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: Hillery Kemp

Meet Hillery Kemp, Four Fin’s Brand Strategist and gifted marble collector. 

What lights you up?
Truly well executed brands, Ah-ha moments, paper and stationery, finding marbles randomly, and inspiring people/companies making our world a better place. 

Who do you look up to?
Anyone who marches to the beat of his/her/their own drum. By that I mean the ones out there who don’t settle for the status quo. The ones who know what to prioritize in their lives — be it family, travel, creating something incredible — and go do it. The ones who are unafraid to say no. 

Favorite thing about Four Fin?
Our posture for openness, transparency, and clarity. I can also be myself around here and I can’t say that about every job I’ve had, but maybe I am just growing up and growing more comfortable in my own skin. 🙂 

Dream Client?
Oh my. LEGO and Cotopaxi come to mind. I am always in awe of the brands that do it right. FROM is pretty cool too!

Connect with Hillery on LinkedIn

The “safe” choice for your rebrand actually holds a ton of risk

Courageously choosing a brand that sets you apart is not easy. Even if your stakeholders agree that it’s time for a bold change, there still might be the feeling of being unsure how it will be received.

Will our audience hate it? Will it be too out there? You might weigh the options of spending on focus groups. You might present the new brand concept to your board or investors to get their feedback. You show it to a broader internal group to get feedback. Everyone has an opinion. Some absolutely love it. Some are impartial. Others want to see what alternative options there were that lead you to this choice.  

Caution: This is where dangerous decisions are made. 

In some instances, in business and relationship building, it’s great to compromise. It’s great to meet in the middle, find common ground and please as many people as possible. In other instances, it waters down strong approaches. Chris Voss champions this concept in Never Split the Difference.

When it comes to branding, the truth is, you don’t need everyone to love it. You need a group that loves it. You need a loyal following that will help spread your brand organically. You don’t need everyone to be on board. If they “love” it, it will be because they relate to what you’re trying to do. They will be excited that you “get them.” This is true internally too. Employees that grab on to your brand will help your business grow much faster than employees who “are fine with it.”

As the old marketing adage goes, “appeal to everyone and appeal to no one.” If we’re taking stock of the risks of growing a business, “appealing to no one” should be high on your list of pitfalls to avoid.  

Tl;dr

If you compromise and settle on a brand strategy or visual identity that is safe… it will inspire no one. Instead of a core audience who organically promotes your brand because they strongly relate to it, you’ll have a larger number of people feeling mediocre about your brand… and that’s the riskiest move you can make.

Should you Invest in Branding?

When you are ready to move past your company’s humble beginnings, and develop a lasting brand based on strategic core concepts, the first question that often comes up is, “What does working with an outside firm cost, and will it be worth the spend?” 

The answer can vary from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the firm you work with. Yeah, I realize that’s a big range. We can tell you that our foundational Brand Strategy and Identity Design programs start at $10K and go up depending on your specific goals, needs and challenges. 

We’re not about to tell you to invest in professional branding without a strong business case behind it, so we made a handy flowchart to help you decide if now is the right time for you. 

Every brand is different. This is meant to be a reference based on our experience. When you are in the right stage of growth, and choose to invest in a re-brand, it pays off.

Some of the results our clients have shared with us are below:

  • A new million dollar partnership was made due to increased trust in the vision and future of the company. – Water Purification Technology Client
  • Prices were raised due to the company reaching a new level of clientele after a re-brand effort. – Consumable Goods Client
  • Teams are re-invigorated and inspired to drive their company forward. – Multiple Clients
  • New levels of talent are attracted to the company. – Multiple Clients

It’s impactful to see the returns for our clients, which is why we love what we do. We hope you found this chart useful. If you are still not sure whether a rebrand is right for you, we’d love to learn more about your specific challenge. Reach out and let’s chat.