With several posts now under my belt, it's time to address the question: why another blog? And for that matter, why this one?
In 2008, I was at a crossroads. I'd been working in publishing since 2004, the year I'd arrived in New York to start a career in that field. I loved books and words and the literary world, but the long arm of technology had begun to corrode the production of the written word, especially when it came to job prospects. I felt stuck: I'd always gravitated toward design, but the job I was stuck in during that time offered very few opportunities in that area. I wanted to feel that sting—the elusive prick of whatever is between inspiration and practicality. I wanted a career that would be both sensible and creative. It might be said that I've always wanted a perfect union between the imagination of form and utility of function.
What ended up happening is that I attended a conference on collecting marketing data. The keynote speaker gave a talk on the importance of branding, and quite simply, I was hooked. The only thing I really remember about it was an example he gave about Apple computers. It seems that in the 1990s, Apple was failing (hard to believe given the current climate). One of the major things that turned Apple around was their now iconic television commercial.
The message is: if you buy our computer, you are a visionary. You are different and special and like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Bob Dylan, because you don't buy normal computers, you buy Apple: the computer for geniuses and eccentrics.
The most revolutionary thing about this ad is that they never show their product. Not once during the ad is a computer shown, not even for a second. The commercial is completely affiliation-driven. If you buy our computer, you can group yourself in with the leaders of our modern age. Powerful stuff.
The best part is that it worked. Apple's stock recovered and it began its meteoric rise to tech domination. Granted, a lot of other factors contributed to this beyond a commercial: the packaging design (sleek, uniform and very modern), the user-friendly element, the cutting edge technology, the mythology surrounding Steve Jobs (perhaps a bit of a visionary and eccentric himself). However, what all those elements have in common is that they all fit under the banner of the mission statement illustrated in that commercial: Think Different.
Apple regrouped and made every action they took abide by their brand. Apple is for people who are creative, inspiring, a bit revolutionary. Apple is for people who think differently. Apple is now a top tier brand, world-renowned, and has achieved cult status in the upper pantheon of tech. Thinking differently leads to big dividends.
This classic example got me all fired up. If branding could do that for Apple, what could that mean for other brands, products—people, even. What could it do for worthwhile causes?
My inner geek started to fire. Could it be that some of the world's problems might be solved by better communication about what we do and why it matters? Because that is what branding is: communication of identity and purpose.
Better branding means that we get what we need faster. Better design means that we realize something will fill our need faster. We make better choices when the purpose and function of a product or service is communicated effectively. Better design, communication, and branding equals better form, and better form means better function.
And that's what this blog aims to explore—how form and function interplay to create branding that works or doesn't.