Making The Customer STOP! With Great Designs
Updated: May 22
When your brand interrupts
Maria Callas was one of the most controversial opera singers of her day. Depending on who you spoke with, you either loved her or hated her. Her vocal abilities, although unmatched in her day, even unto this day weren’t without setbacks. Maria, though conscious of her vocal setbacks (which all voices have) leveraged what differentiated her into an impressive career and type of singing. In a voice which “seemed” to lack beauty, she could bring to life every single drop of emotion vocally in an opera and make you hang on her every word, forgetting that you hated her voice. But turning her vocal setbacks into her strengths was a lifetime of hard work.
“We offer handjobs™”, that’s what her brand said. Her name is Gretchen, she’s a professional manicurist located on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain Trinidad. She desired a simple business card design, which highlighted what she did that showed some personality, and also got her noticed. She worked in a heavy female populated environment, where everyone pretty much had the generic look and feel to all their designs. Come on, you know what I mean; the multi-colored laminated business cards that say things like, “nails or hair by Keisha”, and she wanted to distance herself from it.
Owning her voice was scary at first, because no one around her was capitalizing on the use of this kind of brand language to improve their visibility and connect with their clientele. So naturally, she felt that setting herself apart meant reflecting a more punchy, corporate image, but doing the opposite, was the very reason her brand got popular. Sure, no one was speaking that way but her clients surely were. So in an effort to connect with them, showing her differentiated personality stood to benefit her business rather than saying, “I’m different; look at me!” and as her popularity grew on account of it, she began embracing what took center stage to her visual brand: her brand.
Missing the little things
Have you had design work done before and you probably thought… great! but as time passed, you perhaps saw your work somewhere else and you thought… not so great? Well, as a designer I can tell you, it’s not uncommon and it’s called template designs, where the designer simply alters the appearance for mass production to save time. Some people are ok with it, while others, ehh… not so much.
I’m one of those who possess little tolerance for templates being used in that context. And for a long time, I wondered, “how could anyone ever be ok with that?” Many close to me, also tried to get me on board with this way the human brain works. It’s a process called habituation; it makes it easier for us to adapt to crap. But the flip side to this is, it also makes us blind and inept to the problems around us.
Yet, it’s opportunities like these, true innovative minds live for. The ability to find what’s uncommon about the common things and improve life by a better design as per now and also in the future. The direction of Gretchen’s brand, will not only help hold current clients but also stand out in the minds of potential clients and it will most definitely cause similar businesses around her, to up their game for fear of. “losing clients”. This is no easy task, it’s meticulous work to purposefully seek out the best way to get a small business to that next level of visibility with their visual brand. I’ve spent hours sketching images in my head and it only takes a flick of my hand to destroy it, because I’m never satisfied. Which brings me to my next point. There is always room to improve on a design but your design should always be influenced by your brand.
A great design is a vehicle that carries your brand. If it’s not interrupting the viewer, its purpose has failed. And for Gretchen, what she truly wanted was a magnetic brand, viewed through the eyes of her world; the way it really was not the way someone thinks it should be, which clearly showed in her reluctance to pay for a generic design. Achieving this also gave the customer something to fellowship around when engaged with her brand and this made her stand out. This is what a visual brand can accomplish. This is also the power of having an authentic voice, the ability to change the conversation, not do what everyone else is doing.
Why? Because doing the latter is the best way to get your business ignored. A problem almost no local visual brand designer sees but this is how I challenge myself every day to be able to see greatness in the little things.
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I am the Founder and Visual Brand Strategist at The BrandTUB Branding For Small Service Businesses. Sign up to receive these weekly articles in your inbox if you’re not quite ready to work with me yet. And please share my article if you liked it.