Mind to Matter: Teaching the Client to Speak Design

by rc


If you were to ask an individual what a brand is, they may only be able to describe it as a logo, when actually, the logo is an emblem that represents one aspect of the brand. The brand overall visually and strategically communicates the personality/culture of the company and its products and services. That brand can consist of photography, illustration, logo, iconography, typography, etc. As a graphic designer, I am very much involved in the visual communication of a company’s brand. Whether this is a brand refresh or an entirely new brand, we want to fully grasp the client’s ideas as a first step in the process. In order to do so, we have created a workshop in which we help the client speak visually about their ideas on the brand in a way that really help designers.

The Brand Workshop

Visualize a room with a large table completely covered in 5x5 inch squares (called swatches) containing all different types of colors, typography, photography and design styles. It’s quite overwhelming, but that sense of being overwhelmed is strategic. Our minds go through millions of visual elements—from advertisements to webpages—all day long. So we ask our clients to look through all these swatches in order to filter out those swatches that they feel represent their brand and those they feel do quite the opposite. With each swatch chosen, we also ask to get a grasp of their reasoning for choosing that particular swatch to get verbal ideas as well. “This image contains triangles that are too sharp and do not represent our brand.” “The font on this swatch is curvy and handwritten, which would represent our brand nicely.” A “hot” and “not” list is created to hold these chosen swatches, and as the conversation moves along, the client and designers begin to fluidly speak about the brand in a very visual and verbal way that creates an in-sync understanding. We gather description words, such as authentic, understanding, uplifting, or organized, to assist in better understanding the brand personality. This entire workshop is a brand dreaming session where we visually gather what the client feels best represents their brand. In doing so, this gives the designers a better understanding of how the client sees the brand and also gives inspiration for the new brand to be created.

Your Turn

How do you decide the design for your brand?