Want to Grow? Take up Space.

Jacob Repko, Unsplash

With windows rolled down, driving down the Coast Highway during last Saturday’s perfect sunset, I found myself BLASTING Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”

My heart – pounding with joy
My voice – screaming until it hurt

After a cabin fever-inducing winter here in SoCal (so. much. rain.), the sun is shining again and something deep inside is craving to come out, to stretch, scream, sing, dance. Something deep inside is yelling ‘Take up some SPACE, there’s room, YOU NEED IT.’

Turns out, so do brands…

During our weekly team meeting, I shared the Zeppelin tune, and how the music reminded me to take up space. Take Up Space. This got us all talking. I challenged the team to think about which brands are truly taking up space in today’s culture. What does taking up space even mean, especially for brands? In hearing our team’s responses on brand’s they felt lived this out, three themes arose:

Get out of your own way
How easy is it to go along with the status quo, especially the status quo of your own thoughts? I often forget that things don’t change, evolve, or improve unless I get out of my own way of thinking. Same goes for industries. When you think of venture capital and law, what comes to mind? Stodgy, conservative dudes in suits, right? One look at Maveron’s website and you’ll do a double take–this is a venture capital firm? From the design to the tone of voice, any startup will remember the bold, completely unexpected experience this company delivers and more likely than not, want to be a part of it. Also, WilkMazz, bravo for not scaring us away like other law firms usually do. Who said lawyers have to be buttoned up all the time? Turns out, they can have a strong gif-game too.

Do your own damn thing
AKA, do what you do best – be yourself. When so many of us think we have to act or be someone we’re not (I’m totally guilty too), why is it so refreshing to see someone just being themselves? Authenticity is an obvious pillar for subculture branding, but it’s amazing to see Van’s take, celebrating this among their sponsored female skaters who they’ve dubbed the “Vanguards” in a recent campaign. Similarly, female shaving brand Billie is on a mission to show the world the reality of female body hair through its “Project Body Hair” campaign.

Stand up and stand for what you believe
Hearing Robert Plant belt out song after song is no truer expression of speaking his truth for Led Zeppelin, but brands don’t always need to scream to be heard. The next time you head down the meat aisle at the grocery store, you’ll probably find GoBeyond plant-based protein products (think brats and burgers). Their bold look and feel, as well as their clear mission and values don’t shy away from the fact that they believe in a better way to feed the planet. The pure simplicity of consumer goods company Brandless – from their name to their packaging and pricing model – speaks a clear testament to their belief in providing quality, affordable goods without the markup.  

Since I’ve clearly committed myself to the quest of understanding why taking up space is not only good, but required to move forward and progress for both individuals and brands, it’s important to note what taking space does not mean: Yelling for yelling sake; doing it for someone else; or trying to get attention out of fear of being forgotten.

If we take a moment and recognize the root of what we’re doing here–leading with heart and intention, which is core to what we do at Four Fin for our clients–thinking about how our brand should take up space is a purposeful exercise allowing us to know ourselves and our businesses better.

Happy International Water Day. We’re Raising Our Fins to charity: water, the “Nike of Nonprofits”

Whoever said non-profits shouldn’t invest in their brand early haven’t met charity: water or its fearless founder Scott Harrison. Without a dime to his name, Harrison began raising money in 2006 to build wells in developing countries with a mission to bring clean water to everyone on earth. This mission was large, and he knew he needed a good brand to capture attention, hiring a designer as one of the first employees. 13 years later, over 9.5* million people have/or will have access to clean water thanks to Scott’s mission, and his bold model for charity: water’s success; give 100% of public donations to water projects, show proof of where all funds go, and create a brand that captures hearts and minds (which obviously is music to our ears).

Since day one, Harrison knew he wanted charity: water to be the Nike of the nonprofit sector as he cited in a talk here in San Diego this week. Without a strong brand, he knew it would impact his ability to reach his mission. Check out charity: water’s website (stellar storytelling) or see their presence on social media (close to half a million followers on Instagram) and see just how important brand is to this organization.

Thank you for doing what you do, charity: water. You’ve built a phenomenal brand worthy of your phenomenal mission.

*charitywater.org

 

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.

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 mood boards 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.

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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!