Author: Hillery Kemp

FINterview Series: Shannon Trimble

Meet Shannon, our newest Fin and stellar designer. When she’s not slaying for clients, she’s probably slaying a workout. 

What did you want to be growing up?
I dreamed of becoming a gold medal-winning Olympic figure skater. I wanted to be famous! Which is odd to me now, I am an extreme introvert.

Favorite thing about Four Fin?
So many things, but the transparency we have with each other and our clients. It’s refreshing to work for a company that is completely authentic!

What’s your favorite food?
My favorite food would have to be a huge, massive salad with all the toppings and fixins (not the healthy kind).

You’re a new Pantone color, what are you called?
Mysterious Mist, bright and light, but with a little bit of edge!

Design should be smart

Bringing your brand to life is an opportunity to utilize design as a tool to communicate more effectively instead of just trying to look good.  We love good eye candy when we see it, but not at the expense of losing the message or purpose.

Here are three pointers for sticking to smart design:

Addition by subtraction

Always ask, does that element need to be there? Don’t make your audience work to understand what’s being communicated. Keeping designs clean and focused is kind to your audience.

Catalogue design for Island Stone prioritizes Pinterest-worthy install photography along with color and sizing options.

Design is communication

The point of good design is to communicate! What is the copy really saying? What do you want the audience to feel when they read it? How can we use design to do that quickly? (see point above about keeping designs simple too).

Timely ads for Beach Haven articulate a clear message both visually and verbally.

Uniqueness through concept

What is the concept? How can you show it with visuals? Push past your first, second, and third idea because the first ideas that surface will be techniques you’ve seen before. Breaking out of what’s expected will make your work stand out.

PR firm BAM Communications lives by the idea that “stories move the world, we move stories forward.” By repurposing mockup kits used in the design industry, we created custom conceptual art that marries the lust of success with a sense of tangible results.

Finally, don’t forget to collaborate along the way. Share early and often, and don’t let your ego get in the way. You’ll find that clients are creative too, and want to be part of the process!

Know that design could work smarter for your brand, but don’t know where to begin? Reach out!

2020: The year of clarity

At the end of 2019 we looked at what we wanted from 2020. Being that we’re branding people, we picked a couple of major themes. We didn’t realize at the time, but those themes were a larger call to action. They were: Clarity & Add Value.

While some could argue that the theme of the past three months is uncertainty, it’s that lack of societal “normal” that helps you focus on what really matters.

Our Four Fin account has been silent the past two weeks. It wasn’t due to apathy. We debated and discussed the need to speak up, or how to.

Now, we have more clarity. Now, we see where we need to add value.

Our company is making long term commitments to not let the important issue of equality fade like it has before. We personally have benefited from the actions and voices of those before us in women’s equality and LGBTQ rights. We see now that ending systemic racism is everyone’s fight, and as a company we vow to do better.

Two commitments we’re starting with: Broadening our search for vendors, talent, partners, and clients outside of our predominantly white networks. Identifying a local nonprofit to support with volunteer time and financial support.

If anyone has leads or references to help us with those goals, do share! We also know the resources are out there, and we’re ready to put in the work.

Brands that jive together, thrive together!

There is a common challenge companies face when new brands are created or acquired as part of the business’ strategic goals. Often, the ‘parent brand’ has existed for some time or maintains a certain level of awareness in the market, but reaches a point in which its new sub-brand(s) look completely adopted or genetically altered. The other away around happens too; red-headed step children brands join an otherwise organized family of brands.

Although a complete makeover sounds ideal to maintain a consistent visual brand architecture, it isn’t always feasible or within budget. Our simple answer; find the equity or equities among both parent and sub-brand visual identities that resonate with audiences and determine how to infuse these equities throughout the family – be it color, font, graphical element, etc. 

The below highlight a few of our recent clients that required a strategic look at maintaining visual consistency across its family of brands.

CEG Multifamily & Unfold Development: all in the family

Since 1982 CEG Multifamily has invested in real estate ventures throughout the US, providing value to tenants, partners, and communities thanks to its reputation and values. In 2019, We partnered with the CEG team to develop Unfold Development, its newest sub-brand focused on unique and sustaining redevelopment opportunities.

Taking cues from CEG’s solid set of family values and hands-on reputation, Unfold was created to echo those attributes while infusing fresh, modern energy as a completely new brand that would help carry the company forward another 30+ years. Once the new visual identity system was built for Unfold, we evolved the CEG Multifamily brand with simple graphical elements kindred to those of Unfold. No major overhaul was needed for CEG to ensure the family looked and felt related. 

A unifying Modern Roots vision with unique property brands

In 2012 W.D. Dickinson, an historic farm and house in Southern California came to life, producing organic and heirloom produce in abundance that eventually became a business for its owner’s Stepheni and Mike. A vision to extend W.D.D.’s heritage practices and experiences authentically to the other family properties was slowly sprouting when we began refreshing the W.D. Dickinson brand in 2019.

Defining this ‘Modern Roots’ vision eventually became the foundation for each subsequent property brand we’ve helped create. While the property brands are uniquely different, they maintain a likeness that aligns with the overarching vision and appreciation for heritage practices.  

TL; DR

Brands that jive together, thrive together. Really. You might not need to embark on a huge undertaking to refresh an outdated or misaligned visual brand architecture. Look for the equities in your brand that have made you stand apart and make sure they come out to play when creating sub-brands or updating the parent brand logo itself.

The Quarantine Life

Although we’re not data scientists, we took it upon ourselves to ask what you’ve been doing during quarantine. The results are in, and A LOT more of us are skimming our social feeds, but also exercising more than we were before. Good job? 

We had a good time putting this one together.

Another Virtual Brand Camp Success: Mangrove

No conference room? No problem. 

Many of our clients don’t call San Diego home, thus Zoom meetings and virtual Brand Camps have become second nature to our team. The key is clear communication on expectations, and to be fully present on calls as you would be in person. Slack off, game face, on. 

We felt right at home collaborating with the Mangrove team over the past two weeks, helping uplevel their brand as they continue to grow their remote team of talented web developers and designers along with a roster of conscious-forward clients.

Curious about their name? Mangrove trees are flexible plants that help other organisms thrive. Their incredible root systems span land and water to protect shorelines and nearby creatures. Our new visual identity nods to these facts, celebrating Mangrove’s mission to help good companies do great work while staying adaptable as an organization.  

We’ll share more details and the full identity once they roll out the new brand. In the meantime, Hio is another virtual Brand Camp success worth peeking at.

Destination: Bohavn

Shedding light on our recent brand design work for Bohavn, a micro housing development venture to be located at Powder Mountain in Eden, Utah. The location attracts some of the brightest and most artistic individuals around the world looking to enjoy connection and solace.

Destination branding is always a unique challenge because it requires capturing the essence of a location, often at a place we have yet to visit. 

Luckily, close collaboration with our client, asking the right questions, and some very talented creative chops on our end (it’s ok to pat ourselves on the back here and there) led to a new brand centered around intentionality, practicality, and curiosity. 

We developed a new name, Bohavn, that combines Bo (Swedish for ‘nest’) and Havn (Danish for ‘harbor’), alluding to the development’s Scandinavian design and intended feeling of comfort/coziness.   

The visual identity is a conceptual nod to the surrounding landscape of mountains, sky, and sun. Bohavn will incorporate sustainable design to ensure its footprint honors the environment, and the identity system reflects this. 

Rebranding Island Stone

After 20 years of building a solid reputation in tile and interior design circles, Island Stone was ready to up-level its brand for the next 20 years. 

Island Stone had become synonymous with pebble tile despite offering products spanning glass, timber, and other stone tile lines. In addition, the traditional showroom distribution model for the industry was increasingly evolving to more unique e-commerce models directly targeting consumers.

Due to these factors, Island Stone recognized the need to evolve its perception in the marketplace beyond pebble tile, especially if more consumers would be experiencing the brand. 

Often, the way to up-level and move forward is uncovering where we came from. Our brand strategy and visual identity evolution for Island Stone celebrates its founders’ spirit of adventure and reputation for quality materials. 

By amplifying the emotional traits of Island Stone (vs. functional pebble tile), we helped elevate the company to be a more valuable and experiential lifestyle-bound brand ready to attract both showroom and consumer audiences alike. 

Explore the full case study here.

FINterview Series: Jen Derks

Meet Jen Derks, Four Fin’s CEO and Creative Director. She makes the balance of business and ridiculous creativity look like a stroll in the park. She makes surfing look pretty easy too. 

What is the most uncomfortable thing you have done?
My friend Marina and I got in the car of two people we had just met at a bar the night before, and headed on a three-day Australian road trip.

What did you want to be growing up?
It shifted around a lot, usually between a hot-dog on a stick girl, a National Geographic photographer, or an associate (not owner) at a paper boutique or Kinkos. So you could say my ambition came later in life. 

What’s your 30 second story?
I grew up an extreme sports junkie in San Diego, schooled myself on advertising and design in Oregon, and followed my future husband to Alaska where I started my career in design, marketing and advertising. Six years later, I dragged him back to San Diego to settle down, start two businesses, have two kids, build a house, and wonder where all of our free time went. I identify as a gen-xer, which Macoe says is a very millennial thing to say. Enneagram 3.

Favorite thing about Four Fin?
All. The. Things. If I have to pick just one, it’s the team.

What is your dream vacation?
A Costa Rican surf, art, and yoga retreat with my closest people. #predictable

Find more Jen on LinkedIn

Take your marketing for a spin without flying off the highway

Tim Patch, Unsplash

‘What is consistency in marketing?’ Hearing this question nearly made me fall over in my chair snoozing. Probably a bad thing to say coming from the person who received her degree in marketing, right? I say this in all honesty though, because the marketing of today is not the same as it was when I painstakingly attempted to memorize the ins and outs of those four ‘P’s’ many moons ago (free stickers to the first person who emails me with them hillery@fourfincreative.com). 

Okay, I’m not that old, but marketing was something I studied back before ‘Content Marketing’ was a gleam in Hubspot’s eye and 11-year-old ‘Influencers’ weren’t pocketing millions in YouTube ad money. 

So, before I lost it wondering why I didn’t think of the unboxing phenom or some cool wanderlust Insta account with countless sponsorships, I sat back in my chair and asked…W T F is ‘Marketing’ today? And, if I could even get my head around it’s multiple facets, how does consistency come into play? Who is killing the game when it comes to having a solid, sustaining strategy?

Branding: Marketing’s guardrails 

Thank goodness I chose to pursue the path of branding…the holy grail of foundation-setting and, ultimately, consistency. Without it, myself and countless companies would be face down in a gutter somewhere.

Why? Because branding is ground zero for defining the core of who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world. This is what we do on the daily here at Four Fin, so I won’t overindulge, there’s plenty more where that came from (let’s have coffee). 

When we start with a core brand concept and define the core brand elements, every decision made — from marketing to social media to customer service — better be informed by the brand. Simply put, think of your brand as the guardrails that will keep your marketing engine safely on the highway. 

Marketing: Your Lambo ready to go for a spin

Wait. Do you even want a Lambo? Maybe you’re the Prius type…or a classic VW fan like me. At this stage, since we are now blazing down metaphor highway, marketing is less about what you want as a business and more about what your customers want or need…Do they need the speed of the Lambo, the zero-emissions of the Prius, or the cool factor of the classic? 

Yours truly in her ‘74 classic VW Bug

A clear understanding of what your customers want, value, crave, etc. is at the crux of marketing and this hasn’t changed since prehistoric times. What has changed, is where we are meeting customers to communicate the value our brand provides and how. Enter the mind melting, infinite list of marketing tactics in use today. Pause though, and remember that brand is here to help.

If our brand concept is clearly defined (let’s go with ‘Exploration,’ for instance), everything from our name, visual identity, messaging, and vibe will echo this concept; keeping us from flying off the highway. And since we did our customer research, we (hypothetically) know our customers value luxury, curated experiences, and nostalgia. Combine the brand concept and customer insight, and can’t you just picture our Land Rover Defender cruising through the Moab desert? (LET ME DREAM).

landroverusa.com

When brand and marketing unite to deliver authentic experiences, it’s a seamless, and beautifully natural thing to witness. Factory and adventure tours, mouth-watering Insta shots, and high-end competitions most certainly capture hearts and minds of the Land Rover customer, but doesn’t it just make sense?

instagram.com

This, of course, is just one example of a well known and established brand, but just plain smart because they’ve established guardrails with a solid foundation (brand strategy, core elements) and deliver key experiences that marry both brand and customer desire in a consistently rad way. 

So, consistency in marketing is really more about consistency of brand, and what highway we should cruise down with those brand guardrails intact to meet our customers and invite them along for the ride.

Grab the keys and let’s go!