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Building from the ground up2 min read

I was listening to an interesting conversation on NPR the other day that got me thinking about how branding is a lot like the construction process.

The segment was about the Mexican architect, Luis Barragán and his design process. He wasn’t classically trained, but focused instead on capturing a feeling while designing.

The segment discussed how Barragán’s drawing and sketches were anything but good, and many architects during his time would discredit his work because he did not follow the “traditional” process. But Barragán didn’t let that stop him. He kept sketching, which was crucial to his process, because it was when sketching that he would capture that “thing” that made people, myself included, love his buildings. Where, as NPR put it, his style can make you feel small but at the same time safe.

It starts with a feeling

From that feeling he would create a concept, then a more fleshed out version of his design, and then blueprints to hand to the team who would build the product.

The construction would begin with the foundation. Because without it, his feeling couldn’t stand. It would fall apart.

Just like branding

The construction process was:

  1. A feeling
  2. Conceptual sketches
  3. Fleshed out blueprints
  4. Solid foundation

Without the “Who we are, and what do we do” as a foundation most companies fall apart, because there is nothing solid to build on. But it’s amazing how many want to start this process at the end, instead of at the beginning. You wouldn’t ask Barragán, or any architect, to draw plans for a house without creating a foundation for it to sit on, would you? Or build it from the top to bottom? So why would you ask a designer or a writer to create something as essential to your company as your brand look and feel as an afterthought rather than a foundation?

Stronger foundations lead to stronger buildings, and in this case stronger brands.

Embrace the process

Don’t brush off the process, it’s important because it defines who you are, which can lead to huge investments or a spikes in sales. It isn’t mumbo jumbo. Brand development is why Nike was able to fight off Reebok in the 90’s and increase their market share by 18 percent to 43 percent between 1988 and 1998.

The process works, trust it, take the example of Luis Barragán whose legacy still stands, 30 years after his death just like his buildings. That’s the benefit of building from the ground up.