An inspiring business plan that addresses a commonly understood human need provides the best of inspiration for a brand identity. This person has a problem, and our product/service is here to help. Once the brand story is this clear, the work shifts to the translation of that inspiration for various touchpoints.
A Good Idea
Where does a good idea come from? As unsexy as it might sound, many of the best ideas for graphic identities come directly from a business plan, drawing inspiration from constraints and the target audience. But clearly, the world’s best graphic identities also draw upon other unseen inspirations.
Good designers draw from a variety of their life experiences—art, pop culture, children’s television, etc. That’s why so many designers like to be sponges when it comes to sources of inspiration. Designers should look for non-project ways of being inspired and renewed.
It’s not only good for mental health but also for professional development.
It’s important for professional designers to not be overly committed to their personal interests—at least at work. Professional designers get paid to solve other people’s problems, not chase after their own pet pursuits. At the same time, designers who become indistinguishable from businesspeople risk losing a creative edge, a competitive advantage, and the empathy that good design requires.
The inspiration behind identity programs often comes from the context of their constituent parts. Where is the identity going to be experienced? What materials or techniques might provide an inspirational/aspirational experience in that context?
Designers see firsthand the places where their identities are going to be applied. If you’re designing a program for a grocery store, go to the store. Go a competitor’s store—better yet, go to several competitors’ stores. What’s going on in these stores? How are people interacting with other brands? What works? What doesn’t? Look for patterns. Inspired solutions often reveal themselves when you take the time to understand the context.
Sometimes, the inspiration for a program comes from one breakthrough insight about one element of the program. If an inspired approach solves one important problem really well, how might that idea be extended to other program materials? What program elements can be designed to echo or reinforce the idea? Inspired programs maintain a sense of vitality often spurred by a few simple artifacts.
It can be difficult—though not impossible—to develop an inspired brand identity without inspired positioning. This is where marketers get a bad name. Indeed, many less-than-satisfactory brand experiences have been promoted with excellent campaigns. However, the smell of false advertising ultimately will rise as consumers become savvier about brand promises—and more willing to hold brands accountable when their promises are broken.
Customers increasingly look for brands that inspire them. Building a brand that delivers inspiration is hard work. The challenge lies first in determining what the customer values—which may or may not be something that can be reflected directly through a product or service. If it can, the trick becomes determining the best course of action for living up to the promise.