Making Waves: Karim Bouris

Karim Bouris
Director, Multi-Sector Alliance

  1. So, you are the Director of Multi-Sector Alliance at Partners for Progress San Diego. Can you break down what “Multi-Sector Alliance” means for our audience?

There are groups of people in San Diego who have a lot to say about the policies that affect them and who want to be involved in the process. Sadly, though, they aren’t given the right structure or the opportunity to do that. The multi-sector alliance basically just means that I bring these new voices to the table to shape San Diego County: small businesses, academia, veterans, for example. On the surface, these groups seem disconnected, but together they can advance an agenda based on equity to disrupt the status quo. I really have the best job, because I work with fearless people who like rattling some cages and speaking up on what matters.

  1. What are your hopes for the newly formed Business for Good San Diego?

To change the perception of what businesses care about. The idea that they’re just motivated by making as much profit as possible is so inaccurate. The owners who are a part of Business For Good are deeply invested in how well their employees are doing and how healthy their communities are. That makes them huge agents for change, and Business For Good gives them the opportunity to match their values with their acts.

  1. Best Taco in San Diego?

Easy – Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista or La Fachada in Logan Heights!

Form Follows Function

How Branding is like Surfing: Form follows Function

In the design world, strong designers understand that “form follows function.”

In other words, if it doesn’t do its job, no one cares how cool it is. Obviously, here at Four Fin, we value the power of art and pleasing aesthetics, but design is more than aesthetics. Design is problem solving and that has to start with function. What will the website need to encourage people to do and feel? What are the marketing goals of the print ad? What’s the most efficient and pleasant way that a user can grasp the heart of the brand from this brochure we’re designing? These are the questions we ask ourselves.

This concept of “form follows function” is just as strong in other facets of life, and naturally… here we go talking about surfing again…   

1. A pretty surfboard, shaped by an amateur – won’t last a year in your quiver.

2. A basic or ugly surfboard that’s expertly shaped for your surfing style – you’ll grow to fondly nickname it ‘old trusty’.

3. A gorgeous surfboard, expertly shaped – #boardgoals. When you pull it out of the bag – where it’s kept because it means that much to you – you know what it will feel like to ride (amazing), and its beauty gets you every time. Literally – the board makes your heart swell.

You can’t surf on a shit board

Not many surfers can spring for option 3, and if they had to choose between the first two options, good surfers choose option 2. You know, so they can surf, and have fun doing it. Function first. Form follows.

Designers are not Artists

Are designers artistic? Yes. Are they artists? No. That’s because artists think ‘form’ first, and we love (and envy) them for it. Have you ever seen an ad or poster, so slick and creative, and you can NOT remember what brand it was for or what it was trying to get you to do? Or maybe, you pinned it for eye candy, or even framed it and put it on your wall. It’s a real work of art! But, you never took it seriously for its intended purpose. Familiar?

That’s because at some point, somewhere in the world, a well-meaning and talented graphic designer was given a job, and they put form first. They nailed the form. This designer likely should be an artist instead. When they do change careers (own your true gifts, talented people of the world!), we will buy and hang their art on the walls of our office. Their commitment to form, will inspire our creativity as we think about brands all day, function first.

 

Trust Your Gut

In branding and in business, sometimes you have to pivot. Sometimes you have to hold true to your values. Sometimes you have to invest yourself in building your brand where you feel the most energy and potential.

You might be grappling with some of this right now. Let me tell you a secret. You already know what to do, and you have from the moment it popped into your head.  One of my favorite quotes, that recently adorned our office felt board, is “Told you so. – your intuition.”

Life moves fast, and business moves even faster. If you spend time ignoring your gut (or worse, being scared of what it’s telling you to do), you’ll likely fall behind on really moving your brand forward. Or worse, your waffling will give off the wrong impression. Your audience will see the inconsistency, and lack of direction. Your brand will suffer. Of course, we believe that a guiding light for a lot of small businesses IS their brand. We constantly harp that you have to stay true to your brand to build a strong and consistent image.

Let me give you a simple example. Let’s say you make widgets. You’ve positioned the widgets as quality widgets. You spent a great deal on R&D and design of the widgets and are confident that your audience needs this level of quality and will be happy paying the high price. You’re releasing the widget in the world and deciding how to market them. You meet an eager and convincing online marketing consultant who promises leads. “I’ve cracked the sales funnel code. We get their attention with an introductory discount and then as you gain traction, we’ll cut the discounts and your followers, now in love with the product, will be okay spending more.” It doesn’t sit right with you. Trust your gut. The audience you’re going after cares about the quality, not the price. If lured initially by price, the second you increase price, they’ll fire up the google engine again to find something cheaper. They’ll be offended with your brand at the same time. This might appear an obvious example, and the decisions you face might be more complex, but the premise rings true. Know your brand, be proud of what it stands for, and stand with it. 

So what if your “brand” conflicts with your “gut”?  

If it’s done right… that brand will be modeled after what’s already in your gut. If you build a truly authentic brand, it will be based in part on the values of the visionary leader. It will keep you from chasing shiny objects that aren’t true to your brand. So, if your gut says something is off, you can confidently listen. 

Before I even ran a branding business, I’ve had a lot of training in this gut-feeling awareness that has helped me make key decisions quickly. In surfing, you have to trust your gut quite often.

Paddling out.

Do I paddle faster and try to get past that almost-breaking wave, or do I pull back and duck dive the white-wash? Anyone who’s found themselves trying to duck dive a wave RIGHT when it’s breaking on top of you knows why that’s an important decision. And one you have to make instantly.

Catching a wave.

There’s a frequently used word in surfing, and actually all extreme sports. Commit. If you are paddling for a wave and it’s looking promising, and you’ve made the gut decision to go for it, you’d better commit. Once the wave takes hold of you, it’s not a time to question your gut. Likewise, if you’re paddling for a wave, and have a gut reaction that tells you to back off, but you stumble a little on listening quickly, you’ll find yourself putting on a good wipe-out show for those on the beach.

Deciding if you can hack it.

All surfers have been there. Standing on the sand during a particularly large swell. Sizing up the surf. Deciding if you’ve got the strength, courage, and lung capacity to attempt to paddle out. You might catch the best wave of your life. You could also tour the local ER.  

I don’t always trust my gut, and when I get too in-my-head, it’s typically never positive. I wipe-out. I pick myself back up. I breathe. Then I apologize to my gut for not listening. “Hey gut, you were right about that client. They obviously weren’t right for us. Had I listened to you, we’d have more space for the right type of growth. Thanks again for always watching out! Forgive me and keep up the clear signals for future decisions.” 

Our gut knows what’s up. It will save us from a mouth full of salt water and deter us from poor business choices. Building a brand that is authentic to you, then learning to trust your gut is a liberating exercise. Go confidently in the direction of your brand dreams. And bring your gut with you.

Words to Brand By

We are always thinking over here. Throughout the year we gathered our thoughts for our followers on what makes a strong brand, and shared them on Instagram. We’ve revisited our own brand quite a bit this year and are ready to slay 2018 by helping others make waves with their branding.

Are you ready to make your brand clear?
If you’d like to learn about some of the principles to help align your brand, take a look at our #wordstobrandby or if you want to know what the hell we mean by all those buzzwords, and how they could apply to your brand, then give us a call and set up a free 30 min consultation. Make next year your year to own a fresh brand perspective!

Making Waves: Jaime Hampton

Jaime Hampton

Mixte Communications, Inc

  1. So your PR firm, Mixte, is well-known for your effective social-justice campaigns. How did you get started in that work?

Our work stems from our values. When you’re defined by these values, you see that the only work worth doing is the work that improves your community for all people. It’s an easy choice to specialize in social justice campaigns because it’s the right thing to do

  1. What does it mean to you to be named 2013 Commuter of the year?

I was selected as San Diego County’s Commuter of the Year because I traveled all over the county on bike, bus, Coaster and through carpools. But the better metric is that Mixte earned the highest county recognition again this year for our company’s commuter program, which means most of our staff commutes this same way. We’re showing companies of every kind that you can do anything if you just set the culture and lead by example.

  1.  Finish this: All I want for Christmas is, _____

A classic clock for my living room wall. I never had one until my grandma passed this year. One of the only things I selected from her house was this cheap clock that always hung on her wall, but it stopped working a few months ago. Every time I see that blank spot, I feel that I’m not honoring my grandma’s long love affair with the tick-tock of clocks. Though, and maybe to Gma’s chagrin, my new clock would ideally be silent.

Hiring Alert: Art Director

Four Fin Creative is a boutique design and branding firm located in La Mesa, CA, and we’re looking for our Fourth Fin. Are you a humble and positive graphic design rockstar who loves your craft and thinks about brands all day? Maybe you’d love to run your own studio, but hate finding clients? Do you enjoy challenging yourself? Do you enjoy people? Do you enjoy tacos?

We’re looking for you.

As part of a small team, you should be a self-starter, comfortable wearing many hats, taking initiative and collaborating. Do what you love in a fun and casual environment with flexibility. At Four Fin, you’ll have the opportunity to make a direct impact on our growth as a firm, and on the growth of the brands we work with. This position offers leadership potential for the right self-starter who grows with us.

Job duties may include:

– Taking a project all the way from concept development to final execution of print and web designs
– Adhering to brand guidelines and brand consistency, while keeping the creative fresh
– Working with the Creative Director to conceptualize and design brand-experiences across platforms, from email marketing and social content, to printed collateral and trade-show booths
– Sourcing and directing outside vendors as needed, from photographers and printers, to illustration artists and copywriters
– Preparing artwork for final print production
– Writing brand guidelines and designing brand books or culture books
– Professional design execution of corporate communication pieces such as brochures, pitch-decks or sales sheets
– Mentoring and guiding other designers

If you are the Fin we’re looking for: 

– You have a minimum of 5 years of agency or similar experience
– You work in Adobe Creative Suite on a Mac environment
– You love nurturing a brand through all touch-points
– You always love to try something new and do not hesitate to dive in
– You explore other artistic disciplines because it lights you up
– You are a great communicator, quick to grasp new concepts and platforms
– You pride yourself on your ability to “get” your client’s vision
– You conceptualize in the big picture world / and execute meticulously on the details
– You have done your fair share of production work: cleaning up files, prepping files for printing and publishing, etc… and you don’t loathe it
– You are comfortable working with clients as well as under a Creative Director
– Collaboration is your jam. You love spinning rough ideas off of others and, in turn, you give feedback honestly and often

What could additionally set you apart?

– Video or photography chops
– WordPress experience
– Experience in copywriting
– Experience in assisting with brand strategy exercises
– Experience in environmental or packaging design
– Illustration and or hand lettering skills
– A medal in an extreme sports competition (kidding, not kidding)

About Four Fin Creative

Four Fin Creative is a small but fierce design and branding firm, located in up-and-coming La Mesa, where the parking is easy, and it’s (almost) always sunny. We work with a range of smart and ambitious companies, from start-ups to established corporations and organizations. Four Fin helps our clients understand and beautifully communicate their brands, product benefits, services and missions in a way that is efficient, beautiful and compelling. We focus on brand identity design, and how to carry that brand through a number of touch points and platforms.

At Four Fin, our tight-knit team values a sweet balance of getting shit done, celebrating successes, and supporting each other in the process. We offer health-care and generous paid vacation and sick leave, with additional non-paid leave on approval – because we want you to explore life, and keep growing as an individual, in and out of the office.

Looking for full time, but would consider temporary part-time, moving to full. Work should primarily take place at our La Mesa place of business with occasional remote work as life demands it.

To Apply

Send us an email at jobs@fourfincreative.com and tell us in the body of the email:
1) Why you are a good fit for this position
2) Why is this position a good fit for you
3) Your favorite brand and why

Please include a link to your online portfolio and attach your résumé as a PDF.

How Branding is like Surfing: Positioning 

Out in the surf line-up, the most important thing you can do is paddle into a good position and keep adjusting to stay there. This is true of brands too. Companies extend a decent amount of energy getting into the sweet spot of their desired audience’s attention and needs. In surfing and in branding, there are a couple of ways to approach positioning that take this analogy a step further.

Hit it where it’s hot. 

When the waves are firing, there’s an obvious spot to sit to land a big one. It’s right next to everyone else. Sitting right next to nine other people will make it more difficult to catch a set wave, since only a few will win out during a three-wave set.

Now, you might decide that you can sit in that spot because you’re clearly a better surfer (or have a better product/offer/business) than those nine. If you are deciding this from a place of objectivity and not a place of ego, you might be right. And, if you decide to take that calculated risk, then go after those three precious set waves, or consumers in a crowded space. Go after them with confidence, and paddle hard.

Also, in this situation, staying connected to the oceans energy and reading the shifting swells will help you know where exactly amongst those nine you’ll need to be. Just as absorbing the energy of your consumers and reading the shifting trends and feedback will help you fine-tune your messaging. Always watching, always fine-tuning, always shifting.

Find a sweet spot.

Sometimes, if you look at the whole scene before you head out, you might be able to find a corner or reform that’s breaking a little further inside that no one noticed. They’re not perfect, they’re likely more varied, but the point is that you get a bunch, because no one else noticed them.

If you look at the whole scene before deciding where to position your brand, you might find this little pocket yourself. The B-list of waves, that doesn’t break out where the A-list breaks, but is perfectly comfortable riding small on the inside, and taking you with them.

If you’ve gotten this far, maybe you’re thinking, cool analogy. But, I’ll be honest, it’s not perfect.

Branding has an advantage surfers wish they had. 

When you are surfing, you are working with the forces of Mother Nature, and that sexy powerhouse will place those waves wherever she damn well chooses. You have to position yourself according to her rules. When you are positioning your brand, you can create waves where they weren’t before. The ‘waves’ in this analogy are followers, adopters, consumers. These waves have forces of their own, and can be drawn away from their normal spot if they are intrigued by your energy. In fact, it’s the often a great way to get them. Shine like a unique and unavoidable beacon from a calm and unsuspecting spot, way past the line up, and watch the wave patterns shift.

I wish I had that power in the ocean.

Do you know your brand’s position? Are you charging hard next to nine others in the line up, or are you beaconing greatness from the calm? I’d love to grab a coffee and chat it out with you.

——

This post is one of a series of posts from Four Fin’s Founder and Creative Director, Jen Derks, on how branding is like surfing. Follow us on instagram for updates on our blog post releases, studio happenings and client work.  

Design Values and Client Partnerships

I recently came across this article and thought it was worth a share as it’s incredibly relevant to some of our core values at Four Fin. I’m officially making it required reading for every new design hire. The article speaks to solo in-house designers at companies of non-designers, but I believe the lessons shared are universal. We approach our client-relationships with a partnership mentality, and we’re often our clients’ only designers. We’re batting on their team, in-house or not.

“Don’t be the smartest guy in the room”

At Four Fin, we believe that creativity and ideation are not the designers’ tasks alone. Everyone, whether they are the client or work for the agency, is valuable in the process of better understanding user experiences, seeing a challenge from a different perspective and bringing in varied expertise. Our Account Manager regularly contributes ideas to our work and our design staff has no issues bringing those ideas to life to test them against the others. Our clients know their users better than we do and that experience is invaluable. The point is, it’s not about us. The best idea on the table could have come from the client’s new intern, we just care that it’s the best idea related to the goals of the brand.

“Let good enough be good enough.”

This principle might seem to counter your perceptions of what a design firm believes. Don’t get me wrong, people come to us when good enough isn’t cutting it, and we value the power of iteration and nailing details. But there is a lesson here. Our clients’ success matters to us and it’s important to me as we grow that we retain a high level of respect for their goals. When a brand is in the early phases of development, we recognize when design perfection should not be the goal, and we comfortably adjust our own standards (yes, really) in order to achieve what is needed for phase 1 (e.g., get that simple landing page up, or fill the feed with relevant stock images until photoshoots can be scheduled). If we maintain this thinking and strategy in supporting our clients through phase 1, we then have more success in helping them grow and get to phase 3. This is when we grab the coffee and pump the Sonos – with design perfection as the goal.

Does your company lack an in-house designer? Is it possible we could fill in, with the same mindset as a designer on staff, but with more resources and flexibility? Let’s find a time to talk it over.

Making Waves: Drew Auker

Drew Auker

The Auker Group

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. So, you’ve been consistently named “Top 1% of all REALTORs in San Diego County.” What has led to this distinction?

I did what some really brilliant mentors told me to do. Fast forward three years of doing that and having my focus on people and not selling houses… and low and behold, I sold a ton of houses.

  1. What’s the coolest home feature you’ve seen?

 I’m still a sucker for a master bath shower with a panoramic view and a door to the outdoors.

  1. What’s your favorite secret spot in San Diego?

Red House Pizza in University Heights. (Although I don’t know how much of a secret it is… they’re always packed!)

 

Fear and Improv: Part 1

Now, I will be the first to tell you, I am not funny. I mean, my friends think I am funny. Or at least they laugh when I say things sometimes. I also, alongside most people on this planet, get a colony of butterflies in my stomach when I am met with public speaking. At Four Fin, a regular question our CEO asks us is, “What is something you did this month that made you uncomfortable?” A few months ago I decided to really test that and I signed up for an Intro to Improv class. The last time I was on a stage was probably 4th grade when I dyed my hair red to play Annie in “Annie” [side note: “temporary” fire-red hair dye is not so temporary for blonde haired folks]. Flash forward 16 years, I am back to my natural hair color and sweating profusely in my Prius before my first improv class. Fifteen minutes of forced slow breathing and a non-stop internal monologue, I was almost ready. I did a power pose, lied to myself that I would be a NATURAL, and opened my car door. Safe to say, I was not a natural.

The Lessons:

Lesson One.

Improv is hard. Some people are quick-witted and natural on stage but most of us are not and the only thing that helps is practice. I had this realization on my first class when I started sputtering out gnomish in response to my scene partner’s question.

Lesson Two.

I can speak gnomish!

Lesson Three.

Improv is essentially preschool for adults. We play games, pretend we are flying to the moon on a secret mission and, most importantly, act ridiculous without caring that we look pretty stupid.

So, every Wednesday night for the past few months, I have been going back to preschool. Turns out going to preschool as an adult is a lot harder than it is as a 5-year-old. As an adult, I am out of practice playing make-believe. Luckily, our improv coach has a few tools to help the incompetent adult dive back into the land of imagination. The most important thing in the improv toolbox is the phrase: Yes, and. Let’s say your scene partner opens the scene with “Let’s build a beautiful house!” You would respond “Yes and… let’s build this beautiful house out of pencils!” Yes and…  supports your partner, accepts the reality of the scene they want to create and builds on that reality. Now, that is beautiful! Yes, and… also requires listening. This is something I discovered when I started speaking gnomish on my first day of class. You see, I was so in my own head trying to figure out what to respond, I forgot to listen to what my scene partner was saying.

Yes, and … is something that directly translates into life in the real world and into my career at Four Fin. As a branding and design studio, an essential part of our job is listening. Our clients are often responsible for the vision of their company’s overall brand, campaign or targeted marketing initiative (i.e., CEOs, Marketing Directors, etc.). We value the practice of genuinely listening and saying “yes, and…” to our clients’ ideas. It is our job to bring their vision to life with an authentic brand and identity. That requires listening, building upon the ideas and dreams of our clients, and translating that dream into reality. And that, my friends, is beautiful.