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Design: Moving from the way things are to the way things should be.

Chris Do is an Emmy award-winning designer, director, CEO and Chief Strategist of Blind and the founder of The Futur—an online education platform with the mission of teaching 1 billion people how to make a living doing what they love. He currently serves as the chairman of the board for the SPJA, and as an advisor to Saleshood. He has also served as: advisory board member for AIGA/LA, Emmys Motion & Title Design Peer Group, Otis Board of Governors, Santa Monica College and Woodbury University.

Interview by Luis Vergara

What is Branding for Chris Do?

Branding is the act of designing the entire customer experience in hopes of building a long term relationship of trust. When we buy something, we are looking for meaning and identity. Who am I if I buy this? What does that make me? What tribe am I joining? Therefore, branding must consider: company culture, business model, manufacturing, fair trade sourcing, environmental impact, end-of-life product cycle, customer service, and not just product design, copywriting, visual design, packaging, and web/app design.

Can you please share with Branders Magazine readers your journey to becoming a Design Expert?

I received a BFA in graphic design and packaging from ArtCenter College of Design. Shortly after graduation, I launched a motion design studio called Blind in 1995. Since then, I’ve worked on hundreds of commercials and videos for some of the biggest bands and brands in the world. In 2000, I started teaching sequential design at ArtCenter and Otis College of Design. Teaching helped me to formulate my thoughts on design and formalized my creative process. After 20 years into my career, I found a need to provide brand strategy for some of our clients.

What is Design for Chris Do and what’s the difference between Design and Branding?

Design, as defined by Herbert Simon, is to devise a course of action aimed at changing existing situations to preferred ones. In other words, design moves us from the way things are to the way things should be. This definition of design is broader, more inclusive and empowering. This means that anyone can design, and any designer can improve more than just visual design.

Unfortunately, the term branding has become so popular that design and branding are used interchangeably. Creative people looking to elevate themselves out of the “design ghetto of posters and toasters” will often refer to themselves as branders or brand strategists when fundamentally only work on the visual identity of a brand. Branding must include transdisciplinary skills like design, marketing, user experience design, business design, writing and storytelling.

Branding must include transdisciplinary skills like design, marketing, user experience design, business design, writing and storytelling.

How important is Design for Brands and how can designers create better Brand experiences through Design?

Marty Neumeier, in his book The Brand Gap, defines brand as a “person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization”. Emotion, not logic, is what drives a person’s decision making. To become better branders, designers must employ empathy, get inside the customers’ mind, identify challenges and gaps, and to understand their hopes and fears. Since the prospective customer can’t voice their needs and wants directly, brands (through careful observation, pattern recognition, and educated guesses aka design) have to take the fist step and close the gaps.

What is happening in the Design industry right now (and/or in times of crisis)? What are the top challenges the industry is facing?

By taking a look at one consequence of the pandemic—the necessity to stay at home, we can clearly see what impact it is having on our communities and businesses. Fewer people are traveling which will adversely affect airlines, hotels, restaurants, tourism, car rental, ride sharing, fuel consumption, automotive sales, etc… This also impacts lower and higher education, concert venues, clubs, plays houses, sports, museums, retail, theaters, events, and weddings.

Any business that is historically dependent on large gatherings of people in an indoor space is struggling right now. They need to be re-thought from the ground up. Designers can help fast moving companies think up innovative business solutions, new services, apps, and delivery channels. Designers can help create more efficient and safer methods for people to browse, use services, buy and consume goods.

Every crisis presents opportunities for those who are able to adapt quickly. Designers need to work in tight partnership with their clients, now more than ever, to identify gaps, build solutions and measure the results.

Take for example, in the fitness industry, gyms have had a hard time. Indoor spaces, recirculated air, perspiration, heavy breathing, and close quarters make gyms very unappealing to anyone concerned about their personal safety. Yet, home-gym, equipment manufacturers like Peloton can’t keep up with demand for their bikes. Being able to exercise safely from home, with live-stream classes and instructors is a viable solution that many people are now swearing off gyms when the pandemic is over.

What about trends & innovations in Design for 2021? Where is the Design industry heading?

Businesses will continue to migrate online as will their staff. Many high-tech companies are already signaling that hybrid work from home offices will be part of their permanent plan after COVID. Traditional, brick and mortar, educational institutions will continue to struggle as they try to deliver a better learning experience while trying to justify the high cost of tuition. COVID didn’t create the problem, it just accelerated the timetable of a lot of what wasn’t working prior to the pandemic. We’re also seeing many innovative remote collaboration tools take center stage. Zoom has become ubiquitous in all sectors. Delivery services continue to become a part of everyday life. Home improvement, gardening and landscaping are on the rise. Remote learning is growing.

These are not design trends, but consistent with my POV. Designers need to look at what’s happening outside of design if they want to play an important role in shaping brands in 2021.

To become better branders, designers must employ empathy, get inside the customers’ mind, identify challenges and gaps, and to understand their hopes and fears.

Can you please share with Brander’s readers your favourite case study on Brand Design?

I think Zappos has an incredible brand story and die-hard tribe of extremely loyal customers. What is remarkable is that they do something very unsexy—they sell shoes at a fair price. The customer service stories are legendary. One service rep personally flew out to deliver shoes at a wedding because the shoes did not arrive as anticipated. Most companies think about how to squeeze a little more profit from their customers. Zappos, on the other hand, obsesses over how they can deliver delight and improve the lives of their customers. This is branding.

What tips would you give to aspiring design professionals?

It’s important to understand design (typography, color theory, image-making, etc…). It’s just as important to learn about marketing, sales, copywriting, psychology, ergonomics, philosophy, strategy, user experience design, and business management in order to shape the entire brand experience.

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