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.

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.

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. 

Spotlight on Ritual Chocolate

In this modern8 February 2020 spotlight, we talk to Anna Davies of Ritual Chocolate. Ritual is a craft chocolate company based in Park City, UT who also happens to be a modern8 client—you can see more here. And we do suggest that if you haven’t tried their chocolate yet then you get up off the sofa and find one—or order it from the comfort of your sofa. Two choices, both work.
Anna Davies of Ritual Chocolate.
Why did you begin Ritual Chocolate?
I started Ritual as I wanted to create and be part of something I could put my values and passions into. I loved chocolate and felt it was something I could really take in many different directions and make my own. There was so much poor quality chocolate on the market at the time, that I wanted to see what it would take to make exceptional quality chocolate that people could feel good about eating.
 
How have you worked to redefine and stand out in the chocolate industry?

We are one of the earlier craft chocolate makers in the US and we have really tried to stay the course with exceptional quality and let that define our process as we grow.

 

What was your intention behind starting your own brand?

We wanted to start a company we could put our values into. We loved the idea of having full transparency and control of every step of the chocolate making process, building a brand and product around our own passions.

 

What truly inspired you to actually begin your own brand?

I think something that inspired us to start Ritual was actually the lack of great quality chocolate available when we had the idea in 2009. We were really getting into good food, but we felt like there was something lacking when it came to good chocolate. It was hard to get the true story behind a chocolate company’s sourcing and process, let alone finding chocolate with unique flavor.

Define your brand in three characteristics:
  • Quality Product
  • Sustainability Beliefs
  • The Mountain Lifestyle

What guiding words do you have for other women working to begin their own business?

Jump in, get started, and keep going. We all question ourselves and never feel quite ready or qualified enough—I still have imposter syndrome and I’ve been building Ritual for 10 years.


Why do you use social media for Ritual?

I think social media is such a great tool for helping to tell your brand story. We have so much information to get across about our process and why Ritual is unique. Chocolate is very visual and it’s great to show the process rather than just explain it in words to connect with people.


What things influence Ritual?

Nature and being in the mountains—and our community, we really try to listen to our customers and adapt to their needs. Definitely, other specialty food makers following their passion and making exceptional quality products.


What was the defining moment for Ritual?

We started Ritual in Denver and, four and half years in, we just weren’t happy there. We really went back to the beginning and thought, Why did we start Ritual? It was to not make compromises and strive to live a life that is fulfilling to us. And that is when we took the leap to move to Park City. So many people thought we were crazy to leave one of the fastest growing cities in the US at the time, but we couldn’t be happier living in a much smaller town in the mountains. We feel more inspired by having better access to nature and, as we are happier, we bring that energy into the business.

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.

 

Make Vision Real

Executives set the vision but the designers execute it.  

 

“A computer on every desk and in every home.”

 

That was the imaginative and unfathomable vision statement Microsoft wrote when they were founded in 1975—only 45 years ago. In the years that have passed since, that vision is a reality.  A vision statement is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a statement that describes where the company envisions itself to be upon achieving their mission, and the executives of the company have the responsibility for setting such an aspiration for an organization.

 

But for many, the problem isn’t setting the vision—it’s executing the vision. And according to a comprehensive new report, design can make that vision real. 

The Chicago-based IIT Institute of Design has completed a major study, titled “Lead with Purpose,” with the purpose of identifying design’s role in realizing executive vision. The Institute, founded in 1937 as the New Bauhaus, conducted qualitative one-on-one interviews with over 50 business and design practitioners.

 

We’re past the point now where we feel the need to promote the idea that design makes good business sense. Recent reports from Fjord, InVision, and McKinsey have clearly and quantifiably demonstrated that design offers great value to organizations. What the ID study makes clear now is where design meets strategy. 

 

The vision of an organization, set by the executives, is strategic. But as one respondent in the report said, “The connection of strategy to execution is where we fall down, and frankly a lot. There are huge gaps between all the strategy and thinking and then the ability for the organization to execute on it.” As designers, we are well suited to bridge the gap between abstract visionary ideas and concrete tangible outcomes. The report states, “Designers thrive in the face of ambiguity. The intent set out by the organization’s business leaders should be visionary, and, as such, it will likely be lofty as well. Designers can take the same competencies and methods (foresight, systems thinking, etc.) that they put toward building products or solutions and orient them toward achieving that vision.”

 

There are six skills that an organization should seek in order to move from vision to execution: storytelling, prototyping, foresight, facilitation, collaboration, and systems thinking.

 

  1. Storytelling 

You should be able to boil down your brand story into a sentence that reflects your point of view. Create an infographic that dispels ambiguity. “That’s the difference between a designer and a scientist or technician. The technician could give you a hundred pages of data that probably says the same thing that a designer would say in two sentences.”

  1. Prototyping 

It’s a well-accepted principle that testing business ideas and products should occur early in the development process. The oft-repeated axiom “fail early and fail often” is testament to the value of prototyping. Sketches, mockups, and models are all means to rapidly try ideas out with your user and with your business to learn from the experience. 

  1. Foresight

Seeing a forest while bumping into trees is a common problem for organizations. Too many executives are simply blind to the different types of disruptions that are happening in their industries. As designers “we help them understand the drivers of this disruption and the implications and how to manage and continue to grow or innovate within the disruption.”

  1. Facilitation

Organizations pretend to know how to implement high-level, visionary goals. “How we shape—and facilitate—activities to get to those goals is where design comes in.” 

  1. Collaboration 

It’s not just the marketing or communications departments that are responsible for executing visionary strategy. Manufacturing, R&D, sales—they’re all important. “A mature design organization leverages design to support its other functions. It’s not design as a service. It’s design as collaboration.”

  1. Systems Thinking

Designers think differently than business school grads, who tend to think linearly, numerically, and logically. Designers think spatially, visually, and emotionally to make connections and conclusions missed by others. Designers are saying, “What other folks in the business do we need to be talking to, to make this all work?” 


For strategy to succeed in propelling an organization forward it needs to be both, envisioned (intent) and realized (effect).


“There is currently a great opportunity [for designers] to lead an organization on the pathway from intent (strategic vision) to realizing that intent both within the organization and outward to the broader world (effect).”