Want to be an Art Director? Let’s talk to Macoe.

We’ve been getting a number of reach outs recently from designers inquiring about the team, gaining more design experience, and potential opportunities at Four Fin. Since we’re not really meeting anyone in the office as of late, we thought it might help to share an informational interview with our Art Director, Macoe Swett. She shares more on her experience and some advice for rising designers. 

How did you get to where you are as Four Fin’s Art Director?
Years of sweat and tears! JK, although I do have many years of experience. After college I worked as a graphic designer and eventually started teaching graphic design. This was really my first experience art directing, as you’re constantly doing that in the classroom. Then I worked as an art director on a contract basis with a couple other agencies. When I started at Four Fin, I came on as a Senior Designer first, and was then promoted to Art Director a few years later.

What have been some of the highlights of your design career?
Every time a client is really excited about something I’ve created for them, that’s the best feeling. One that stands out in my head though is when I designed a poster for a weekly service industry night party my friends and I were throwing in Philly. We printed up a bunch and plastered them on a wall near the venue. People loved them so much they all got stolen within a couple days.

What do you look for in a portfolio?
Good use of typography, a strong understanding of color and layout, and a bit of boldness. Technique is essential, but risks will get you noticed.

What can I do to get more experience in design while looking for design jobs?
Design yourself a kick-ass website and some promo materials. Do some friends some favors. Give yourself the projects you wish someone else was giving you, and create or expand your portfolio with the results.

What’s the best advice you can offer to young or aspiring designers?
Work for and with people whose design skills you admire. That’s key to improving and sometimes more important than money and security early in your career. Keep your interests broad and seek out inspiration from other fields as well as following graphic designers you admire. Challenge yourself to make every project a portfolio piece.

Thanks Macoe! Meet the rest of the Fins and keep an eye out for future interviews with the team.

Brand Evolution: GIA Wellness

GIA Wellness is here to tell you that hyped wellness trends are exactly that; hype. They focus on the pillars of foundational wellness from hydration to nutrition to skincare. After 12 years of successful growth, GIA was pivoting its marketing strategy to appeal to a broader D2C audience in the rapidly growing health and wellness space. 

A Brand Audit allowed us to identify challenges, opportunities, and areas where we could better align the brand (and this message of foundational health) across GIA communications. The audit revealed that no major overhaul to the brand was needed. Rather, an evolution to the visual identity (especially packaging) and messaging would assist in unifying the already established brand. 

More to share when the new packaging is launched, but in the meantime, check out other elements of the refresh making its way onto GIA’s Instagram

Brand collabs that go together like ice cream x skateboarding

Source: nikesb.com

Collaborations between brands appear to be the new norm. Put that ‘x’ in place (e.g., Honey x Bear) and apparently a legit collaboration is happening and we should take notice. 

Usually these partnerships make sense from a brand personality and values perspective like this Nat Geo x Parks Project apparel line. Both brands will often generate greater cross exposure and can command higher prices (which will either work in your favor or not as the comment on this post below shows).

Source: Instagram

It’s 2020 though, and I think the zany, unexpected collaborations are far more fascinating from a brand and business perspective. I say unexpected because either the collaborating brands exist in completely different ecosystems/industries or have wildly differing emotional connections with their audiences. I say fascinating because the imagination and bravery needed to create these partnerships often require true creative brilliance, hallucinogens, or both. 

I’ve discovered that the brands brave enough to make unexpected collab moves not only get twofold the hype and can command higher prices, but they stick in the memory banks of their fans. And loyal fans, as we know, are a brand’s best friend. Here are several that stick out.

Ben & Jerry’s x Nike Skateboarding

Source: nikesb.com

When I saw the Nike SB x Ben & Jerry’s collaboration for the Skate Low Chunky Dunky shoe, my head almost popped off in excitement…and wonder. How? Why? Realizing this is a total sneaker culture thing (which, admittedly I know very little about), I still wanted to know just how much hype these kicks were getting. 

A limited quantity of the shoes were released back in May, retailing at $120. One look at current resale prices three months later (yes that’s a $2,592 price tag down there) and I don’t need any convincing that the demand (and equity) for the brand is through the roof.

Source: Google Shopping

 

Fireclay Tile x Rose’s Taproom 

California craft tilemakers Fireclay recently collaborated with their client, Rose’s Taproom in Oakland, to release the Emerald Drop, a craft beer inspired by the backsplash tile that serves as the watering hole’s centerpiece. Random, brilliant, and an ingenious way to celebrate the brands’ partnership and commitment to craft + design.

Although the beer was probably produced in limited quantities, it certainly didn’t last long and managed to receive a fair amount of reviews/ratings on beer social platform Untappd. 

Source: Instagram
Source: Untappd

Supreme x Oreo

Streetwear brand Supreme isn’t new to surprising collaborations, but it’s Oreo collab might be the most surprising. And apparently surprising works for Supreme (and Oreo), because the release garnered TONS of hype (over 23k retweets alone from Oreo announcing it). A pack of three cookies commands a mere $40 from one streetwear reseller (they originally retailed for $8 per pack).

Source: Twitter

TLDR;

Whether your brand is about cookies, shoes, beer, or even clay tile, there’s another brand out there willing to collaborate. You might share kindred personalities or you might be in opposite industries altogether. Either way, collaborations bring with them increased exposure and, if it’s wild enough, exponential demand and love from your customers.

We usually don’t think about unexpected collaborations during our client’s Brand Sessions, but maybe we should given the unexpected world we live in today..

Surf Park Management is ready for its next swell

Surf Park Management is rad. No, really. The brand does exactly what their name suggests; managing the many facets of up and running a successful surf park (think feasibility analysis and operational planning). The San Diego-based company tapped the Fins to help refresh their brand identity as they continue to grow and gain exposure. 

A rise in new technology to create perfect waves outside of the ocean is leading to more and more surf parks being planned and built around the world. Nothing compares to a real wave, but these parks are gaining serious traction inland and for the surfing community looking to practice in a safer, consistent environment. 

Surf Park Management (SPM) works with investors and developers, so the refreshed brand needed to say “we’re professionals who also have fun in the sun.” Maybe not that exactly, but a balance of seriousness with shred was a key factor. 

 

There’s more where that came from. Stay tuned for more work we’re doing with SPM. Our branding dreams are literally coming true rn.

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!

Our Brand Session Obsession

We talk a lot about Brand Sessions over here now because we absolutely love doing them. We love the pace, the experience, and the results. 

A Brand Session is Four Fin’s three-week branding service that we formulated in early 2018, formerly known as Brand Camp. It’s our flagship service and usually how we get acquainted with new clients. While many of those clients continue with Four Fin to paddle out and make waves, it all starts by defining the brand core. 

We created Brand Sessions as a way for us to set our clients’ brand foundations without 4+ months of development. Most businesses don’t have time for that. While the process has shifted a bit since we started and we’ve renamed the service to better align with our brand, we’ve seen great results. We look forward to adding more progress-driven brands to our roster this year while continuing to improve the experience.

So, what is a Brand Session? 

It might be easier to define by defining what it’s not:

A DIY branding tutorial, group coaching, or an online offering.
There are plenty of resources out there for those wanting to tackle their brand refresh in-house. This is a professional service for busy founders, CEOs, and CMOs who want their branding done right without attempting it themselves, capitalizing their team’s energy in the process, or waiting 6+ months to see the results.

A service for new brand visuals alone.
While the visual results of Brand Sessions are easier to see, this service goes far beyond a new or refreshed visual identity of logos, colors, fonts, etc. We are experts at defining a brand from the inside out; with strategy exercises, work sessions, and what we internally jokingly call Brand Therapy. You will get to know your brand better throughout this process and that clarity informs much more than your look. 

Superficial.
While our branding service is quicker than most, it doesn’t lack quality. We cut out time-thieves like fine-tuned presentations, time redirecting junior-level talent, research to validate what you already know, rescheduled meetings, design overthink, and an especially dangerous time-killer: backward motion due to personnel changes or stalled progress. 

All you need.
Brand Sessions are foundational, setting the course for what your brand will become when you win the hearts and minds of your audience. We do not win the hearts and minds of your audience in three weeks. That comes next.

We guarantee your Brand Session will make you smile.

Brand Sessions are introspective and aspirational, resulting in a clear guide for what will be your true brand-building efforts: external marketing, brand experiences, product releases, partnerships, employee onboarding, etc. We help clients with all of those initiatives as well, but they are not near as effective if the guidebook hasn’t been written yet. 

So, a Brand Session is step one, and if done right, every step you take afterward will feel lighter and more exuberant, almost like you’re skipping toward brand success, and skipping is contagious. 

We’d love to chat if you think you are a good candidate for a Brand Session, or know someone needing to undergo a brand refresh. While it’s not right for every company, many have found it to be the perfect fit. We are starting to see that we’re not the only ones who love it. 

Cue the reviews

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.