When the shoe is on the other foot

Wow, we actually made it.

Look up. No, not there. There. Up to the left. Ah, yes. That (and right below too). In the time it takes for an infant to come into this world, we have delivered a beautiful bouncing baby…. logo.

Remember back in June when we embarked on our mission, hoping not to end up barefoot and brand-less come Spring? And then in August when we had the cheek to tease you all with a glimpse of the logo designs not chosen?.

Well, here we are, six months later, and I feel like I should pass out cigars. Or valium. Or both. I am remarkably proud of what we created and thrilled for where this new brand will take Beaconfire as we move into our 10th year. But ohmygod am I exhausted. Emotionally, physically, creatively. Even karmically. Never before have I appreciated more what our clients go through when they engage in this very activity. It’s easy to be glib when you’re on the outside, especially as a seasoned consultant. When the shoe is on the other (bare)foot, humility must rule the day.

“Come on; it can’t be THAT hard.” are the prescient famous last words of smarter souls than I. Not only is it harder than you expect to create a new visual representation across an entire organization, the second you don’t respect the process is the moment it owns you rather than the other way around.

I think that is the biggest lesson I will share with our clients moving forward. You must be fearless, strong and willing to be thought foolish by everyone around you in order to shift perceptions needed move an organization forward though branding. In other words – you need to be a little crazy. In a good way.

So what else did this remarkable experience teach me? (Other hoping to not do it again for another 10 years.)

• Embark on a rebrand for the right reasons, not just because you think “its time”. If The Gap can misjudge it’s audience’s reaction so much that they have to publicly back away from their own rebrand, it WILL happen to you.

• Pick a great design partner who understands you and is in it for the long haul. Someone you would trust with your life – because you are.

• Assemble a tight, talented and organized internal project team you can rely on to keep you honest and on track throughout.

• Create a very specific project scope and determine clear requirements that everyone on the team agrees with. Learn to say “that will be great for phase two” no matter how cool an idea it is.

• Make a list of every visual system that will be impacted, no matter how small. Identity pieces, marketing materials, web sites, financial requirements, sales proposals, business communication, partner publications, even clothing. You may be surprised where your logo has ended up.

• Be open minded, and rule nothing out in the beginning.

• Never hold back your opinion. It will be too late to change your mind later.

• You will not be able to keep everyone happy. Don’t even try. Focus on project goals, not internal concerns. (yes I know this is easier said than done).

• Remember that design is subjective, but at the end of the day, audience needs must trump personal preference. Even that of your boss.

• Take nothing personally. Know that people will be stressed, emotions will be heightened, but you’re all playing for the same team.

• Be realistic about time and know it will take longer than you expect to do each task.

• Repeat after me: Style guide. Your new voice is as important to document as your new graphic standards.

• Have a launch plan and a PR strategy in place for how to introduce your new brand to the world.

• Above all, enjoy yourself if at all possible. This is an exciting new chapter for your organization. Celebrate your achievement.

On that note, when we see you sxsw or NTC next week, don’t let us forget to give you that cigar. We love our new addition, and hope you will too.


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