“Design is thinking made visual.” This short but powerful quote by Saul Bass has always resonated deeply with me. Design is the gateway to share our thoughts and ideas but through shapes and elements instead of solely relying on words. When we think about it that way, it’s pretty powerful. While some ideas are easier to showcase visually than others, I notice folks struggling to showcase brand strategy and the verbal ideas surrounding this piece of branding in strong visual ways, like powerful brand strategy diagrams.
If you think about it, our true job is working as an investigative reporter — mining for insights on the search for golden nuggets like that special brand magic where the brand’s essence, their goals, and their audience all overlap. While I could easily send all of this info off in a wordy document, I use the Brand Strategy portion of my branding process to equally balance the words I use with dynamic visuals. We’re graphic artists after all and what better way to truly make a point than with a clear and moving graphic. I find this also helps the client, who could otherwise be overwhelmed by the pure amount of information they receive when working through complex topics like the difference between their Brand Why and Brand Mission.
So in my business and brand strategy process, I find myself leaning on a few key diagrams to help organize my thoughts and lay everything out in easy-to-understand visuals that help my clients understand.
A school room classic, I tend to use the venn diagram for showcasing traits such as pillars, brand values, and personality. It’s such a simple graphic, we’ve all made them in the 5th grade, but it is used frequently because it is powerful in showing where two ideas can meet. It’s familiar and a great way for discovering alignments and traits such as content pillars, values, or personalities.
So as seen above, this graphic is helpful to explore your content pillars for a brand. In one circle write down everything that you care about and then fill the other with everything that your audience cares about. What lies in the middle, the overlap, is your common ground, the topics that resonate with you and your audience and can then be used as content pillars to grow your brand in an aligned way.
Two-by-two maps can be used to plot different brands within the market to easily visualize the similarities and differences, which in turn show us voids within the industry. A huge part of the brand strategy process is understanding a brand’s unique value and a smart approach is to look to what everyone else is doing and seek out holes that can be filled in with your offer.
This simple 2-by-2 chart is a quick and perceptual way to easily map out different brands that exist in a similar space based on different attributes. Two brands that earlier felt similar because they sell a like-product can suddenly become vastly different on a brand map. You can that propose different questions like:
Does the brand’s position align with the company’s strengths and capabilities?
Does the brand’s position express that unique value that they offer?
How sustainable is this brand’s position relative to other brands in this space?
Through these thoughtful questions combined with the simple, easy-to-follow visuals the search for a unique selling point becomes that much clearer.
Borrowed from Simon Sinek, I use this diagram to display the brand’s essence, core ideas and supporting ideas. In his TedTalk on the Golden Circle concept, Simon argues that we can use these layers to help others better understand what they do, how they do it, and why they do it — applying these questions from the outmost layer inward. The three layered circles help to visually convey depth and layers that might not be as well understood with just words. For more on Simon Sinek and his concept of the 3 Layers of Purpose, check out my recent blog post “The Scoop On Powerful Branding — Start With Your Brand’s Why”.
This graphic approach to translate a brand’s meaning has become a core part of my brand strategy process, which has become the backbone of my design process and a core pillar of my educational offerings for designers. If adding more strategy into your business model is appealing, I encourage you to watch my free video training: Brand Strategy for Designer: How to master the 3 essential steps.
So next time you go to write a long paragraph, or multiple paragraphs, pause and think about how you can take those words and convey them into a simpler but equally meaningful diagram. You’d be surprised how it pushes your own creatively and ultimately helps your client arrive at a greater understanding in your projects.