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The Barcode Podcast is presented by Titanium CPG Insurance. Titanium protects forward-thinking consumer brands with a range of commercial insurance products and risk management services designed specifically for natural and organic food and beverage companies. Learn more at titaniumcpg.com

How does a savvy brand think about design? While the logo and look and packaging of a CPG brand is important, there is so much more that goes into creating the visual identity of a brand.  

Bryan Taylor is the founder, creative director of Drawn which is an integrated marketing design agency based in Eugene, Oregon. He has vast experience not only designing the look of well known national and international brands, but the experiences that cement customer relationships with those brands.

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BEN                           Welcome to the Barcode Podcast. My name is Ben Ponder. I’m your host. I’m really glad to have you here joining us today, along with my guest, Bryan Taylor of Drawn. I’m going to talk a little bit about Bryan’s background in a minute, but I want to remind everybody that the Barcode podcast is presented by Titanium CPG Insurance. Titanium protects forward thinking consumer brands with a range of insurance products and risk management services that are designed specifically for natural and organic food and beverage brands. You can learn more online at titaniumcpg.com. I’m going to turn to my friend, my old friend who is not old, but I’ve known for a really long time so Bryan Taylor, welcome to the studio.

BRYAN                     Thank you.

BEN                           Yeah, so glad to have you here. Bryan is the founder, creative director of Drawn which is an integrated marketing design agency based in Eugene, Oregon. They do some work around the country, certainly, they have some clients here in Austin and so I’m thankful to have him in the studio. Well, we captured him while he was in town. We’re going to kick it off with Bryan’s best meal ever.

BRYAN                     Best meal ever. I thought a lot about this and really, I don’t know how many times this actually happened but I remember growing up and Sunday night at our house, we had a breakfast dinner and usually we sat in front of the TV and like we broke two sacred rules right there. You never eat in front of the TV and you don’t have breakfast for dinner.

BEN                           Breakfast for dinner is really nice.

BRYAN                     It’s really nice.

BEN                           I don’t think I’ve ever regretted having breakfast for dinner. Let me say that.

BRYAN                     No.

BEN                           It’s just a good meal.

BRYAN                     Totally agree. If the Cowboys were on, we’d watch the Cowboys, if not, it was like that Disney Family movie, Sunday night thing.

BEN                           Right.

BRYAN                     We may have only done it like twice, but I thought it was every Sunday night forever. Yeah, and so now, like I’ve been thinking about how I cook, and my kids love it when they ask for chef’s special and it’s basically, you break every rule possible. You grab stuff out of the refrigerator and then at the end of the meal, you have no idea how you made it.

BEN                           You’ve actually killed two birds with one stone there, right? You’ve fed your family and you cleaned out the refrigerator a little bit which is super helpful.

BRYAN                     Exactly. Yes.

BEN                           Are there any legendary chef’s specials at least in the eyes of your kids?

BRYAN                     Yeah and I couldn’t tell you what they were.

BEN                           They’re all in the moment.

BRYAN                     Yeah. Sometimes, they like, never make that again but then every once in a while, it’s like, they want a recipe for it, and I don’t care. Clueless.

BEN                           Yeah, there was no recipe. There never will be.

BRYAN                     No. We won’t have leftover pad Thai that is two days old again or whatever.

BEN                           That’s right, exactly. Well, so and I think that like you’re creative at heart. You always have been and as long as I’ve known you and I’ve known you for now over two decades which probably makes both of us feel a little bit aged. What I wanted to talk with you about today primarily and we’re going to talk about a number of different things is how, as someone who works with brands, brands that are early stage to growth stage, to more mature. How does a savvy brand think about design? Again, let’s assume that I’m a founder and I don’t necessarily have some marketing or design background, maybe I’m creative, maybe I’m not, maybe I’m a person who’s very kind of super left-brained, but at the same time, I recognize that there needs to be some design if I have a brand or whatever it is.

                                    How do I begin to think about that as a non-professional designer, and as a client who maybe is either today or at some point in the future, going to work with an agency like yours?

BRYAN                     Yeah. Well, I could give you the whole like, to me, there’s been a real evolution over the last 25 years and maybe we can get into that.

BEN                           Yeah.

BRYAN                     I think when people don’t have much of a background and they spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to create sort of a mask on the outside of who they are, that’s where all the problems start to happen because what people really want is just to see who you are and even if that’s an ugly logo and like some makeshift packaging, it’s like the real you and you’re coming out. I think what I love about the CPG space is like you have this honeymoon period, where you can just be like, “Hey, I’m really good at the food stuff and all these other components are just going to be what they’re going to be.” At some point, there’s an evening-out that happens but if someone doesn’t have much of a background, the worst thing you can do is sort of fabricate some façade.

BEN                           Right. Well, I think that’s really important. I refer to it affectionately as the sad brown bag face where you hopefully have a really great or delicious or whatever it is, product inside of a really humble package that you probably got from Amazon or Uline or some generic thing and I think for somebody with a design sensibility like you, again, that’s one of those early metrics, because I always say that like a really great marketer can get you to buy anything once, right? You can make the slickest, coolest, most appealing packaging ever and convince you to buy it this one time, but then if you tried it and it’s really gross or it doesn’t do what it says it’s going to do, then getting you to buy it a second time is next to impossible.

                                    So, if I’m going to bet on one thing, like get the inside of the package right and then have everything else emanate out from there and you can always refine and iterate and I feel like that’s important for people even to understand that even the biggest brands, it’s not like you arrive and you’re like, okay, this is done, this is the end. Even the biggest brands from Nike to Starbucks to McDonald’s or whatever else, like Apple, they evolve over time. It wasn’t perfectly formed early on and even if it’s already successful, it continues to evolve.

BRYAN                     Totally agree. Yeah, and there’s a genuineness to that evolution. I think that part of this change, I call it the madman era, from like 25 years ago, where it was just a different time but now people, they don’t want to like buy a thing. They want to like join something. They want to be a part of who put that whole sad brown bag together and like what’s this amazing thing that’s inside. They want to be part of it. They want to tell others about it and that’s a totally different situation than just throwing money at marketing or having everything look polished and perfect.

BEN                           You used the word mask. It’s almost like, it’s not even just makeup. It’s sort of like you’re saying that people, what they want is for you to take the makeup off, show them the real you, which I think you actually see on Instagram and TikTok and all these other platforms now is you’ll get this like influencer beauty model and part of it is even like, this is the real me or even a famous celebrity like, I’m showing you the real me and you have access into the real me and that’s a really powerful connection.

BRYAN                     Yeah. I totally agree and I actually think like people are looking for imperfection. Even beyond sort of a sloppiness, they’re actually looking for the iterative process and to say, well, that flavor was terrible. I made pad Thai pizza once. I will never do that again.

BEN                           Big regret, yeah.

BRYAN                     Yeah, chef’s special is a failure but to show that and be kind of like open about that, that’s actually what draws people in as much as like, way more than trying to have everything, like all your ducks in a row.

BEN                           Absolutely. So, the name of your firm is Drawn, and I know that that’s not an accident. You’re a really thoughtful guy. How did you come up with that name?

BRYAN                     Yes, it ties into this whole historical kind of like perspective. The idea is like we try to create these experiences that people are naturally drawn to. I started at 21 years ago now and at that time, you can kind of say whatever you wanted to say, and people would kind of believe whatever you had to say. I really felt like that was sort of a disingenuous way to go about brand building or advertising or whatever. I tried to do things a little bit differently instead of like, chasing for attention, the jazz hands out there like, “Hey, look at me,” but instead try to create something that people were drawn to and the idea being, it takes a little longer, it takes probably a little more investment.

                                    It’s a slower process but once people come aboard and like, are drawn into this thing and they’re like, curious about it and wanting to engage with it, suddenly they’re lifelong fans and then they start telling all their friends and their family and instead of just throwing thousands, millions of dollars at advertising, if you create this thing that people want to be a part of and they’re drawn into it and then they start being your advertisers for you. It’s just a totally different dynamic. Today, it feels much more common place, 25, 21 years ago, it was just a really hard road to start out but that’s where the name comes from and so, the idea of creating experiences is a little vague but essentially, instead of like, we’re not creating packaging that people are drawn to.

                                    It’s actually like all of these components. They all kind of form this collective experience, I have with a brand and the more that we can create these collective experiences, all these micro experiences that add up to something and people are drawn into them, there’s something really magical about that and it’s more challenging but it’s way more rewarding, I think.

BEN                           It is, absolutely because what it does is, I think it presents your fans or your super fans with a gift, right, and something that they can share because we have this human impulse we want to share, which actually is quite useful from a marketing perspective.

BRYAN                     Yeah.

BEN                           We want to share things that make us proud or look good or whatever our identity needs are. If your kid did an amazing thing, there’s just this thing where you want to share, maybe not with the world but at least with like your loved ones, like “Hey, look, my kid did this amazing thing.” You don’t want to just keep it to yourself but part of that is, if you think about that same impulse when it comes to a brand or a product, when people discover a new thing that they love, that solves their problem, they want to share it so have you made it, have you packaged it, not just physically but even emotionally in every other way, in a way that makes it really shareable.

                                    I know that early on, like in my journey with Siete Family Foods, I kind of saw in that family story, it was a story of overcoming, right? So a family gathers together in support of their sister and daughter to overcome a major health challenge and third generation Mexican-American family that does all this together and they change their diet, they change their lifestyle and everybody is in it. It was a thing where I thought, this is a story that nobody could be against, right? If you can tell that story in a way that’s authentic, and it resonates with the audience then that serves up some things I think that can be really powerful for a brand.

BRYAN                     Yeah. The whole storytelling thing, I think is a really difficult piece of vocabulary because you can tell the story but you actually like want somehow people to join the story. They’re not part of the family but in a way they kind of feel part of the family. That’s where the real magic I think happens in the sharing is, it’s not just me telling you about this other thing but I’m now kind of a part of this other thing. I’m a cousin now, right?

BEN                           That’s right. I don’t just listen to Justin Bieber, I’m a believer, right?

BRYAN                     There you go.

BEN                           I’m in a group, right? I self-identify.

BRYAN                     Yeah.

BEN                           I go on the record now. Yeah.

BRYAN                     Yeah, and I think that storytelling is sort of a way to give people these pieces that they can then fill in themselves in a lot of ways.  If it’s just on the back of the packages or family story, there’s nothing I can participate in but somehow, finding those little crevices that people can somehow identify. Like I know with Siete people have got significant food allergies and somehow now, they can identify what that part of the story and it becomes part of their own story and they share that with others.

BEN                           I think that part is super powerful. One of the things that I feel like I learned from you early on and like I said we’ve known each other for a long time, is that you have a very clear process and I think that, that’s an important thing that I’ve taken away and kind of developed my own version of a process. If a brand comes to you in whatever early, inchoate stage of its development, what’s your process? As a design leader and thinker, do people say like, “Hey, Bryan, help me out. Where do I even start?” What does that process look like?

BRYAN                     Well, it’s a very defined process and it has no definition at all, it’s like kind of a-

BEN                           Paradox.

BRYAN                     I’ve engaged with a number of other agencies who have very rote process in terms of like, we do this the same way every time and ours has a lot of wiggle room for really understanding the unique situation that each person is in. There is a consistency to it and that’s to begin by understanding who you are on this DNA level. As you’re starting out, you’re kind of too young in a lot of ways to truly even understand what your own DNA looks like. Sometimes you just got to get out there and start doing the farmers markets and the early stage, sad brown bag kind of stage.

BEN                           Exactly, yeah.

BRYAN                     There comes a point where you start to have all of these pieces and the first thing that we try to do is understand as many of those pieces as we can.

BEN                           When you think about these pieces, what are you looking, what are you trying to uncover?

BRYAN                     Yeah, a little bit about that story but what are those values that are most intimate to whoever this group is. A lot of people write mission statements or value propositions, like I throw all those away. I don’t find them to be too unique but there’s this brand personality we try to write so it’s like taking all of these pieces and understanding what truly makes you, you and then we articulated in this like, it’s got to be on one page and it’s different every time.

BEN                           Which requires a certain discipline, right?

BRYAN                     Yeah.

BEN                           It can’t be 20 pages. You can’t keep sprawling down the road, yeah.

BRYAN                     Right, so if it’s on a page, it’s long enough to elaborate a little bit but it’s tight enough that everyone can read hopefully a page.

BEN                           Yeah.

BRYAN                     The idea is to spend enough time understanding all of those things that make you, you and putting them on this page that sometimes is written in story form, sometimes it’s bullet form. It’s always different but the idea is like, if we’re understanding who you are at this deep core level, and we can articulate it on a sheet and we all agree this is who we are, then that becomes sort of your north star for how you’re going do everything. Sure, the logo, the package, the name-

BEN                           The website though.

BRYAN                     The headquarters.

BEN                           Right.

BRYAN                     I mean, how you engage, how you answer the phone, the clothes that you wear, everything has to kind of match that in order to kind of keep this authenticity, this alignment that’s happening. Then, instead of me, coming in and saying, “Hey, everybody, I’m the expert here and you need to listen to me.” I can say, “We all agreed this sheet says this is who we are.” We all said, let’s say we’re an orange company and we’ve got a bunch of stuff that’s not orange, then like let’s figure out what we’re going to do here.

BEN                           Yeah, either we weren’t in fact orange or we should probably get rid of the not orange stuff.

BRYAN                     Exactly.

BEN                           Yeah.

BRYAN                     Then, it removes the egos, it removes the like personality kind of conflicts or like, but I like orange. That’s great, you may love orange, but we all decided that we’re not an orange company.

BEN                           Which is different than say like, decorating your house, right? The way that I talk about this to people is like, look, if you want to paint the walls of your house, pink, purple, white, black, it doesn’t matter, and you don’t even have to have a reason. The strongest brands, you have a reason, right? This is a very thoughtful intentional process, and again, there might even be a reason behind the reason. I’ll give you an example. I knew, where I grew up there was this relatively well-known resort and they had been successful and they had these pretty ugly pink cabins and that people, they would bring in various designers or whatever else and they would give them suggestions and almost, every time the very first thing they would suggest is we should really get rid of these ugly pink cabins.

                                    The owner would dismiss them almost out of hand and the reason for that is, it was super nostalgic because that pink color was when they got started, he mixed all the leftover paint that he had and that was the color that he had. If I bought six buckets of paint or something, and that’s the only color he could afford to paint the building, and so it became his color of pink and so that actually seemed kind of random but there was a logic and a reasoning behind it.

BRYAN                     Yeah, and that sounds like, it almost like became part of the DNA of the pink cabins, like that doesn’t make sense but everyone identified that place up there with a pink cabins. Then, if it becomes that, it’s fully embraced at that point and it goes on this like sheet, then it doesn’t matter what the architects think is aesthetically beautiful.

BEN                           That’s right.

BRYAN                     It has to do with, does it match our DNA or not.

BEN                           That’s right. Yeah. Now, you’ve told me before and I know in your training, one of the things that I think, that you bring to the process is you have a rule of thumb that you learned from one of your design professors in school, tell us what that rule of thumb is and how does it play out for you in the design process?

BRYAN                     Yeah, there are actually rules. Alva was my professor. First rule is always start with a pencil and the reason for that is that, that was a time believe it or not, where computers were just coming out and it was very easy to jump on and start like hitting filters and buttons and making things look cool.

BEN                           I can put a gradient on any shirt. Yeah.

BRYAN                     Yeah but there’s no like intentionality behind. I wasn’t trying to accomplish that sheet, that brand personality. I was just hitting things and going that looks cool.

BEN                           Yeah, it’s a cool effect.

BRYAN                     When you have a like a pencil and a piece of paper, you’re like, I mean, you can’t hit any filter buttons and so suddenly, you’re much more disciplined in trying to accomplish that thing that you’re heading out to accomplish. The second rule is to essentially basically be inspired, look at other ideas but don’t cheat. The idea of like original thought is really, really almost impossible in a lot of ways. Everything has been thought of, but there are these unique little ways of accomplishing anything or presenting anything. I think it was really valuable to encourage us to look and observe and watch and I have a hard time driving because I’m constantly surveying everything around me. You take all of that and then the idea of don’t cheat because you can just steal someone else’s idea and then it’s not your own. You weren’t accomplishing that sheet but let it inspire you and influence you and like produce something truly unique.

BEN                           Right, but it’s not necessarily cheating if you see something in one domain and you see how it’s applied, let’s say you’re somewhere in another country and you see something applied to a different industry or something like that and you say, “Oh, I think that’s a really interesting way that they paired these two things together,” and then you translate, you bring that back to the states and you think, “Oh, I wonder how you compare those two materials together in a different way here, and a different adaptation of that.”

BRYAN                     Exactly and that’s that inspiration but then you’re kind of making it your own at the same time.

BEN                           Yeah. I think two things that you’ve talked about already, that are pretty interesting to me are this notion of like that you forced the discipline of having that brand personality on a single page, which is harder than it sounds. I think a lot of people assume that it is harder to write a 20 page something than a one page something but in fact, once you start doing this stuff a lot, the opposite is true and I actually had a professor in graduate school who was adamant that we had to write a single page paper every single week of the class and he would just rip you to shreds.

                                    It was really about the discipline and that there’s no extraneous or superfluous word or anything that crept into what you’re talking about and the same thing I think is true that you’ve created these parameters or boundaries that force a set of discipline upon you and your team and your collaborators and then you’ve also done the same thing with start with a pencil where you’ve taken out a lot of the other kind of options or tools or all that kind of stuff and it’s like no, what can you create? At that point a pencil is only the color of graphite. It’s not color and again, this is a thing that I feel like I learned from you early on related to process because if I give you two designs and one of them, I present to you in blue and one I present to you in red, but they’re different designs, you might pick the red one just because you like red more, right?

BRYAN                     Exactly.

BEN                           You’re not actually paying attention to what happens so typically, a lot of times, you’ll see these designs, I know in the process that you used, you’re trying to do things more in black and white and gray scale and then you’re folding in color which is obviously hugely important but it’s a separate discussion.

BRYAN                     Yeah, maybe I can give a quick like example. We helped start a brewery probably five years ago. Five years ago, these two brothers came to us and it was their last name and they clearly had not gone to the US trademark website and quickly we found it was trademarked. We started with nothing. We didn’t have a name; we didn’t have anything. We went through the exercise, we wrote the one page and they kept doing this, literally with their hands kind of making these intersections of like, we want to be about art and science and about Germanic and about Northwest and about creativity but also kind of this discipline and refinement. They kept making these like intersections and you could tell like there was something about this like intersection between the two that really was meaningful to them, kind of like, we don’t want to be old and sterile.

                                    We don’t want to be just, throw bubble gum in our beer and call it, cool. We went through that whole process. We got them to literally sign the sheet, the brand personality and out of that, we came up with the name Cold Fire. Cold Fire is like this juxtaposition of two things. It also came from a book by Michael Pollan Rose about nature’s fermentation process, is like a Cold Fire. They wanted to go all the way back to the roots of like where brewing started. Here we are going all the way back to how nature has like cooked things through fermentation. The name has this juxtaposition and is like tied to this old origin and then, we build this brand with all of these angles, so everything is either a 30, 45, or 50-degree angle, and like hand letter the font for the name and the icon.

                                    Then, like when you walk into the actual tasting room, the walls all have these same angles on them. No one can really pick all of these things out. No one would sit there and go like; I see you’re at the intersection of art and science here.

BEN                           That’s right. That’s right, yeah, it’s not a literal or even conscious thing.

BRYAN                     No, but all of these things are supporting that same brand personality that we started with. The labels are very simple. They’re just sort of stated, more like a wine label maybe than like grab your attention label.

BEN                           Right, so in that brand, it seems like there’s a strong copper element to that. How did you arrive at copper for that?

BRYAN                     Yes, so our color pallet was actually all natural pigments so there’s nothing poor metals or rock, so there was nothing like artificial about the color pallet so that makes it sort of unstated on the shelf but it’s like natural pigments and then this copper color just seems back to that old earthy kind of like raw material and you can go with a number of things. Gold sort of has its own connotations and it’s a silver and there was something about copper that sort of fit who they are.

BEN                           That’s really good. I’ve seen the angles where you had done some of those early sketches and the angles show up in both the symbol and have a carry through to that hand-lettered typographic element of the logo as well.

BRYAN                     Yeah, and the icon came from two symbols like the Germanic shield, or European shields but that seems sort of old fashioned in a lot of ways and so, we found this Germanic, Celtic sort of symbol for eternity and that’s where you like borrowing ideas and you’re kind of making them your own out of that process.

BEN                           Yeah, that’s super interesting. Yes, so that’s a great example of how that early process of discovery and that sort of thing and then, you even touched on how it wasn’t just here’s a name, here’s a logo or here’s a symbol. Good luck. It’s how does that name, how do those angles, how does the color pallet play out in this case, in a taproom, at the retail shelf, who are you and how does that instantiated in all these different environments where you’re doing business?

BRYAN                     I don’t think most people see all of those implications. So, I did learn that, the only person that can name a beer is the brewer so as much as I wanted to influence that, that was something I wasn’t able to have an influence on and they’re all random. There’s no tie to them and that really bothers me because it’s that one thing that doesn’t fit the sheet, when you have a honky-tonk logger. It doesn’t really fit into what we’re going for.

BEN                           That’s right.

BRYAN                     I see all of those connections, I think when we are working with brands, we’re trying to find the tiniest thing that seems out of alignment because it sends mixed messages to people. It says, well, we kind of care about these things but not really and when you start having those people start to pull back a little bit and they start to withdraw a little and they don’t even really realize it because if everything is in alignment, everything kind of matches, you’re just kind of trusting at that, if the seven interactions I’ve had have all been consistent, number eight is going to be the same and number nine and number 10 and then I become more invested and drawn into it and I can trust it.

BEN                           Yeah. I think that’s really powerful. I refer to it as the restaurant bathroom test, right? If the bathroom at the restaurant is clean and sanitized, then one might infer that the kitchen is also clean and sanitized which might lead you to the conclusion that the food is cleaner and safer and that sort of thing too, right? It’s not necessarily that you’re making these conscious decisions or even associations but there is this implicit trust that is built between, in this case, the consumer but any user of a product or service, the more consistent, and it’s not that everything has to be super matchy-matchy if that’s not the brand.

                                    You’re delivering consistently. I think you mentioned that with the way you answer the phones and all of those. You think about the totality of your business, how does it line up if your whole brand vibe is like beachy chill like the turtle from Finding Nemo or something like that and then somebody answers the phone at your front desk and they they’re like a country and they’re cussing you out or something like that. It’s not that one is good or bad. It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit.

BRYAN                     Yeah, we designed a restaurant or we’ve designed several but the first one we did, we actually sat and walked through the process at other places, from literally getting your car at your house or your job let’s say and you’re going to go to this place. I’m thinking of all of the little micro experiences you have before you ever get to the point of ordering food. The parking lot, what’s that like, what’s it like walking across the street? What’s it like opening the door and that first impression and the temperature and the smells and the way you’re greeted and then, all of those little micro interactions are really informing my decisions and if all of them feel like they’ve been thought about, then, by the time I get my food…it’s totally different than if I mean, you could have a really sketchy and like schizophrenic sort of experience and the food might be amazing but you’re sort of on guard at that point.

BEN                           That’s right, unless that was intentional, unless it’s sort of part of the vibe, if you want to serve people through bulletproof glass or something like that, this is the vibe that I’m going for here but I think it’s that level of deliberate thoughtful practice that for me, as a person who cares a lot about marketing and branding, that’s the stuff that I see in some brands, I see, it’s pretty unusual or it’s pretty rare and when it’s done really well, I just want to tip my cap to people. I refer to them as a thousand micro impressions that aggregate into a broader experience and it’s multi-sensory, right, so you can think about a restaurant.

                                    If I walk into a restaurant, let’s say it’s a steak house or something like that and it smells like sewage in the front door, so imagine if everything else about the restaurant is perfect. The steak is perfect, the rest of the ambience is perfect, but it smells like sewage, that’s not a great experience, right? You can have one aspect of your sensory experience that throws everything else off. If else about this steak house is great but you couldn’t find a parking space, closer than a mile away or something like that and it’s raining there’s just a thoughtfulness I feel like that goes into the way that some brands have kind of engage with their consumers and it’s particularly challenging and this gets us back to the consumer packaged goods space.

                                    I think if you have a restaurant or a pub even, you can control not everything but many, most of the elements of that experience. If you’re a consumer, good and you’re on the shelf somewhere else. It’s somebody else’s store, you have really a low degree of impact in how that broader experience plays out. As somebody who’s designing in addition to these other things, you’re designing on behalf of consumer brands, how does that inform what you’re thinking about when it comes to packaging and merchandising and presentation and utilizing it at home or whatever?

BRYAN                     Yeah, that is a challenge. Obviously, the actual package itself has a whole process that’s maybe longer and a lot more debate over like what should be on the package and how it should look and feel.

BEN                           Right.

BRYAN                     Then, there are so many things that are out of your control and I only know part of the whole game, the positioning and like all that part of the CPG space, I don’t really know how to comment on but we’ve done a lot of things with like, you think of the shelf stocker like a probably sucky job some of the time, you know.

BEN                           Sure.

BRYAN                     Doing little things on the carton itself before ever it gets to the shelf and just like thanking them for their efforts, that might be just that little extra incentive and if that’s true to who you are and like you let those little compliments happen behind closed doors in a lot of different ways, I think that those all add up to be the sort of like, hampers along the way to get that full experience. I mean, social media is what it is and it’s always going to be that loud voice out there but if you get a chance to do in-store tasting, a lot of those are just like kind of boring.

BEN                           Yeah, black tablecloth, generic person, uninformed, no mood, no anything.

BRYAN                     Yeah, like turn that on its head and rethink it, what if we can do fewer but like way more meaningful, that whole experience could be really dynamic and the thing that sets you apart in some ways or like summer tours where you’re scooting around the country or there’s just different ways in which you can like influence those experiences, that may feel you have very limited influence on.

BEN                           Yeah. No, that’s really good. What have you learned in working with a number of different founders? I think that it’s easy to dismiss the packaging part of this, but it is CPG, like the middle word is packaged, right? That’s the primary package, that’s the secondary package that you just mentioned where other people maybe seeing it who aren’t ultimately the consumer. Is there a framework that you’ve kind of developed or that you use as a guide for how you determine whether a package is successful or unsuccessful?

BRYAN                     That’s a good question because there’s so many influences on like what causes someone to pick it up. You can get a little distracted by just looking at a limited set of data. I mean, you’re actually the one who taught me about this “it’s got to earn its way on the front cover” kind of an idea. I really think that intuitively, I’ve agreed with that for a long time. I just had a meeting a couple of weeks ago. We’re working on a climate campaign. They want to tell 20 pages of a story on the side of a bus and we’re like, it’s just not going to work.

BEN                           There’s actually an inverse relationship, it’s the billboard rule, right?

BRYAN                     Yeah.

BEN                           The more words, the less likely it is to be read.

BRYAN                     Exactly.

BEN                           You have one word. People are going to read it. Up to three words, people will read it. Every                                               subsequent additional word, less likely they read it.

BRYAN                     Yeah, exactly, totally agree and so, the idea of less is more I think is a really good principle. I also think there’s something about thinking of your packaging as like, it’s sacred, it can never be touched or changed. That is a really bad idea in the space because we work in a lot of different industries. No other space moves at the insane pace that CPG does. So, if your package doesn’t change in 10 years, which we work for the company and they literally haven’t changed it in 10 years, well, I think that informs what people think of you.

BEN                           Yeah, you’re stagnant.

BRYAN                     You’re stagnant, you’re just fine being what you are. You’re not aware that other things are going on and taste are changing, and preferences are changing, and competition is arising and so, that idea of never ever changing because we’re not supposed to change or because it’s too expensive, that’s probably a bad road to be stuck on.

BEN                           Again, it kind of gives this perhaps unconscious impression that everything else about your business is sort of on autopilot. There’s no news, there’s no innovation.

BRYAN                     Maybe new flavor, whatever.

BEN                           Yeah, that’s all and it’s like, okay, there’s your ketchup. You want more ketchup, here’s more ketchup.

BRYAN                     Conversely, if you’re like wildly changing things all the time, people are like, what’s going on?

BEN                           There’s a whiplash there too.

BRYAN                     Yeah, exactly. There’s definitely a middle ground there but I do think change is good, being disciplined on how much goes on the front is good and then there’s all kinds of theories, from the color-blocking to the large logos, to the whatever. We spent a lot of time walking shelves and if the space you’re moving into has got an opportunity that seems unique, I think that’s probably the best direction to go.

BEN                           Right, yeah, within the parameters, if everything else on the shelf is about six inches, and you’re like, I have an idea, we’re going to have an 18-inch-tall package, they’re not going to move the whole shelf for you. And if you are Starbucks maybe they would but they’re not doing it for you if you’re a startup.

BRYAN                     Yeah, we just did this with a brand on the ethnic food aisle and they’re just different, the logos are different, the choices on the packaging and the colors and how things are all presented. It was a little bit different than some of the other aisles we’ve been working on and so, it was good to spend time in a bunch of places walking those aisles. Obviously, not the 18-inch bottle but at the same time, you can stand out in different ways, on different aisles, I think.

BEN                           Yeah, absolutely and you can use color, shapes, there’s a lot of other tools at your disposal as well. Let’s say, I’m a really early stage brand and I come to you and it’s, maybe not just you but in general, a design agency or a broader marketing agency, when is it too early or when is it not right yet for whatever reason for someone to work with an agency, versus kind of going it on their own.

BRYAN                     It’s a good question. I think you do have this; we call it the honeymoon period.

BEN                           This sad brown bag.

BRYAN                     Yeah. I mean, you do have a little bit of this grace period where you can really focus on product, on distribution, on some of those early hurdles that you’ve got to get over. I don’t think it makes sense to have an agency doing your stuff. I don’t even know if it makes sense to have anyone in house doing stuff. You can find a couple of freelancers. You can go to Kinko’s somehow, right?

BEN                           Right, right.

BRYAN                     You’ve got to be scrappy and focused on the product and focused on those distribution relationships.

BEN                           What’s interesting, and I see this a lot, people who either have some resources, some money or they think I’ve got to do this. They’ll actually over-design too early which on the surface feels like it shouldn’t be a bad thing and I don’t know that it’s 100% a bad thing but what I’ve observed is if your packaging looks too put together, too early on, then you don’t have this “people want to help the little guy.” They want to help the underdog and if you look like you’re not the little guy, if you look like you’re a gazillionaire or you’re some new brand spun off by some giant company, then it strangely impacts their availability or interest in promoting you which is really kind of a weird dynamic.

BEN                           You’re like, “Oh, you’ve got this. It looks like you’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on all this kind of stuff, so you don’t need me to promote your product for free or tell my friends about it.”

BRYAN                     Yeah, I think it really has to match the velocity. If you’re thinking like going up a hill and you need people to help push from behind, like to get up over that hill then yeah, your visual presentation has to kind of match that uphill-ness that you’re going. I mean, you could be a massive company and start a new brand and sure like come out of the gate but it’s going to match like, you have national placement on day one like then yeah, maybe you can do it. I agree, it takes some time and so in terms of like, when it’s time to bring on an agency, I think of it as, it’s always bumpy like at the start. You’re so used to being scrappy and saving every penny for things that matter and then all of a sudden, you’re working with people who feel like they’re robbing you.

                                    I mean, it’s really difficult and I would say probably half of our CPG relationships don’t work out after a couple of months. As much as we try to make sure we’re all on the same page, it’s a rough transition from spending nothing to what it costs to really get in and get to know this at DNA level.

BEN                           It’s a big investment.

BRYAN                     Right, so be ready for bumps.

BEN                           Right.

BRYAN                     Then, like I think of it in terms of if you’re starting to staff up on the design side and design in the big general sense, if you’re starting to staff up, that’s when I would say you might really consider hiring an agency. There’s a lot of actual hidden costs with staffing up internally that you don’t think about and you’re still trying to be nimble, you’re still trying to create this bandwidth without the overhead.

BEN                           We got to expand your office, there’s benefits and all the things associated with that.

BRYAN                     The software and the hardware and then, what happens is inevitably those people are very transient. After a year, two years they leave.

BEN                           Right, artists.

BRYAN                     The new person comes in and they don’t have this vision and suddenly your stuff is changing and like, you have this inconsistency just because of that. For all of those reasons, I think an agency can be good but it’s usually a bumpy start.

BEN                           Well, I think that you pointed out too, a common pitfall is that people probably assume, I’m going to hire an agency or a designer and they’re going to paint me a pretty picture, right? Then, you say, no, that’s not what we do. We’re going to do DNA testing on you, right? It’s like I didn’t ask for that, I need pretty pictures. I don’t need DNA testing. You’re like, no, the pretty picture for you is very different than the pretty picture for someone else and if you want to do this right, it’s an investment of time and money and again, for a lot of people who aren’t as familiar with that process, that feels like, “No, I’m in a hurry, I’ve got a deadline to meet,” that sort of thing. That would make sense that there might often be challenges around alignment on that side.

BRYAN                     Yeah. I mean, we used to be more dogmatic about like, “Hey, we can’t do anything until we do this brand personality, until we get our north star figured out.” Then, we realized, like this is really difficult for people that didn’t come to us asking for this. They want the pretty picture. I think we have found a decent rhythm of, let’s start making some pretty pictures and do this at the same time.

BEN                           This gives them confidence that in fact, you can make the pretty pictures, right?

BRYAN                     Yeah, and you know what, if they’re kind of this rapid prototyping stage of product development, let’s kind of treat this brand development in the same way. Our pretty picture may have to change in a little while but at least we can kind of start giving deliverables to meet this like fast paced and all the while kind of be pulling these little nuggets out that make their way on to this brand personality and eventually maybe a more formal process of like, hey, can we pause for a little bit and evaluate some of these pretty pictures.

BEN                           Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really good advice and I think it’s also that you don’t need to rush into this when you’re super early and I think there are a couple, the bigger consumer facing brands here in Austin, are actually really great examples of this, both Tito’s Vodka and Yeti, effectively their logos are like Microsoft Word system fonts, right? They’ve done okay and obviously over time, both of those brands have evolved in a lot of different ways and have a significant amount of sophistication about how they’re executed but their success or failure was not determined by having the coolest hippest thing at the very early stage, right?

BRYAN                     I can’t look at the Tito’s logo.

BEN                           It’s painful. Yeah, yeah.

BRYAN                     I think the madman era as I call it, like before things became more digital in nature, like that actually was way more important, that brand mark, that like iconic package. Nowadays, it seems like logos are fluid. I remember early on telling people, this is going to last 20 years and now, like there’s a fluidity to the brand mark even that never used to be there. I think, people are wanting much more of this like multi-sensorial kind of like fluid experience more than like, that red Coca Cola script.

BEN                           This is a little bit antiquated but I tend to think of them like album covers a bit and it’s like, certain bands, the Rolling Stones or whatever have a logo but then a lot of other bands that you know them by their album covers or at least you used to. I think that every three to five years, you’re at least revisiting maybe tweaking. You’re not wholesale changing things because you’re evolving as a person, you’re evolving as a company and as a brand if you’ve continued to grow, you may have new or different products along the way and that you may have cast a wider net or maybe even opposite, you’ve been even more focused.

BRYAN                     Yeah, I totally agree. I still think, there’s something sacred about the brand mark, the icon.

BEN                           Yeah.

BRYAN                     There is like way more forgiveness than there ever has and like, how the whole aesthetic kind of like, is this amoeba that keeps like moving along with the brand.

BEN                           Yeah, that’s really good. Are there bits of advice that you find, that you give to startups that you’re talking to particularly in the CPG space regularly when it comes to defining their brand and some of these early stage directional parts of growing your business.

BRYAN                     Yeah, it’s a good question. I hate the word authenticity now.

BEN                           It’s just overused.

BRYAN                     There is something about like being really, really like transparent and just this is who we are. I think focusing on an amazing product. We like to work with a number of different industries and companies and the one thing we’re looking for is just a good thing, a good product or a service or something because it’s really hard to make something attractive that’s just like subpar.

BEN                           Yeah.

BRYAN                     Focusing on the product. Being sort of like, open and vulnerable in a lot of ways and then the whole principle of design thinking and like empathy. Go hang out with your customers and go beyond on the floor with the shelf stockers and just spend time with the people who are actually buying the product and serving you and go ride a truck and understand.

BEN                           Yeah. Really understand.

BRYAN                     It will totally change how you do everything.

BEN                           That’s really good, so let’s dig into that just a little bit more. If you’re a designer, you’re familiar with the term design thinking. If you’re not a designer, you may be less familiar with it and you may think it doesn’t apply to you but in fact, the opposite is true. Help people who maybe aren’t in that world, understand what you mean by design thinking and you mentioned that one aspect of that is empathy.

BRYAN                     Yeah, so I mean, design thinking is like a vocabulary word for common sense to me. It’s a way for people to put some sort of structure around what I find to be fairly common sense and it’s actually, I think fairly intuitive to most startups but especially in the food space. The principles are basically empathy, which is also a word that’s overused but understanding basically people, walking in their shoes, understanding their lives and what their day is like. Rapid prototyping. The idea that you’re not going to come out of the gate with everything polished and perfect. You’re going to make really ugly little starts, get some feedback and keep making it prettier and prettier until it’s something that you can push at scale.

BEN                           Right, you’re sketching and so, like if you’ve ever sketched, the first move of the pencil is not beautiful, it’s not finished and it’s like the line is probably off. If you think about like you’re really sketching and you’re going back and forth, give it a minute. It’ll eventually take shape but if you’re like, “Oh, the first mark … I don’t know if I like this.” Well, that’s not how sketching works.

BRYAN                     Right, right, exactly. Yeah, empathy, rapid prototyping and then I kind of forget after that but it’s this evolving process of putting stuff out there, refining it, watching people engage with it, go back and iterate again and you’re continually like evolving as you go.

BEN                           Right and you’re collaborating with people along the way too, you’re not necessarily just doing that in isolation. Design thinking, I feel like if you didn’t know what that meant, you might assume, “Oh, I need to get like some studio or a cave or something and just go, I need to think hard about design.” In fact, that’s not the case. It’s about taking all these inputs. Having to your point, kind of this rapid prototyping iterative process but that iterative thing requires constructive critical feedback, where you’re like, “Hey, I made a thing, what do you think?” You have to be okay with the fact that people are like, “I don’t like it,” which is hard because that could have been your baby.

                                    You like made a thing and you’re like, “Look mom and dad, I made this thing,” and you’re like, “Son, your drawing is terrible,” you know, whatever. Hopefully, you’ve created a culture where people can do that in a way that doesn’t destroy your feelings but you’re also like, as somebody who’s thinking about the design, you’re not overly invested emotionally because that can be dangerous too. Nobody in your organization gets a pass from design thinking and I think that’s a really important thing for people to understand, that like you want the accounting department involved in the design thinking process.

BRYAN                     Totally agree. So, maybe I can give a story of like, I mean, it’s not a CPG brand but that restaurant that we designed, it was meant to be this whole like pre-prohibition kind of era, old and nostalgic and I could go through every decision inside the actual physical space and why we chose everything that we did.

BEN                           Why the tabletops were that material and everything about it. Yeah.

BRYAN                     Yeah, we salvaged wood from the original Pabst Blue Ribbon Factory and used it for all the furniture like every detail was thought through. The menu was the most difficult, so they had 81 tabs. You got to have something digital because they just go through them too quickly.

BEN                           It’s going to rotate. Yeah.

BRYAN                     It didn’t work. It didn’t fit so we ended up building a database, we projected it on to this old wood wall and no one knew what’s this projected menu, but it was a digital interface. Then, we stopped, and we launched, and people are coming in and then we’re watching. We’re kind of back repeating the cycle now. We’re sitting with people. We’re watching as people walk in. They see how long the line is and then they leave, or we check people sitting at a table, they might want another round, but they look up at the line, it’s too long, they leave. We had people leaving credit cards constantly because you have to start a tab. We take that database and we start solving these problems. We start making little fixes.

BEN                           Normally you would think, “Oh, my designer doesn’t need to solve these problems.” Whatever,                                         that’s an operations issue or something.

BRYAN                     An IT thing or whatever.

BEN                           Yeah, an IT issue or whatever.

BRYAN                     Yeah, so when you’re thinking of this more holistically and more of like a whole experience that you’re trying to create, well, yeah, a long line is kind of problematic. We also knew from the back end like, by the time we started solving these problems, we created a little app for reordering from your table. We’ve built it off of the same projected menu database and we put it on a phone, on the website and you could reorder from your table. We also saw in the back end, as we were solving all these Patron problems, we are creating like management problems. Now, all of a sudden, the bar manager is entering every inventory item five times. It was such a pain and so now we’re like, well, let’s solve those problems.

                                    Over five years, we went from designing this tiny little restaurant into now, we’re launching this digital app that restaurants all over the country can use to compete with these national companies who have billions of dollars to spend on IT and that was like using this design thinking process to go from a tiny little restaurant into this new app that’s being purchased and subscribed to by all these restaurants and hotels and theaters and all kinds of places around the country.

BEN                           Really fundamentally, what you’re describing is, it’s a problem-solving methodology, right? It has obviously an aesthetic component to it but it’s not exclusively about the colors and shapes and textures.

BRYAN                     Yes, and that’s like a hard mind shift for people to think about but if you’re really going for a whole experience where all the little micro experiences are all kind of like saying the same thing and then, you really have to kind of break down the traditional silos of well, IT handles that and our architect handles that and our web developer handles that.

BEN                           Our interior designer handles that, which is different than the architect or that sort of thing.

BRYAN                     When you have all those different people and they’re not all in alignment, then you’re going to end up with a bunch of parts, not a whole experience.

BEN                           That’s right. Yeah, sort of the Johnny Cash, one piece at a time song where it’s got the car made out of every era of General Motors. When a business grows and they start working with you or another agency, what’s the best way for a brand to work with an agency? What does that look like? When that relationship is successful both ways, what are the hallmarks of a successful brand plus design or marketing agency relationship?

BRYAN                     Yeah, probably humility and trust, seem like the two words that first came to mind when you said that. When you come in and you’ve got very specific measurable goals right out of the gate that this relationship is going to achieve, that just doesn’t seem like a very reasonable way to walk into a new relationship.

BEN                           Right, it’s just like you’re dating somebody or something like that and you’re like, okay, I’m looking for the following things out of this relationship and you’re just sitting down over dinner and you’re like, this is not how this relationship is going to go.

BRYAN                     Yeah, and if there’s not humility and trust in both directions, it’s probably going to be a short-term relationship. The agency needs to have humility and realize you’re the expert, you know your product, you are the one who stayed up all night, making their product and selling the next day and then going to your day job. You’ve earned your stripes and I need to learn from you and take your lead in that way. Conversely, there’s some things we think we can help you with and they’re going to take some time and you’re not going to recognize the value at first. You need to trust and be willing to kind of go down that road. If you’re not at a place where you can afford the time and the emotional patience that that might take, then you’re not ready for that yet.

BEN                           Right.

BRYAN                     When you start to trust each other and when you have this like humility in both directions and you become essentially like an extension of the team as opposed to either side, dictating how things go, then, you have beautiful relationships and really good things happen.

BEN                           Yeah, that’s really good and I think that that humility can be really challenging because you get bigger so you’re a brand and you got to the point where, “Hey, guess what I can afford in agency,” right? Things are going at least pretty well, either you’re selling a lot, or you were able to convince some investors that they should bet on you or whatever, the thing is, you’ve got some early indications that you’re the stuff. Well, you still have to have humility then too, like yeah, we get it, you’re a big deal. That’s fine but in any relationship, you can be a big deal and that’s great but here, we’re just going to both really listen to each other and try to be responsive to the other’s expertise and recognize that we have complimentary expertise on both sides of the table here.

BRYAN                     I think the challenges to working with an agency, let’s say it’s been three years. You’ve been doing the honeymoon thing for three years, you’re ready for this, you don’t have that slow learning process where if you had hired this whole team in house bit by bit by bit, it’s kind of a gradual understanding of how this all works. It’s this fast marriage, like maybe I just have five people added to my team that I’ve never had before and it takes time to figure out how this dance kind of works really well and if you can have the humility and the patience and you’re in a place where you can figure out when you need to be a little more clear and say I want to go in this direction and when you need to watch how things go and take the other person’s lead, I think those end up being really beautiful in the long run.

BEN                           That’s really good advice. You’ve had this kind of front row seat. You work with a lot of industries and you’ve had a chance to work with a number of consumer-packaged goods, brands too. What’s different in your mind, in working with a CPG brand versus the other types of clients or customers? And then because of your proximity to it, how has your understanding or expectations around what it might take to grow a CPG brand been altered by being up close and personal with it? Is it harder, easier or more accessible? How do you process that now that you’ve had a chance to work with some different folks?

BRYAN                     Yeah, the pace is just remarkably different and so you can succeed much faster than many other industries and you can fail much faster than most other industries. Now, there’s this scrappiness that I really like about it. There’s no barrier to entry for the most part, you got to have a product, anybody can make a product.

BEN                           You can’t just like open a medical clinic as a doctor. You had to go to medical school, you have to check all these boxes. That’s not saying that being successful is easy by any means.

BRYAN                     No.

BEN                           In some ways, it might be harder because it’s the wild, wild west that actually succeeding presents its own set of challenges but at least starting off in the race, you can get trampled.

BRYAN                     Yeah. Totally agree and then there’s this other element, because that’s the foundation is this scrappy, competitive, you got to have sharp elbows and work hard. This thing becomes your baby and you get to a point where you have to start like bringing in more people, even in house and suddenly your team is getting bigger and your vendor list is getting larger and you have a hard time letting go of that baby. We don’t see that as much as in any other industry, like dad’s plumbing business. I could move on any day now and be just fine. Whereas CPG, it’s held more dearly.

BEN                           You created a thing and you’re so protective of that thing.

BRYAN                     Yeah, and sometimes that really inhibits growth in the long run, you almost squash it because you love it so much.

BEN                           I’m going to love it and squeeze it and call it George and that’s everything, how does that play out? How could a founder accidentally kill the baby as it were?

BRYAN                     Okay, from our perspective, when we get brought in we see that in a number of ways. We had a CPG brand over the summer. We worked with them for about three months. It clearly was not working out. They wanted a tri-fold brochure. I hate tri-fold brochures, but they really wanted one for a number of different purposes, 28 rounds of revisions. That’s not helpful for anyone, like it’s a waste of their time and money.

BEN                           Right, for a tri-fold brochure that’s not going to make or break your business.

BRYAN                     No, absolutely not. It completely lost context but this thing was so important to the founder that it had to manifest into this tri-fold brochure with the same amount of like care and attention, to the point where we just, we’re like squashing the whole thing. Clearly, we didn’t have enough deliverables for the amount of money they’re investing because all we are doing was-

BEN                           Reworking, re-engineering a tri-fold brochure.

BRYAN                     Yeah.

BEN                           You weren’t necessarily like, “Hey, I was thinking that the left side should open over the right side or the right side over the left side.” It was probably more about just colors and content.

BRYAN                     Yeah, yeah and then you’re re-thinking, maybe that wasn’t the right call and so we should I instead emphasize this thing instead of that thing and like, yeah, just you’re overthinking it, right, and that’s because it’s too precious. I think that looking at the sort of stagnation at that particular brand. I don’t think that they’re in a very good position for long term survival.

BEN                           Yeah, that’s an indicator of a broader set of challenges.

BRYAN                     Yeah.

BEN                           Not that you can’t change course and overcome it and that sort of thing but if you’re having that hard of a time with one single project, there’s a lot harder decisions you’re going to have to make.

BRYAN                     Totally.

BEN                           Yeah.

BRYAN                     We could see it more from afar like how that same thing was playing itself out in a number of different places.

BEN                           Right, right.

BRYAN                     There are a number of indications that it was, yeah, not going to succeed but that like strangling because I love it so much. It’s something you don’t see in other industries quite like you do in CPG.

BEN                           That’s super interesting. Well, as we wrap up here, the truth is, when you create a CPG product, you are almost by definition creative, right? You created a thing that didn’t exist or at least that didn’t exist in that way, but some founders don’t think of themselves as a creative. Is there a way for a founder, co-founder or team that maybe doesn’t think of himself, herself, themselves as creative to expand their understanding or kind of approach to creativity ? Maybe they’re not going to become a graphic designer but at least they’re more conversant in these things, so that  if they’re working with a specialist on your website and you don’t even know what HTML is or you have no idea what any of this whole web thing is but you’re just like, well, just do the web thing, take care of that.

                                    In the same way with design or creativity, is there a way that a founder or that team can prepare themselves better to work or even to expand their own mental capacity to understand and participate in the process?

BRYAN                     Yeah, that’s a good question. I think a lot of the other agencies I’ve seen or the vendors, the consultants you end up bringing in over time, I find that when someone just hires someone that says, do their thing, do the HTML thing and there is no curiosity like, I don’t need to learn HTML but I’m just curious enough to know how you’re going to approach this. For us, it’s that brand personality, that one page, there’s at least enough curiosity to make sure it’s stained, true to the north star kind of purpose. If you just start hiring people to do stuff and you don’t have that curiosity to understand how it tethers back to that north star, whether it’s articulated or it’s just in the founder’s soul. That lack of curiosity seems like it can make it difficult to kind of stay true.

                                    I mean, I don’t know how you can prepare necessarily to be a creative but like just having enough curiosity to say, I’m going to give this five minutes of understanding or to work, choose people who are willing to kind of explain the why behind things instead of just say, you need to go in and this is your tri-fold.

BEN                           That’s right. Here you go. Yeah, right.

BRYAN                     Why this is not working well or why you should consider something else? That curiosity I think is really healthy to like understanding the whole creative process.

BEN                           Right, I’ll give you an example from my life. A few careers ago, I was working in the software industry and I was managing software engineers and I was not a software engineer but I realized that in addition to other things I was doing, as the boss of software engineers, that I was really susceptible to getting snowed by people and just like, “Oh, yeah, that’s all back in middleware thing,” or whatever. I knew I would never be like a hacker but like I tried to at least, I would go to conferences and do some pretty deep dives to feel like I understood at least on a surface level what’s happening in the software world and what’s front end development and what are people actually doing there and then what is backend development, what are people actually doing there?

                                    I feel like there’s an element of that that could be translated over into the world of design and packaging and merchandising and all of these things, and you really touched on the curiosity aspects of that too.

BRYAN                     Yeah, I have this friend Michael, he’s got this like analogy around farming and if all your job is to water the crops, well, there’s actually like an art to watering correctly and sometimes you have to pull back to let, I don’t know all these things, right?

BEN                           Let the water seep in or whatever it is, yeah.

BRYAN                     All you know is I’m supposed to water things and things are like out there, you’re just going to keep watering things, even if you’re not understanding how it fits into this whole cycle and so, to at least understand why the weather matters and why we till the way we do and the seed that we chose to plant and when the harvest is going to happen and what has to happen, if you understand at least how that whole cycle works, and you’re only job is just to water them, you can water correctly but if you don’t understand how it all works, you’re just going to keep turning on the sprinklers every day that it’s not raining and maybe that’s right and maybe it’s not right and so, the more you can at least understand the whole, I think the better your company as a whole will be.

BEN                           Absolutely and I think you’ve been extending that analogy. In this case, if you’re the founder, co-founder of a company, you’re the farmer and maybe you have a team of people who help you farm and one person, she waters and one person, he tills and that sort of thing. If you just go, “I don’t know, it’s all magic, it’s just all farming to me. I’m just a farmer but I don’t get into the nitty-gritty of like whether these plants actually need water or something.” Then, it’s probably going to limit your ability to be an excellent farmer. Ideally, you hire somebody who’s better at watering than you would be, and somebody is better at tilling than you would be. If you have no idea what they’re doing, you’re probably not a very effective farmer.

BRYAN                     Right. There’s not a lot of check and balances when you have no idea what’s going on.

BEN                           Yeah, and so the person could come to you and say, yeah, my budget for water this year, it’s 10X’ed, we’re pouring smart water on all the crops now, in little bottles or something like that and you’re like, well, I guess, that’s how you water things now. I don’t know. Right? You just wouldn’t understand what’s going on.

BRYAN                     Yeah, exactly.

BEN                           Well we need to wrap up now. Bryan Taylor, it’s always just a great delight to see you and to chat with you. I think it’s useful for our listeners and viewers to really kind of grasp hopefully at another level how you as a designer and then how they as a founder who may be working with designers at the right time, in the right ways should be thinking about their brand and not just this narrow like colors and fonts and that sort of thing. Yeah, that’s part of it but it’s this broader experience. I think that hopefully this conversation has been tremendously helpful to people along those lines. Again, as they’re formulating their own framework for how they think about their business and their brands.

                                    I just want to thank you, thank everybody who watched and listened. Please tell your friends, if you’re getting a lot out of this, these conversations, then your peers and colleagues who are out there in the trenches with you, maybe you’re working late at night in the commercial kitchen or in some kind of shared work space and you have other folks who could benefit from these conversations. Please subscribe, share, just kind of spread the word and we appreciate your time and we know it’s valuable and again at Barcode, we’re really just focused on equipping emerging consumer brands and that’s the spirit with which this conversation and all the other conversations that we’re having are crafted and so, you can always learn more at barcodestartup.com.

                                    You go there and you can listen to all the back catalog of conversations we’ve had. You can listen to podcasts, you can read transcripts and now, you can watch videos. However, you best learn and best engage with this content, we’ve tried to make it available for you in that way. Until next time. Thanks for joining us.


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