At Oxide, we have a process we do with new clients when we’re trying to uncover more about their brand. Because we like to keep things simple, we simply call it Oxide Slides. We ask a client to flip through our concepting slides – physical swatches of visually interesting images – selecting 20 slides that speak to their corporate (not individual) identity, their essence. We try to get all the decision-makers involved in this process, so we’re all on the same page and everyone’s voice is heard.
We ask them to select slides that they feel capture some abstract element or elements that are appropriate to their core brand. They can select a slide for any reason: color, texture, content, type style, emotional response – anything.
Often our clients will select several more than 20 from the approximately 200 slides. We have them lay out this initial selection and describe, slide by slide, what spoke to them. This is the good stuff, the stuff that really gets at who this company/organization is and why they do what they do.
We’ll help them eliminate redundancies, and they’ll toss aside ones that don’t speak as strongly to them at second glance. Finally, we’ll end with 20 Oxide Slides, which we’ll arrange into a matrix that is used as a guidepost throughout the creative process. And while the visual matrix of slides is a valuable reference, we gain at least as much knowledge from listening to the client’s explanation of why they selected each particular slide.
This highly visual process is incredibly valuable to us because – though none of the slide’s specific content will be incorporated into our finished design work – it helps Oxide and our clients collaborate in a visual way that might not have been articulated verbally alone. (We recognize that our clients partner with us precisely because they don’t have training in design, so they may not be able to articulate the things they already know about their brand, but are locked deep within their brain.)
While this concept isn’t entirely novel (variations on the idea of a “mood board” have been around for ages), we find our solution to be particularly effective at getting us valuable information. In the end, we hope the slides help us all focus in the same basic direction, and establish some common expectations.
We have a few slides that are chosen almost every time. We aren’t sure why that is. And the information we glean tends to not be unique. The city map, for instance, gets selected by groups who work with the city. We already know that about them, so we’re not pulling out any new information about their identity. The blue sphere is repeatedly chosen to represent “connectedness” or “networking” or “global” – words that don’t give us a specific story.
So we’re retiring these four slides. If a slide applies to too many projects or doesn’t reveal an unusual characteristic, we’re not capturing anything unique that would be valuable to the specific project at hand. We’re trying to define what makes a client different, not what makes them the same.
Because that’s what we’re about: crafting distinctive, valuable design for our distinct, valuable clients.