You can’t please everybody
Rarely, everybody agrees on everything. What to have for dinner, what music is best played in the studio. Brexit. I’ve been in perhaps two or three rooms in my career where all parties have unanimously agreed on the design directions presented. It’s a great feeling when it does happen, so it should be celebrated and reveled in.
However, compromise is the more likely path. I’m a true optimist (with optimism tattooed on my hands and all), however the Realist Yin to my Optimistic Yang is leading the topic chatter on this point. As a designer, being open to compromise is key. And for stakeholders to be open to it too, you must have them on-side from the beginning, where their respective egos have to be suitably massaged by being called in as important cogs in the process-machine (more on those guys below).
Everybody believes their opinion is the correct one. Every experience and decision in their lives has led to the choice they are making right in front of you at that point in time. And why wouldn’t they think that? It’s totally fair.
Whether the opinion is that they actually don’t have a strong one either way — that’s the fence they chose to sit on and it’ll always take some persuading to get them to jump down to one side or the other. And when they’re on the opposite side to you, it’s your job to convince them actually—they should join you over here. The grass is greener. The cider is sweeter. And that can take some doing, especially with those higher up the pecking order who have a duty to their peers and subordinates to have informed opinions and be involved in making decisions. It’s what they get paid for. And they have to seen doing it.
Compromise is more easily achieved however, when there has been dialogue from the start (and then throughout the process). Every person in the room has been down the path together, has experienced the highs and lows and understood what it’s taken to get there. It’s all bonding, communication and relationship building.
And even if they still have opposing opinions further down the path than anticipated, they will be more open to defect to greener grass and sweeter cider if you’re adamant it’s the right way to go — because of that bond.
Throw out what you think you know
Research > Strategise > Design > Launch. Largely, the refreshing of brand identities undertakes a relatively linear process where one foot follows the other, nice and orderly. It zooms in, then out, then in again (rinse and repeat as necessary). It’s released out into the world and the identity put in place works, because everything is done in a prompt manner through a time-honoured system. It’s then nurtured and evolves when and where appropriate. That’s the general approach that is successful, and for most brand identity projects, it’s an approach that does pretty well without much need for deviation — unless there are extenuating circumstances.
It’s just, creating a brand identity for a global operation of EF’s huge size is one giant extenuating circumstance. Any traditional process simply cannot be applied to it. By no means in a negative sense—just in a different sense. In a sense that makes any creative, one not unlike myself, grow in a direction that wasn’t immediately evident as a required skill. So, it’s only a good thing. And here’s why.
We are all creatures of habit. We get tied up in what’s comfortable, and confident in knowing what we know and we get used to following formulas that have worked for us a bunch of times before. Nothing wrong with any of that. Until we try to apply those formulas to everything. It’s a classic, “if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Diversifying your approach and then stretching it to allow room for a truly flexible process that can take in a project on such a global scale is something I still haven’t achieved. To be honest, I don’t think anybody in the Global Creative team has. But every day, we’re working on it.
And that’s okay. Because of the all the points I mentioned before in this article, and more. A bit of humility and an admission of not knowing it all is absolutely okay.
Because if we already knew how to do it, then it really wouldn’t be much fun at all.