Marketing & Design Driven

Years ago, we were working with a chief marketing officer who managed to repeat the same phrase in every single meeting we attended. She would always incorporate the phrase “marketing-driven solution”, often in the form of a question. Was our creative proposal a marketing driven solution? What about the headline? It got to be a joke around the office. Does this color look marketing-driven? This paper stock? This Instagram post? And what about that typeface?

Today, design-driven companies are the topics of conversation. The Design Management Institute analyzed the performance of U.S. companies committed to design as an integral part of their business strategy. The study included companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Starbucks, Target and Walt Disney. The dmi: Design Value Index tracked the value of these publicly held companies and monitored the impact of their investments in design on stock value over a ten-year period. The result shows a 211% return over the S&P 500.

Coca-Cola’s Vice-President for Design, David Butler, avoids using the word “design” as much as possible. Though he has written up a 30-page manifesto laying out a design strategy for the company, when he is meeting with manufacturing people, he’ll say, “How can we make the can feel colder, longer?” Or “How can we make the cup easier to hold?” He talks about the benefits of smart design in a language that those he’s talking to can relate.
Mohamed Samah, a design socio-psychologist said, “The design discipline itself is expanding beyond ‘form and look’ to include processes and business strategy in general. Organizations are using design as a tool to stimulate creativity and to foster innovation in the market”. Company leaders use brand strategy and design thinking to research, iterate and ask questions that have little to do with “creating things”, which is the more typical end result of designing.

Because designers typically approach problem-solving somewhat differently. They’re more intuitive and emotional, and less logical and analytical. Instead of going A > B > C > D, designers may start at Q > D > K and end up at P. The bottom line? Starting at Q, D, or K might be necessary to get live feedback, roll out marketing strategies, understand the market and customer motivations. McKinsey offers a framework of questions for the design journey of transforming your company from only a market driven company to one that also uses design as a driver of change.

  1. Do you have a senior design leader with real authority?
    Ensure design factors are part of the business strategy.
  2. Are you continuously reviewing your metrics?
    Go beyond reviewing design metrics and key performance indicators regularly to reviewing them in real time, testing them, and changing your actions in a constant test-and-learn cycle.
  3. Do you really understand what motivates your customers?
    Create a map of the customer journey and use human-centered-design research techniques to interact with customers and uncover pain points and opportunities to delight.

Despite our former client’s binary separation of the idea, I don’t think there is any doubt that successful design-driven companies are also market-driven. There’s no need to separate the two and in fact, successful companies don’t.

Highly Effective Brands

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed on the Silicon Slopes Live Podcast, and one of the questions I was asked was “What are the best brands out there in your opinion, and why?” Although my answer was brief, the question made me think more in-depth about what makes a highly effective brand and if our point of view at modern8 aligns when taking a closer look.

In my interview, I defined branding as an emotional response to design that lives in the mind of your customers—reiterating that your brand is not in your logo, your website, your marketing materials, and your catchy headlines (as quippy as they might be). These are merely tools that identify your brand. Our belief and point of view is that you DO have the ability to influence and control the emotional responses of your customer through the design and communication of the strategic pillars that define who you are. Here are those pillars paired with case studies of some of the most highly effective brands in the world, IMO. 

Position– We define this as the ONLY ONLY. What is the only thing that you offer that no one else offers. Do your customers identify you as being the only one? In journalism, the primary facts that need to be understood are WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, 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:

Who: Harley-Davidson
What: The only motorcycle manufacturer
How: That makes big, loud motorcycles
Who: For macho guys (and macho “wannabes”)
Where: Mostly in the United States
Why: Who want to join a gang of cowboys
When: In an era of decreasing personal freedom.

Your Only, Only statement becomes the litmus test for future brand decisions that will keep you on target while ensuring you maintain your difference from the competition.

Promise– We define this as the pledge you make to your customers when they do business with you. Every brand should have a promise—a takeaway. This might be expressed as a tagline or as the brand message on the homepage of your website, and it is always understood as a promise delivered to the customer from the brand owner. Starbucks promises that as a brand they will “Inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” Starbucks views themselves as a company that brings more to the world than a great cup of coffee. It views itself as a lifestyle brand to consumers with a promise to affirm that. 

Perspective- We define this as the way your brand sees the world or reacts to specific situations. It defines why “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek, who coined the phrase, uses Apple as the best example of a company that leads with a clear and differentiated point of view, which is arguably the reason Apple is the most recognizable and effective brand in the world because “With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently.” As customers, we like to align ourselves with companies and brands with similar values and beliefs to our own. We often buy to feel like we belong. 

Personality– This is defined by modern8 as a collection of human based adjectives that describe your company’s characteristics, culture, voice, and qualities. Customers don’t buy experiences and products rationally. They are highly influenced by the way they feel and relate to your brand. Disney exemplifies their brand consistently through every detail and experience, and utilizes key adjectives that are integrated into their language to communicate their personality, like magical, friendly, and happy. You’d be hard pressed to find someone, despite their age, who wouldn’t feel those emotions and use those adjectives when stepping into one of Disney’s parks. The personality of Disney is how they win the hearts and minds of their guests. And this is what creates brand loyalty. 

Highly effective brands use design to communicate and connect to their brand pillars. Typically, the initial point of entry is visual, for instance, the Disney scripted logo centered upon a castle, a Harley-Davidson whizzing by, and a beautiful Apple computer being used in your neighborhood Starbucks. We are now living in a design and brand centric world. Design is where the “rubber meets the road.” Without great design based on a strategic foundation, there is no emotional connection and no lasting value.

Silicon Slopes Live with Alysha Smith

modern8’s CEO, Alysha Smith, had the opportunity to discuss all things branding, working remote, and more on Silicon Slopes’ live broadcast. You can watch it here or read the full transcript below.
Bree:
Hi, I’m Bree with Silicon Slopes. I’m the Director of Marketing and Events and we’re excited today to have Alysha Smith from modern8 here. She is CEO owner, managing director, a little bit of everything. So she’s Super Woman. And we’re going to talk to her today about modern8, her background, her experience, get a little feel for branding and design and see how that can help startups in the community. So welcome!
Alysha:
Thanks so much for being here for having me! It’s fun to be here and have a nice social distance distance between us. Close but not too close.
Bree:

So if you want to just start out telling us a little bit about yourself, your background, how you got involved in modern8, all that fun stuff.

 
 
Alysha:

Well, it’s literally a story that began, I guess you could say at birth, I was a daughter of a graphic designer. So literally since inception I’ve been influenced heavily by branding, design, aesthetics, things like that. And you could say that kind of influenced my path. However, at the age 16, I had other things on my mind like clothes and it was right around the time (this dates myself), but that Gap was really at the height of style and fashion. And so I applied many a times to work there, finally landed my dream job at 16, and I felt pretty awesome let’s say, and worked my way up through with Gap Inc. through high school and through college and even my last year at BYU. I was promoted to store manager while I finished up my degree in communications and business. And so that eventually took me to New York, where before that I had married a graphic designer who needed to finish his degree.

So we moved to the city and he went to school and I went on to manage different Banana Republics of all sizes and had a lot of success there. I was recognized company-wide for leadership excellence, people development, and visual merchandising. And although I have the dearest place in my heart for New York, it is not the easiest place to raise a family and have a career. So we came back to salt Lake city and I worked at Anthropologie as a store manager for three years. It was there that I further developed a love for aesthetics and art. I don’t know if many of you know, that Anthropologie is kind of known for their highly visually dominated environment. So it was a lot of fun to work there and to further my love of art.

Unfortunately I had some personal tragedies happen within my life, which really forced me to reevaluate how I was spending my days and nights and holidays and weekends. So I resigned and went to work for modern8, which is also my father’s business. And, you know, I spent my whole, my spent my entire career up to that point, like really just being off of a computer, you know, being on the sales floor, managing people, working with teams. And so I had to take some accounting classes and some crash courses in the Adobe suite to learn some of the tactical parts of being a design agency. But I was able to use my interpersonal skills that I had learned and management to work on projects with the designers and the clients, and just really fell in love with the process even more than I had ever been.

I came back to where I thought I’d started in the first place and got to learn from the creative director. About three and a half years ago, I bought modern8, and since then I have been working to expand our team, our offerings and our expertise in branding and design. So that’s where we are now.

Bree:
Awesome. Yeah. That’s great. And can you tell me a little bit more about modern8 and your guys’s views on branding and how you help companies kind of brand themselves and the strategic process that you go through with companies that you work with?
Alysha:
Yeah, so we believe that brands are an emotional response to design that is formed by brand pillars that make up who that brand is. So their brand personality, their voice, their positioning, et cetera. And really the point of entry for a brand to resonate with a customer or a potential client is visual. It’s why we spend hours a day on Instagram trying to get those visual dopamine hits and why we get captivated by those Instagram ads. Because they’re all so nicely designed and they are targeted specifically to you and for you. It’s the same reason we pay more money for an Apple computer. I brought some of our own Ritual Chocolate, $12 chocolate because they just look so nice, right?
Bree:
You go after things that look pretty to you, yeah!
Alysha:

Yes they do! And you know, it used to be that if you were a company, you could create a product or service and probably have some success based on word of mouth or just based on how great your product was. But now we really truly live in a design and brand centric world. So we need to talk and create our brand specifically to resonate within this new world. Design is truly where the rubber meets the road; it’s where the brand has that, “I’ve got to have it at any cost” mentality. Design is the point of entry, but it’s not the sticking point.

Creating that long lasting brand is really what’s going to create that loyalty and is going to create that resonance that lasts longterm. And that branding needs to be built, as I mentioned before, on a strategic foundation. So that brand really needs to understand who they are, their personality, what their target audiences motivations are and create specific messaging and platforms to be able to resonate with that target market target audience and stand apart from the competition. And then design is used to then communicate that strategy. So, you know, at modern8, we always do strategy first and then we design based on that strategy.

Bree:
That’s awesome. And one thing that you mentioned before we got on stage was that brand is not just a logo. And I think some companies think that’s how it is, but like you said, it’s not just getting people in the door, it’s keeping them there. And that is through brand and design and strategy. It all works together. It all works together and truly you’re right.
Alysha:

Your logo is not your brand, your brand exists in the minds of your customers. So it’s up to you to control and create that perception within your customers. And we believe that design can truly create those feelings and perceptions and that perceived value. And with that perception, you can really control that customer’s behavior and get them to be a long lasting customer.

Bree:
Definitely. So you mentioned Apple. So I think I know your answer to this question, but what do you think is the best brand in the world and why, how do they create that?
Alysha:

Yeah, so I would absolutely still stand by that answer, which is Apple. I remember back in 2002, when I first moved to New York, it was right when, the first generation of iPad pods had just come out. I wasn’t fortunate enough to own the first generation, but I did get the second. I remember sitting on the subway and looking out and you could spot, you know, maybe every other ride, like one person with those white earbuds. And you could kind of like wink and nod and know that you were in this little Apple club. It was really like a fun “we’re in this together” thing. And then from there, of course, Apple has just grown. And I can’t think of many people that don’t own an iPhone these days.

I would say that Nike is another brand [like that]. We get customers or clients coming in all the time that are like, I want a brand that looks like Apple’s clean, simple, recognizable. I want a brand that sounds like Nike, that feels like Nike. And they really just hit on the head. There was a Seth Godin podcast that I heard recently where he talked about if you were to go to a hotel that was designed by Apple, you would know it, it wouldn’t even need the name.

You would feel it, you would know it. The same thing goes with Nike, right? But if Marriott had designed a shoe or designed a computer, you wouldn’t be able to recognize that shoe because Marriott doesn’t have a brand. They have a lot of hotels, but not a brand.

Bree:

Yeah, definitely. It’s funny, my husband and I will kind of play this game or we’ll try to guess the brand or company from a commercial. An Apple is the easiest one to guess, because you could just tell.

Alysha:

Right! You can look at it from a mile away and cover up the logo and know exactly like what you’re looking at.

Bree:

For sure. Well let’s shift gears a little bit. Like we said, we’re sitting six feet apart—social distancing—because, obviously, crazy times right now. But one thing that modern8 did was you guys launched a One Utah quarantine pitch competition. Can you tell us a little bit more about what prompted it, how it’s gone, and how you guys wanted to impact the community in that way?

Alysha:

Well, I think, as soon as quarantine, or pandemic—or whatever we’re calling it—COVID happened. We realized kind of a couple of different things. One is that we probably won’t be doing any major rebrands for companies for a very long time. And two, as you mentioned, we wanted to, we felt just awful. We felt really grateful and fortunate that we are able to continue doing business. We didn’t lose any clients and we’re able to work remote and weren’t really affected by this yet, you know, like knock on wood, but, um, recognize that there are so many individuals out there that were laid off and wanted to provide them an opportunity to get a leg up. So we wanted to kind of give back to the community. So we partnered with you, we partnered with kiln and some other organizations to launch this, this contest.

And we had many talented, smart entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to us. We picked two and right now we’re in the middle of working through our strategic process. Our brand design process. And  right now we’re in D2. So we just had our workshops with them just yesterday actually. And last week for the other one. So Droplet and Jeri are the two that won.

We’re just so excited for them and we also wanted to signal to other startups that we don’t just work with with big companies, we work with  startups as well. We want to be a part of whatever success that we can and give them a leg up in terms of giving them a strategic foundation and an identity. As well as just the things that they would need to get started without going into too much debt.

Bree:

Especially in a time where most people aren’t wanting to start anything. That’s great. And to kind of continue in that you mentioned your team started working remotely and I know a hot topic right now is leadership during these times. So for you, what’s kind of two or three leadership qualities that you think are most important, especially during these unprecedented times that we’re experiencing right now?

Alysha:

These are definitely different times and I was telling Bree just moments ago that our three year lease ended yesterday and we decided not to renew it. So I don’t think I would have ever dreamed of going remote, and so being open to change, especially now, during these times, is very important for a leader to be flexible. Beyond just logistically being able to run a business remotely, I’ve also been able to think about how I lead in a different way. And part of this is just my history, learning from other people that have bandaged me, like punching in a time clock, making sure you get your hours in, looking busy, all of those things.

There’s certainly some of that influence, but now I’m shifting my mindset and thinking it’s more about the output that comes out of this rather than the amount of time that was spent on that output. So I’m really able to value the successes and whether that took two hours or eight hours, it doesn’t matter. What really matters is the quality that came out of that. Then also being able to recognize the different ways that people need to be managed and led in this new environment. I have regular zoom calls with my people just so I can really still tap into seeing them and being able to read how they’re feeling and that body language. Staying on top of problems before they arise through those visual points of communication is really important.

Bree:

Yeah, for sure. You mentioned before we came on stage that with a bigger company you may not be able to Zoom call every single employee, but training your employees to be able to do that to the people that they supervise and passing that down through the company and through the culture is super important as well.

Alysha:

Right now I manage a team of 10 and so it’s very easy to have those close relationships, but I’ve also managed in teams of over a hundred and it really starts at the top. So if you can create that structure of really seeing the person as a whole and having empathy and trust from the top down, and then you can create those structures and systems to be able to continue all the way down through direct reports and conversations. Those things can still thrive no matter how large your organization truly is.

Bree:

Definitely, and it’s so important as well. I’m shifting a little bit to some more fun questions, not COVID related. What’s been the best project you’ve worked on?

Alysha:

So I have a toddler, she’s four, and my first child is now 14. There’s a big gap between babies. So when I was pregnant with my now four year old, I found a brand that I just fell in love with through social media. I fell in love with the aesthetics. Before I had her, I literally registered for everything possible of that brand. And when we were approached by this brand, Little Unicorn, back in spring of last year, I went nuts. I was like, “Are you kidding me? I didn’t realize this brand was local.” So we got to rebrand them! We took them through our D5 process, we got to work on the strategic part of their brand. Then we got to redesign their packaging and refresh their logo. We put together this beautiful brand book that deployed the assets of everything that we had created.

They were a dream to work with. Not only because we share similar points of view, but they’re all just wonderful, wonderful people. One of my favorite moments we had was when we gave them our strategy presentation to a group of them, it was emotional. It was really emotional because we worked on their brand story and their brand narrative, which is very emotionally driven. I made the owner cry and walk out and take a moment and come back. Anyway, it was just such a fun project.

Bree:

It all ties to what you’ve been saying with brand and strategy. You want to connect to your customers, and a one huge way to connect is emotionally. So that shows that a brand can be that impactful to people.

Alysha:

Yeah in fact, it really needs to be. It needs to touch on—we call it the head and the heart. The head is the positioning. It’s what you do that no one else does, and then the brand is really that heart. It’s the personality, it’s the story that you’re telling, it’s your voice. Those things together really truly create a strategic platform that can resonate. Then, like I said, we use design to communicate those strategies as they all work together.

Bree:

That’s awesome. So another question is what would be your dream client to work with? It doesn’t have to be a specific company, but maybe for modern8, what does a company look like if they come in and you would really want to work with them as a dream client?

Alysha:

Well, I think a dream client really could be summed up as someone that has a business, product, or service that has a lot of promise, but doesn’t understand how to communicate that value and that potential and wants to work with us to really dig in to understand and to create those touch points for them. As a woman, I would love to work with other women led businesses. We’ve been targeting more women’s businesses as of late, because it’s something I’m passionate about and I want to get in there and work with other women. But that dream client is someone that needs help realizing their potential and wants to do the process with it, and of course, someone that really values and understands great design too.

Bree:

Of course. Yeah. That’s awesome, for sure. So to kind of wrap things up, what is the future of modern8? What are you guys planning? Anything that you can let us know? What do you see? I know you mentioned your leas is up and it is kind of a unpredictable future, but what do you have in store?

Alysha:

We are going to continue doing what we do best. We’re not a marketing company that happens to do to branding. We are a brand design agency, so we’re going to stick to what we know and hopefully as brands come about, or as new brands startup they will come to us and we can work together to grow brands. Then as things start to stabilize then we’ll have more rebrands. We’ve also started developing our own products and branding those, so we hope to be able to do more of those in the future. We just launched a coffee company and we’ll be doing other products as well.

Then for the future of where we’re going to live and breathe, I think for the foreseeable future, we’ll be working remote. I think one other great thing about working remote is it allows us to tap into the talent that’s out there in a way that we maybe wouldn’t have been able to do before. So that’s really exciting to me. I think we’ll just kind of keep our ears and eyes out for a new space to move into once things kind of settle in and maybe a space that’ll better suit our needs of a photography studio, maybe a coffee shop and, and certainly more of a communal based gathering for us to meet with clients and have meetings, events, and things like that.

Bree:

Thank you so much. It was great having you here and I appreciate you taking the time and this is fun with all your future endeavors.

The Sure Hand

How Strategy Guides Design

The first book I read on branding was nearly 40 years ago. Only we didn’t call it “branding” in 1981. And it wasn’t even a book that belonged to me. A friend gave me Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, a renowned marketing classic that clearly stated if you want to stand out, your company must create a position inside your customer’s head.

The importance of that idea hasn’t really changed in the four decades since. Successful branding starts in the head. When we do a Head and Heart Workshop, we are establishing the brand connections between our client’s strategy (the head) and the matching design (the heart).

We believe that a brand exists as an emotional response to design, based on strategic definitions of who you are: the brand personality, voice, archetype, and only/only (amongst others). So, clearly, brand design is much more than a logo. That’s simply the vehicle that identifies your brand.

A couple years ago, a Bay area tech subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker contacted us about developing a brand identity for a company, then known as Aura. They needed to define who they are and how they are different from their competitors—and they needed a new name and identity.

Strategy comes first. Then we design.

Based on the approved brand strategy, we proposed a selection of new names and identities for Aura. Since our client brings together employers and job seekers in an underserved industrial workforce, Surehand became the new company name. The name was selected based on the idea that a sure hand guides the use of technology to improve job satisfaction.

We launched into our next stage, and presented logo proposals that were all figurative, as we recognized the metaphorical power of both animal and human based symbols. We proposed an ox and a horse, as well as the chosen concept; the universally recognized handshake. Each had merits and reflected the strategy, but the name and selected logo clearly reinforce each other.

The typography that accompanies the symbol was chosen to reinforce the idea of a sure hand. It is a sans serif typeface, yet it’s not a modern, perfected sans serif, like Helvetica. This is a Gothic type from the 1800s, with a character that matches the focus of the images from our emotional response exercise and were selected by the client; they were care, craftsmanship, and simplicity.

Like people, brands have personalities and can be categorized according to universally recognized traits. There are twelve primary brand archetypes that represent recurring character themes that surface time and time again, such as the Hero, the Ruler, and the Caregiver. Our process showed that Surehand fit squarely into the Citizen, with qualities like respect, fairness, and accountability. Those qualities are clearly represented in Surehand’s purpose and technology, that brings together job seekers and employers, and builds upon the Citizen archetype and the handshake symbol. Other Citizen types include Habitat for Humanity, Rosa Parks, and Tom’s Shoes.

Beyond personality, we’re strategic about color. Tangerine Orange, a primary Surehand corporate color, combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It stands for enthusiasm, creativity, and attraction. These qualities fit perfectly with the outcomes associated with finding a new job or hiring the perfect employee. Additionally, Prussian Blue is the complementary color for orange, as they’re directly across from each other on the color wheel, and is the additional Surehand corporate color. Blue is oft associated with knowledge and has always been the symbol of truth.

To embolden the brand even further, photography for Surehand has a focus on real people connecting. A photojournalistic style, rather than staged imagery, captures personality in an authentic, humanistic way—all integral attributes of the brand as well. Color blocks and hairline details are complimentary graphic elements that, when consistently used, become recognizable brand identifiers.

So, did our “heart” based solutions for Surehand reflect the “head” based and approved strategy? We think so.

Where Are the Black Designers?

Ask yourself the following question:
How many Black designers do I know?

15% of the US population is Black yet they only make up 3% of the design community. This statistic has not changed much within the past 20 years and we need to do something about it. We should see 15% of the Black population represented in all aspects of design.⠀

Maurice Cherry of Revision Path, a weekly podcast that features Black creatives, gave a SXSW presentation on the barriers that are preventing Black people from pursuing a career in design.

Some barriers and issues include the fact that Black people were not able to pursue design education until desegregation in the 60s, the expensive cost of design education, and lazy employers who have not diligently worked to employ, maintain, and support Black designers. All of these are just a few of the examples of how systemic racism is so deeply rooted, in a multitude of ways, and continues to affect employment opportunities.⠀

We encourage you, as we’re encouraging ourselves, to do your part as a designer/creative/business owner. You can start by supporting Black creatives, especially those in our own state. Follow them, hire them, support their work, leave reviews, tell your friends, and CREDIT them for their work!

Below are four incredible designers located in Utah.

ARLANDER TAYLOR IV

ARLANDER TAYLOR IV

Arlander is a Natural Gas Trading and Optimization Analyst by day, and a self taught designer with many successful side projects the rest of the time. Some of which include work for Adidas, Atlanta Design Festival, and SLC streetwear shop, Fice Gallery and Boutique. Check out his work here.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and moved to Birmingham, Alabama after Hurricane Katrina.

What is your education background?
I graduated with a degree in finance from Tuskegee University. After graduation, I got an offer to work for Goldman Sachs as a Global Investment Research Analyst here in Salt Lake. I worked there for about two years, and I now currently work as a Natural Gas Trading and Optimization analyst for Summit Energy, a local Natural Gas company.

What do you like to do outside of design?
I really enjoy boxing and hiking.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest accomplishment to date would be be launching and maintaining my graphic design practice while still working my day job in finance.

Favorite Vine/TikTok/internet vid:
The Fibonacci Sequence: Nature’s Code

CHRIS OWENS

Chris is a Creative Director at Canvas Studio and could probably design with his eyes closed  standing on his head. You can see more of his projects here.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the island of Guam. The military brought me and my family to Utah.

What is your education background?
I went to Weber State and finished up at Provo College. I’m a visual interactive designer, a fancy way of saying I design beautiful interfaces and make them move. 😉

What do you like to do outside of design?
Outside of design I’m a breakdancer, and help rule our nonprofit called 1520 Arts.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest accomplishment is expanding on my design skill into motion. It was very challenging to learn to animate UI elements for interactive apps and websites.

Favorite Vine/TikTok/internet vid:
Kevin Hart on: Rollercoasters

DAVID ONWUKEME

David is an ambitious multi-disciplinary design student at the University of Utah who will do big things.

Where did you grow up?
I began the first half of my youth in Lagos, Nigeria and spent the latter half in Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.

What is your education background?
After graduating high school in 2017, I moved to Utah to pursue a degree in multi-disciplinary design at The University of Utah.

What do you like to do outside of design?
Outside of design, I love to do music research. I’m extremely fascinated with the post-war rock scene in Nigeria, as well as Nigeria’s broader music scenes from the 70s to early 90s (Fela Kuti, Joni Haastrup, Sonny Okosun, King Sunny Ade, etc.). Aside from that, I’ve recently fallen more in love with coding.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest accomplishment would probably be gaining acceptance to the U’s Multi-Disciplinary Design Program, learning from the teachings and direction of Cord Bowen and Elpitha Tsoutsounakis has been an extremely eye-opening and life-changing experience.

Favorite Vine/TikTok/internet vid:
Roger Waters’ Synth Noodlin’

CAMILLE NUGENT

Buffy is a senior designer at Dinng, and a creative in many other aspects of her life. View her work here.

CAMILLE NUGENT

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Jamaica.

What is your education background?
I came to Utah to attend BYU after I graduated high school. I got my BFA with an emphasis on drawing and painting. I still love to do that (painting) when I can.

What do you like to do outside of design?
I also love dancing, golf, travel, yoga, and I’m a bodybuilding competitor.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
A couple of my favorite/biggest accomplishments have been working with Adobe on art exhibits featuring Black Utah artists for Black history month and for a Juneteenth celebration… Also planning competing nationally in bodybuilding

Resources for hiring Black creatives

Each month, modern8 will be doing a spotlight on a company or organization that we admire. Some of them might be clients, current or old, and some may not, but one this is for sure, our features will be on businesses we admire with really, really cool people. Each month you’ll just have to wait and read for yourself to find out who.

In these spotlights and interviews, we want to provide you a sense of who these businesses are. We want to share who we find intriguing and undeniably interesting while also giving you a bit more of the story and the experience of the companies. We hope these stories will intrigue you, introduce you, or inspire you regarding something and someone new.

Branding in a Pandemic

A few weeks ago, I was pretty nervous about talking live over Instagram to 1,300 strangers. I know a lot about branding, but branding in a pandemic isn’t as simple. I had to put more research and reflection into my preparation.

What we can all agree on is that the current climate of consumer spending is unstable. As consumers, we are all rethinking how we spend our money and the effects of the crisis may not be realized for yet another six to ten months. Discretionary spending will be squeezed from all ends, and we will ALL be more cost conscious, if we aren’t already. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a new brand can’t launch during this crisis, but it must answer the obvious question—does it address a current need?

Does your product or service make communicating, buying, traveling, working from home easier or more accessible? We are all experiencing a mindset shift since being forced to work, learn, and homeschool within our four walls. modern8 would have never considered running a service business virtually, but, by being forced into a new way of thinking about and leveraging technology, we are making it work and may never go back. During the last recession, several businesses used this shift in mindset to launch, and they still continue to thrive—Groupon found a way to bring coupon clipping to our inboxes, Slack helped us stay in touch with our work teams, Venmo eliminated the need to carry a checkbook, WhatsApp gave us a vehicle to communicate no matter where we are in the world, and Rent the Runway made fashion accessible and affordable.

The second consideration is an evaluation of your value proposition and competitive advantage—is it different and distinct enough to stand out in a crowded market? The current market is highlighting disparities in value from product to product and service to service. If you are a challenger brand, and not the first to market in your space, then now is an opportunity to prove your value against the bigger, slower leaders in your competitive landscape. Messaging that targets your audience and relates to WHY your product is needed above the others can cut through and get noticed. There is an opportunity to leverage the current circumstances to provide more value to your current and potential customers, to make your offering more accessible, and to analyze and balance the current needs of your market. This doesn’t mean giving more for less, but it might mean reevaluating the customer experience, creating helpful content, marketing with empathy, giving gratitude and donations, or providing a sense of place and belonging for your audience. Make your brand invaluable to your customers.

We are currently working with a direct-to-consumer brand called Wave Coffee, which is set to launch in the next month. We debated pressing pause and waiting to launch the product after the pandemic, but Wave addresses a current need—get coffee delivered regularly without the risk of going out and picking it up. There’s also the fact that the target market for Wave has already been defined, the aesthetics have already been designed to resonate within its market space, and the messaging has been crafted to speak to those preferences and motivations. Though Wave is not going to be the first to market in the coffee subscription space, it can still provide simple access to a product that promotes shared experiences, even during these times of uncertainty, can be purchased at a justifiable price point, and will take advantage of the shift in mindset while getting noticed for its value.

A brand is a promise of value to be received. A brand is the totality of perceptions that you see, hear, read, know, feel, and think about and have been embodied in a product or service. A pandemic could be the right time to establish or pivot your brand to reestablish a distinctive position in a potential customer’s mind based on their past experiences, current associations, and future expectations.

A brand is a shortcut for gaining and expressing beliefs and values for consumers. These promises of specific beliefs and values will also differentiate your brand while simplifying the decision making process for your consumers. There is always a means to exceed industry and market expectations, and create surprise for an audience that never knew, in their mind, what they were missing.

The (Imperfect) Brand Story We Tell

Why a crisis is the time to give brands personalities, context, and meaning

The thought of being vulnerable makes them red in the face. Every image is perfectly posed, perfectly lit, and perfectly filtered. They refuse to show imperfection. Sound like anyone you know? Or perhaps a brand you know?

Brands, like people, can suffer from social anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, by their very nature, brands are supposed to be in the spotlight, interacting with the public everyday and even multiple times a day on social media. Every chance a brand gets to show its personality and tell its story is vitally important, yet many brands waste the opportunity by hiding who they are behind boring facts.

In contrast, the very best brands let their unique personalities shine through. They stand up in front of the crowd, unashamed and unafraid of how others will perceive them. There are many brands right now who choose to be honest about how the pandemic is changing their future. Fashion brand, Tamara Mellon, admits to why they need to keep their annual sale as scheduled, even though many women aren’t thinking about a new pair of heels right now, because their business, like others, just can’t afford not to continue with planned sales. There are also brands that need to pivot their business operations to survive, and are taking this opportunity to tell a different story. Nordstrom is now focusing on a new plan for sustainability and phasing out plastic bags. “Through this COVID-19 crisis, we’ve been given a unique opportunity to reimagine our future and rethink what kind of company we want to be for our customers, employees and shareholders,” said President and Chief Brand Officer Pete Nordstrom. Brands should be prepared to let their perspectives come through in a growing brand story; this story that is changing minute by minute, and is so much more substantial and honest than those that attempt to hide and deny reality

Stories are a part of human nature. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Mankind has always passed on knowledge, learned lessons, and imagined adventures through storytelling. We use stories to give our personalities context and meaning.

A story is not only the best way of earning an audience’s attention but its heart as well. It breaks down barriers, allowing people to understand you and forgive you your weaknesses because they can see how your story relates to them. Moreso than this, an established story is memorable and should encapsulate what the brand ideals are, and should be the blueprint for how the brand interacts with the world.

The real secret is choosing the right story for your brand. Just like any person, a brand can have any number of stories that define it. These stories can range from seemingly insignificant, to monumental. Last year, we worked with Little Unicorn for a brand design refresh. During the process, we found that the real connection between the brand and the consumer was the story of real parenting and the story of the moments with your child—that story will be messy and sometimes a little dull, but it won’t be boring. Their story of imperfection makes an authentic connection with their audience and allows an opportunity for their brand personality to resonate. Many of us are currently stuck at home with babies and kids, trying to balance parenthood with work. Life is less than perfect and sometimes we make choices that sacrifice one for the other—letting that spill go unwiped, mid-video conference hugs, or sharing a bowl of mac and cheese for lunch. Creating marketing messages that prioritize their customers and their ability to share intimate moments with new or growing families through their products, tells a story of understanding and empathy.

The reason this story of imperfection is important is because it’s emotional and sticky. Those who read it will come away with feelings about the company based on their stories and will bring that perspective to all other interactions with that brand.

Chip and Dan Heath, authors and columnists for Fast Company magazine, expounded on what makes an idea (or story) sticky, and it’s a lesson that all brands can benefit from; like Little Unicorn’s story, the Heath’s suggest it must be simple (the story of your child), unexpected (the story is messy and sometimes a little dull), concrete (everyday is a story), credible (we all have a memory of childhood to hold on to), and emotional (enhancing the beauty of real parenting). Not all stories have all these elements, but the more they have, the more effective they are.

Admittedly, finding your personality and finding a way to communicate it through a story that stands out and connects with your audience amid so much clutter may be daunting. For every good story out there, there are dozens of completely forgettable ones. It’s all the more reason to put the extra effort into finding, creating, and crafting a good story.

If a good brand story is worth having, it is worth telling.

Spotlight on Publik Coffee

In this modern8 April 2020 spotlight, we talk to Missy Greis of Publik Coffee.

Who are you, what do you do/work role, what is your company?

I’m Missy Greis, the founder/owner of Publik which includes Publik Coffee, Publik Space, Publik Kitchen, Publik Ed’s and soon-to-be Publik Works (in the new Industry SLC building).

Everyday is different with respect to my tasks and my workflow. We joke that I am both the Director of Facilities for the four locations (which means coordinating any building + equipment repairs + furniture and aesthetic updates and designs within each of the four walls) and I’m the Marketing Department  — we don’t actually have one, but I’m the one in charge of our PR, social media posts, community engagement, as well as our merchandise + apparel with our awesome partners at BrandAid. But I absolutely gather input and collaborate with our leadership team.

How or why did you begin your company/brand partnership?

Publik began as an adaptive reuse building project of a 1940/1960’s warehouse that I had purchased. The intention was to house Pubilk Coffee + Publik Space which were part of a new business partnership, and then a very quick dissolution of that partnership within the first year. In the second year, Publik Coffee launched me into opening an additional coffeehouse in the Avenues and our restaurant on 9th/9th, both housed in two other SLC properties that I own. Then along came Publik Ed’s (in the space near the U that was formerly “Big Ed’s”). The synthesis of the four locations has been pretty quick and wonderful.

How have you worked to redefine your industry?

I think the simple fact of coffee (+ breweries, distilleries) in Utah is growing is the redefinition and it’s about all of the trail blazers in our city! There are so many good coffee companies in SLC and we’re all very friendly. In fact, the Utah Coffee Collective was created last year to bring the industry together. I serve on that board and we are establishing some collaborative relationships within the industry.

What future collaborations and plans are we going to be seeing?

We’re about to open in the new Industry SLC building, which is 300,000 sq ft of amazing office spaces of various sizes from 100 to 60,000 sq feet. One of the tenant amenities is an auditorium and we’ll be doing catering + coffee for that as well as the whole building. “Publik Works”, the cafe + coffee bar, opens this summer.

What are the characteristics of your brand?

Quality over quantity, community over corporate, planet over profit

What guiding words do you have for other woman beginning their own business?

Set your intention. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and who have entirely different or complementary skill sets. Trust the process.

Why does what you do matter?

Perhaps the biggest impact that our company makes, and one of the most important things for me, is in providing a safe and inclusive environment for our employees to learn a craft + develop skills, and to do those things in a place that accepts them for who they are. We’re also proud to serve quality coffee + good food in spaces that help elevate the customer experience.

What things influence your company?

We try to walk the talk of “planet over profit in every way. We are the only coffee roastery in Utah that is 100% solar powered that also has an oxidizer, which filters out 96% of the particulates created during the roasting process. We don’t want to contribute to the air quality issues that SLC suffers from. We use local products wherever we can, like Amour Jam, Red Bicycle Breadworks (City Cakes for our gluten free) and Rosehill Dairy. We have sustainable + recycling practices built into our daily processes at all four locations. We compost all of our coffee grounds + the accompanying filters and we dispose of our restaurant’s food waste using the food digester at Wasatch Resource Recovery in North SL.

How can customers help you during this time?

While we all navigate the current COVID-19 situation and the indefinite + extended closure of many small businesses, Publik would love your support in the form of gift card purchases for use when their doors reopen – Gift cards can be used at all four Publik locations : Publik Coffee (downtown + Avenues), Publik Kitchen + Publik Ed’s.

Each month, modern8 will be doing a spotlight on a company or organization that we admire. Some of them might be clients, current or old, and some may not, but one this is for sure, our features will be on businesses we admire with really, really cool people. Each month you’ll just have to wait and read for yourself to find out who.

In these spotlights and interviews, we want to provide you a sense of who these businesses are. We want to share who we find intriguing and undeniably interesting while also giving you a bit more of the story and the experience of the companies. We hope these stories will intrigue you, introduce you, or inspire you regarding something and someone new.

Spotlight on Normal® Ice Cream

In this modern8 March 2020 spotlight, we talk to Alexa Norlin of Normal® Ice Cream.

Due to the current risk of COVID-19, Normal’s ice cream is only available through online order for curbside pickup. The products online are what are currently available. modern8 is a fan, and Normal® does a great job in providing real-time updates on their site. One thing they do request from customers, who are picking up orders, is to send them a text using the provided phone number on the site. You can also show your support by purchasing a gift card now to use in the future or (even better) show someone you social distance care by sending them a Normal® gift card. They’ll both feel your love and support, and we all win!

What was the intent behind beginning your own brand?

I wanted to take one item that I loved most, and make it the best I possibly could. I LOVE ice cream, seriously, so much. I think we live in a world that many get away with mediocrity and I want to stand against that! At Normal®, we do soft serve the best we know how. I also wanted to create a brand that would never be painted into a corner. A fear of choosing a brand color led me to utilizing iridescent rainbow in so many ways. Could have been so tacky, or so great – I hope it’s perceived as the latter! A fear of landing on an ice cream based name lead me to Normal®. We have the room to grow into different areas in the future – that is something I care the most about. I change my mind a million times a minute, so being stuck in one space is a real life nightmare. Normal is what it is, and can be whatever you want it to be!

What other businesses and individuals inspire your business?

I keep a tight group of friends and fellow business owners, with whom I talk about literally *everything*… admittedly sometimes more focused on business woes than business wins. BUT even those negative conversations can push you right back up, even when you’re the most down. On a broader, less local scale, I spend a lot of my time listening to both small and big business focused podcasts, instagram accounts, and books. Instagram naturally is more of a visual inspiration, though there are a few chefs out there that I intentionally pay close mind to. Toothache Magazine is a publication “by chefs, for chefs” by Nick Muncy—a Michelin pastry chef from San Francisco. These are the types of things I live for—beautifully created and curated. When I feel uninspired, I kick back to my pastry chef roots and start creating dishes… then somehow they magically turn into ice cream flavors, or composed cones.

What guiding words do you have for other woman beginning their own business?

JUST FREAKIN’ DO IT – I mean, seriously. Everyone in the world has amazing ideas, but get out there and make it happen. We can do it better than they can.

How do you use social media when it comes to your brand?

To be honest, I truly dislike social media—there, I said it! I see it as a terrible game, but I HAVE to win. That being said, Normal® would seriously not exist if it weren’t for Instagram. I am so fortunate to have created a visually appealing product (served from a very cute truck) that made others want to come and take their own photos. This aspect of “free marketing” is priceless. I use instagram as the primary communication strategy – though I plan to utilize newsletters and website content more strongly in 2020. I want the Instagram to become less of an inundation of “buy this,” “look at this cool thing we made,” and more of a visually inspiring, interactive, and hopefully informative reel of content. I expect this to have a negative affect on our engagement rates – especially since it’s algorithm changes before you even caught up on the last one, BUT if we can build a brand to not financially rely SO heavily on a social media platform, and have it more as a point of interest, I think we really WILL have won!

What things influence your company?

I would like to think I am aware of the goings on of this industry – be it ice cream, desserts, or even food as the most generalized form. I come from a very strict pastry background and have been playing *ahem* working in kitchens my entire adult life.

I like to keep a little of that “weirdness” at Normal® by creating composed cones that have some interesting elements, or you know… wasabi + white chocolate soft serve. Aside from food, I am very inspired by the wild and creative world we live in. I curate my social media feed with pastry chefs, artists, graphic designers, etc with things I find visually interesting. I follow quite a few very successful businesses, take SuperMoon Bakehouse for example—great product, even better voice. That’s what it’s all about—right? The voice. I am forever working on creating a voice that isn’t ALL me, but has some of me. Balance? It’s hard.

How has your company evolved as it’s grown?

Oh man, I used to do literally EVERYTHING. Wild. I think I blacked out for the first nine months. I have zero idea what happened, but I was there, on the truck, dippin’ cones. I had a business partner transition in late 2018 that was truly life changing. I was in a bad spot – Normal was in a bad spot. A bad partnership can kill the most alive thing. Since then, I not only have the support Normal® (and I) needed, but we have had the ability to push and grow the way I envisioned. The STORE! It’s finally open! We have baby-sized factory in the basement where we make nearly everything we sell. This is where we plan to expand most, while keeping up with the upstairs at the store, and the truck AKA Normal Lab. I care the absolute most about the brand. I will do anything and everything to protect and nurture that as Normal grows. I still do all of the creative direction, social media, etc myself. I know there will be a time that I need to let that go, but am 100% not ready yet.

Each month, modern8 will be doing a spotlight on a company or organization that we admire. Some of them might be clients, current or old, and some may not, but one this is for sure, our features will be on businesses we admire with really, really cool people. Each month you’ll just have to wait and read for yourself to find out who.

In these spotlights and interviews, we want to provide you a sense of who these businesses are. We want to share who we find intriguing and undeniably interesting while also giving you a bit more of the story and the experience of the companies. We hope these stories will intrigue you, introduce you, or inspire you regarding something and someone new.

 

Designing Joy

HOW AESTHETICS CREATE FEEL GOOD MOMENTS (A LOT OF WHICH WE NEED RIGHT NOW) 

One of my neighbors last week dropped off a box of pastel colored outdoor chalk with a handwritten note. The note explained how chalk was used by the children in Italy to bring peace and happiness to those who needed it during this time of uncertainty. My three-year-old immediately recognized the chalk and demanded we go outside that very moment. We both have a love for rainbows so that is the first thing we drew together followed by some clouds, a sun, and our names. Drawing those objects with bright colors brought me back to my own childhood—when feelings of delight seemed to be in abundance. Every day since, I look down and step over the rainbow, sun, and clouds, and those same feelings of joy come over me.

I didn’t immediately recognize those feelings as joy, but on a recent Monday we watched a very timely TED Talk in our morning Zoom meeting titled “Where Joy Hides and How to Find It” by Ingrid Fetell Lee. I smiled as Lee immediately caught my eye wearing a dress in one of my favorite color combinations, red and purple. She starts off her talk by recalling her senior portfolio critique and the feedback she received from several years worth of effort was “Your work gives me a feeling of joy.” “Joy? Joy is nice, but it’s kind of light—not substantial.” This idea set her on a journey to understand the relationship between the physical world and mysterious emotion we call “joy”. What she discovered is that not only are they linked, but that the physical world can be a powerful resource to us in creating happier, healthier lives. 

Like you, I am spending my days at home managing my life in an uncertain future; running a business, entertaining, and homeschooling my kids while trying to stay physically and mentally healthy, and being overly cautious in all of my actions. It feels unrealistic to focus on the pursuit of overall happiness, but drawing and walking over chalk rainbows brings me joy—an intense, momentary experience of positive emotion. As psychologists explain, joy is different from happiness, which measures how good we feel over time. Joy is about feeling good in the moment, feeling good when life feels out of our control.

This week I have made an effort to notice objects and things around me that bring me joy. Things like the fresh flowers on my coffee table, the new VW electric bus I saw an ad for, the artwork hanging on my walls, the rainbow sprinkles on our ice cream cones, white clouds against the blue sky, pink frosted sugar cookies, artists I follow on instagram that use color and whimsy in their work. Like Lee, I too noticed that although feelings of joy are mysterious and elusive, I am able to access them through the tangible, physical aesthetics that surround me. While these observations may seem juvenile at first glance, if we hold ourselves back from the enjoyment of aesthetics in color, patterns, and symmetry, we might miss hidden opportunities of joy. 

This realization sent me on a crusade to create and design, for myself and my family, a space where moments of joy can happen often. We are wearing more color and making our beds. We are drawing, coloring, and creating art. I have a separate instagram account that is curated with artists, objects, and animals that make me smile. We are getting balloons when we pick up our groceries. There are more fresh flowers, bubble baths—I am intentionally putting us in the path of joy. 

Seeking and creating joy offers an alternative to seeking out “happiness” in our current state of affairs. Perhaps in several years when we reflect upon this time, the little moments might add up to more importance and significance. Because if we stop, seek, and create joy in our surroundings, we might see it’s already happening around us. And we all need to take notice of that right now.