Author: Jen Derks

Brace Yourselves, the Fins Have Rebranded

You may have noticed if you’re a Fin fan, that recently, we have been slowly rolling out our new brand across our marketing channels.

A branding firm doing a rebrand? So meta.

I get it, but this is big to us. It signifies a new era for Four Fin that’s hard to put into words, but I will sure try.

Started as a designer, now we here

8 years ago, when I started Jen Derks Design, there was a lot I didn’t know about growing a company, let alone a branding firm with four badass employees and an inspiring nationwide client roster. But that was okay. I was a good designer, wanting to do good work for good people, and raise some good kids with my good husband. Check. Check. And check mate.

Fast forward to today. Four Fin is a team of five with a list of well vetted partners, dialed-in business systems and tools, and a successful 2-week branding service called Brand Camp. We have a transparent office culture we’re proud of, health benefits, retirement, clients who are crushing it, an official @pandr office mural, and most important of all, a beer and La Croix fridge. I mean, we’ve officially ‘arrived’ with that last one.

We’ve also seen the impact of our work: Solopreneurs gaining confidence and momentum in their early days; small companies of 2-5 growing to exceed multi-million dollar revenues; and most recently, a start-up client announcing a $125 million dollar exit.

Shoes too small

Because of all of this growth, over the last year or so, we started to feel our Four Fin brand no longer represented us. 

We didn’t want to send visitors to our website anymore because “it didn’t feel like us.” We couldn’t quickly explain who we were and how we were different. We realized just how our clients feel when they come to us for help (talk about great UX research). It was clear, we were holding ourselves back by not doing what we do for others, investing in the brand.

Evolution, not revolution

So, who was Four Fin? Cue the strategy/therapy sessions. We realized that what matters most to us has always been there but we just had never put it into clear words. It isn’t learning new marketing tricks, competing for likes, or designing things that look cool for cool’s sake. The reason we love what we do lies in this purpose:
Connecting genuinely with others to help them see differently and live out the best, most contagious version of their story.
This is what we do every day at Four Fin with our clients, and with each other. We also know that we want to do this in our own way—as partners, above the weeds, fast and fun, thoughtful and honest.

The new Four Fin

With this clarity, and other strategy pillars defined, we were able to craft a new brand that speaks more true to who we are and how we work. The personality on our website matches the personality you’ll meet on that first phone call, or tenth meeting, because the whole team is clear on what it means to be a Fin. Our brand personality is defined as:

Direct   Confident   Informed  meets  Casual   Upbeat   Collaborative

A slab-serif typeface and deeper hue of Four Fin blue give the brand a casual,  confident and direct tone: Clear is kind. BS has no place here.

The logo for the name Four Fin was carefully crafted to make sure the letterforms were arranged in a fun, upbeat way, as if they were enjoying their successful collaboration.

A secondary mark was created for a more casual representation of the brand that nods to our surf-inspired name. We all thought turning a ‘Four’ into a surfboard for the ‘fin’ to catch a ride on was very clever. Killed it Kendall!

Alongside new marks, fonts, colors, images and visual language was a new upbeat and informed tone of voicelike a trusted friend who drops truth bombs in your best interest and has no problem poking fun at themselves. You’ll see it in our copy, and on the phone with us when you call to say hi. We think you’ll enjoy getting to know us.

Onward

Take a look around our new website and get to know the new Four Fin. An updated newsletter will hit in a couple of weeks so sign up to see it, and our social channels are always poppin’ with good conversations—don’t be shy out there!

Meanwhile, we’ll be over here—enjoying every branding project, every human interaction, and every gift this work provides as we head into the next 8 years of branding companies with passion.

Thanks for riding along with us to learn about this moment in Four Fin’s evolution. We wouldn’t be here without you. 

Making Waves: Allison Evelyn Gower

Allison Evelyn Gower

Copywriter 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re taking a light and fresh approach with this installment of Making Waves, as we interview one of our favorite partners, the witty and talented Allison Evelyn. Because one of her many talents is concise messaging, we decided to give her limited room to answer our questions, in the form of a mad-lib. We hope you enjoy her humor.

1. You got started writing copy because   words are magic    and it was all    rumpus    from there.

 

2. Copy is to design like    a helpful, welcoming host    is to    a 5 course dinner party   .

 

3. You are the    Emma Stone    of copywriting, because you    are direct yet sassy    .

 

4. If you didn’t live in San Diego, you’d live    in The Shire #Hobbiton    , but never    the coldest city in the world: Oymyakon, Russia    .

 

5. Tone of voice is every brand’s    shimmering personality + way to connect with the right people   , so use with   careful intention   .

 

6. When writing copy, you always   unroot the company’s “why” & ultimate goals    first, and you consider your efforts successful when the client    exclaims, “Yes, that’s what I was trying to say!”   .

 

We hope you enjoyed this short and sweet Making Waves interview. Stay tuned for our next installment with local creative genius and the founder of Sock Problems, Ryan Berman. Don’t want to miss it? Sign up for the Surf Report!

Branding your Business: Charge and Recharge

We say that we are “a hard-charging branding and graphic design studio.” What does that mean? Well, inefficiencies drive us crazy, we treat our clients’ needs with respect and urgency, and we enjoy music and positive energy. We approach projects and challenges with a can-do spirit and best-intent attitude, excited to push our client’s brand forward. We charge hard.

We also recharge hard.

I don’t mean we play ping pong or blow off the afternoon, though we have been known to go on creative breaks. What I mean is, we take time to pause. We start every week in our Monday meeting reflecting on the week prior, celebrating successes and learning from failures. We seek feedback from our clients. We listen to what they are dealing with to better craft our offerings. We immerse ourselves in the community and celebrate those who are making waves so that we can have a pulse on what’s happening around us.

Growing up surfing has taught me to value the re-charge as much as the charge. Obviously, riding a glassy left is really fun, but the pause is also impactful. Call it reconnecting. Call it observing. Call it what you want, but sitting and feeling the movements of the ocean, becoming in-tune with the currents and swell shifts, is a skill in itself. That skill leads to the fun times ahead. When you know the ocean on a deeper level, you land more waves and the right ones.

So how does this all relate to company branding?

Basically, you don’t know everything that will help you charge, unless you also recharge. We know that our brand design agency doesn’t know everything either. Strong designers realize this. Designers are curious by nature. We want to know the landscape and context for the work we are doing. We don’t have an in-house research team, so we look to you, our clients, for that insight. We know that if you recharge occasionally, you’ll know a lot about your market, your customers, the chatter, the politics, the waves of consumer habits, feedback from your employees, etc. It’s all deepening your understanding and awareness. When you take it all in and use it to shift your brand, you’ll move toward the right spot for the waves coming in.

So, yes, we look to you for insight. Then we help your brand charge forward – based on this insight. It might be that you decide you need a brand refresh. It might be that you’re feeling like your messaging isn’t hitting it. It might be that you want to branch into a new market. It might be that you aren’t SURE why, but somehow your brand doesn’t seem to hit the mark. Sometimes, we meet a business owner or marketing director who only charges. They’ve come to us to keep their brand charging forward, but they haven’t recharged recently. We might suggest that they do so. It’s an important part of the process.

Hold The Door Open

Look, this lesson is as old as they come, and it’s for everyone, everywhere. But, it’s critical in branding and in surfing. Be nice. Be a good neighbor. Hold the door open.

In Branding, Actions Speak Louder

People are smart. If you have a positive brand and you say “we care about our customers!” but then they get a $5 charge for their paper invoice, they’ll see right through you. Nothing you can say about customer happiness will change their minds. If they actually cared about you, they would realized how annoying a $5 charge is for a paper invoice, and find a way around that particular line item.

Reputations are harder to “fix” these days with free-sharing of information instantly. Make one bad move that shows your company’s true ugly, and it will take a while to paint the pretty back on. PR companies have their hands full in crises moments, god help them, and many would likely back me up in this genuine request: don’t be mean in the first place please. Live and run your business with integrity and you’ll reap the benefits, smaller PR retainer costs included.

Keep the Vibe High – Get More Waves

I’ve always wondered what an asshole is doing out surfing anyway. I mean, how can one be SO upset doing something that they tout as a favorite activity. If you get mad surfing, chill out. I do have empathy for you and the circumstances that led you to this state of mind, but this place can heal you if you let it. Or, you can just go on being an ass and stay broken. Your call. I get that there are dip-shits out there “taking” your waves. You know why? Cause they saw that you were being an ass.

I love the camaraderie in the water, and I actively show it, saying things like, “awhooo! nice one!” to strangers. More often than not, it’s well received. “Grab this wave, it’s yours!” they’ll say 15 minutes later. Thanks new friend. Don’t mind if I do.  

You get what you put out into the world. So if fear tactics and manipulation are your game, in business or the water, be ready for the payback. Find the part of your company, or brand, or sport of choice that excites you the most, and focus on it. Share it. Light it up, and open the door for people looking to do the same. 

Keep it positive out there everyone! And when you’re ready to find your brand’s inner light – give us a call, we can help you dig in!

 

Making Waves: Karim Bouris

Karim Bouris
Director, Multi-Sector Alliance

  1. So, you are the Director of Multi-Sector Alliance at Partners for Progress San Diego. Can you break down what “Multi-Sector Alliance” means for our audience?

There are groups of people in San Diego who have a lot to say about the policies that affect them and who want to be involved in the process. Sadly, though, they aren’t given the right structure or the opportunity to do that. The multi-sector alliance basically just means that I bring these new voices to the table to shape San Diego County: small businesses, academia, veterans, for example. On the surface, these groups seem disconnected, but together they can advance an agenda based on equity to disrupt the status quo. I really have the best job, because I work with fearless people who like rattling some cages and speaking up on what matters.

  1. What are your hopes for the newly formed Business for Good San Diego?

To change the perception of what businesses care about. The idea that they’re just motivated by making as much profit as possible is so inaccurate. The owners who are a part of Business For Good are deeply invested in how well their employees are doing and how healthy their communities are. That makes them huge agents for change, and Business For Good gives them the opportunity to match their values with their acts.

  1. Best Taco in San Diego?

Easy – Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista or La Fachada in Logan Heights!

Form Follows Function

How Branding is like Surfing: Form follows Function

In the design world, strong designers understand that “form follows function.”

In other words, if it doesn’t do its job, no one cares how cool it is. Obviously, here at Four Fin, we value the power of art and pleasing aesthetics, but design is more than aesthetics. Design is problem solving and that has to start with function. What will the website need to encourage people to do and feel? What are the marketing goals of the print ad? What’s the most efficient and pleasant way that a user can grasp the heart of the brand from this brochure we’re designing? These are the questions we ask ourselves.

This concept of “form follows function” is just as strong in other facets of life, and naturally… here we go talking about surfing again…   

1. A pretty surfboard, shaped by an amateur – won’t last a year in your quiver.

2. A basic or ugly surfboard that’s expertly shaped for your surfing style – you’ll grow to fondly nickname it ‘old trusty’.

3. A gorgeous surfboard, expertly shaped – #boardgoals. When you pull it out of the bag – where it’s kept because it means that much to you – you know what it will feel like to ride (amazing), and its beauty gets you every time. Literally – the board makes your heart swell.

You can’t surf on a shit board

Not many surfers can spring for option 3, and if they had to choose between the first two options, good surfers choose option 2. You know, so they can surf, and have fun doing it. Function first. Form follows.

Designers are not Artists

Are designers artistic? Yes. Are they artists? No. That’s because artists think ‘form’ first, and we love (and envy) them for it. Have you ever seen an ad or poster, so slick and creative, and you can NOT remember what brand it was for or what it was trying to get you to do? Or maybe, you pinned it for eye candy, or even framed it and put it on your wall. It’s a real work of art! But, you never took it seriously for its intended purpose. Familiar?

That’s because at some point, somewhere in the world, a well-meaning and talented graphic designer was given a job, and they put form first. They nailed the form. This designer likely should be an artist instead. When they do change careers (own your true gifts, talented people of the world!), we will buy and hang their art on the walls of our office. Their commitment to form, will inspire our creativity as we think about brands all day, function first.

 

Trust Your Gut

In branding and in business, sometimes you have to pivot. Sometimes you have to hold true to your values. Sometimes you have to invest yourself in building your brand where you feel the most energy and potential.

You might be grappling with some of this right now. Let me tell you a secret. You already know what to do, and you have from the moment it popped into your head.  One of my favorite quotes, that recently adorned our office felt board, is “Told you so. – your intuition.”

Life moves fast, and business moves even faster. If you spend time ignoring your gut (or worse, being scared of what it’s telling you to do), you’ll likely fall behind on really moving your brand forward. Or worse, your waffling will give off the wrong impression. Your audience will see the inconsistency, and lack of direction. Your brand will suffer. Of course, we believe that a guiding light for a lot of small businesses IS their brand. We constantly harp that you have to stay true to your brand to build a strong and consistent image.

Let me give you a simple example. Let’s say you make widgets. You’ve positioned the widgets as quality widgets. You spent a great deal on R&D and design of the widgets and are confident that your audience needs this level of quality and will be happy paying the high price. You’re releasing the widget in the world and deciding how to market them. You meet an eager and convincing online marketing consultant who promises leads. “I’ve cracked the sales funnel code. We get their attention with an introductory discount and then as you gain traction, we’ll cut the discounts and your followers, now in love with the product, will be okay spending more.” It doesn’t sit right with you. Trust your gut. The audience you’re going after cares about the quality, not the price. If lured initially by price, the second you increase price, they’ll fire up the google engine again to find something cheaper. They’ll be offended with your brand at the same time. This might appear an obvious example, and the decisions you face might be more complex, but the premise rings true. Know your brand, be proud of what it stands for, and stand with it. 

So what if your “brand” conflicts with your “gut”?  

If it’s done right… that brand will be modeled after what’s already in your gut. If you build a truly authentic brand, it will be based in part on the values of the visionary leader. It will keep you from chasing shiny objects that aren’t true to your brand. So, if your gut says something is off, you can confidently listen. 

Before I even ran a branding business, I’ve had a lot of training in this gut-feeling awareness that has helped me make key decisions quickly. In surfing, you have to trust your gut quite often.

Paddling out.

Do I paddle faster and try to get past that almost-breaking wave, or do I pull back and duck dive the white-wash? Anyone who’s found themselves trying to duck dive a wave RIGHT when it’s breaking on top of you knows why that’s an important decision. And one you have to make instantly.

Catching a wave.

There’s a frequently used word in surfing, and actually all extreme sports. Commit. If you are paddling for a wave and it’s looking promising, and you’ve made the gut decision to go for it, you’d better commit. Once the wave takes hold of you, it’s not a time to question your gut. Likewise, if you’re paddling for a wave, and have a gut reaction that tells you to back off, but you stumble a little on listening quickly, you’ll find yourself putting on a good wipe-out show for those on the beach.

Deciding if you can hack it.

All surfers have been there. Standing on the sand during a particularly large swell. Sizing up the surf. Deciding if you’ve got the strength, courage, and lung capacity to attempt to paddle out. You might catch the best wave of your life. You could also tour the local ER.  

I don’t always trust my gut, and when I get too in-my-head, it’s typically never positive. I wipe-out. I pick myself back up. I breathe. Then I apologize to my gut for not listening. “Hey gut, you were right about that client. They obviously weren’t right for us. Had I listened to you, we’d have more space for the right type of growth. Thanks again for always watching out! Forgive me and keep up the clear signals for future decisions.” 

Our gut knows what’s up. It will save us from a mouth full of salt water and deter us from poor business choices. Building a brand that is authentic to you, then learning to trust your gut is a liberating exercise. Go confidently in the direction of your brand dreams. And bring your gut with you.

Words to Brand By

We are always thinking over here. Throughout the year we gathered our thoughts for our followers on what makes a strong brand, and shared them on Instagram. We’ve revisited our own brand quite a bit this year and are ready to slay 2018 by helping others make waves with their branding.

Are you ready to make your brand clear?
If you’d like to learn about some of the principles to help align your brand, take a look at our #wordstobrandby or if you want to know what the hell we mean by all those buzzwords, and how they could apply to your brand, then give us a call and set up a free 30 min consultation. Make next year your year to own a fresh brand perspective!

Making Waves: Jaime Hampton

Jaime Hampton

Mixte Communications, Inc

  1. So your PR firm, Mixte, is well-known for your effective social-justice campaigns. How did you get started in that work?

Our work stems from our values. When you’re defined by these values, you see that the only work worth doing is the work that improves your community for all people. It’s an easy choice to specialize in social justice campaigns because it’s the right thing to do

  1. What does it mean to you to be named 2013 Commuter of the year?

I was selected as San Diego County’s Commuter of the Year because I traveled all over the county on bike, bus, Coaster and through carpools. But the better metric is that Mixte earned the highest county recognition again this year for our company’s commuter program, which means most of our staff commutes this same way. We’re showing companies of every kind that you can do anything if you just set the culture and lead by example.

  1.  Finish this: All I want for Christmas is, _____

A classic clock for my living room wall. I never had one until my grandma passed this year. One of the only things I selected from her house was this cheap clock that always hung on her wall, but it stopped working a few months ago. Every time I see that blank spot, I feel that I’m not honoring my grandma’s long love affair with the tick-tock of clocks. Though, and maybe to Gma’s chagrin, my new clock would ideally be silent.

Hiring Alert: Art Director

Four Fin Creative is a boutique design and branding firm located in La Mesa, CA, and we’re looking for our Fourth Fin. Are you a humble and positive graphic design rockstar who loves your craft and thinks about brands all day? Maybe you’d love to run your own studio, but hate finding clients? Do you enjoy challenging yourself? Do you enjoy people? Do you enjoy tacos?

We’re looking for you.

As part of a small team, you should be a self-starter, comfortable wearing many hats, taking initiative and collaborating. Do what you love in a fun and casual environment with flexibility. At Four Fin, you’ll have the opportunity to make a direct impact on our growth as a firm, and on the growth of the brands we work with. This position offers leadership potential for the right self-starter who grows with us.

Job duties may include:

– Taking a project all the way from concept development to final execution of print and web designs
– Adhering to brand guidelines and brand consistency, while keeping the creative fresh
– Working with the Creative Director to conceptualize and design brand-experiences across platforms, from email marketing and social content, to printed collateral and trade-show booths
– Sourcing and directing outside vendors as needed, from photographers and printers, to illustration artists and copywriters
– Preparing artwork for final print production
– Writing brand guidelines and designing brand books or culture books
– Professional design execution of corporate communication pieces such as brochures, pitch-decks or sales sheets
– Mentoring and guiding other designers

If you are the Fin we’re looking for: 

– You have a minimum of 5 years of agency or similar experience
– You work in Adobe Creative Suite on a Mac environment
– You love nurturing a brand through all touch-points
– You always love to try something new and do not hesitate to dive in
– You explore other artistic disciplines because it lights you up
– You are a great communicator, quick to grasp new concepts and platforms
– You pride yourself on your ability to “get” your client’s vision
– You conceptualize in the big picture world / and execute meticulously on the details
– You have done your fair share of production work: cleaning up files, prepping files for printing and publishing, etc… and you don’t loathe it
– You are comfortable working with clients as well as under a Creative Director
– Collaboration is your jam. You love spinning rough ideas off of others and, in turn, you give feedback honestly and often

What could additionally set you apart?

– Video or photography chops
– WordPress experience
– Experience in copywriting
– Experience in assisting with brand strategy exercises
– Experience in environmental or packaging design
– Illustration and or hand lettering skills
– A medal in an extreme sports competition (kidding, not kidding)

About Four Fin Creative

Four Fin Creative is a small but fierce design and branding firm, located in up-and-coming La Mesa, where the parking is easy, and it’s (almost) always sunny. We work with a range of smart and ambitious companies, from start-ups to established corporations and organizations. Four Fin helps our clients understand and beautifully communicate their brands, product benefits, services and missions in a way that is efficient, beautiful and compelling. We focus on brand identity design, and how to carry that brand through a number of touch points and platforms.

At Four Fin, our tight-knit team values a sweet balance of getting shit done, celebrating successes, and supporting each other in the process. We offer health-care and generous paid vacation and sick leave, with additional non-paid leave on approval – because we want you to explore life, and keep growing as an individual, in and out of the office.

Looking for full time, but would consider temporary part-time, moving to full. Work should primarily take place at our La Mesa place of business with occasional remote work as life demands it.

To Apply

Send us an email at jobs@fourfincreative.com and tell us in the body of the email:
1) Why you are a good fit for this position
2) Why is this position a good fit for you
3) Your favorite brand and why

Please include a link to your online portfolio and attach your résumé as a PDF.