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Building a Brand Book: When, Why, & How

Lesson 11 of 11

Have the Right Conversations

Josh Silverman

Building a Brand Book: When, Why, & How

Josh Silverman

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Lesson Info

11. Have the Right Conversations


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Introduction to Workshop Duration:07:56
2 What Makes Up a Brand? Duration:09:39
3 Why Are Brands So Important? Duration:13:06
5 What Makes a Great Brand Duration:07:34
8 No Brand Lives in a Vacuum Duration:34:47
9 Increase Brand Visibility Duration:33:24
11 Have the Right Conversations Duration:28:26

Lesson Info

Have the Right Conversations

So how do you begin the conversation with who you need to talk? Teoh, if you're talking Teoh c Suite. I always like to open up the conversation by asking Help me understand if you're if you're not C suite. If you're not CMO CEO CTO and you're actually approaching someone who is that level asking them to engage you in a way that that levels the playing field and also honors their role? If you open up the conversation with help me understand, that actually initiates them to educate you. So even if you're saying, how can I measure my work against our company's values? If you open up the conversation by saying Help me understand this, they will want to educate. They should, as a good leader, want to help you do your job better. That actually helps both of you if you're marketing. If you're talking to a marketing department and let's say you're hiring 10 new freelance writers, you should absolutely have a stance or a rule against whether or not to use serial commas in your content. I'm very...

familiar with an organization that had this and recently it's It's It's a I G A I can say it, but a G A. Didn't have serial commas as part of their style. Guide is part of the writing guide until very recently. When they re issued last year their style Guide it at Year 100 Oven Organization. They decided that they wanted serial commas back in part of their writing, and a lot of the staff were a celebratory that serial commas. We're now part of how they were able to communicate, and that's actually a marketing consideration. So if you have to work with other writers, whether their in house or freelance, you should have a stance on cereal comments. I personally in the big um, to partner agency. Maybe, as in Jeremy's case, they might have taken matters into their own hands. Or maybe in their local market, They're thinking about, um uh, that that particular flavor of a color that may or may not exist. So opening up the conversation with them, saying Let's look at our standards together doesn't make it feel like accusatory, that they're not doing a good job in blending the standards. When you start with, let's it's a collaboration, it's not like you're not pointing fingers. And finally, you should be able to walk around any organization you're a part of and say What's our color? Quick, tell me. And if you don't know that you need Teoh, even if it's black like like creative lives. Yeah, it seems like, you know, based on your using that example, that that's a common issue that people don't agree upon. I mean, even I know we had a lot of questions. I came up with Jeremy with Pepsi, like talking about that blue color. I was like, Oh, what was that color of blue? You know, Did they change the color blue? Is it more of a teal? And it's something that everybody needs to know exactly what that is, right? Yeah, I think color is one of those brand cues that works really quickly. And if you're, um, if you're in an international whether your national International, you'll be able to recognize a brand pretty quickly if the color is something that is recognizable like Tiffany is a great example because Tiffany, the jewelry company, I'm sure you're all thinking of the color right now. If you know the brand, they sort of created this. This experience around that that teal color and they owned that color that is like a trademarked brand color that they own. So if you try and do something that is in the space, if you're a new jeweler manufacturer startup and you wanna go for something, that's teal ish, they'll come after you because that is this based in sort of mindshare that they own. Yes, so I'm just thinking about Pantone and the Web and how none of those things track to each other where that's hex, RGB or whatever. Do you have any recommendations when you're thinking about setting a color like, do you go to hex first? Or do you start a Pantone cause it's such a smaller pool? Or it's a great question. Um, uh, depends on the company. If you're If you're a Web company and you're never gonna print anything out and you don't need business cards, then you don't need to think about seeing like a or Pantone. Just so everyone knows the the RGB hex color space is one sort of system of color, and the offline color space is a different or multiple different systems of color, so there are colors that work really well across print and our online and offline. But there are other colors that don't translate as well. But let's say you are a company that needs to print business cards or T shirts or different substrates. Take different colors, like printing something on a pen and a T shirt, as we were talking about earlier, is a different kind of of system and will generate different results, then looking at something online. So, um, printing it out and actually making it tangible, I think, is a good way of like looking at how the color behaves across different different contexts. Come on up. So here's the situation. Um, you are the new CEO at a nonprofit reporting to a board, so you are responsible for leading this organization. And let's say the color is brown and you personally hate Brown. This organization, this nonprofit, is 50 years old and you're the new leader and you are offended by Brown. You hate it. It's disgusting. How do you have the conversation that needs to happen as the new leader so that you don't? Well, I'm going to say to say that you don't do anything wrong. How do you? How do you open the conversation about your distaste for Brown? I think I need background information as to why it was originally Brown, because if there is a legitimate reason and my personal preference probably shouldn't matter, that's an excellent answer. Um, your personal preference does not trump the longevity of this brand. If we've achieved something iconic, that's something that hold on to and to keep. We need to be proud of it. But we need to know why it's iconic. And if it is serving us, we should keep it. You have an example like a real world example from here, A real world from your experience. Because it was a great answer from your professional practice. Maybe. Yeah, actually. So I work for Old Navy and we have this this script that we put on product a lot, and it served us time, time again, to the point where we're sick of it, put it on a T shirt itself, and with the script, it's a proprietary, like, hand on type issue typeface. Yeah, um, and we're just I mean, the designers I worked with were sick to death of it, Just like tired of it. We've sold it so many years in a row. So last year we updated. It does not sell like it's a brand new. It looks very modern. Looks very cool, but just does not sell. They want that old kind of clunky looking, iconic script. We're probably gonna go back to it. I feel like we probably will go back to it. But it's just one of those things. It was an aesthetic choice. The designers were on board to change it. We did change it, and it just didn't work. I don't think we went back to why that original scrapped that original typeface was so successful. You should probably ask your users. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Great job. Thanks. Okay. Who was up for around to role play? Scenario number two. A lot of our people watching online who are solo design. Yeah. So you're the solar designer, Amanda at a lean and scrappy startup And your team who is product marketing? Brand development. You're on the same level because you're a new company. You start to see some of the other makers of this product take matters into their own hands. How do you reel them back in. What do you dio? Well, first, I would want to know why they did it. Because maybe there at a start up everyone so busy there's so many everyone's kind of wearing every hat in the organization because you just need to get off the ground and get traction. So maybe they saw something or talk to people that I don't know about. So that's the first. So you're talking about internal communication? Yeah, that sort of spine. Yeah, because they think if we're all gonna start up, you really all need to be building the plane as you fly it towards the same destination. So if someone who's building the wing is like, let's go south, you kind of need to figure out why. And then based on that answer, if it's just, you know, we liked this personally or, you know, blah, blah, blah said we like this, Then I guess, um, you know, it's I think you kind of are looking at almost Ah, yeah, an internal team thing of you know, what does our brand mean to us as an emerging company? How do we want to set guidelines to change or grow it So we all are growing in the same place that's meaningful to us and our customers. That's awesome. So that's kind of the same scenario is like what we do in the case of equity with old Navy, when we have a lot of like persistence of that script. That typeface that sold T shirts that move product versus when were still relatively new. And we're making efforts across a lot of different areas. Maybe we don't have the same kind of equity, but we want to. We want to adjust as we go. You said building the plane is in flight. I actually like to say similarly laying the train, leaving the train tracks down as the train is going. There's a really great moment. And Wallace and Gromit, where they're doing that. And crom it is like literally laying the tracks down as the train is going. That's the world of startups. Um, so how would you real them back in? How would you say, How would you How would you use the day that you find in this survey? Um well, I would basically call a company meeting and not have it be. You don't want it to be like you're in trouble because you deviated because innovation is kind of the life blood of a lot of startups. So e I would hold a meeting and talk to everyone and say, You know, we've had some deviations from our brand. Some people have gone out with different ideas, and that's something we always want to be intrinsic to our organization. But what we don't want to do is, you know, confuse our customers. Or if it's a B two B, you know your other clients and say, How can we all you know, instead of scolding people, you know, you kind of want to put on them and say, How do you think we can all come together under one brand hat or with you feel like we need a need? We have a need for innovation or change. How do you think we can go about that? And I'm sure I would already have an idea in my head of how I like it's ago. But you know, when people come up, especially employees in a small company where every person really matters and every attitude really matters. No getting people to kind of come to an idea on their own and really own it. It means that that's much less likely to happen again. That's awesome. I feel like the tolerance for innovation, like you have the let's say it's 95% is consistent. And then the 5% inconsistent. That's that's the fun place based. But maybe you need to, like, create the structure for that so that you can have a little bit more play. Yeah, like Google Doodle. Exactly. Thanks, Amanda. That was great. Thanks. Okay, number three. Who's down? It's already been up yet. No. Last one. This will be great. Okay. So welcome. New creative director. I'm so glad you're on board. Um, awesome to be here. How do you learn what everyone who reports to let's say you're the creative director and you have marketing and content and design and development, all reporting to you. How do you sweep the landscape of what everyone has been doing to understand what equity exists or what standards exist? How how the brand system has been behaving. What kind of questions do you ask them? Uh, well, one of the first things I would do is definitely look through all the things we've already put out both internally and externally, that has our brand on it. And then I would meet with each head of the department of the departments that report to me and ask them what they do with our brand, see how they're using it and then even go further and talk to their teams because they might be telling me one thing, which might be what I want to hear with the people who were doing the actual work with. They're gonna have a different response. That's excellent. We call that a listening campaign, so really going around, like listening to all different levels of the organization. Because when you get to the point that you have or have the need for a creative director, you absolutely will have that sort of hierarchy within the organization. That's great. What do you do with that information? How do you activate that information? I think after after listening to all that information, seeing if there are any, like big divergence, like if someone's like Oh, you know your colors purple, but I'm going to use this royal blue kind of thing. Taking that and reeling it back in having the conversation of, you know, Look, let's talk. Why are we going this way? What can we do together to push it back to that? Or if it is opening up something where it's ideas that hey, maybe this might help our brand war taking what I've lived, what you listen, Teoh and then looking at, How can this maybe be incorporated into it and expanding a different way? I think people just want to be heard. And I really like what you said. Like let's talk, Let's have a conversation. It absolutely is about having those conversations or even hosting those conversations, creating the space for those conversations so that people can be heard, especially if they're remote, especially if they're in different areas other than where you, the new creative director, our existing and working so good job. And I love that you're wearing purple and blue as well. Use those examples. Thanks. What happens when you're doing one of those listening campaigns and you put all this time and everything? You have an established brand, and then someone says something that you haven't heard earlier. The outliers. Yeah, well, not necessarily an out liar, but something they that, um, is, you know, two degrees left of center, but maybe it's worth moving the centre. Two degrees? Sure, I don't know. How would you do it? What? How would you? I don't have an answer for that, but I cry. Josh, I thinking, too. It depends on on what's happened earlier. Like if you walk into some place that already has existing brown materials, and then you kind of, like, hear people complaining about that. That might be one way of approaching it compared to if you go out and you do go out and do it the right way where you're like on the ground level like you're talking about from the get go. Um, because those are two totally different things, like the last thing you want is for an agency to come in and just talk to the senior stakeholders and then go away and come back. So, yeah, I almost want there to be like a residency like if you're the if you're the outside agency tasked with making a company's first standards like Jeremy did. But Jeremy, that's a That's a bad example, cause Jeremy's and house. But if you're an outside agency actually consulting on making standards. I almost want them to, like, live and breathe the brand with the company with the employees for like, months before they can even say we have enough quality quant data or insights to actually suggest what your employees, however many dozens or hundreds there are. I think the brand is or think the brand needs to go. That's actually a really good way to rebrand is to spend the time with the company living and breathing the brand. Before you suggest anything you think of something that I saw another software designer do. We were working on a software redesign, and, um, a lot of people don't work in a design space like graphic designer software design. They probably intrinsically know what they like, but they don't know how to talk about it cause they don't know the jargon or maybe the back end of why something clicks. And I think it's similar with brands to the way this designer went about getting from the entire 1000 person company ideas on what they would want this revamp toe look like is he basically just put out a survey that said what our websites you like. Why? What are APS you like? Why? And I think that could be relevant not only to being a solar designer, solo designer to start up and trying to come up with something that the company will resonate with really probing things that they peak, that people like and finding out the nuances of why or why not, or things that they really don't like. But also, if you're coming up with your own personal brand, you know, look around you and see kind of what sings to you or what really turns you off. And that could really help identify things you're using a good point that some of the work might not be able to be done via interpersonal communication. Maybe there's a lot of complaints, and people are uncomfortable when the tension gets high. So a Web based surveys absolutely great suggestion for making it easier for people to express themselves. We mentioned earlier how have Internet has really changed people's ability to express themselves? There's a great book I love. The title is called Here comes everyone, Um, that's absolutely happening that's been happening for a long time, but especially when, let's say the gap three brands. And then we had Gap Gate. We had hashtag Gap gate for a little while because people really responded negatively to to that Andi, because we all have a voice because we can all have a voice. As long as we have a Twitter account and Internet access, we can we can join that conversation. So the Web is both good inhibitor and prohibit er of the kind of listening that you need to dio Yeah, sort of similar to a mix of those questions, I guess. What do you do when you're working like I was where I was the only designer in a start up And I was working with the PM and we went with, like, a teal in a yellow. And then it went up to the founders and they said, We don't like this. So it went to another blue, and then they were like, actually, that's too grave a blue. Can you make it more masculine on? Yeah. So I'm worried about things like accessibility and color contrast, and they're worried about making it masculine. I think you need to get everyone in the room together and figure it out. Don't lock the doors. Don't leave the room until you You unpack what masculine is and and maybe that's a series of conversations. But maybe you all work in a series of workshops where if you're the solo designer, you bring in C suite. You bring in marketing. You're bringing whomever over a series of moments where you're all resolving it together. And then you recapitulate everything you've heard so that you show the delta of difference until you get to that point of like, Okay, this is the divergent, uh, distinct thinking, independent thinking. And then here's how we get to convergent thinking whether we have a masculine, bluer, feminine blew, it doesn't matter. Great. Now I know that you did touch on this a second ago, but we had a couple of boats on This question was originally posted by Terra, so maybe you could elaborate a little bit, but Terror wants to know. Would Josh recommend doing more customer surveys and other feedback methods to get input? One creating a brand. And I think meaning specifically there. If somebody is just getting started and trying to get some feedback from, if it's social media, are people just posting things on Facebook saying, Hey to people like this color? Or do people like you know these words? Is there any advice for people to sort of use that in a strategic way, not just getting a ton of feedback? That's not gonna help for exactly, Um, I think it has to do with scale. I think if you can do that work in person, you'll probably get better results because then you can probe deeper. Ask why asking why five times gets to that really critical soul of any decision. So even just sort of like in person focus groups on a small scale, even when people just getting started. Um, yeah, I think that's that's easy. If you put it out to Social Media, you'll get flooded with responses. Maybe you don't want that. Maybe don't want that kind of feedback on your company's Facebook page, because then it's highly visible. Yeah, great brand, a clothing brand about a year and 1/2 ago, and she just created on Facebook like the brand elite group, and it's basically a private group of like, ah, 100 of her closest friends and designers. So obviously you're your population. There's a little skewed because they like her and they work with her. But when she is testing out new ideas, she basically puts it up and let's a conversation stream happen, and sometimes you know it's a little chaotic. But I guess that might be a happy medium, like the private group idea and those air you're. I think what we're talking about is the stewards of the brand. The people who really will identify with it used the product, help beta test new ideas that that level of transparency is really fantastic, especially if it's a a tangible product that you actually have to put into use in the world. That's a great idea. I like to think of the difference between design and art as art has no constraints, and design absolutely thrives and constraints. So when you're thinking about making something innovative, you absolutely need to bring constraints into that innovation process. Maybe it's a constraint or restraint of cultural limitations. Funding production capabilities like Pepsi only produces three million minimum. So maybe Pepsi is not the greatest place to situated started startup beverage idea or in Jeremy's example, we actually heard that they're trying to do something that is relatively new and functioning more like a startup. But, um, the market will help you figure out what is tolerable and whether what is successful or not. So you absolutely need to bring some constraints into the process, and we'll have constraints of time. We're all on this planet for 80 90 years or four. Lucky. So that's a constraint to just to reiterate. Paul Rand designed the IBM logo Westinghouse, ABC ups yelling University and countless others. He's probably the sort of godfather of graphic design. Um, OK, so, takeaways. What does everyone learned today before I recapitulate? What? What I hope you've learned starting basically, like, very early on, and a lot of people are already established, but I'm trying to get my ideas and my brands for my company going, I really need to take into account, um, everything I guess, is what it feels like because like knowing whether or not you're gonna use a certain kind of comma and making sure that everything how to keep everybody on task and using communication seems to be the biggest message I feel like we got today of communicating not only your brand, but communicating how your brand is going to work with everyone who's involved with it, whether that be people in your company, whether that be somebody driving down the street, seeing your brand or it being active users. That's excellent. Yeah, there's a lot of work to do, but hopefully you feel like you can take some initial steps and just get that conversation started and then host them regularly. Host those conversations with everyone you just mentioned. Super excited. Good. Yeah, the standards thing made it look way less like intimidating. That's happy to hear that. Yeah, I'm a big fan of content first, So, um, it was great. Teoh have some talk about content. Um, but I never really thought about tying in the mission vision and values even before you do the content. So to me, it totally makes sense, but it's like, Oh, of course it is. So that I think, for me is the biggest Take away is not developing the brand and that that content and then also the bigger picture stuff in a silo and having that all be together and be organic is really, um, important. That's also why we put the content lecture first. Everyone wants to get to the good stuff. Everyone wants to get toe the pretty stuff. But believe it or not, the content stuff is the good stuff. But why is the great stuff takeaways from the chat room as well? Hominy says that the big take away has been baking the emotion into the brand upfront kind of the way. You're just talking about having your story first and then see, we also had some comments from Tony Bliss, who's been watching all day, says thanks, Creativelive. Thanks, Josh. I really enjoyed the three guests. I learned so much from their practical experience and being able to share what they've learned with their particular brands. I'm glad that humming has been here all day to wait a couple of people coming in and out, but we've had a few people have really been sticking with us and sharing a lot of great examples. Thank you so much. Everybody have been sticking around. All right. Any other takeaways from anybody here? Right. Well, ID like toe posit that just like the design process, the brand creation process thrives on constraints. We have constraints of budget and people and time. Um and we We need those to make good decisions. Um, if you're a startup and and or a solo entrepreneur, um, the best time to start thinking about design is right at the very beginning. Mean Airbnb was mentioned earlier, but in a positive light. Arian being has met with amazing amounts of success because they have a designer's co founder, which I think is a really smart move. UM, three co founders. But one of them is mostly in charge of the brand design and product design, and I think that's one of the reasons that they've been so successful. Consistently designed experience creates more value than inconsistently designed, one that sounds almost like basic. But it's so true that if you don't see the same expression in the same color, in different markets or in different contexts, you're gonna lose interest and you might turn doing a competitors. And I'm glad that there's a mix of designers and non designers in here on day. Also in the chat room, you don't need to be a designer to notice something's off to feel something weird about to feel something weird. I want emphasize, feel about a product or experience you can point that out and you can do it in a kind way that I hope, elevates and furthers the brand you're interacting with. And you absolutely can do something to help brands be more valuable in that communication. The way that you communicate and how you communicate with the people who are managing the brand makes your outreach really, really important. So thank you so much. This is my contact information. If you would like to continue the conversation, I'm at J. H. Silverman on Twitter, and that is my personal website.

Class Description

The brand guide is the roadmap for employees and ensures consistency across the company. Josh will help you create a brand book that is comprehensive, actionable, and easy to use in Building a Brand Book: When, Why, & How. 

Josh is a veteran branding professional and in this class he’ll show how to create complete brand guidelines and adhere to them. 

You’ll learn: 

  • What a brand guide is and how to use it 
  • Components of a brand guide and how to create your own 
  • How large and small businesses apply brand guidelines 

Whether you are a designer working with clients, a solopreneur, a small business owner, or working on branding in-house, Building a Brand Book: When, Why, & How with Josh Silverman will help you develop a better understanding of branding and how to develop guidelines everyone can use.


Yi Ji

WOW, really worth the money, information is real, up to date, the quality of audient also good, they ask really real question, not those kind of 'performance' course. Thanks!


This class has potential, but misses the mark for me. The first thing that I noticed was the fact that the video and the sound do not sync with each other. It feels like you are watching a foreign move with English dubbed over the lip movements of another language. It is often hard to hear the audience questions as they do not hand around the usual 'creative live wireless audience microphone' and I think that was a mistake. The topic is a good one and the speaker is appears to understand his craft but a lot of the 'talk' in the first few videos could be removed by a clear definition of terms in the very very beginning of the class. If feels like it is flowing on an off the cuff manner and is lacking the structure that Creative Live known for. Instead of spending so much time asking the students about their understanding of what brand identity is and way to many quotes... I would like to see some practical how to advice early on in the class. I would love to see more classes covering this topic from people like Sean Adams or Alina Wheeler :) I am sure this class will get better the further I get into it and I normally do not write a review before I have listened to the entire class. Also I purchased it at a deeply discounted rate so even with those issues factored it is is still work what I payed for it. :)


Absolutely relevant and interesting content, made through example classes. The way the material is exposed is very good. One single critic, since the headline is really precise on the topic I expected more on the "how" but the course doesn't really teach a "system" to create a brandbook, like choosing wich documents are to be included and how to make and expose them depending with the client needs. The course is all about the why explained through case studies, which is good but partly neglect the headline promise. Anyway this is still an excellent course but I thought it would be useful to point out this aspect.