Experience Architects vs. Film Directors

In response to the internet, brand expanded from logo, color, and slogan to all the ways in which every stakeholder experiences the company and its services/products. Almost all aspects of a company are now consumer facing or can be exposed quite easily to the public. Ethics and morality aside, integrity is a pressing pragmatic reality for those companies who want to grow and keep their customers.

Enter the Experience Architect. I know, this sounds like another example of novelty job titles, or worse, job title bloat. But this title, or better, this role is crucial in consumer facing companies. Put simply, experience is the 4D version of the brand, and architect is someone who designs and guides a plan. Guide is the right word because total control is unrealistic.

Film direction shares much in common with experience design and architecture save for one critical aspect, total control. Film directors (a.k.a mega control freaks) have total control over what the audience sees and feels. This total control allows the director to utilize deception, theatrics, and facades to create a sense of reality. There is no such thing as total control over the experience for the brand.

Incidentally, this may explain my growing enjoyment for older movies, especially spaghetti westerns (think Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.) I appreciate these films especially from a production and direction stand point. Stylistically, they are gritty and simple. But I love discovering the artifacts of production that subtly confess the deception. As film technology has developed so has the ability of film directors to control the experience. The inverse is true for companies trying to control the brand experience. As internet technology has developed so has the ability of consumers to control their experience.

What can your company control? Your company can control the creation a company that is coherent, cohesive, and clear. You can design and build a company that has integrity in every dimension. What can’t you control? Your customers will discover every inconsistency and share it with the world. So in terms of brand, let’s abandon the idea of total control and embrace architecture as the more powerful and appropriate concept for companies.

Unified Not Uniform

The goal of branding is not rigid uniformity but beautiful, cohesive unity to produce emotional impact and lasting impression. As renowned designer Stefan Sagmeister has said, “In branding, sameness is overrated.”

Branding should not be treated like a monolithic logo design with stringent rules of use. Rather, when an organization is seen as an organism, laden with life and dynamism and motion and growth, its brand takes on a much deeper significance.

True brand identity should be holistic, connecting the heart and eyes and bones of an entity to its skin. Unity is far more powerful and freeing than uniformity, and your brand depends on it.

Good Design Is…

Design is central to success in the modern marketplace. One of the most influential industrial designers of the last 50 years is Dieter Rams. You may have seen his work in your Braun electric shaver or radio, or experienced his influence indirectly in numerous Apple products. In the late 1970s, Rams defined 10 Principles for Good Design so he could answer this simple question of his own work: “Is this good design?”

As Rams put it, good design is Innovative, Useful, Aesthetic, Understandable, Unobtrusive, Honest, Long-lasting, Thorough, Environmentally Friendly, and Simple. How would adhering to these principles help strengthen your brand and market position?

Branding: Make Love Not War

Branding is a form of attraction—not conquest warfare. Your customer has 1,440 minutes a day to live out what is most important to them. And people want things that make their lives the way they wish they were. Does your branding communicate an interruption or enhancement of that wish? Your organization is putting out a vibe, but does it resonate with your customers’ lives? If not, then no one will embed what you have to offer in the dreams that drive their decisions.

Keep it real. Seriously… kind of.

The cool kid does not talk about—or try to be—cool. Authenticity is essence preceding action… and advertising. Your customer wants to be authentic by purchasing in accord with his or her self-image. Here is the paradox: human production is ontologically inauthentic, but it is phenomenologically real. Embrace the inauthenticity of production so you can render it in an authentic way. Too esoteric? If you are Disney, celebrate the fantasy. If you are Tiger Woods after an affair, own the remorse. If you are Deloitte, be real about being really sharp. Then the customers can take what you offer and make it authentic to themselves. Do you know who you are? Or more importantly, do they know who you are?