Sunday, December 25, 2016

If only for the clients....

We used to say, all the time, as we were sitting around chewing the fat of the hand that fed us, that advertising would be the perfect job if it weren't for the fucking clients.

And then it dawned on us, yesterday, that it's been a long long time since we've had a shitty client: a snarky MBA hell bent on covering his or her ass with mountains of statistics and focus groups out the wazoo and every. fucking. thing. exactly. by. the. book. Wharton. Ick.

A long time. Honestly, these days our clients have been really really good. Small business owners who are eager to take chances or are instinctually(*) not eager to take chances, people who are calling the shots for their own business and their own brand and it's a blast. Maybe that's the thing: it's great to deal with the people at the top. And that's exactly what we've been doing.

So, what, pray tell, might have led us to these thoughts right now in this forum -- these appreciations for these clients? Well, one Juliet Lofaro. Photographer. Client.  Great client. That's what.

She came to us wanting some branding and a logo and so we sat down and we started talking. And listening. And listening some more. And right away, it came out that, at her core, she's not just a photographer, she's a portrait photographer. And that was a nice thing for her: to define herself that way and so we did, too. But even more than that, she seemed to be a serious thinker about her work and her craft and that led us to jump the gun a little bit and send the following email (which had no salutation - wtf?):

Philosopher/photographer, continuer of a noble tradition. Builder upon the shoulders of the giants who came before. Thinker and doer whose thoughts and deeds are captured in a fraction of a second.

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.”
                                    - Edward Steichen

“The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.”
                                    - Yousuf Karsh

“My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse and entertain.”
                                    - Helmut Newton

“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things”
                                    - Ansel Adams

“In a portrait, I’m looking for the silence in somebody.”
                                    - Henri Cartier-Bresson

“When people look at my pictures, I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
                                    - Robert Frank

“The most emotionally resonant photos are portraits, capturing the soul of a person, place or thing.”
                                    -Juliet Lofaro,
                                      portrait photographer

Juliet, your branding is clear to me. I’d love to talk with you more about this direction and how you feel about it and maybe even how to express it out in the world.

Well, she liked these thoughts a lot and we were able to put the cart back behind the horse and proceed with our proprietary branding questionnaire. Now, this questionnaire, 40 or so questions, never fails to identify a client's brand essence and Juliet filled it out and we filled it out and then we all compared notes and agreed that really and truly, what she should stand for in the minds and hearts of her customers was "connections." The connection between her and her subjects that's documented in her camera and the connection between the resulting photo and those who see it out in the world. Connections.

So, next step, we started a logo exploratory, searching for ways to graphically represent the concept of connections. Here are some of the first round ideas, incorporating her new job description "Portrait Photographer" instead of just "photographer":

Two fingers on two shutters, representing connection.
Getting inside of the head of your subject.
Getting inside of the head of your subject, line drawing version.
Getting inside the head of your subject through conversation.
We'd sent along some others, too, but these are the highlights and, also, we were REALLY excited by two of them in particular: #3, the line drawing of overlapping faces and #4, the conversation bubble with the camera lens in the middle. 

Well, as so often happens, out client was not as excited as we were, though she kinda liked the idea of using a stylized camera iris and kinda liked the idea of using her signature, so we went back to the drawing board

Adding the signature to the conversation bubbles.

Adding a heart to the stylized camera lens, with the heart standing in for the concept of "connection".
A graphic version of "connection"built on the similarities between the upper case "J" and "L".
A further exploration of the "J" and "L" connection.
And, finally, though she didn't really dig it, another push for this line drawing head, this time with signature!

Well now, at this point, our esteemed client had a favorite: the heart inside of the camera lens. She felt that it expressed the idea of "connections" just fine and had the legs to look good on a variety of merchandise, etc. So we began investigating various versions of that...

Different fonts, different hearts, and getting closer and closer to a great logo. And then, one morning, in the morning fog of recently departed slumber, it dawned on us! We didn't want a heart inside the lens, we wanted the lens inside the heart!! So after a couple of rough sketches and a conceptual "ok" from our client, we went ahead and looked at some finished roughs of that:

And then, with only a few more adjustments and explorations, we'd found our logo. (Top below) But instead of looking at it as static design, with the heart always in between the "Juliet" and the "Lofaro", we recommended thinking of the logo as a collection of 3 unique elements: the icon, her name, and her job description. Implementing Dynamic Design™ in this way gave us a lot of flexibility for various logo applications.

And that's the real, true story of Juliet Lofaro, Portrait Photographer. And the connection we made with her, and the connections she makes with her subjects, and the connections her photos make with their audience. 

Advertising, it's kinda the perfect job after all. Or maybe we're just lucky to have perfect clients.

Temporary tattoo, sticker and business card, front and back.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Young Rhinebeck branding and logo

Young Rhinebeck was (is) a wonderful community-based, volunteer-led not-for-profit organization based in the Mid-Hudson Valley town of Rhinebeck, NY.  Its signature program links English as new or English as second language (ENL & ESL) elementary school students with Bard College tutors to help with homework, enhance language skills and to provide translators for parents to help nurture connections and engagement with the family, school and broader community. Young Rhinebeck also offers world-focused events to fill in the second half of district-wide half days (Half Day/Whole World), world-intensive semester-long programming (World Connect) and arts programming, which had consisted entirely of a sleepover "Night at the Museum" at Bard's Hessel Museum. 

Their brand definition was non-existent, and for an organization that offered such a disparate range of services, it was not immediately apparent what they should or could reasonably stand for, in terms of branding. While the programs had enormous success and respect from the school system and participants, Young Rhinebeck was missing an opportunity to demonstrate their impact within the larger community and among donors.  In addition, YR wished to expand their programs to new school districts, so making a compelling case for the brand and what it could bring to new districts was essential.

One thing the board was immediately open to was a logo exploratory, just one part of the branding process, as we've written about extensively. (Read our essay "The Tortoise and the Hare" here.) Well, we love creating logos, and so we were happy to indulge. Here below are a few of the rough concepts we presented.
Now, as it happens, sometimes when a client delves into the process, they start to understand more and more of the possibilities and at this point in time, the Young Rhinebeck clients indicated that they were maybe kinda definitely open to the idea of changing the name!! Well, we liked that idea a lot and took the opportunity to engage them in a top to bottom rebranding.

So we sat down with the Board and talked about branding and what a brand is and how we work and then we sent them all home with our proprietary brand questionnaire to fill out. 50 questions about the brand and the target and the competition and whatnot. And when each of them had filled it out, we went through it and, as if by magic (seriously: it almost always works this way!) a predominant theme emerged. A brand essence, if you will. "Connections." Young Rhinebeck makes connections. Their LLL program connects ESL kids to their studies, their school and community, and to each other; the other programs connect different constituencies to different cultures and to the arts.  Connections.

So, with this in mind, we did an entire name and URL exploratory (good URL's are getting harder and harder to find) and ended up on "CultureConnect" and Nice name, nice URL. Now we started making the logos.


Really, if we could be absolutely brutal here . . . not our best showing with the stuff above. But at some point, thinking about connectors (we do kinda love the staples above, abstract as they might be), we thought about puzzle pieces. Connecting other pieces to a bigger whole. Well, we liked that idea and ran with it.

Eventually we landed here (below) and realized that the position of the name under the graphic would also work to define the left side of the graphic. The letter "C" on the left of the globe-filled puzzle piece "C" on the right. (scroll down)

Et voila!! With a million tweaks between the version above and the final version below, our new name had a new logo!. And this, we don't mind saying, really IS our best showing:

The new logo successfully created a distinguishing visual identity of CulturalConenct’s brand with an immediate strong sense of mission and purpose.  

Now with the branding complete, the new name and the new logo, there were a few more things to do. We worked out a streamlining of the mission statement:

CultureConnect prepares youth
to interact with their local and
global communities with intelligence,
compassion, and cultural competence.

We got a banner and marched in the local Memorial Day parade . . .

. . . and we've created an award for a graduating senior who has served CultureConnect over the course of their high school career. It will be given out in front of the thousands of people who attend H.S. Graduation ceremony every year.

In addition, Woodstock Organic Concepts wrote and produced a wonderful video explaining CultureConnect's LLL program. You can see it here:

So, that's our story about branding Young Rhinebeck. Almost. You see, one of the new programs this newly branded organization has come up with is a 5 week trip to Madagascar, where the second language is French. Well, it turns out that "cul" and "con" are slightly vulgar French slang that we didn't want to be advertising in our URL. Luckily, we caught this before the URL went out into the world (one of us here at WOC lived in France and remembered at the last minute) and so now the new URL is:

And CultureConnect, with its newly unified and recognizable brand identity is poised for even greater good.