Jeff McLean

 

When I was asked to think about my own professional development, I went all the way back to the beginning to evaluate my career thus far. It forced me to question the relationship between a marketing communications agency and their clients. And most importantly, the need to seek professional help.

Categorizing myself as a thinker not a doer, I have always had difficulty seeing things through to the finish line. I did fairly well in art school despite never completely finishing a project. My upbringing was a cautious one. It was drilled into me early on to focus on “what ifs” and potential pitfalls. It can be paralyzing. To paraphrase Simon Sinek, some are focused on the FREE bagels, and I was focusing on the long line ups.

Yesterday, I woke up stuck. I didn’t want to go to work because I had come up with an idea that I no longer believed in, because I thought it was impossible to execute. I also had no really good reason for thinking that. And I certainly can’t blame my mother. I was paralyzed by the fear of letting everyone down and for getting everyone excited about an idea that wouldn’t see the light of day.

But then something magical happened, when I collected myself and went to work. I spoke to a vendor regarding the possibility of this idea, and two important things happened. One, they got very excited. And two, they not only offered multiple solutions on how to make it come to life, but ways to make it better.

When I thought about it a little harder, I realized all of the best projects that have ever happened in my career were a result of some colleague, client or vendor saying, “I don’t know if this can be done, but we’re going to figure it out.” Scary shit, but exhilarating.

Our ideas are exponentially better when we surround ourselves with smarter people. People that are driven to make things better. The right combination of thinkers and doers creates the chemistry that can make us great.

So back to my professional development.

I need to surround myself with smart, caring people who love solving business problems with savvy marketing ideas. That’s what FKA is. The marketing landscape is changing right in front of us and there is no map. So oftentimes it’s important to run ahead and fall off the edge.

I want to learn more from everyone. What matters to them, and together how we can collectively make things great.

I realize now that collaboration is more critical than at any other time in my career. We need all of us. Including outside help. Our clients, vendors and partners are critical to all of our success. And as a vendor partner to our clients, we hopefully provide that outside perspective they need to feel better about what they’re doing and where they want to go. Clients will always find a way to be scared. Then we can be the ones who reassure them by saying, “We don’t know if it can be done, but we’ll figure it out.”

I woke up scared again today, but we’ll figure it out.

Building out the comprehensive visual identity that surrounds our new logo and name has been really fun. Exploring a proprietary typeface based on the letterforms in our new logo was a no-brainer. The F, K and A are composed by filling specific coordinates in a grid of three by three squares. Scaling this to the entire alphabet and simplifying each letter down to its simplest form was an interesting challenge. But early attempts indicated that the grid was restrictive and that many of the letters were not easily legible. We decided to abandon the project.

We later revived the project when one of our teammates asked a simple question: “So what if you can’t read it easily? We’re not going to use it on headlines or body copy. It’s just an embellishment. With that, we set aside our original hesitation and built out the full alphabet.

 

 

At one point in the process, we encountered some conflict about the Q. Originally, it was a variation on the O with a descender broken out of the grid. Some people loved that it broke the rules while others hated it. In the end, the haters won and the Q was updated to fit entirely within the grid.

 

We knew that people could have trouble reading the typeface, so we thought it was best to use it in places where the same text was represented in a more legible fashion or where interpreting the text isn’t critical. Essentially, the custom typeface becomes a secondary graphic element or embellishment—the additional items you use to build out a complete visual identity. We agreed to use it sparingly in special circumstances—like our new business cards.

 

We’ve done the research and developed our brand attributes of fun, knowledgeable and ambitious. We’ve clarified our positioning and started to articulate our differentiation, basing it on our Agile approach to marketing. FKA has been selected as our new name, and your newsfeed has been filled with our blog posts. Now, the next step in our rebranding journey is developing our new visual identity.

As you know, the elements of our new brand were constructed through a collaborative process involving the entire agency.  But when it came to creating our logo, the task was, understandably, left in the talented hands of our design team – comprising six of Edmonton’s finest graphic designers and creative thinkers. This was a unique opportunity for the team, offering a clean break from our existing identity. We weren’t trying to modernize or evolve our current logo. In fact, incorporating elements from the existing Starburst Creative identity wasn’t mandatory. This was an opportunity to create something new.

Each designer was set loose – given the freedom to work independently in developing a series of logos and branding expressions. They had one mission: To create an agency identity that demonstrates to clients, employees (current and prospective) and the marketing industry at-large that our agency is embracing the future of marketing through constant evolution, optimization and reinvention.

From the get-go, we knew this wasn’t going to be easy or straightforward. We have ambitious goals for ourselves and the work we do, and this logo needed to reflect that.

Adding to the already daunting challenge of creating a new identity was the timeline –  the team was only given a week and a half from the initial briefing to the presentation of finalized concepts. But, when our designers were ushered into the boardroom to present their concepts to management, we were thrilled with what we saw. The execution and depth of insight of each designer’s presentation was impressive and innovative, leaving the management team with an equally arduous task – actually picking one.

Read part two of our logo decision process to see how we landed on our final choice.

A selection of our logos.