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Brand vs Brand Identity: Is there a difference?

A brand is not a logo.

Nor is it just a combination of logo, typeface, and color. And it’s not just the products and services the company offers. It’s a bit more. It might seem like a silly distinction to draw, but we believe it’s an important one to recognize.

So, let’s set some quick definitions.

Brand identity is the tangible, visual component of a company (name, logo, communications, how the collateral looks and feels). And then there are touchpoints. Touchpoints are moments in time where people interact with a product or service. Touchpoints and identity are the parts we can see, touch, feel, and interact with. Every product or service ties together multiple touchpoints into what some might call a journey.

Does the sum of all this equal a brand?

Not quite.

It’s like a relationship.

The brand itself is more of an intangible thing – the gut feeling (as Marty Neumeier describes it in his book The Brand Gap) about the company that its customers have. Brands are an abstraction that exist in the minds of those who interact with them. The brand itself is not created by a company alone – it is also created by the people who interact with the company’s offering. Their gut feelings, memories, or experience will be anchored or attached to the brand identity. The visual identity becomes a symbol to hold all of that meaning. When they see the logo for the company or hear its name, they quickly recall those positive or negative feelings. Ideally that identity feels authentic and an appropriate fit for the associations it takes on.

In that sense, a brand is like a relationship between two people. The relationship isn’t a physical thing you can drop on your foot, but it’s very real and represents an emotional connection you have with another person. Over the course of time, that relationship takes on meaning through shared experiences, future expectations, and how we choose to talk about it.

What does this all mean?

You can’t create a great brand just by having a clever name or creating a cool logo. Just like you can’t develop a strong friendship by only looking like an interesting person. Branding as a discipline is more than slapping a coat of glossy paint on at the end. It takes time and intention.

You can’t create a great brand just by having a clever name or a cool logo, any more than you can develop a strong friendship just by looking like an interesting person.

Creating a visually stunning brand identity can do more harm than good. If the company is not operationally sound and is creating a negative experience for its customers a strong identity will serve as a lightning rod for negativity and brand terrorism.

A strong brand identity will make it easier to identify the good and the bad alike. Before you invest in a new identity, make sure that the experience you offer customers is a quality one. And then craft an identity that will help solidify the connection between hard-earned good experiences and your company.

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The Shape of Our New Business Cards

When we set out to redesign our business cards, we knew we didn’t want to go the standard route – we wanted something that would help tell our story. We had already been digging into the symbolism and imagery of wayfinding when we redesigned our logo. In that process we stumbled upon a fascinating shape called the reuleaux triangle – and it was perfect.

Reuleaux: /roo – LOH/

The reuleaux triangle has been used in many applications, from architecture to mathematics and map making. The overlapping section in the center of a three-set Venn diagram? That shape is the reuleaux triangle.

three-set venn diagram

Reuleaux triangles are geometrically beautiful shapes with surprising properties. They have been used as clever solutions to a variety of challenges in engineering and other fields. Its shape has a constant width – the diameter is the same no matter the orientation. It can rotate within a square while constantly touching all four sides, which allows for the creation of a drill bit that can create a square hole. How’s that for squaring the circle? Pencils in the shape of a reuleaux triangle have a couple of benefits: users often find them more comfortable to hold, and because they are not perfectly cylindrical, they are less likely to roll off tables and under your coworkers’ chair.

As creative guides for strategic journeys, the reuleaux triangle’s rich history in map making and trail signage is what ultimately captured our imagination. Leonardo da Vinci used the shape in an early map projection of the earth. It has been used in trail signage to help hikers find their way, such as along the Lewis and Clark National Trail. So it felt appropriate as the shape for our business cards, which help you find members of our team.

the cards tile into interesting patterns

We knew we wanted to feature topographic textures on the cards. But it couldn’t just be an image of topography – there needed to be some actual topography to our cards. They had to be tactile, where you could literally feel the terrain under your fingers. So of course we had them letterpressed! We are very pleased with the results.

Reflecting on Recent Experiences

It’s been said that to craft an excellent experience for your customers, you should think of a specific person and craft the experience with them in mind. The exercise helps identify the sort of things that solve pain points or create delight for real people. As a team, we often recount experiences we’ve had with brands that have been remarkable. The end of the year is a great time to reflect on those good experiences. And learn from them for the year ahead. Below, find a few reflections on experiences that provided value to our team this year.

Kirstie

Terra Shepherd

I have always loved fashion, but the actual experience of clothes shopping? Not so much. For the past 15 years, I’ve been shopping almost exclusively online for all of my clothes. But I decided to brave the IRL shopping experience when I heard about one of Downtown’s Sioux Falls’ latest boutiques: Terra Shepherd. Like me, they have a commitment to sustainable fashion and conscious consumerism, so I thought it was worth a shot. I was the only person in the store, which normally fills me with dread because of hovering salespeople, but the staff was so warm and welcoming and made me feel like I was just trying on clothes with friends. They suggested things I would like and, much to my surprise, I actually did like them! That combined with the shared values make this an experience I will be returning to.

Brady

Wirecutter

Before becoming a father of two young children, I had much more time to thoughtfully research gift ideas for family and friends. As those margins of time have vanished, I’ve appreciated the methodology that Wirecutter applies to their product reviews. And that they explain their process with each roundup of reviews. Christmas shopping this year would have been much more stressful and incomplete without referencing their Holiday Gift Guide. When I don’t have the time to do the level of research I typically would, it gives me greater confidence to give something as a gift knowing a little about the people who are reviewing the products and what makes them uniquely qualified to do so. And as it turns out, they are usually far more qualified to do the research than I!

Cindy

Amazon Prime Online Shopping

Like many working adults, my time is at a premium. I value being able to shop online from home and not have to get into my car, find a parking place, go into a store, make a selection and then wait in line to check out. However, I think there is a price to pay for this convenience.

I have to confess I do love going onto Amazon Prime, pressing a few buttons, and having an item shipped to me for free (yes, I did pay for the membership so it’s not really free). However, I am cautious about the future of big data, protection of personal information, and changes we can anticipate as a direct result of limited competition. Is it too good to be true?

Courtney

Earthscapes Landscaping

My husband and I decided this would be the year we invested into landscaping for our backyard. We received Earthscapes name as a recommendation from another friend that had used them, and after our awesome experience, I can see why. Shane, our landscape designer, was awesome from the start and put up with all of my questions along the way.

But the one point in the process that really stood out was when we were nearing completion of our project. We had an existing retaining wall, that wasn’t a part of the project scope (other than making small repairs to the existing wall), but it didn’t look amazing. One morning, he called and told me they had some left over materials from the rest of the project and he would like to put those towards replacing the existing wall. He felt it would enhance the look of the backyard, and while it might be a few more hours of labor, it would be something they would like to do for us within our current scope. Of course I said “Heck yeah!” and now we have an even more amazing backyard and I am willing to tell all my family, friends, and co-workers about this awesome company. Such a small gesture made a huge impact on the experience we had with Earthscapes and now I can’t stop bragging about them and their work!

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Commonplace in Community

A commonplace book is one central location for keeping important, interesting, or useful information. The practice of commonplace was used to keep track of ideas, concepts, facts and any piece of useful information that one might want to return to later. The commonplace book would be a fertile ground for new ideas and insights to form. Sometimes the books were kept as general collections, but were often kept on a specific topic or theme. The curators of these books found immense value in both the practice and the book itself.

These books were recorded by hand, in a journal. Over time, the practice has evolved with technology and now there is a proliferation of ways to keep a commonplace book as well as new kinds of content to keep in them. Digital apps like Evernote are a great way to keep a commonplace book, and are a clear evolution from the traditional pen and paper format.

These books were very personal artifacts for use by an individual. But something interesting has happened with the advent of the internet, blogs, and social media. Our commonplace books have become public, community commonplaces. Tumblr blogs, Instagram accounts, and Pinterest boards all can function as a sort of commonplace book. On Reddit, the community votes the most compelling content to the top.

These are all public, curated collections. And we have the ability to follow the collections of others. Your follower list is a curated collection of notable people. There’s an exponential or fractal quality to it. Or perhaps a kaleidoscope is a better metaphor. Ideas from a variety of sources are brought into friction and collision with one another, in a way that perhaps they wouldn’t if they were strictly private collections.

Commonplace goes digital

But are these collections really in the spirit of keeping a commonplace book? Keeping commonplace is a deliberate practice. It is done with care, and the entries into a book are meaningful – they are recorded for a purpose. If we are to see these public collections of content as commonplace books, they must not be divorced from intention and context. We need to understand why something was shared if we were not the ones to originally share it.

At MJM, we use Slack for internal communication, and have several channels that function as commonplace collections of sorts, curated by our whole team. #inspiration is full of articles, quotes, videos, and websites shared by members of our team who were inspired by them. Members of our team with an interest in motion graphics and animation have a channel named #timeline-chatter (after the timeline interface element common to editing and animation programs). We share tips and tricks that we have found as well as examples of animation that we want to learn from.

Inspiration endorsed with enthusiasm

The entries that inspire and engage others are those that include a brief personal note from the poster about why they found the item so interesting. These entries give context and are endorsed with the enthusiasm of someone who shares similar interests. It’s an invitation to dialogue, and helps establish a foothold for a common, shared vocabulary. The goal is not just to find the coolest thing and be the first to share it. Keeping commonplace is a constructive act. The goal is to build and expand upon each other’s curiosity and knowledge. This creation of context and invitation into dialogue is vital to a community collection that is truly in the spirit of commonplace.

This has implications for those of us who create, collect, and manage content for others as well. We should strive to be intentional and constructive with the content we create and share, and not just another distraction. And we must consider how we facilitate the creative act of curation as a unified group, not just a collection of individuals.

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MJM Designers Participate in AIGA South Dakota Stamp Show

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to participate in a group show created by AIGA South Dakota—the South Dakota Stamp Show. For this show, AIGA asked 13 area designers to each create a set of five concept postage stamps around a topic related to our fair state. There was a lot of good work in this show, and you can still see it at the Sioux Falls Design Center for a limited time.

Here the designers at MJM talk about their process and work:

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Deadwood

Deadwood is deceiving town.If you were to visit the area today, it presents itself as an unassuming South Dakota town and (aside from some gambling and historic displays) you wouldn’t guess its rich history. With this topic, I saw an opportunity to highlight the people from a long-gone era that made Deadwood a household name. People like Poker Alice and Wyatt Earp. As I researched these historic individuals, I found myself thinking of them as more characters in a drama and less actual people that lived out their lives in our rural region. With names like Wild Bill and Calamity Jane, it’s difficult not to. Because of this, I chose to make the goal of this stamp series is to spotlight that juxtaposition of real person and western legend with a set of minimalist caricatures of some of the most famous people to reside in Deadwood.

Joel Jochim

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Roadside Attractions

South Dakota has mastered the art of the roadside attraction. Drive down any highway in the state and you’ll be bombarded with billboards advertising sites ranging from the delightfully kitschy to the straight-up bizarre. Are they desperate money grabs? Maybe. But you have to admire the ingenuity of people who have found a way to use whatever resources they have at their disposal to capture people’s attention. The kind of ingenuity that sees some old pieces of wood and turns them into a forest or sees an abandoned town and fills it with animatronic cowboys. Because, why not? In a state as vast and unpopulated as South Dakota, it  takes a little bit more effort to remind people that you exist. To honor these beacons of the prairie, I wanted to design stamps that were, above all, fun. South Dakota is usually expressed in shades of greens and browns and I wanted to bring in some vivid technicolor that screams, “I’m here! Look at me!”

Kirstie Wollman

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I-90

Interstate 90 runs through the center of the state and is the main artery of travel for most people moving through South Dakota. I-90 unifies the state, and touches on a lot of common elements of the experience of living here.

Bisontennial: 200 years ago there were an estimated 75 million bison roaming the countryside. By 1895, that number was cut to 800 due to reckless and wasteful hunting. Now, after 200 years, the North American bison is again thriving in commercial herds and roaming in both wild and protected places. The population is now estimated to be about 500,000.

Accumulation: In a state that averages between 30 to 70 inches of annual snowfall, snow (and snow removal) is a large feature of life. For every mile of interstate, South Dakota spends more than $2,800 on winter maintenance. So if you get a chance, buy a coffee for one of the 400 or so workers who are driving the state DOT’s snowplows this year.

No Services: With the straight lines created by the 1956 Interstate Highway Act, small towns that found themselves too far off the interstate gradually lost ground to those communities that were closer. Sometimes towns bypassed by the interstate saw business come to a standstill literally overnight.

Home Alone: My first car was a 1984 Subaru GL station wagon, light blue and relatively reliable. I loved that I could throw everything I needed in the back and drive wherever I needed to go. I put Christmas lights in the back windows and installed a switch by the gear shift—I’m lucky the whole thing didn’t catch on fire. My second car was a 1990 Subaru Legacy station wagon—no Christmas lights but just as great. I’ve never owned a kayak or a teardrop trailer, but maybe someday.

Share the Road: Of the 546 motorcycle accidents reported last year, 51% involved another motor vehicle.  And I drew a helmet on this guy because in 245 (or 55%) of last year’s accidents the riders weren’t wearing helmets.

Tim Murray

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South Dakota Rocks!

Rock climbing strikes me as a very physical test of strength and endurance, but also one of creativity—finding a route up what appears at first to be an unscalable rock face. So it’s only appropriate that one must also exercise creativity in naming a newly devised route—an honor given to the first climber to ascend (or “send” in climbing lingo) a new route. South Dakota’s Black Hills region features granite spires and limestone canyons that provide for spectacular rock climbing, and which give birth to even more spectacular names.

In rock climbing there are both good and bad names. Poor names are childish or in poor taste; the worst names are misogynistic or racist. A good name can put a new climb on the map, attracting more climbers and elevating it to the status of legendary. The best names describe the rock or route itself with fitting imagery or a clever reference. In that sense it can be like the task of naming a new business, or designing an appropriate logo for it. Cerberus, a climb in Custer State Park, is on a spire with three little peaks at the top—a reference to the three-headed hound that guards the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology. The name lends enough antagonism to feel like a challenge or foe to overcome, inviting intrepid climbers to try and best the beast.

Brady Holm

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Wall Drug

Wall Drug is a wonderfully weird place. It’s the ultimate American road trip stop attracting 2 million people* per year—but why is it so popular? I think some people just need to see what all the fuss is about. Hand-painted billboards advertising Free Ice Water put Wall Drug on the map decades ago and led to a national and international network of billboards that point back  to this obscure corner of South Dakota. The climbable jackalope, the 80-foot dinosaur, homemade donuts, and iconic signage are the most popular tourist photos at Wall Drug. I drew them with a brush tool that gives it some roughness reminiscent of a fading billboard. The pastel color palette borrows from that early-morning light and shadowy landscape you get on a long road trip. I, the  bleary-eyed kid in the back seat of this road trip, wakes up and thinks, “Where in the world are we?” We pull up to a parking space. The sign says “Welcome to Wall Drug” and it smells like donuts.

*To put it this number into perspective, there are less than 1 million people living in both North and South Dakota combined.

Alison Raaen

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Thoughts on Design Camp 2018

Our content team voyaged north to Design Camp for inspiration from leading creatives, technique sharing and time together. Here were some takeaways from the team:

The theme of this year’s Design Camp was “Inside Out” and the goal was for everyone to put it all on the table—personally, professionally and creatively. As a classic reserved Midwesterner, my first reaction when I heard this was, “No, thank you.” But as I listened to the speakers and presenters share their stories, the more I started to think that maybe I do have a story of my own to tell. I have always shied away from doing personal work, believing that my purpose as a designer could only be derived by creating things for other people. But the presentations left me questioning the assumption that creating something for myself is inherently incompatible with creating things for other people.

This idea culminated in the final keynote from illustrator Andy J. Pizza who talked about how looking at gig posters had helped him dig himself out of a depression. Something that was meant to be functional and ephemeral had become someone’s lifeline. As designers, we have very little control over what happens to our work once it has been released into the world. Most often, we worry about people misunderstanding or even ruining our work, but isn’t magical to think that our work could be thing to turn someone’s life around?

So, still being a Midwesterner, I of course did not voice any of the ideas that were running around in my head during the actual weekend, but it has got me thinking about how I can use design to tell my own story. Because, maybe, there is someone out there who needs to hear it.

– Kirstie

Design Team in Brainerd, MN

Plaidurday 2018

Design Camp 2018 was a great opportunity to glean new techniques and meet skilled designers, but the most important takeaway I had from the experience was that even the most veteran designers out there undergo the same brief moments of doubt and near-burnout that all creatives do. Not only do they have these moments, but their experiences have taught them how to systematically push through these obstacles and return to creating their best work. We able to hear these and learn from these stories thanks to the vulnerability the keynote speakers were willing to show us, so I think we can all agree that we’re endlessly thankful.

– Joel

Design Camp was a fantastic weekend of fellowship and learning for our design team. We studied and discussed the creative process, inspiration, and collaboration and came home with some great tools to improve our work. One teaching theme emerged for me from a number of the speakers, and reflects a comment from a famous athlete:

”It seems like the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

A number of speakers reflected on how they fought through low periods of creativity or dead periods of work. For those that found their way through these periods, a common theme was ”just keep working.“ Work projects, personal projects, passion projects—find a way to keep working and producing. It was often this work borne in low periods that created the exposure or inspiration for future successful work. This kind of ”luck,” obviously, is created through dedication and intentional focus, and all creatives need to find a way to fight through their low periods and breakthrough. At MJM, having a great team of creatives around to work with and create with definitely helps support each individual creative as they work hard and create more luck!

– Logan

I have one core or foundational belief about creativity. It’s that new ideas are simply new combinations of familiar things. This concept of combinatorial creativity is only reinforced by conferences like Design Camp. It’s incredibly invigorating to spend a weekend retreat with like-minded designers and thinkers, getting inspired by the journey others have taken and the things they’ve learned along the way.

One of the workshops outlined a technique for ”Bulletproof Ideation” by combining ideas in a methodical fashion. We learned about the Bedno Diagram – a tool invented by designer and educator Ed Bedno—which provides a framework for seeing and exploring the intersection of multiple ideas. The process was very familiar, but I had never seen it implemented so thoroughly and methodically. And I was inspired by the suggestion to use the technique to reverse engineer ideas that have inspired me, to understand how their creator may have arrived at that solution. It was a good reminder that good ideas don’t come out of thin air, delivered by a muse in a ”eureka” moment. They are intentionally crafted and combined, and are accessible to all who are willing to work rigorously for them.

That last point connects back to the final keynote speaker, Andy J. Pizza. He shared the highs and lows of his creative journey, and wisdom he gained along the way, with the ultimate conclusion that there are no shortcuts for a fulfilling creative career. You have to do the work. And sometimes you have to struggle for it. That struggle might look like an exhaustive Bedno diagram, or piles of discarded concepts on the way to one workable solution. Learning to enjoy the process and to see it as intrinsically valuable is the key to going far.

– Brady

No matter what you want to learn, most skills and ideas are available to anyone who is interested through YouTube tutorials and Skillshare classes. You don’t need to drive halfway to Canada to find inspirational speakers or to learn interesting new techniques, but our design team does exactly that every year.

AIGA Minnesota’s Design Camp is a yearly retreat just outside Brainerd, MN. Each fall the MJM design team makes the trek up to northern Minnesota, and while the workshops and the speakers’ portfolios are interesting, to my mind they are not the most valuable part of the experience. The reward that compels me to make the trip is perspective.

This year that perspective had less to do with design methodology, new paper options, or printing techniques—it was something deeper. I felt like I heard two different answers to the question, “What is your work for?” Some of the speakers I heard and the designers I met talked about the scope of their portfolio and the size of their audience; they spoke about their personal brand and their career path. Good work equals more glory. Other people focused on the lives they had touched, the students they had taught, and the relationships they had formed with clients and colleagues over the course of their career. Good work means better relationships with people.

“What is your work for?”

Looking at my own past work, some of it has held up well, but much of it has not. Projects I worked on even 6 months ago can sometimes cause me to cringe. But the relationships I’ve developed with coworkers, students and clients are evergreen. Last year’s projects are getting stale; last year’s relationships are still a source of joy. Do the work, and enjoy the process, but don’t look to your work to make you happy. The work (whatever it is) is valuable, but it’s really only a backdrop to the things that matter most.

– Tim

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Designers Tackle the 36 Days of Type 2018

#36DaysofType

Each day a new character, and in our case, a new designer as we passed around the alphabet to explore type, animation, illustration, storytelling and more. Designers and illustrators around the world participated in 36 Days of Type by posting to instagram and connected with the #36DaysOfType hashtags. We decided to tackle the challenge as a team this April and May. Repetition invites creativity and crafting. We also invited the opportunity to try new techniques. We stuck (somewhat) to our original color palette and prescribed dimensions and dove in.

Each designer chose their favorite letter and gave some background. (Check out this reference for a quick guide on technical type terms.)

C

Joel

I always appreciate projects like 36 Days of Type for creating opportunities to try new tools and solutions in a design setting. I used much of that opportunity to explore computer-generated three-dimensional design and animation. While there are quite a few examples of this in the library of type we created, this “Inflatable C” is one of my favorite results of that exploration. While it’s quite minimal, it shows off some of the new options that the third dimension can create for designers like convincing depth in the subject and a more robust use of simulated physics. Along with all of that, this piece just makes me think of summer.

G

Kirstie

The double-story (or looptail) “g” is one of my all-time favorite letterforms. Even though it’s mostly superfluous, difficult to write and unrecognizable to the majority of population, I love how it seems to capture all of the personality of a typeface and its designer. For this illustration, I wanted to take full advantage of the letterform and do something playful to link the two counters. The shapes reminded me of pools of water, so I turned them into little ponds and, in the name of the letter “g,” added a goldfish leaping between the two. It’s a quirky little fish at home in a quirky little letter.

J

Alison

I think the most interesting part of a capitalized J is its arm. Many sans serif fonts do away with it for simplicity’s sake, but I like the way it can balance the otherwise asymmetrical form. I started with a grid paper sketch to articulate my idea. On paper I could visualize how to fit the two scoops of each J shape together and experiment with softly curved terminals. Then I moved to the Procreate app for iPad. I used a chalky brush to give body to the letter, and then used the eraser tool to define the edges and corners. Procreate allows layers so I could add illustrated florals between the tall, narrow J and the more squat, overreaching J tucked in where I wanted—and still have each piece editable. I fit organic shapes and ornaments in and around the ribbons to complete the bright composition.

K

Tim

One of my favorite aspects of the 36 Days of Type project was that it gave us freedom within a rigid structure. That sounds like a contradiction but it’s not—the project was completely open-ended, with no direction or client feedback, but at the same time, the content was inflexible (the letter of the day), the timeframe was limited (one letter each day) and as a team we also chose to limit ourselves to a common color palette. Freedom within constraints can lead to remarkably creative solutions.

For some of my letters I tried to build a formal letter shape, conforming to typographic traditions and crafted for legibility and grace. This K is an example. After looking at other K shapes in a variety of fonts and calligraphy I identified some of the geometric “bones” that I wanted to build my K around.

In other letter explorations, I chose a more conceptual approach. I thought it would be fun to build the letter P shape out of large, oversized pixels. In the animated version of this “P is for Pixels” composition, I created a digital sort of shimmer by slowly fading each block between a few different values of blue.

X

Brady

I love projects that require a series of explorations around the same prompt. Eventually your typical approach to the problem starts to feel tired and uninspired and you are forced to try something you might not normally consider. 36 Days of Type was that sort of project for me (even in just the 7 or so iterations I completed as part of our team approach).

Part way through my initial explorations began to lose their initial spark and I started looking around my environment at home for inspiration. We have a variety of patterned fabrics and other materials around the house, from curtains to coasters, and while studying them one evening I started to imagine how those patterns would look in motion. One pattern in particular happens to feel very much like a grid of geometric letter X’s.

Once I tested the idea with X, I wondered about the same concept applied to a different pattern-letter combination. It was interesting approaching the problem from the other direction the second time around, starting with a particular letter or number and trying to discover it in an already existing pattern.

You can see the whole set from the MJM design team on our Instagram account or by watching the video below!

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Brand Identity Guidelines: Consistency Is King

Or at least kind of a big deal.

When we collaborate with our clients to help them refine, reimagine or build a new brand identity from the ground up, we always recommend codifying the good thinking that occurs into a set of identity guidelines. These guidelines spell out the essential elements that an organization uses to consistently communicate its identity, story and messages.

So… what’s a brand?

Consider that a brand is a collection of expectations, experiences and relationships that a customer feels towards an organization. As Marty Neumeier defines it in his book The Brand Flip (a recent favorite addition to our shared library), this collection is like a gut feeling that a customer has. It’s their immediate impression when they hear the name or see the logo.

A brand derives its value from the impression or trust that its customers identify with it and the values that they share together. When a brand works hard to deliver a positive and compelling experience, it needs a strong identity for its customers to tie that impression or gut feeling to. That identity comes to symbolize the shared values between the brand and its customers, and the good work that the brand carries out on their behalf. The value is not in the logo or name, but in the good work and relationship it symbolizes. It’s important to apply and live out a brand identity consistently to reinforce that relationship and good gut feeling.

What do brand identity guidelines consist of?

There are many components. Some are related to belief and purpose: name and logo, story or narrative, taglines and messaging. Other components help define the tone or personality of the brand and its visual vocabulary. These include colors, typographic style, imagery and illustrations. The combination of these elements helps to create a unique identity—an identity that communicates purpose and a set of shared values that click on a gut level.

Finding the right combination of these elements takes time and hard work. And yet the process is rewarding. We’ll outline that process in the coming weeks, and why it is one of the favorite experiences we share with our clients.

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Work Is Theatre at Design Week 2016

GIF of a curtain opening and the text "The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre"

The 3rd annual Sioux Falls Design Week has wrapped up! MJM hosted some of Sioux Falls’ curious minds for an interactive workshop and presentation. We explored key ideas behind the Experience Economy and the Freytag Pyramid, and how they inform the work MJM does on behalf of our clients. And in a twist nobody saw coming, we pulled back the curtain and revealed our intentional design of the evening’s activities.

GIF of the Freytag Pyramid

In the Experience Economy, businesses no longer seek to make products or deliver services, but rather stage meaningful experiences. Those experiences are made up of smaller interactions called touchpoints. Touchpoints take place over the narrative arc of an experience and each one affects the customer’s overall impression of the experience. At MJM, we believe each one is an opportunity to intentionally create moments of delight.

We shared an exercise called Customer Experience Mapping that helps identify key touchpoints. Some may be negative moments in an interaction and ripe for improvement—others may have gone unnoticed and unconsidered in the past.

Following the exercise, MJM demonstrated how we mapped the touchpoints of our Design Week presentation in advance to create a compelling experience. We built both positive and negative experiences into the event to demonstrate some of the key ideas. For example, as attendees entered they received a very poorly designed survey for them to fill out. The poor design was intentional, and it was pointed out later to demonstrate a negative touchpoint. While they were engaged in the presentation, our team was behind the scenes plugging in email addresses from the forms. As we ended the discussion, attendees had an email waiting in their inbox with further resources and an invitation to join us at another event later that evening—hopefully flipping the frustration of wrestling with a counterintuitive form into a moment of delight and surprise.

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Mapping the Customer Experience

We often think of interactions with customers in terms of one key moment (usually the point of sale) rather than a narrative. In reality there are many moments, or touchpoints, that customers experience in anticipation of that interaction, during the interaction, and in recalling it afterwards. These moments reflect positively and negatively on your brand, and each moment is an opportunity to design more intentional experiences. We’ve created a worksheet that you can use to think through this process for your own company or organization. Download the worksheet here:

Graphic to download MJM Customer Experience Mapping exercise

How to use the Customer Experience Mapping worksheet

  • For each stage (Anticipate, Enter, Engage, Exit and Extend), brainstorm the touchpoints your customers experience.
  • Write these touchpoints on the cards below, and indicate whether the impression is positive or negative.
  • Cut out the cards along the dotted lines.
  • Assemble the cards in chronological order, and then move them up or down to indicate how positive or negative the experience was.
  • Identify key touchpoints that can be improved, and note touchpoints that have not been intentionally designed.

Let us know how it goes!

We hope you find this customer experience mapping exercise helpful, and we’d love to hear how you use it to create compelling experiences for your customers or clients. Contact us here or on Twitter or Facebook to tell us about your own experience design.