Wednesday, March 1, 2023

“Becoming a Brand” – Our Key Takeaways

The Detroit Wallpaper Co.

MDC kicked off The Designer Network Series with a collaborative discussion on the processes and strategy work that leads to successful branding. In a creative industry like interior design, your personal brand often is your brand. Read on to discover a few of the key highlights.

Becoming a Brand panel discussion

The session was moderated by Aimee Zoyes (pictured bottom left), President of Zoyes Creative Group. Panelists included Nadia Keating, Andi Kubacki, Mike Han, Jennifer Baross, and Dan Davis (pictured from left to right in the top photo).

Zoyes Creative brand work

An example of Zoyes Creative’s brand work for Hamilton Anderson Associates.

Identifying your brand
When asked about the first steps an interior designer can take to identify their unique brand, Nadia Keating, Senior Brand Strategist at Zoyes Creative Group, suggested first understanding who you are. Then you can determine where you want to be and develop a plan on how that evolution will happen. Andi Kubacki, Co-Founder & Co-President of The Detroit Wallpaper Co., added, “To get an understanding of your actual brand image, think back to your last customer and consider what they think of you.” Dan Davis, Principal Designer at Dan Davis Design, recommends writing down three words that you believe describes you and your company/firm, then ask your friends and colleagues, “Is this me?” If not, start there and identify some changes that can help align you closer to with your goals.

Mike Han at York Ann Arbor

Mike Han poses next to his art mural installation at York Ann Arbor.

Authenticity is paramount
Always be true to who you are and what you are selling. Your marketing and branding tools should match the experience you are trying to deliver. It’s best to avoid comparing oneself to the competition. Instead, focus on what makes you unique – you’ll receive affirmation from your clients, and this will help guide you in the right direction. If you are trying too hard to be something you’re not, it will eventually show. “It wasn’t deliberate,” explained Mike Han of The House of Han when describing how he discovered his own artistic brand. “In searching for who I was and how I wanted to add value to this world, the brand become a manifestation of that...embarking on this inward journey allowed me to communicate what my artwork is all about.”

The Detroit Wallpaper Co.

Custom designs by The Detroit Wallpaper Co. that are customizable and made to order.

Managing expectations is essential
Positioning is critical and often involves taking a deeper look into the audience that you are trying to attract. Start by understanding who you’re trying to speak to, then determine how they will find you, and what you want them to hear. One attendee inquired about how they should approach branding a multi-faceted company with several different products/services. Aimee Zoyes suggested that if your company or firm has a “sister brand” with recognizable similarities to your core brand, they may be able to speak to the same audience within the same space. Conversely, if your desired audience for the different products/services is vastly different, it may benefit you to market them as two separate entities.

Dan Davis Design for Fraser Eye Care Center

A commercial lobby designed by Dan Davis Design for Fraser Eye Care Center.

How to stay true to your brand, while also giving the client what they want
Your client and/or customer ultimately has hired you because they trust and value your opinion. Whether you are selling an actual product or offering a service, there often is a delicate balance between what the customer is asking for and what you feel is the right fit. The panelists all agreed that understanding the psychology of the end user is critical. Jennifer Baross, Senior Designer at Dan Davis Design, compared it to a “spidey sense” in which the client is telling you one thing, but they are looking for your guidance on what they really want/need. Dan Davis added, "We use ideation boards to get to know our clients – what they want scares them sometimes and it can be a constant effort to keep them on track.” Andi Kubacki explained, “I give them (clients) exactly what they asked for, then I give them what I like, and then I offer a third option in between...they almost always throw out what they originally requested.”

Dan Davis Design kitchen

In this kitchen by Dan Davis Design, their client’s artistic lifestyle and love of mid-century architecture is on full display.

Creating a brand that lasts
You should strive to express your brand tangibly. Highly-recognizable assets – like your logo, your palette, and your narrative –are great tools to help create the image you want and distill who you are. Ultimately though, your brand is how your customers perceive you. Consistency and authenticity will allow you to back up these carefully curated materials with who you assuredly are, and that will stand the test of time.

To watch the full video of the presentation, follow the link below.