I had a great discussion with some colleagues yesterday about building context in branding, marketing and design. And when I say context, I mean the set of relationships that create meaning towards a certain person, place or thing. For example, your relationship to a certain brand may be different for you than your neighbor, because you used that product (Mr. Bubble?) when you were a child. Your memories build an emotional connection to that brand because your context includes those memories where you neighbor’s doesn’t.
For me, building context begins with building a relationship with a client. I can’t begin to build context if I don’t know and understand the client and their business.
A client I’ve worked with before is involved in a new venture, and he hired me to design the branding, marketing, and positioning materials. But before I could begin the design process, I had to learn more – from the client – about the new business. I asked him to tell me about the industry, current market competition, future competition, and business plan. This information helps me build only part of the context, however. In order to really build context, I also need to understand my client’s emotional connection to the business, so I asked him questions that helped me understand the core essence of why this business inspires him.
This first step in building context is absolutely essential for me to do my best work. A one-to-one relationship with the owner, president, or CEO of the company helps me meld my creative process with the client’s vision. From there, I can build a strong context for the company’s branding materials, and design with heart.