How a passion for graphic design and my eagerness to communicate better with clients led me to become a brand strategist
Finding your passion early does not guarantee an easy way
Early in life, I became obsessed with graphic design. And, when I say early, I do really mean early — like in the first grade.
I am sure I did not even clearly know what I was wanting nor if that kind of profession existed. The decision was made in the late 1990s….
But finding your passion really early does not guarantee you a straightforward road or that the end result would still excite you.
As a graphic designer, I felt something was missing
However, 25 years later I found myself working in an agency. With the title of the graphic designer. Doing the work I was dreaming of: logos, brand identities, concepts for exhibitions or marvelous events, openings, package design, etc. I was crafting even websites and doing some illustrations.
From the outside it seemed like I was living my dream: who would not love to work on a project where you can choose the nicest color combinations, just the right fit of typography and some cool composition versions. But from the inside the world was not so fluent, I was having some inner battles which did not bring me any peace of mind. I was still feeling that something was missing.
1. The communication gap between creative (designer) and analytical (business) thinking
The first thing that made me wonder was that the process of managing design works and getting approval from the client was not fluent. To be honest, It was more of a disaster. Long story short: client says he needs a logo, we chat about what kind of logo he wants, I get straight forward to my computer and craft a beautiful logo. And then he wants some revisions, and then he wants some more revisions…
In the end, I am tired and the client is not satisfied either. It was a constant battle between the meaning of words, definitions, and visual alignment. And someone needed to change. Obviously, this time I was not ready to hang on the idea that the client will be the one that is going to change. The time has come to accept the challenge for me to change.
2. Still doubtful if the career path was right for me as I did have other interests
The second thing is that I was constantly questioning myself if I have chosen the right profession. Yes! You read it right. I questioned myself after going such a long way to where I am now. I did enjoy all the design works, but I missed the purpose and objectives for decision making, especially in logo design works. Is graphic design only function to be just beautiful?
My fellow friends told me I was nuts. Like graphic design is your calling, you have a great sense of composition you cracked the code of how to match typography and to choose the right colors for the project. They constantly were asking me what I was trying to find? it made me even more doubtful about my decisions regarding my career. As a result, I left this question unanswered.
Curiosity, even in painful situations, leads the way
I was still aware of my situation and gave myself permission to simply be curious and give time for my brains to search for the right answer. The time pass, like 5 years…
And I noticed that I am constantly reading more and more information on marketing, psychology, customer behavior… I was curious why customers do what they do, how they decide to buy one product instead of another, on what factors they base their decision? Or how does positioning works, what does that even mean for a brand and how to even create one?
I was really curious about the business and motivation that leads them to think that design is the way to solve their business problem.
When you know better, you do better.
I’ve noticed a connecting thread between graphic design and all-new material. I was curious enough to see how both of my interests can interact together for the purpose of serving clients better. Eventually ending up in better communication and design solutions for their businesses.
I was convinced that design has a bigger purpose than just to represent a product, service or company in an aesthetically pleasing way. It was a tool, when used in the right way, to achieve business goals.
What made the transition to Brand strategist
#1 Better questions.
I started to ask better questions, for example, why do you need a logo? Why does their business exist in the first place? Why your current logo is not working and how do you expect a logo should work? More of why, fewer questions about design attributes. It opened up a conversation and opportunity to uncover their true motivation and business goals.
#2 Thinking as a business-minded person.
Slowly but surely results went up I’ve got more satisfied customers I was not tired anymore and it seemed like I’ve finally started to understand business. I saw clearly why do designers have trouble in communicating with business people. It inspired me to dig even deeper. The only way, we can truly understand clients’ needs and their thought processes is by understanding how business works. I even started to get referrals too.
#3 Communication with clients should start from knowing their audience.
As mentioned previously I did notice that design has a deeper meaning than just to be an aesthetically pleasing way to represent the visual appearance of the product company or service. Design is communication with the customer. And the better we know the customer the better the communication can be designed precisely to him.
Final thoughts on strategic thinking
To me, brand strategy is like a bridge connecting business-minded people with creative ones.
From one perspective, it’s a way to communicate with the client in essence for them to be heard and understood.
From another point of view, it is a way to share your ideas in a language that can be understood by the analytical thinking mind.
Strategic creative thinking gives you an opportunity to eventually once and for all fill the gap between business strategy and visual creative appearance.