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Branding Essentials for Designers

Lesson 6 of 14

Building a Creative Environment


Branding Essentials for Designers

Lesson 6 of 14

Building a Creative Environment


Lesson Info

Building a Creative Environment

When you're working, when you're by yourself you can of course build a creative environment because it's all up to you. But when you're in a group situation whether you're in house or you're in an agency, you work in an agency or you work inside a company. If you're a creative person you usually crave those types of conservations. If everyone's talking about numbers all the time it's like yeah but this is what I love to talk about, what I love to do. So, how do you create that creative environment? This is something that, just some of the things that I've experienced in my little journey. We faked this up. He didn't really wear this T-shirt. But like at Starbucks we created a club, it was a T-shirt club. It was a tee of the month club. You had to sign up for it, subscribe to it and what we did is we had like a little board where you flick the thing and it spun around and it landed on a designer's name. So it was totally random. And then you were able to, you designed a T-shirt for that...

month. And you had to pay for it beforehand, you didn't get any say in what it look like or if you liked it or not you had to, you bought it. It started with just us and then pretty soon like half the company was buying these T-shirts and it was expanding, getting out of hand. But they're really cool. And what it did, it created that, it's that non-work order type thing where we did something creative for ourselves and it also got attention with inside the company. People said wow, Howard Schultz, where'd you get that cool T-shirt? It's like, we made it. It's out tee of the month club. Well, nice. So, it's different than just like yeah, we got the new packaging out. It's a creative exercise to build both the morale internally but also kind of to sell yourselves. And then here's another thing and this was I think Derek Shimizu. I think this was his. And he's this amazing designer. And what we did is we had a studio meeting every week and this is something that I've done for many years now. Every week have a studio meeting. And you gather together and you show work and all that. But this was something very particular to the creative environment is we called it a type tasting. At Starbucks you did coffee tastings, right? You walk in and you sample different kinds of coffee. So we did type tasting, our take on that and some, a designer would bring in their favorite type. And then so, Derek brought in blackletter and he did it, as you can see, I'll just flip through it real quick. He did it in, the history of it, associated with Northern and Southern Europe and Middle Ages and so it was very much, you see in the old manuscripts they have this. So, cool. And then something started happening. Whatever happened to blackletter? You see it got co-opted. (chuckles) For blackletter, blackletter did and it started taking on another personality. So where is it now? Heavy metal started taking it. And then it kind of moved into the graffiti community as well. So, we thought, so it's just a fun spoof on it. It's like, okay, what if we did our menus in blackletter, Sabbath black, or we did our promotional posters in that, seasonal posters. Or we did it. (audience laughing) So that was really a fun, that's another example of just coming up with, I'll show some more a little bit later as well. Just coming up with ideas, way to inspire creativity within each other and share things as well. This is one. When I first went to Lego I moved over to Denmark and I've, okay. So I did these Design Camps every year at Nike and we did this, we go off site and we do this amazing, we'd have these amazing people come in and it was always away from our work headquarters and we're there for a couple days. And it was really about bonding with each other more than the creative. It was getting to know people that you don't usually work with and you create these connections that you bring into your work, and amazing things happen because of it. When I went to Lego I thought, okay, I'm gonna keep doing Design Camps because those were fun. I saw the value of those. The first one I had hair and I went in and I had everyone take turns of coming up and shaving my hair off. That was my introduction to the design team there. And they all came and took turns shaving me and so that I looked like this on the right afterwards. And in fact, Kjeld Kirk Christiansen who is the grandson of the founder and the president of Lego at the time, he came in, I was having him speak to us right after and so he came in three quarters away through. He goes, "Oh, do I have to have my head shaved "to come and speak to this group?" So it was really fun, it was a great experience in it. I had some point to it. It was something about simplifying or something like that. Although some of them I heard later that a few of the designers said, "Oh, we should follow his example." So they were gonna go home and shave their heads. I said, "No, no, it was just a thing. "Don't shave your heads." You don't have to shave your heads. So this is an example at Starbucks we did, this was out on Orcas Island. We went out there and we did Design Camp and it was a great way, we used the environment and the camaraderie and we had activities. And just really used our creative juices but it was all very story-driven. You had to go around the island and create a story. You divided up in teams so everyone did everything from finding a deer, a dead deer out in the woods. It was dead already. (audience laughs) And then at Tether, we continued to do those Design Camps and we just had one a few months ago. And I think I have a little video right here of a little Design Camp experience. (static noise) There is a place deep, deep an entire 48 and a half minute journey into the woods. No cell service, no air conditioning, no private showers. Design Camp. (upbeat music) Two whole days of arts and crafts, guided tours, human pyramids, interpretive dance. Friendship. And tons of, what's that stuff called? Storytelling. Yes, storytelling at Design Camp. Don't go into the woods alone. (uptempo music) Design Camp. Because we never take ourselves too seriously and that was just a great example of the, what's happened from that is people talk about that all year and they look forward to the next one and the experiences. And again, it comes back to those relationships that you develop because if you're sitting on the side of the studio and someone's over there and you're in a different discipline, you might not work all the time together but you bond over things. But we do regular thing, we have that weekly studio meeting. And what we have is if you look at my business card, it has we are the stories we tell on it and it's all story-driven and I'm chapter one. So there's, each employee is a chapter. So we have all these different chapters. Each week we have chapter sharing. We show projects and things but someone gets up at the end and they'll spend 15, 20 minutes, 15 minutes talking about who they are outside of work. So it's really fascinating of course to hear things that have influenced them and some of the things that they do outside of work. And then we do activities together and like this is wayzgoose. SVC sponsors this, an inter agency competition and you, we have a letterpress and I'll show that in a minute in our studio. And this is a big piece of vinyl that you cut out and then you ink it up. Put paper on it and then a piece of plywood and then you roll over it with the steam roller. And so, a great studio project that you do with your idiosyncratic discipline that we have as creatives and designers. And then we do lots of promotional things but they're done in a very who are we kind of way. This year I don't have a ready yet for this year but we created the Cocoa Confessional. You can go online and look at it but we built this huge cocoa mug, big red cocoa mug out in Pioneer Square and you walked into it and you can confessed about the holidays. And then we videod, videotaped it and then we showed it online and then we did a promotion that we sent out to our clients and prospective clients and all that to send them to the site. So, we've done things that are very fun. This one's a little creepy.but it was fun. It's fun. (lively music) ♪ I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus ♪ ♪ Underneath the mistletoe last night ♪ ♪ Where she didn't see me creep ♪ ♪ Down the stairs to have a peep ♪ ♪ She thought that I was tucked up ♪ ♪ In my bedroom fast asleep ♪ ♪ Then I saw mommy tickle Santa Claus ♪ ♪ Underneath his beard so snowy white ♪ ♪ Oh, what a laugh it would have been ♪ ♪ If daddy had walked in ♪ ♪ And saw mommy kissing Santa Claus last night ♪ ♪ I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus ♪ ♪ Underneath the mistletoe last night ♪ ♪ Where she didn't see me creep ♪ ♪ Down the stairs to have a peep ♪ ♪ Where she thought that I was tucked up ♪ ♪ In my bedroom fast asleep ♪ ♪ But I know, I saw mommy tickle Santa Claus ♪ ♪ Underneath his beard so snowy white ♪ ♪ Oh, what a laugh it would have been ♪ ♪ If daddy had walked in ♪ ♪ And saw mommy kissing Santa Claus last night ♪ ♪ And saw mommy kissing Santa Claus last night ♪ ♪ One more time ♪ ♪ And saw mama kissing Santa Claus last night ♪ On the lips. (giggling) We got a good flavor about the, here's the space at Tether but it's also filled with people, amazing people there at Tether. This is our, we're gonna see a little bit more in the next segment but the environment's very important. When you walk in same thing as that brand book. You have your brand book, you open up that brand book, it needs to feel like you. Everything that you do, well, your environment should feel like you as well. If you walk into a design environment and it feels like an insurance office. It's like, okay, what comes out of here? Wanted to created and experience that when you walk, as soon as you walked in it felt like a design environment. I'll show you, I think I'm showing in the next segment we're gonna go through... I started off in a gallery space actually and I'll show you that at the beginning of the next segment. All the artwork on the wall is art that I curated for First Thursday, for the art shows and we had a gallery and it was all in one. The design space and the gallery and the store, we sold stuff that we made and all that. And so, I bought pieces from each one for the artist and that's throughout our space now that we have. We've moved three times just because we keep running out of space but we're not moving again. This is the environment. So you can see that it's very open. Very open environment, very collaborative. You can see what's on. And what's great about that is that you're walking, you know, you're walking down to go to the restroom, you're passing all these screens on the way and you're seeing what people are working on. You go, "Oh! "Hey, that's cool, what's that?" And so, it inspires a lot of collaboration. Okay, so this is some more practical thing. This is back to your, ah, I'm coming back to Jim, okay. Jim asked the question about how I talk to, how do you inspire clients or bring them along? And so, this is an example of at Starbucks, when I was at Starbucks we got to where the photography was looking, I have these like, so it looked like plastic food because it was so perfectly shot, you know? A latte was, it just looked like it was formed in plastic and with the sprinkles on it and all that. What I did is I had these regular sessions. This was kind of fun. Every month I would have a session and I would do it over lunch and I would serve lunch to them, the executives that I would have come in. And it was fun for them because they got to eat and also see cool stuff. And so, on this one I did, photography was the theme. So I showed them all these amazing photography. I showed them food and beverage photography, so stuff like this. You see it's kind of crumbly. And so, they looked at it and it was right before lunch and they go, "Wow, that looks really good. "Could we do something like that?" And I said, "Oh, interesting thought. "Yeah, let me look into that." (snickers) We'd already done some test shoots and all that but we didn't show them. It's a way to bring them along, make them part of the process as well but also inspire them and show them. When you take it outside of your industry, if you're in a particular industry it's hard just like looking at competitors in your industry. Take it outside of your industry, show them something completely different and you have a new perspective. So, what we did is we started looking at that handcrafted, artistic, sophisticated, human and enduring, right? Is it okay if it has a little drip? Before you just wipe that off. You know, it was like it got to be clean, it's dripping. There's some crumbs, get rid of those. Why this fits the filters is because human, looks like you could eat it, it's approachable. So it fits all those filters and it also looks good. It's not put up on a pedestal again to worship. It's something that you're supposed to eat or drink. Putting that all together, you have a photo of a barista making a handcrafted beverage. It looks handcrafted, a little drip, good. And then you put those together and when you put them together you can tell they're offset a little bit. So it's not just like perfectly lined up. And then you have this handcrafted, we call it origin strip. It looks like it came from one of the countries. And then handwritten copy. Even though there are handwritten fonts that you can get we were careful and we always just handwrote it because it just felt, like I remember that once we wanted a wood grain for something we're working on. So instead of just grabbing a wood grain and no one would probably notice, we did a photograph of the original store floor or counter and counter and we used those. We didn't call it out in there but that just felt right. So you put those altogether and it hits all the touchpoints. It's got that human, sophisticated copy, handcrafted background. And the artistic, enduring product depiction. So, it's not... Part of this too was helpful for our clients because they could see there's magic happening behind the curtain, yes, there is that. But it's also there is rigor as well. And there's a system, there's a reason why we do things. They see something like this they go, wow, I can see all those elements and then look how they come together and it feels right for our brand. And then here's another example. I just showed stuff like this. Everybody's seen this stuff a lot of times. These are just gorilla things. At the time this was a method, they did a site where you go on and you can see people's confessions, and they actually, you type it in and it writes on the hand and then they wash it with soap. And so, they're all just great examples of things that were non-traditional that brands were doing. And when I showed it to them, they go, "Wow, that's so cool. "Could we do something like that?" Again, you are bringing them along, you're leading them there and you're inspiring them at the same time. Through that we actually, I did a popup store one and I don't think I have it in here but after that we started, we did this popup experience which was really great. We started at Sundance and then we took it to New York and a few places. It was the Starbucks salon experience and that came from inspiring our internal team. So, even things like this. And so, instead of saying to the client, it's like, "You know, you give us really bad briefs. "It's like it's ridiculous your expectations." Instead of doing that, here's an example. This is something I just did with them in one of those sessions, okay. Everyone, they were all familiar with this ad from this famous Volkswagen ad, this Think Small. This is kind of tongue-in-cheek. Always show the product, great. Never use negative headlines. It just shows kind of what starts happening when you put all these expectations. One piece of communication has to contain all these things. Make sure your logo is big. Make the logo bigger. Avoid all unpleasant connotations about your product. Always tell where you can buy the product. Localize your ad. Sometimes you just have to put the rules aside and do what's right for your brand. So when you show that you go, oh, I don't know how many times, remember that video that came out to the Apple, Microsoft packing thing, remember that? It was passed around a lot. What happens when you put all the requirements on a packaging and it goes from this beautiful clean thing to just multiple things hanging off of it. They love that because they referenced that so many times. Remember when you showed us that, that's where we're going now is in that. Yeah, we're getting ridiculous, aren't we? All these expectations. We can't expect to have everything on every piece of communication. You have to look at the whole brand and your whole arsenal of things to work with. So those are very handy. Get it out of your industry. Show them other examples, inspire them as well. Wait, let me just. Yeah. Can I ask a question? Oh yeah. Yes, mic please. Please hand the mic. Hi, I'm Dina and my question is, if you're like a lone cowboy like a lot of us are, what would you recommend for getting the feedback with our own ideas for our own companies and brands in that application? Because you have people that you go to and you're like, "Yo, does this work?" Yeah. It's a yes or no but for us we're kind of like ah. Pin the tail on the donkey and see if it works. So, what would you recommend for-- Getting feedback before you go to the client for instance, is that what you're saying? Yeah, for me I'm a photographer so I'm really just, I'm going with my gut and what I wanna do but also wanting to, you know, like if I want an idea, is this gonna work or is this too crazy? Yeah. Yeah, I think what's really important. So, okay, here's the levels of... You know, at Tether I have, I don't know, 75, 80 people. We have cross discipline approach. We have industrial designers and graphic designers and all that and I will show you a lot more about that interactive and video and all that. You have this circle of people you can get feedback from and collaborate with. To like a small shop where you have four to 12 people or something, where you have a little bit of that and you can bounce ideas off each other and get feedback. Two, the single person. That is, there's a lot of people like that and that's what's, one thing that's great about our industry whether you're a photographer, a graphic designer or an industrial designer, there' a lot of contract workers that do things on their own. And it's great because all you need is a computer and your equipment. So, how do you develop that network? And so, it's all about creating that same thing virtually. You have your people that you use and I've seen that very successfully with several people where they're on their own, they work on their own but they have this network of people that they help each other. It's kind of like instead of all being in this studio together where there's 20 of us, we're all virtually but we're not linked in any official way but we informally use each other. I got this idea, what do you think about that? Or I just, I'm thinking about shooting this. So, it's getting feedback from, and so, it comes back to those connections that you make along the way. I'm linked to so many people now through the years of those connections that I'm able to draw, I have informal advisors that I can just ask questions to, and they don't look at it as anything but advice because they'll call me for something as well. Just developing those and not, if I could do a quick tangent to just building off of that is there's kind of a fine line between bugging someone to develop a relationship with him or a connection with them, and letting it naturally develop of course. But the great thing is it, developing those mentors along the way and then you eventually become mentor to others and you become connected to others. The one freedom that I felt from leaving the corporate world, Nike, Lego, Starbucks to starting Tether was that, all of a sudden I was free to work with whoever I wanted to. I meet a lot of people in the airport, at conferences, on the street and all that, and for some reason they recognize me and they'll come up and say something and I go. Before it was like, "Oh, you work at and I work at. "Oh yeah, we can't. "All right, see you." LinkedIn or something, you know? But now it's like everyone I meet is a potential collaborator, client, employee, colleague and so that's the exciting thing for me, and I'll talk a lot more about that in the next session, how to parlay those, how to use those and develop. There's really no limits now because of the tools that we have, the equipment, the tools, the social environment, the digital environment. It's wide open. You're really not only limited by yourself and it doesn't happen overnight, it's a series of things that you do along in your career. But there's amazing things that you can do now and I'm excited to show you some of those in the next session.

Class Description


  • Bring a unique human touch to a brand story
  • Define brand attributes, vision, and strategies for naming
  • Employ tactics to ensure brand consistency across all platforms


A great brand is the culmination of strategic thought, experience, and a little magic. It all results in a story that creates brand fans. A logo, a name and identity are starting points, but by themselves don’t create successful brands. Learn what it takes to build a lasting and meaningful brand in Branding Essentials for Designers with Stanley Hainsworth.

Stanley is the the former creative director at Nike, Lego and Starbucks and now founder of the multi-disciplinary creative juggernaut – Tether. In this class he teaches the role stories play in developing a strong brand identity and how to create a strategic roadmap for sharing a brand story with the world. You’ll learn tools and methodologies for creating brands that can be applied to projects of all sizes.

Through this class you’ll develop the skills you need to offer clients the complete package when it comes to branding – not just a logo. Deepen your branding know-how and infuse meaning into your design work with branding whiz, Stanley Hainsworth.


This class is for design professionals, entrepreneurs, startup founders, marketing and branding managers, and creatives interested in learning more about branding.


Underneath that highly unorthodox shock of follicular iconoclasm lies the turbocharged brain of a highly attuned branding machine. Stanley mastered the art of brand storycraft while serving as the creative-in-chief at three of the great brands of our time: Nike, Lego, and Starbucks, where he was VP of Global Creative during an era when the now-ubiquitous brand matured into the cultural icon we know today. His creative influence extended from products and campaigns to all consumer touch points. Prior to that, as Global Creative Director for the Lego Company in Denmark, Stanley directed a total visual overhaul of the brand, including advertising, interactive, packaging, retail and brand stores. At Nike, Stanley worked on everything from the Olympics to creating Nike Entertainment. He has written books on branding, is an educator, a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and is a sought after speaker on branding and design worldwide. 

Connect with Stanly online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Huffington Post


  1. Personal Journey

    By telling his story, Stanley models personal branding in action - how did a small town western Kentucky boy come to realize that he, himself, was a brand? Stanley addresses the fundamentals here: what exactly is branding? How are brands like people? What are the key questions to ask when developing a brand?

  2. Defining the Brand: Nike

    How is joining a brand like joining a religion? What is the power of listening to the consumer? How do you set up a sell-out new product launch? Stanley takes you through his process in building a stand out brand as creative director at Nike: you get an inside look at his branding strategy that brought the original product line to the full 360-degree consumer experience it is today.

  3. Brand Visuals: Lego

    Stanley takes his personal brand to the next level and creates his own role at Lego. He explains the process of rebranding - taking a well known corporate brand beyond its logo - and the roles of a brand book, brand promise, and developing visual language in this process. He answers important questions: What is the relationship between the emotional and practical in successful branding? How do you develop a reciprocal relationship with your brand fans, or most loyal customers?

  4. Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 1

    A good brand develops a “gut feeling” identity throughout the years; as a newcomer to a team, how do you learn this so-called “tribal knowledge”? What are brand guidelines and how are they essential to brand building? Stanley explains how to codify the ephemeral “feeling” of a brand in order to produce consistent brand messaging.

  5. Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 2

    You’ve established brand guidelines and you’ve created a brand book; how do you use these tools to bring your brand to every touch point with a consumer? Look inside Stanley’s process of redesigning product packaging and his reasoning behind decisions made. Learn how to go beyond traditional ad campaigns to create a memorable brand experience with your customers - to deepen their emotional attachment.

  6. Building a Creative Environment

    The creative process gets messy in the best way - how do you create a work environment that fosters creativity? Why is it important that brand messages and core values are reflected in a workplace itself? Designers often work together across disciplines, but how do you involve executives in the creative process? From t-shirts to competitions and design camps, Stanley discusses how to cultivate creativity in the workplace.

  7. Inside Tether: Behind the Scenes Studio Tour

    Take an exclusive tour within Tether, Stanley’s own branding agency to see a real-life example of a creative playground. From big-name clients, to developing a new brand, to personal projects, Stanley gives you behind the scenes access.

  8. Brand Case Study: Gatorade

    How do you reposition a company to remain relevant in a shifting market? What do you keep, change, and enhance in your brand strategy? When do you listen to consumer feedback, and when do you just make decisions? Stanley models how to expand beyond a specific product to create a line of customer offerings.

  9. Brand Case Study: Awake Chocolate and Swans Island

    Coca-Cola and Pepsi rely on big name recognition, but what about the smaller players in more niche markets? In this class, Stanley demonstrates the power of effective product packaging coupled with strategic marketing. Learn creative ways to harness social media to not only advertise, but also drive public relations. This is Marketing Techniques and Brand Storytelling 101.

  10. Brand Case Study: The Grove School

    Tether brand manager Kari Strand outlines the process of a unique project: a new brand involving many stakeholders in students, families, the company,and its teachers as essentially brand ambassadors. From developing a brand name to a myriad of marketing materials, you’ll see multi-use touch points that not only communicate important brand messaging, but also represent the brand’s core values. Kari models how to develop common language to dialogue with potential customers.

  11. LIVE Brand Case Study: Live Love Snack

    How do you reposition a brand to enter the mass market? Tether designers take us deep into the world of product packaging: learn how to problem-solve and watch as their designs evolve with each iteration. The Tether team answers essential design questions: how do you lead an effective brainstorming process? How does narrative fit into design? Why is hierarchy of information important?

  12. LIVE Brand Case Study: Squatch Watch

    What does a multi-disciplinary approach actually look like inside a creative agency? The Tether team demonstrates the benefits of non-work order projects by participating in a soapbox derby.

  13. Evolution of a Brand

    Long-term success requires evolution. Learn about the power of storytelling and the role of compelling taglines in the evolution of BMW motorcycles and Keen footwear. How do you build upon an existing legacy to expand into different markets? You do you re-ignite brand buzz?

  14. Create Your Own Opportunities

    Stanley dips into the not-for-profit arena; what does branding for a cause look like? How do you create consistent identity throughout the many arms of an international organization? Stanley returns to an old pet project that stuck - a concept he couldn’t shake. He closes with an affirmation: trust your journey.


Lily Raz

Stanley's branding class was packed with so many actionable takeaways!! I learned so much about the thinking behind how branding is important for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors. One of the biggest things I learned was when he said describing a brand is like describing a person to someone. He talked a lot about the process that it takes to build successful brands and keep them true to their promise. I really loved when he did a tour of his agency Tether. This class is filled with lots of creative material and great energy. I definitely recommend it! Thank you Creative Live!!


I am LOVING this class. I have heard "brand" explained in a lot of different ways, but Stanley's metaphors and examples made such sense to me that I actually feel like I have a firm grasp of what it means, and how I can make my own. Describing and showing his process with various brands was especially helpful. I feel empowered and excited (rather than overwhelmed, nervous, or uncertain) about strengthening my brand. Without Creative Live, I would not be able to take a class from an expert like Stanley Hainsworth, so I am especially grateful for today's course. Thank You! - Alexis (a.k.a. Free Range Al)


He is fun and engaging... This class has given me a whole new perspective of how to build my brand and keep it consistent as I go. The videos he shows are soo fun, and they show off his great sense of humor, and fun personality!!