Brand Discovery and Direction are a huge part of my client process. Before any sketches are made, before I open any design programs on my computer, before I even consider any ideas, my clients and I spend a few weeks getting to know one another. We talk about their goals and challenges, audience and message, competitors and peers. This is where I encourage them to let all their thoughts and ideas pour out, to dream big and stretch toward their biggest goals.
I take it all in, let everything they share with me seep for a few days, and organize it into a presentation which we review to make sure I’ve got everything right. Having a thorough and accurate understanding of my client’s business is crucial to designing a branding system that actually helps them reach their goals. Good branding isn’t just about making things look pretty. It’s about using design to help you communicate who you are in a way that resonates with the people you want to reach and propels your business forward.
Once I have all the information I need, we move into the Direction phase. This is where all the broad and abstract ideas we’ve been talking about start getting translated into visuals. I make as many mood boards as I need to show how I’m interpreting the overall tone and personality we’ve discovered and we review to make sure I’m headed in the right direction. After that, I make style boards to show an even clearer picture of the elements that will influence the final design. This is where I show you what colors, line types, fonts, and photographic style will make your brand shine.
It has taken me a long time and a lot of trial and error to develop this process, and it’s become something I’m really proud of. It’s something I believe in because I’ve seen it work for my clients. So when the time came to start working on my own branding, there’s no way I was going to jump straight to designing.
I learned so much by going through my own process. And I was able to improve Discovery and Direction to make them even better for all future clients. Whatever processes you have in place, you should put yourself through them too. Here is what you can gain by treating yourself like a client for a day or two:
1. You’ll see new areas that need improvement.
I started noticing a while ago that all my clients had a hard time answering the same handful of questions. They always caused a break in our easy conversation and I never got quite the answers I was looking for. It wasn’t until I had to answer those questions myself that I realized why. I was asking some really daunting questions! I finally saw how breaking them down into simpler pieces could make my clients’ experience better and get me to the answers I actually needed.
Going through your own process will open up a new perspective. You’ll be able to see things from your clients’ point of view. We’re so used to our own processes that we can miss the flaws that are obvious from our clients’ side. Take notes as you go through your process and write down anything that stands out as needing improvement.
2. You’ll realize if you’re confusing your clients.
My process is really familiar and comfortable to me. I always know what’s coming up next, what the purpose of each part is, and what the goals are for each meeting. It’s a little crazy that I had to keep reminding myself of all that as I went through Discovery and Direction. My mind would try to jump ahead or I would wonder why a question was part of the workbook. All the order and reasoning behind each part of the process didn’t feel as obvious when I was on the client side. I realized how confusing it must be to someone going through it for the first time.
The things that feel so obvious in our head might no always make complete sense to others. We spend so much time developing our processes, fine tuning the steps, and guiding our clients through them that we might not even notice that we’re being confusing. Even if you think things are clear, it doesn’t hurt to have your process written down somewhere and to keep your clients updated on what they can expect next.
3. You’ll notice the little things.
Something really stood out to me as I was filling out my Discovery workbook. The paper it was printed on was really nice to write on! I had run out of the regular printer paper I normally use for these workbooks and used a heavier cardstock instead. It wasn’t a planned thing at all, but the fact that I noticed the difference made me wonder how it would affect my clients if I used nicer paper for their workbooks.
It may seem silly, but little things like paper quality have a huge impact. The details have a way of penetrating our subconscious and sending powerful messages directly to our thoughts and emotions. When you go through your own process, pay attention to the little things and how they’re affecting your experience.
4. You’ll gain crazy amounts of confidence.
Going through Discovery and Direction helped me see how valuable this part of my process is. I was able to see first hand how much work and effort it takes to do it yourself. And I experienced how much clarity, focus, and direction it gives your business. Spilling everything out, having it organized, and turning it into a visual direction allowed me to move forward with my plans and start to grow my business.This is what I offer my clients and it has more value than I often give it credit for.
Sometimes its hard to see the value of what we offer our clients. It can be difficult to assign value to the parts of our work that come so naturally to us. Putting yourself in your clients’ shoes can help you embrace the worth of what you bring to the table.
So take the time to play client for a little while. Fill out the forms you ask your clients to fill, answer the questions you ask them, sit in the chair you give them, spend some time browsing through your shop. What do you notice? What stands out? I promise it’ll be a fruitful experience.