For a long while I was a visual designer who made a living with just making things look pretty. People like pretty things. And many liked the pretty things I made. But I always had this nagging feeling that something was missing–something design alone wasn’t solving. Then one day shortly after that long time, I discovered brand strategy, and that was it. Like the opening sequence to The Simpson’s, the sun and blue skies appeared and angelic choirs sang, for the answer had been found! Then I ran inside, crawled up in a ball and wept, realizing this is what I’d been missing.

Throughout my career, all the elements of strategy were there, but it wasn’t until this particular day that they finally aligned for me. Instead of only considering what something would look like, strategy gave me the ability to view projects through a business lens—first understanding a brand’s needs, challenges, values, special power, and audience, well before choosing colors and typefaces.

Strategy informs the design with facts and genuine stories, and without it, design is at best, a pretty picture, and at worst, worthless. Pretty is great if all you’re looking for is something to hang on your living room wall. But if you’re trying to communicate and gain loyal customers, you need a plan based on facts, not gut instincts or good intentions.

Ask “Why?” first, “Is it pretty?” second.

At its core, strategy is simply an objective, organized plan to get from A to B. It is based on research and provides the answers for what to design, without the worry of *shiny object syndrome, asking “Why?” first, and “Is it pretty?” second. But just like the components to a visual identity, there are many parts to brand strategy, and knowing how to put it all together takes experience and understanding. This is my special power.

While an argument could be made for the overuse of the word “strategy” (much like “authentic” and “story”, these days), it should none-the-less be an essential component of any creative project, and especially brand identity design. As I mentioned above, without it, your basically wasting your time and money.

Today, strategy allows me to be a creative specialist and strategic partner for my client’s, and no longer a commodity or order taker. I still make pretty things, but now I have a roadmap that gives me objective insights and understanding that wasn’t previously available.

Does your business need a little more substance and groove? Shoot me an email and let’s talk about your business needs and challenges.