The amazing power of the word list

Recently, I was working on a client who came to the inspiration-collecting table with some solid stuff. I mean this client laid out a word doc complete with descriptions of what she liked and why, and when we spoke on the phone to clarify any questions either she or I had, there were no clarifications needed!

It seemed simply and cut and dry…or at least it did until I sent her what the inspiration had spoken to me.

The jump between inspiration collecting, gathering, and then articulating, leads straight into what I like to refer to as ‘visual deciphering’. As a designer, I absorb all of the information, think ridiculously intently on it, and let it go. Somehow in that bumbly brain of mine, dots will be connected: and VOILA! A logo idea will pop in.

When that client (who shall remain nameless here, but she totally will know who she is when she reads this!) saw her Round 1 comps of her logo, I imagine she felt confused and totally unsure. We spoke a bit about what to do, and I suggested now that she had already gotten her toes wet with the process, she should revisit some sites and inspiration that will help get a direction that was going to be closer to someone that she would actually LOVE. You know, the whole reason for getting a big awesome branding company to handle it.

What she sent over changed the way I will handle my branding inspiration-collection process forever. She sent over new inspiration, yes. She also sent over drawings, and notes and thoughts all scanned in- while this stuff is great- the part that really sealed the deal to awesome town was a solid chunk of words she included to help me better understand what she was trying to achieve visually: this might be the holy grail of designing for a client.

“Crisp, clean, professional, reliable, approachable, personal, contemporary, unique, layered, interesting, moment-defining, dynamic, timeless, creative, vintage, emotion, warmth, sunlight, afternoon, glow, welcoming, inviting, storytelling, funky, elegant, documentary, sensitive, electric, emotive, quiet and loud, effective and subtle.”

While collecting these may have seemed a weird mix of awkward + redundant, it showed me what was most important to this client, and it was not going to just be achieved by a font, or even a customized typographic solution, color palette, and texture treatment.

This was something that needed to be planned, layered and very much considered.

Working off of concepts like “storytelling” may seem cliché at first, but coupled with “moment-defining”, “approachable”, “electric” and “emotive”, creates a story all on it’s own. It tells how this particular client wants to be seen, how they view themselves in the context of what they do, and how they handle their particular subject matter.

This is a branding gold mine, people.

Information like this, coupled with visual inspiration, creates a richer and more authentic experience not only the client/designer to work through, but the hopeful potential customer as well. It absolutely will make the fledgling brand you are tirelessly working towards that much more successful in that it’s not just something anyone can replicate, and it’s definitely not going to be a one-note trend that’s going to die out in 2 weeks.

Thinking of branding yourself? Get yourself a comfy seat in a quiet spot, grab a notebook, and write. Do not edit- I repeat- DO NOT EDIT at this stage! This stage is for word-barfing, not word-judging. Get it all out there word by word, and know that the longer you do it, the better the words will be. Initially the words you think of will be the easy stuff, the artificial things.

We all want to take pictures that make people happy, and we all want to be warm and welcoming, clean and organized.

But what sets you apart?

The longer you spend at this particular exercise, the clearer idea you will have. Trust me, I do this for every client, every project. But it took having a client do it for me to really appreciate the effort.

Until next time!

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