Stephanie Jemphrey is Digital DNA’s creative lead heading up everything visual, creative and colourful! In the first of a series of posts, we find out the in-depth details of the process we took to get to the Digital DNA we now know.
Steph takes us through the Creative Process Diamond, a journey of research, exploration, tough decisions and accomplishment.
It all began when Gareth went on holiday. We were left slightly more unsupervised than usual for a week, Matthew our Marketing Manager assigned me a challenge: help him redesign Digital DNA. Maybe ‘redesign’ is the wrong word for it. Define or update Digital DNA. Define what the company’s purpose, tone of voice and presence looks like and then express that to not only ourselves but to our audience.
Considering we both started working at the company only a few months previous, we were in the arguably advantageous position of being fresh enough to have an objective view but working long enough to have a good understanding of the company culture. So we got to work.
Sitting where we are now, with logos, brand colours, guidelines and mission statements decided and integrated into Digital DNA’s culture, it seems bizarre to think back to a time when none of that was as clear as it is now; most of it hadn’t even been contemplated. If I had known that this process would have resulted in where we are today, I would have been eager to get started and a lot more confident we would end up somewhere great.
At the time though, I had no idea where to start. I think that’s often the case in the creative process. Thankfully, through past experience in design and idea creating, my instinct was to stop worrying about where to start and just start somewhere.
That decision is the beginning point of what I call the Creative Process Diamond.
I decided to begin with the Digital DNA logo. What was the meaning behind it? Where did it come from? What core values lie within the brand and how can this be shown in a logo? Is it saying all it needs to say? Is it easily recognisable? And most importantly, what work, if any, should be done on the logo? I spent a good three days holed up at my desk printing, sketching, researching, photo shopping and rubbing out pencil lines.
From that one small point, like the shape of a diamond, the creative process took off. It expanded as ideas piggybacked off ideas and created new questions that needed answered. Simple questions like “what colour scheme should we use?” led to far more complex ones like ‘what do these colours mean and are we using the right colours to send the right message?” We began to understand that everything is inextricably linked. We needed to ensure that it was a cohesive update, not just visually but an update on our culture, how we describe ourselves and what that means both internally and to our delegates and partners.
I personally began to realise how small details such as design, colour and words not only affect external perceptions of a company but how they influence our own perception of it too. Being confident in your identity as a company leads to a more confident team. Using an inclusive and facilitating tone of voice leads to a company culture of inclusiveness and facilitation.
Generally, when shown a clear set of guidelines or standards to follow, people start to accept it and soon that becomes completely natural, ingrained in the culture that is already there and helps those who join to see how we communicate and display our brand. Correct communication is half the battle, Matthew would say it’s 75% of the battle, but as creative and marketing combine, that always equals out.
So back to the Creative Process Diamond:
At this point in the redesign, we were in the widest part of the diamond – the middle part. Every idea was considered, written down, thought about. Multiple mood boards and colour schemes were toyed with; Pinterest was my second home and I had discovered every shade of purple known to CYMK. This is probably the most exciting part of the Creative Process where there are no limits, no idea is absurd and the sky’s the limit. The meetings we had were extensive but informative and I really think face to face is so important in processes like these.
Sooner or later though, after all corners have been explored we naturally began to start narrowing down to what we would like, in our ideal world, for the brand to look like. At this stage we had begun the downward slant of the Diamond and needed to focus on what is important, appropriate and practical.
Different questions now came into play. “Is this logo printable? Easy to read?” “How will this colour scheme be used on a website? On a brochure? On an app?”
These questions were mostly answered by ourselves but it was essential to include others that hadn’t originally been involved (also known as ‘the red team’) at this stage to help us make more objective decisions – at this point Gareth was back from holiday and the three of us had a design meeting with one of our strategic partners. This external influence was not only crucial in helping us clarify our branding as we had to present it, but also created space for honest feedback from industry experts.
From that point on, day by day, decision by decision, the diamond narrowed further down as we headed towards a conclusion: the final redesign. One day, all sitting around the boardroom upstairs, we completed the Creative Process Diamond and made a definitive decision. This was a painful decision, to see all the work that had gone into the process diminish into one single outcome, but then and only then, when the process had been completed, could we move forward to start to integrate our redesign into everyday operations.
Three months later, looking back at that final moment, I have no regrets to the decision we came to. It was bold, well informed and clear.
This is because we went through that Creative Process Diamond, did the hard work, asked the hard questions and listened to good feedback. No idea that was finalised was plucked out of thin air but came from an extensive process. This is the not so secretive secret of good design – take your time.
So, if you are in a similar position that we were in, don’t be overwhelmed or tempted to settle on the first good idea you come across. Travel the Creative Process Diamond. Start, explore, expand, question, listen, change, compress, discuss and only then, decide.