Design View | Articles and opinion on design professionalism, technique and culture by Andy Rutledge

A Brand Synopsis

February 7, 2008

As the design consultancy that Angela and I started a few months ago enters a phase of expansion, we found it necessary to create several different sorts of internal documents, including documenting some clear definitions of our brand and company culture. The most significant reason for this need to create these things was because people joining our Unit would not have an inherent understanding of what we’re about and how specific tasks associated with our work are supposed to be conceived of or conducted here.

Luckily we found it quite easy to codify the features, mechanisms, and ideals that shape our work, our culture, our standards, and our brand. I’m sure this is mostly because we are such a small company and these things are easy to do when only 2 people are involved.

Part of what made this process so easy for us was the fact that before we started our consultancy we each had very clear ideas for what we wanted to do, how we wanted to work (and how this might differ from others), and what we wanted to change about our approach to our careers. Again lucky for us, we both had very similar ideas for all of these things.

So now we’ve finalized or created solid beginnings for many formal internal documents that are relevant to employee orientation, ongoing company operation, staff/HR operations, staff/project interaction, and brand definition. And it is this last one that we’ve naturally invested the most thought and care into crafting. But it was also one of the easier to craft documents we made.

I should think it only natural that this would be true of all companies. But what seems natural and what actually occurs often differ from one another. I sometimes present ideas or examples in my articles here that are meant to either solicit response to help me grow in knowledge and understanding, or to offer examples that others might find helpful in similar efforts. This one is meant to be both.

A brand synopsis

I thought it might, for a couple of reasons, be useful and interesting to present Unit Interactive’s brand statement. I’ve never written such a thing for a company of mine before and it has been a long time since I read any such thing for another company. I had no idea precisely what form this sort of thing should take and so what follows is just what seemed natural for Angela and I to describe.

It's probably worth noting that this document was written in about 40 minutes yesterday aftenoon.

I should probably have read a few brand promises from other companies before resolving that ours is “done” or “right,” but we believe that we’re somewhat unique as a company, in many respects. So we’re going with this one. Therefore, this is something of a blind study. I hope it might spark some thought on the subject and hope that it might even help others working on similar efforts.

So anyway, a brand is a promise. Here’s ours:

The Unit Interactive brand embodies uncompromising strategic design.

Unit Interactive has a clear and specific approach to all aspects of our business, our work, and our place in the industry. The basis of our identity and the quality of our brand are formed by our adherence to the following ideals:

We believe that providing professional services requires a high degree of professional responsibility and behavior. Our clients invest much in our company and in return we believe that we’re required to be nothing less than wholly professional in our approach and dealings with clients and with our professional community.

Candid Communication
We don’t mince words. We don’t enjoy shading or half-measures. Much depends on what is said, how ideas and expectations are presented, and the context in which this takes place. As professionals, we find it our responsibility to not waste anyone’s time with tepid or cautious communication. So we say what we mean, we define what we expect, we say it up-front, and we value the same in return.

Uncompromising Quality
Professionalism requires that we provide only the highest quality thinking, concepts, and design and markup execution available in our industry. If we are not able to provide this level of quality for a particular deliverable or for a particular client, we don’t pursue the project. We take only those projects where we are the best choice and can deliver the best product.

As may be understood from the previous statements, offering professional services demands that we assume much responsibility. We hold tight to those responsibilities—whether expressed or inherent—and deliver on every one of them every time. We never shirk and we never backpedal. By the same token, we expect our clients to hold true to their responsibilities and deliver in the same manner. This mutual responsibility is the foundation of a professional relationship.

Moral and Ethical Business Practices
Our company rightly survives by the reputation associated with our name. Those of us at Unit Interactive also carry this reputation on our shoulders, so we conduct our dealings in a manner that we’re proud to be associated with. Always. The highest moral and ethical standards govern every decision we make.

High Quality of Life
Quality of life is important to and directly affects all people, so our work and our work environment must contribute to a high quality of life for everyone at Unit Interactive. We work to foster a high quality of life through our approach to work hours, our processes, environment, quality of clients and projects, and our comprehensive value system.

We at Unit Interactive have strong, consistent internal standards that are quantifiable, integrated, and related to one another. Since all of our processes, methods, and decisions are based on these related standards, we bring a high degree of integrity to all of our work and our relationships.

Unit Interactive’s approach to the distinct phases of a project is clear, consistent, and specific:

Our discovery process with a client revolves around the client’s business and bottom line. We believe that we’re able to bring the most value to our clients’ design projects if we’re primarily familiar with business aims, values, needs, as well as their target audience’s needs, desires, and expectations. We do not focus on design in our discovery, but rather on those things that allow us to craft the best design.

Our approach to design is strategic; based on a comprehensive understanding of specific business needs and specific user/viewer needs and desires. We design around fundamental human behavior and contextual proclivities. We demand that our design be—most of all—highly effective in serving relevant needs by way of fundamental communicative signals for exploiting and responding to human behaviors. We use the most relevant concerns (our client’s business concerns) to drive the mechanisms of our expertise for their benefit. Our design is not about us, it is about our client’s profitability/conversion/communication needs.

Our HTML/CSS work is meant to support user-interactive imperatives, because “the interface is the product;” users/visitors care only about the user-experience. But in order to support this fact, we work to ensure that we craft the highest quality markup based on the latest quality standards. We craft our markup to facilitate communication and provide an easy, pleasant experience for humans as well as many disparate technologies and applications that will access the markup and the content it contains. Our markup is inherently accessible and SEO-friendly.

Project Management
We craft our project startup documents to clearly define all relevant issues relating to a project. We also set clear milestones and comprehensively define individual responsibilities so that there is never a question of who should be doing what and when. This—combined with our policy of candid communication—means that project management is a smooth and transparent process that leaves no room for scope, timeline, or responsibility questions or abuse.

Because of our approach to these issues, we succeed easily where others may flounder, we deliver completely where others may dabble, we satisfy where others may equivocate, and we invest fully where others may hesitate. Unit Interactive habitually takes confident steps from a platform of firm footing, and this is all done with the best interests of our client in mind.

Our approach is uncompromising and consistent, and core values drive our culture. We are a cohesive unit in service to vital professional responsibilities and we keep this in mind at every step while working in partnership with our valued clients.

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So there it is, for better or worse; that’s our brand. What’s your brand?