Category: Community

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.

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.

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.

Being a Woman in Branding

I’ve never thought much about being a woman in my career. Sure, in college there were only a handful of girls on the ‘creative track’ of our advertising major. And, we all know about the old days of male dominated agencies, referenced in Mad Men. Great show by the way. But really, none of this ever meant anything to me. I surf, so I guess I’m used to being in a male-dominated environment. It didn’t phase me. I liked design and I liked psychology, so the path was obvious.

But lately, it does mean something. And I’m not talking about the all to common “why don’t I make the same as my male counterparts?” I’m talking about the way women lift each other up. It’s incredible. It can be seen in the success of blogger networks, women design retreats and networking opportunities. There is even a women-only coworking space here in San Diego. And while, I admit, I think it can be a bit overboard and counter-productive (I’m not a ‘girlboss’), I do think it marks a time in history where change is happening and women are more respected in the world of business. I am proud to be a part of that narrative.

I also think the design and branding world needs us. We understand the female mindset, of course. More importantly, we think and feel differently. We nurture by nature, run on empathy on practice active listening. Brands need nurturing. Clients need empathy. Users need to be understood.

I am honored to be a woman in business and in branding today, running a company built on mutual respect, radical candor, and collaboration.  When we lift each other up, we all rise. Here’s to seeing more women in our industry, not just as the designers and illustrators, but in the leadership roles as well.

Why We love La Mesa

We work with companies throughout San Diego, but have decided on La Mesa as our headquarters for Four Fin. Why? Because, we believe in real connections, genuine people, easy parking and sunshine. It’s a straight shot on the 94 to Downtown San Diego, and quick to hop on the 8 or 125 as well. We like the creative vibe of our space, the neighboring businesses and the growing culinary scene out our front door. La Mesa is turning a corner in it’s history, to appeal to younger crowds with cool new establishments like Public Square, Coin Haus, Farmers Table, Boulevard Noodles and Sheldon’s Service Station.

Those last two are owned in part by mover and shaker, Aaron Dean, who is infusing life into the business community with his involvement with the La Mesa Village Association and his energy into a number of new local hotspots.

AARON DEAN

La Mesa Business Owner

  1. So, we’ve seen you pouring serious heart into La Mesa (we’re amped). Why this part of San Diego?  

La Mesa has always been a part of my family. I went to Fuerte Elementary decades ago. My father medical practice has been at Grossmont for over 38 years and my Grandparents were active in the community since 1959. For me I see huge potential for growth and love the feeling of being part of this community.

  1. What was the last thing you got really excited about? 

Well I was really excited and honored to be on the cover of Day & Night in last weeks Union Tribune. It was a great article not just about me but the happenings in La Mesa. It felt good to be able to talk about so many of the businesses and events happening in La Mesa.

  1. If you could only drink one beverage for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Sheldons Coffee of course…however in a few months my answer would change to Depot Springs Beer!

For more information on Aaron, and his improvements to La Mesa, you can read the latest two union tribune articles he was featured in:

La Mesa: the next culinary hotspot – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Aaron Dean has appetite for big plans in La Mesa

Thank you Aaron for all you do to foster community and encourage the growth of this town we love. See you at Sheldon’s!

Foster a Community with purpose

From our work with an exciting new coworking space downtown, and our following of the soon to be open Public Square Coffee House right around the corner from our La Mesa office, it feels like the idea of “community” is surrounding me lately. The concept is an important one, as often studies and films have show it as a measure of happiness. It’s deep rooted in our physiological needs to be a part of a community where we feel safe, valued and connected: a place where we belong.

Good brands know this. When I was studying advertising, it was a one-directional conversation. It’s been so uplifting to see the industry shift over the years to less telling, and more discussing; less what, and more why. There’s more transparency and accountability. The shift has forced companies to think about what is important to them, and why that matters to their customers. Thanks to technology advances, we can get to know our customers better, to alter our behaviors and offerings to suit them. It’s not only more cost effective than large advertising campaigns, but it’s more impactful.

We will continue to encourage our clients to foster community in their own brands, from they way their employees work with customers, to how they promote themselves. It’s a simple idea, but a strong asset for growing companies.