The Powerful Theme that Defined 2015
Updated: May 14, 2019
Over the past year my branding and content work has encompassed connected wearables, design build, web development, artificial intelligence, sparkling wine, consumer tech, international banking, and augmented reality. (I do love variety!)
This may not seem like promising territory to discover common threads, but there is one theme that emerges clearly across every single one of these projects.
It is the desire for flow.
Over and over, literal and metaphorical, explicit and implied, I saw it. Flow—the removal of friction, the heightened state of creativity and expression, fluidity of movement and experience.
PHYSICAL AND METAPHORICAL FLOW
I started off the year working closely with Osmosis, an offshoot of the brilliant Seattle product engineering firm Synapse. Their vision is to improve the experience of attending sports events, concerts, and other live events through connected wearables. As we developed the brand concept, the idea of flow emerged as a unifier—Osmosis would accelerate the flow of people, facilitate the flow of data and information, and amp up enjoyment by delivering “in-the-moment” flow.
The concept of flow directly inspired the name (conjured up by the terrific Chris Johnson, the Name Inspector) and the visual brand identity, all smooth curves and water-inspired colors (props to Design Commission):
Around the same time, Momentum, a well-regarded Seattle design-build firm, launched their new website, based on some foundational brand work we completed last fall. Although flow isn’t expressed explicitly, the idea was one of our key brand inspirations—Momentum’s unique, rigorous, "plan-design-build" process is specifically designed to remove friction, so projects can flow more smoothly, and clients can realize their vision more quickly.
Next I helped Bear Group, a successful Seattle web development firm, develop copy and overall marketing strategy to express a new strategic positioning, expertly crafted by Lindsay Pedersen of LCP Consulting. One of the key brand concepts was the idea of operational integrity—that the websites they build work effortlessly, across every platform. Again, flow. This idea came to life visually through simple, ambient background videos on their home page.
I also worked with Mumm Napa in Napa Valley to completely revamp their tour script, with a specific focus on expressing their brand positioning and pillars in a way that, yes, flowed with the physical layout of the building and the detailed information about méthode traditionnelle sparkling winemaking that needed to be conveyed. I had to balance strategy with storytelling, and make sure the script covered the key points while still leaving plenty of room for authentic personal touches.
There's also, of course, the flow of exquisitely crafted bubbly--a particularly enjoyable part of the job....
In the spring I continued my ongoing collaboration with Haiku Deck, the indispensable visual presentation tool that co-founder Kevin Leneway designed specifically to encourage creative flow. The app's minimal design and the vivid stream of evocative, beautiful images deliver this beautifully. I collaborated with co-founder Adam Tratt and Design Commission to develop the identity for Haiku Deck Zuru, an artificial-intelligence-based tool that uses a flow of dynamic data to further streamline and smooth the process of presentation creation.
I also had the opportunity to work with Madrid-based BBVA on a new purpose statement and accompanying brand concepts. Their research had identified several core customer desires, one of which was for banks to be available and respond to their needs no matter where they are—yet another take on flow. In September I flew to London to collaborate with Naked Communications and the BBVA leadership team, envisioning how managing the flow of money might become easier, perhaps even automatic, across a shifting stream of customer touchpoints.
[During my short stay in Shoreditch I enjoyed an intense burst of creative flowmyself — this is just one of dozens of photos I took of the dazzlingly inventive neighborhood art and architecture.]
AUGMENTED REALITY AND THE FLOW STATE
In September I kicked off a brand development project with Meta, an early player in the emerging augmented reality space. Their vision is to help people achieve an enhanced flow state, fueling creativity and productivity, through their technology.
One of the key differentiators between virtual reality and augmented reality is that augmented reality presents information as a digital layer on top of your immediate surroundings, instead of closing yourself off into an isolated digital world. You can interact with your surroundings and your collaborators more naturally—for better flow.
THE LANGUAGE OF FLOW
I’m wrapping up the year helping Buoyant Design crystallize messaging and vocabulary for a website relaunch. "Buoyant" suggests float, fluidity, and lift—more variations on the theme. We developed a custom brand vocabulary with phrases like equilibrium, immersion, and formula to express the meaning of Buoyant, and its underlying concept of flow, cohesively.
The concept of flow is not new, of course—it was described in detail, as the "psychology of optimal experience," by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi more than 25 years ago. He proposes flow as the secret to happiness in this outstanding TED talk.
I outlined the core aspects of the flow state in this visual presentation, which may inspire ideas for unlocking flow for yourself and your customers, colleagues, and clients.
THE NEED FOR FLOW
Although each iteration of the flow theme had its own distinct quality, the thread is unmistakable, and it's easy to understand why. We are constantly bombarded with tiny interruptions that take us out of the "in the zone" flow state. We have shrinking patience for unnecessary friction and frustrations—we just expect things to work, smoothly and intuitively, in any setting and on any device. More than ever, we crave fluidity, seamlessness, ease, pure flow.
Will this be as true in 2016, or will some new theme emerge? Only the flow of time will tell.