Working on holistic branding for two clients, and up to my ass in details, I have stop every now and then and remind myself of the high-level vision for the brand. The "north star", the "brand essence". It influences the work all the way down, from an ad campaign to a paper stock, as damn well it should. Sometimes we get caught up in the task at hand and start down a wormhole and totally forget that it's a family-run retail business, not a hipster record label. Luckily, I'm actually good at this (my attention to detail sometimes suffers from it, natch), and although sometimes I need a reminder, I try to live in the air space above the nitty-gritty for most projects.
It is something, I know all too well, that is hard to do when you are part of a large team. Being in-house for a big brand, you would think that you live in a world of constant reminders of brand attributes- and maybe you do. But in my experience, in house teams blatantly ignore those brand posters in the meeting rooms, and push on with new ideas and creative trends, regardless of guideline rule-breaking. And can you blame them? I mean, I used to. But life on the outside comes with some freedom, and looking back through my rose-colored glasses I see now why the pushing has to happen, for the sanity of the designers.
I had the opportunity, whilst in-house, to work on a few projects that were actually high-level and not just a piece of packaging. The launch of Starbucks VIA; The Starbucks re-brand and 40th Anniversary; the launch of the new Teavana Tea Bars.
Teavana was most recent- and in fact I left before the second location even opened. But before leaving, I was on a unique small team, within the larger studio, to launch and brand Teavana Tea Bars. I worked on a massive amount of pieces- the new logo lockup, the brand pattern, the packaging, the in-store menus and graphics, the photoshoots. I would go from a meeting about double-walled hot cups to a meeting with an interior designer about graphics infused into the retail space, to walk-throughs showing food packaging and copper tin samples. It was extremely difficult, especially on the heels of the acquisition, with a million senior leader approval hoops and a very tight timeline. I fought the good fight- sometimes we won, sometimes we lost- to operations, or focus groups. But it helped me immensely, I now realize, in my high-level thinking.
I'm facing a bunch of small pieces today: business cards, menus, shoppers, various paper goods, for a local client. Enough coffee will get me through the details- and this big-idea reminder will take the brand to the level it deserves. So take a break and get high every once in a while kids.
For consistency's sake.