BIGWIGS.blog-01.jpg

As creative director for a company working with multitudes of big clients from healthcare to fashion, sometimes drawing inspiration for such varying fields can be trying. You must go from being quirky, outlandish, ultra-creative and just plain weird to streamlined, clean, slightly predictable, comfortable, and easy. When you’re working with a variety of clients, you’re also working with a variety of demographics. Sometimes, the pressure can be rough when you’re trying to get in the mind of a consumer with consistently different products and brands. Sometimes it’s tricky when the client is dead-set on already existent branding that, well, sucks.

So I decided to ask some of the top creative directors and designers where so many brands (and even designers) go wrong and how to make sure they don’t get totally burnt out. Here’s what they had to say.

Brandon Triola

http://brandontriola.com/

(This guy rules and can design some of the coolest logos at the drop of the hat. He’s kind of a magician)

1. In the field of branding, what is the number one thing you notice where companies totally mess up or miss the mark?

These days you can get a logo for 99 dollars. There are some websites where you can get your entire brand designed for less than that. What decision makers don't always realize is that to have a solid visual identity put together is no different than having quality plumbing or electrical work put in your building. While a poorly designed logo won’t cause your lights to go out or your roof to leak, it will fail to communicate the personality of your brand and the level of excellence that your company represents if you don't set the bar high when having your visual identity created.

More times than I can count I have been approached by company's or individuals asking me to fix or start over on the design project that cost them 99 dollars. They realized they were not getting the deal that was advertised to them and it took them wasting time and money to realize they would be better taken care of by hiring an expert.

So why do companies keep using these cheap services that deliver creative work that truly fits the saying, "you get what you pay for,"?

It comes down to one word: STANDARDS.

Most decision makers with low design-standards don't know a good design from a bad design–which is not always their fault.

That's why it's extremely important to hire an artist or art director that has a tract record of producing good work at a high level.

Your visual identity is your first impression and most companies don't realize how much that first impression impacts their brand. Im not saying you should always spend an arm and a leg for creative work. All I am saying is that if decision makers raised their standards then their company's results, culture, and visual identity would rise as well.

2. How do you stay inspired and avoid getting creatively burned out?

I have a two year old and a beautiful wife who I love spending time with. I also love what I do for work. Therefore the hardest thing for myself and most creatives is making time for balance. Stepping away from my computer and playing with my son, going outside, or just doing something else that doesn't involve flexing those creative muscles is key for giving my brain time to rest and reset.

One other thing that is vital for me to keeping the creative fire burning is to work on personal projects that are not client-related. Im constantly practicing and pushing myself in terms of new techniques by making stuff for myself or just sketching for fun. Not all client work is the most glamorous or fulfilling. I have to keep that fire burning by challenging myself and creating fun things too.

Bonin Bough

http://bboninbough.com/

(The team and I saw Bonin speak at a conference in San Diego. He is an inspiration-- working for companies like Oreo, Red Bull, Ford, and the list goes on. I actually texted him for his answers. He literally texted me his response. Awesome.)

 1. In the field of branding, what is the number one thing you notice where companies totally mess up or miss the mark?

Not listening to the consumer.

2. How do you stay inspired and avoid getting creatively burned out?

Try to go to events that are not just for marketing.

Joe Cote
Branding for the People
Creative Director

https://brandingforthepeople.com/

(Here is creative director whose company was represented at another conference-- helping marketing experts become more aware of the importance of branding. This company is doing awesome things and Joe is at the helm.)

1. In the field of branding, what is the number one thing you notice where companies totally mess up or miss the mark?

A few things... First, businesses tend to copy the branding of the leaders of their category rather than identifying and celebrating a unique personality and point of view in their own brand. A brand can't stand out if is is busy blending in. Second, businesses think "professional" is a personality. It isn't and it never was... it is really a lack of personality. Without a personality in a brand, potential clients can't be expected to relate to it on a personal or emotional level, and it will become commoditized. The third all-too-common mistake businesses make is not having brand guidelines. Brand guidelines mandate the exact colors, fonts, patterns, photography styles, messages and vocabulary of a brand. If these things aren't enforced through creation and use of a brand guidelines document, your brand will go off message, your look will be inconsistent, and people will be confused by your confusion.

2. How do you stay inspired and avoid getting creatively burned out?

Staying inspired IS avoiding creative burnout... We enjoy the world, and seek out every kind of creativity that we can fill our hearts and minds with. Art shows, Youtube instructional videos, Etsy, Pinterest, international films, books (lots of them!), Comic Con, DIY projects around the house, gardening, voice lessons, travel around the world, cooking with exotic foods, car shows... The list is endless. We can't be burned out... even if we wanted to! We are forever adding fuel to our fires.

Fredrik Öst
Snask
Founder & Creative Director

https://www.behance.net/SNASK

http://www.snask.com

(This dude is a badass. His company is in Stockholm and some of the projects they’ve set out into the world are truly remarkable. Not to mention I would love to grab a beer with his team. They really do love to have fun.)

 1. In the field of branding, what is the number one thing you notice where companies totally mess up or miss the mark?

Most of the time it's in the tonality of their brand. They are too afraid to take risks. Yet when you make something no one hates, no one will love it either and we know very well today how important it is to have loyal fans and ambassadors for your brand. Also Winston Churchill once said "You have enemies? Good, that means you stood up for something sometime in your life". So brands also have to have opinions and stand up for them.

2. How do you stay inspired and avoid getting creatively burned out?

Simply by creating as well as consuming culture. Reading books, watching movies, socializing with friends, reading the news etc. Being a part of your time is extremely important in order to stay inspired.

(THE) Aaron Draplin
Draplin Design Co.
…The Aaron Draplin. Literally just said that.

http://www.draplin.com
(Besides his incredible friendliness and willingness to help those wishing to do great things in design, his work is big, bold, and beautiful. It withstands the test of time and seeing him speak was fan-f*&%ing-tastic, as he would say. Guy’s a legend.)

1. In the field of branding, what is the number one thing you notice where companies totally mess up or miss the mark?

This is a hard one to answer. I guess something like…following design trends? And then, doing half-ass versions of whatever style/trick/fad they were going after. You can tell where they looked to make it, and then, didn’t take it far enough? But honestly, that’s a handful of times I’ve seen that one.

2. How do you stay inspired and avoid getting creatively burned out?

Reminding myself how lucky I am to do this shit. Things like this:

01. I am inside. In air conditioning!

02. This stuff isn’t that hard. Sure, it’s taxing on the brain at times, but it’s not like I am digging ditches. That’s hard.

03. I made good loot. Enough to cover myself and my family. So thankful.

04. And, I do it being creative. So proud of that.

So, when I am feeling a little poopy about things, I tap into that list. And usually by “02.”, I am feeling better and ready to tear back into shit.

Terms like “Creative Block” are dangerous. Don’t fall into that trap. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself suffering from “Cleaning My House Block” and “Maybe Don Trump Is The Worst Human Ever Block.” Bad shit like that. Be careful!

Addia Cooper-Henry
VM Groupe
Principle Creative Director

https://vmgroupe.com
(I have been admiring the VMGroupe for a while because their work with high fashion brands is such beautiful design and ideation. You can imagine how thrilled I was with Addia indulging me in my questions.)

1. In the field of branding, what is the number one thing you notice where companies totally mess up or miss the mark?

Overthinking, overdoing and over-designing. 

2. How do you stay inspired and avoid getting creatively burned out?

We stay inspired by being interested in, and open to, everything. Creating and building is in our DNA, and is one of the driving forces behind civilization and evolution. Losing inspiration and desire to create and build is like losing the desire and inspiration to eat and drink. :-) So no, we never lose inspiration or get burnt out! :-)

And from me personally, as I would tell my team and anyone who asks, my answers:

1. In the field of branding, what is the number one thing you notice where companies totally mess up or miss the mark?
Their branding doesn’t speak to the company’s demographic. The language of the brand is too fluent; meaning they shouldn’t speak a language fluently to an elementary listener and expect them to understand. The branding should reflect as such. This is why designers don’t make a bank’s branding colors hot pink and purple, or a healthcare company gold and brown. (Though there might be designers out there who could maybe make it work, would the demographic totally understand, starting out? Tricky, tricky…) You want branding to make sense, to be consistent, and be easily understood by a company’s demographic. This is why making sure it’s speaking the consumer’s language is mucho importante and a HUGE mess up if done poorly or incorrectly.

2. How do you stay inspired and avoid getting creatively burned out?

I find freelancing helps me get all of that creativity (that is stored up and sometimes unused by the less creative tasks at work) out which allows me see things in different ways. Doing work for musicians, events, or even friends wanting a ridiculous photoshopped vision of them riding a unicorn can mean my brain opens a bit wider for all kinds of projects. Basically: work with fun stuff, fulfill your passion projects, find something to take pride in outside of your job.

Hopefully hearing from my favorite big wigs in the creative industry (and me! haaaaa) can give you a sense of understanding where branding can go so horribly wrong and how to not let yourself get so burnt out that it happens to you.  Let us know if you have any opinions on bad branding and tips you give to people to avoid getting burnt out. I’d love to hear them.

*I want to say thanks again to all the super kind & creative people who responded to my overly-gushing email about needing their advice. You guys are the real MVP’s.