Yes! An amazing time for design and designers

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending Y24, a regional design conference hosted by AIGA San Diego. The lineup was jam-packed with inspirational talks and great conversations with some truly creative folks.  

The theme of the conference was “Say Yes”. A theme that led many of the presenters to share their personal journey of Yeses (and Nos) that ultimately led them to the stage of the Y Conference. The presenters were heartfelt, inspiring, and honest about their struggles and successes. Doug Powell, VP of design at IBM, decided to take a different approach and totally ignore the prompt (fitting that IBM’s slogan is #thinkdiffernet). His presentation focused on five trends in the field of design and business. Trends that not only get the Fins excited about being designers today but also show how the landscape of business is shifting toward crafting experiences, internally and externally.

“This is an amazing time for design and designers.” – Doug Powell

    1. Design is happening in surprising places.
      • It’s not just start-ups, the US government is investing money into design and so are small US towns, cities, and associations (we’ve seen this in our leads over the past 2 years and are currently rebranding Redwood City Improvement Association).
    1. Design Operations has emerged as a distinct role.
      • Design Operations is a thing? Guess so. Imagine bringing design-thinking into the world of processes and spreadsheets. Pretty killer combo. Jess, our Director of Ops, certainly thinks so!
    1. We finally have data that proves the value of design.
    1. Design is booming in Asia.
      • Always a telling sign of trends in the world. Competition abroad challenges and elevates the field at home.
  1. Designers are becoming leaders in non-designer roles.
    • In the past few years, there has been a trend of designers stepping into leadership roles –  big to small organizations are adding Chief Creative Officers to their C-level staff and, even more telling, creatives are stepping into leadership outside of design.

Powell believes that “this is an amazing time for design and designers.”  We believe him! The words “design-thinking” and “branding” are almost as ubiquitous as the word “brunch.”  Design is infused in our culture, thanks to companies like Target and Apple, and today’s consumers and business partners are hyper design-conscious. And for good reason. Just like a first date, it makes a good impression if you invest in self-care.

From start-up founders to executives of 30-year old companies, more and more business leaders are realizing the power of design. As a creative branding studio, we love helping businesses discover what design can do for their company. Whether it’s designing a stronger brand from within, or designing an effective online user experience mindful of short attention spans – whatever the challenge is, every business needs some level of design-thinking. Consider this, is your biggest business challenge right now actually a design challenge? We’d love to learn more.

Let’s chat.

Setting the Vibe

Setting the right tone. Where does it fit?

Developing a brand can seem like an obscure and daunting process. It can be unclear where it starts and, especially, where it ends. Branding is really a series of stages that all lead to understanding and defining your brand. So, let’s break apart this omnipresent process of “branding” and talk about one stage of the process that is not designing a logo: setting the vibe.

We are visual people so we created this branding timeline for you based on our own branding process – Brand Camp. You see there, right after Strategy Week (always, always after strategy), and right at the beginning of Design Week, lives “setting the vibe” of your brand, also called the “mood” or “visual tone”.

So, what’s a vibe?

After the first week of Brand Camp, after we have pulled out key pillars and core concepts for your brand, you will sit down with the design and strategy team to start exploring the vibe. We use the criteria of the strategy to explore the look and feel of your brand – colors, images, fonts, illustrations. For instance, we might discover during our strategy dive that your brand needs to exude joy, hope, and optimism for young women. So, what does that look like? The obvious pink and glitter? Or is there a vibe that still tells that story, but still uniquely positions your brand?

Color and moodboards sound too hippy-dippy?

Take a look at the two images below and tell me you don’t get a different visceral reaction to each.

Both sell, virtually the same thing, geoprene wetsuits. Yet, their brands are starkly different and target very different markets. Their vibe is a representation of how they make their products, how they sell them, and maybe, even, how much they sell it for. (#pinktax, anyone)

Your vibe attracts your tribe.

Yes, your logo is important – but your brand’s vibe attracts your tribe. It turns lookers into followers. How do you understand who your tribe is, and then map out your vibe so it attracts that tribe? Well, you first need to back it up with strategy. Then, some kick-ass design can really pull it all together.

I know the perfect place to start – let’s talk about brand camp. 

Creative Mornings Inspired Us Once Again

On September 28th, we had the opportunity to hear Organizational Consultant Danny Kim speak to the Creative Mornings San Diego community. He schooled us on our collective addiction to tech, JOMO, and the productivity of disconnecting. JOMO, in case you haven’t heard that term, as I hadn’t, is the “Joy Of Missing Out.” Presence, disconnection, focus.

The importance of being present.

At the end of his talk – where Danny made the attendees acutely aware of our addictions through audience admissions, forced disconnection from our devices, and sharing his own stories – he specifically pointed out how nothing beats sitting across the table from someone, looking in their eyes, and keeping tech out of it. He discussed holding meetings and coaching sessions that involved standing up in a room together, using stickies, pen, paper, and whiteboards.

That’s when my heart clapped.

This same line of thinking is why we are so passionate about delivering Brand Camps. The focus. The commitment to the mission by all parties. The truth that comes from real conversations, body language, and present mindsets. During Brand Camp we encourage our clients to squash all other distractions; to turn off their email, phones, and notifications; and to take this time, that they’ve committed to, invested in and need for their business and use every minute of it. During Brand Camp, we request that our clients stay disconnected for the whole sprint. Even in their “downtime,” we provide them additional branding exercises so that their minds stay free from distractions for the entirety of the time they are with us. We have found the results of this presence really astounding.

Presence is a state of mind

While nothing beats the physical presence of all stakeholders in a room, Brand Camps can happen anywhere, from a conference call in San Francisco to a Zoom meeting in Austin. The important factor is mental presence. When working with remote participants, we turn up the right technology that will connect and engage us, while ensuring we turn down that which takes away from our ultimate goal: a strategic brand ready to make waves.

Because of this collective mental presence, not only does Brand Camp produce better results in a shorter timeframe, but it’s fun. If branding your business isn’t exciting, what is? Don’t take it from us:

“It was an incredibly FUN experience to watch them all work and to feel like we were a part of the process. We laughed a lot and had an amazing time collaborating with this team on our project!” – Jennifer, Stealth Ice Cream Company

Running, growing and promoting a business is hard, and your attention is easily divided. We invite you to join us for some work sessions, turn your phone off, and see your brand take shape from concept to visuals.

We promise, missing out will not only be ‘joyful’ – but also highly beneficial.

The Last Frontier – Jess takes a visit

At Four Fin, it is rare for both Jen & Jess to have overlapping vacay trips, and even more rare that they found each other sharing the same destination – Alaska! While it is a second home to Jen, it was Jess’s first time getting to experience the Last Frontier. We asked her to share what makes it so incredible:

Ah, laska, you are truly magical! From seeing three Moose only one-hour post arrival (how crazy?), to the fresh clean air and gardens, to experiencing the sun high in the sky until evening (they call it midnight sun – and I couldn’t love it more) you certainly impressed this San Diego native. Being that my eye is now permanently trained to spot design – I, of course, noticed the Alaskan beer right away. What stood out- the creativity behind the names, the earthy and intricate illustrations, and how each can design seemed almost to compliment each other (though from different breweries). You can only get these beers in AK too – so needless to say, I completed a thorough quality control, and can attest to the delicious taste as well!

Hats off to Alaska for impressing Jess, she has high standards, and for giving 2/3 of our team a needed reprieve, and a dose of outside inspiration.

 

 

Making Waves: Dave Ness

Dave Ness

Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1.  When did you start taking photos professionally?

Late in life.  I’ve always been interested but got “focused” around 2010 and seriously showing in 2013.

  1.  Why did you decide to do a whole series on wave formations?

Every wave is different.  They have personalities so I challenged myself to show the spirit of the waves with a new technique.

  1.  Do people often mistake your “spirit of the wave” series as paintings?

So much so that I have a sign in my booth titled “Are these paintings?”.  I developed a technique of leaving the camera open for a second or so and then panning the camera in the same direction and at the same speed as the wave.  When you see it … you feel it … and then you start to think of waves differently.

  1. Your art adorns many walls, residential and public, around San Diego. What installation makes you the proudest? (Obviously, it’s ^this piece at Four Fin, but aside from that…)

I’m proud and honored when someone chooses my work for their home or business.  When Four Fin chose “Soft Curl” at 80″ wide by 40″ high to hang in your offices, I saw how it fit your marketing message but it also fits your culture, your brand, and your style.  I once had the privilege of showing my work at the Hospice center many years ago.  One piece “Resting Giants” caught the eye of a wife and daughter of a man staying at the center.  When his wife called me to order the piece she told me they loved it for its beauty but also for the title.  Her husband had passed a few days earlier and she said, “He was my Giant and now he’s Resting”.  I delivered the piece, hung it for her and we chatting for almost two hours about what a wonderful man her husband was.

See more of Dave’s work

 

Making Waves: Ryan Berman

Ryan Berman

Sock Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. How long did you consider starting Sock Problems before finally jumping in feet first (pun intended)?

5 years. My last life running i.d.e.a. was a busy one. I was grateful to help grow the agency to 70 people and, when that happens, you stay focused on servicing those clients. It wasn’t until I was a year into working on my book about courage (Return on Courage: out in January ’19) that I started to realize that I wasn’t being very courageous myself. If you ink a book about courage you should live the premise! So I finally took action on Sock Problems and here we are today.

  1. What problem has gotten “socked the most” since you launched sock problems?

I think our “Baller” sock which Sock’s Prostate Cancer (25% of proceeds back to Movember) and our “Rainbow Pow” sock which Sock’s Hate (25% of proceeds back to The Trevor Project) are neck and neck.

  1. When you aren’t working hard on socking problems, where in San Diego might we find you?

Easy question. At the dinner table up in Encinitas with my family. I spend a lot of time outside of San Diego because of Sock Problems and Courageous (my Consultancy). So, when I am in San Diego, I try to be home and present with my family.

Surf’s Up is an Attitude

We just had a new business meeting for a lifestyle brand where we discussed the “borrowed interest” of a non-surfing consumer who supports surf brands. Why would a non-surfing customer want to shop from a surf brand if they don’t actually play the sport?  Because of what the culture of that sport represents. When you work to define the concepts behind a lifestyle brand, it’s more important to hone in on the attitude, values, and culture of your brand than it is to champion the life you live or don’t live.

I don’t go to Mexico nearly enough to be an authentic supporter of the “CaliBaja” lifestyle brand, but I do believe in the message and values of the brand. I wear the sweatshirt as a representation of that belief. I don’t “Live a Great Story” as much as I did in my 20s, but the suggestion to always check in with your story, and get out there to do something that fills it in colorfully is definitely a mentality I appreciate. Supporting and following them reminds me to live life to the fullest, however that looks for me now as a business owner and mom of two.

If I fractured my body in some debilitating way that left me unable to surf, if I had some terrifying fear of the ocean, or if I just never had an ocean-loving family and good friends to introduce me to the sport, I’d likely still buy into it. In fact, many of my good friends are “surfers” who don’t actually surf. They’re not posers as they never say they are surfers, but they exude the lifestyle, the spirit, and the attitude – hence our friendship.

You don’t have to be a surfer to work at Four Fin, but you have to have the right attitude. Positive vibes, grounded spirits, challenge-seeking thirsts, and a passion for clean lines. In fact, the surfer attitude is something we talk about a lot here at Four Fin. We even wrote a blog series on how branding is like surfing. Need some convincing? Read for yourself.

• Positioning

• Trust Your Gut

• Form Follows Function

• Hold the Door Open

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 kind. 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 as a company value will change their minds. If you actually cared about them, you 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 the free-sharing of information instantly. Make one bad move, and it will take a while to gain trust back. 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 ridiculous in the first place please. Live and run your business with integrity, based on the values you project, and you’ll reap the benefits, smaller PR retainer costs included.

Keep the Vibe High – Get More Waves

This is true out surfing as well. I’ve always wondered how one can be SO upset doing something that they tout as a favorite activity, and yet, there are those out surfing who seem to have a bone to pick with anyone in their way. If you get mad while 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. Pack that ego away and let the ocean remind you of what matters. 

I actually love the camaraderie in the water once you break the ice, and I actively show it, saying “nice wave!” 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 double down on that. 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!