieve a shared goal. In this monthly column I often provide insights into brand strategy. And yet most of the staff at modern8, myself included, are graphic designers by training—artists, if you will.

Recently the current graphic design profession has had its own identity crisis. The AIGA has dropped the meaning behind its initials. Founded in 1914 as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the organization is now simply four letters and the phrase, “the professional association for design.” The shift recognizes that for many members in the organization, calling oneself a graphic designer may be too limiting.

When I was in high school the profession was called commercial art, a term rarely heard today. And yet the art we produce is not art for art’s sake. Our art is the means to an end, and that end is commercial in nature. Art is the vehicle that makes our creative deliverables more distinctive and more memorable. Art carries the message in such a way that it becomes more effective in influencing its audience.

Smart designers today are creating solutions to communication problems that incorporate both science and art. Left and right brain. Strategy and design. But art is where the true magic lies. That’s what you’ll remember. That’s where the emotional connection is made. However in today’s over-communicated society, art alone is not enough.

the big questions


Although questions like these sound like metaphysical explorations, we use them when we consult with new clients before creating any design deliverable. When we conduct an internal company audit, it’s surprising how often we find disagreements between company management on basic questions, like “What does this company do? What is its purpose? Why does it matter?” Speaking to executives of successful companies, you wouldn’t think we’d get a different answer from each executive in the same company—but we do.

Answering what the company does may be the easiest, although the answer is still not always consistent. The company’s purpose, or reason for being is much harder and causes the most disagreement. The question, “Why does it matter?” asks for the beneficial reason the company even exists.

Auditing company literature and Web sites often reveal a similar lack of purpose and benefit. Here’s a test. Cover up the logo of your competitor’s Web site and read the description of the company’s products and services. Compare it to competitor number one, two or three and to your own as well. Can you tell the difference between each? Can you cut through industry jargon and understand the purpose and benefit each company serves? This speaks to brand position as well as to communicating value.

You can use different techniques to help you gain an understanding of your company. We often use metaphorical comparisons: thinking of your business in terms of a model car, for instance. Collecting emotional photographs that represent your company is valuable, as is personal expression using drawings. We use such efforts as part of the Discover phase of the modern8 Perception Branding 5D process.

more like designers

The business magazine Fast Company annually devotes an entire issue to design. In the most recent edition, Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman School of Business, said, “Design, in short, is becoming an ever more important engine of corporate profit: It’s no longer enough simply to outperform the competition; to thrive in a world of ceaseless and rapid change, businesspeople have to outimagine the competition as well. They must begin to think–to become–more like designers.”

The article, titled “Tough Love”, acknowledges an uneasy alliance between business and design. “Many businesspeople have long regarded designers as mere stylists. More than a few designers see businesspeople as Neanderthals all too willing to forfeit quality for the sake of profit. Their mutual pique springs from a fundamental difference in the way each side thinks about creating value: Corporate types, by and large, seek to fuel growth by building from bulletproof, reproducible systems; designers generally attempt to do so by imagining something new, different, better.”

The author concludes that to prosper over the long run, companies needs to succeed at both the intuitive and experimental as well as the provable and replicable. “It must mesh the classical workings of a traditional organization with the prototypical features of a design shop.” More

faster horse or model t?

At the AIGA Business and Design Conference I attended in October, Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO, served as moderator. IDEO is a 450-person product design pioneer known for its groundbreaking work for Apple, Caterpillar, Kraft, and other manufacturing icons.

Tom Kelley told us the walls of the IDEO corporate conference room are adorned with an insightful remark by Henry Ford: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

Focus group studies are notorious for this. If you ask people what you want, they almost always want more of the same, just with better features or a lower price. Real innovation produces ideas that no customers would come up with in the normal course of researching their wants. This is possible because designers try to conceive what people will want in the future, rather than what they want now.

As Marty Neumeier describes in his new book, Zag: The Number 1 Strategy of High Performance Brands, the best way to judge a new idea is to map customer feedback against a success pattern. When you draw a chart with two axes, one for “good” and one for “different,” you can see how you stack up against other options.

Just like Stephen Covey’s famous urgent-important matrix, the best place to be is in the upper-right quadrant — in this case, where good and different combine to create a successful idea. Unfortunately most companies feel more comfortable in the upper-left quadrant, good but not different, and end up with just a faster horse. Judge that new proposal against the good-different matrix. You can’t be a leader by following the leader.