When I taught introductory philosophy courses as a teaching fellow, I tried to emphasize that philosophy was about asking questions, as cliche as that seems. There were sleepy-eyed freshmen staring at me and waiting for me to tell them why philosophy matters – and that’s one of the things I had to offer them.
I wanted to impart the wisdom that someone had once given me: though you might not find a definitive answer to your/life’s major questions, at least you’re eliminating some of the things that won’t work as an answer. So, you’re getting closer! In theory.
In the brand identity process as written by Wheeler, I see a similar endeavor. In Phase 1, Wheeler uses a quote from Michael Cronan that relates to my point and my “teachings:” “Answering questions is relatively easy. Asking the right question is more difficult.” It depends on the question, I would say for the former part of this quote, but for the latter, I completely agree.
Phase one of the brand identity process is critical. The questions asked for baseline information about a business or company, and the questions behind research done for audits and usability testing, set up information essential to the next four phases. These questions need to be the “right” questions. Here, I use the word “right” to mean “most useful, and most pertinent to the objectives and goals of the business in creating a brand identity.”
Some of my favorite questions that Wheeler curates in discussing insight include:
“Why do we exist?”
“What will we become?”
-Keith Yamashita, Chairman, SYPartners
“If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?”
“What is your idea of perfect happiness?”
Though these questions might not seem specific, Wheeler also emphasizes that it’s important to ask bigger questions that can lead to profound changes for brands. The bigger questions end up digging at the heart of a business or company. The heart becomes the brand identity.
The next phase of the brand identity process is also a philosophical endeavor. It could’ve come right out of my Introduction to Philosophy syllabus, as I asked my students to “discuss what philosophizing means to them.”
An answer I wish I’d had at the start of 2016 when I began teaching is the Phase 2 overview:
“It is about analysis, discovery, synthesis, simplicity, and clarity.” And Wheeler nails what it takes to be a young philosopher and brand identity genius. She also describes designers as those who work at the “intersection of strategic imagination, intuition, design, excellence, and experience.”
All this to say: the brand identity process is a creative process. The branding part of communication requires creativity and a deeper level of thinking than what is required of someone to properly edit a manual or design a flyer. In embarking on the process of branding and creating representations of one’s business or company, one must first examine what it’s going to be. And if it’s the case, re-examine what already exists. From there, begin making, thinking, throwing out, clarifying, and all of the things that are necessary in a creative, philosophical process in creating one’s brand identity.