I was reminded last week that we’re all guilty of a little indecent exposure. Sooner or later the world is going to see the parts that weren’t meant to be seen and we’d better be ready. But before you start picturing this I should explain…
So I’m driving home somewhat zoned out listening to NPR at a level just loud enough to hear over the road noise. And I realize my brain has just hung onto Robert Siegel talking about DNA and genes. Now I’m a slightly nerdy guy, and scientific discovery fascinates me, so I crank the radio up to 11 so I can hear over the noise of my big pickup truck tires humming (ok, roaring) over the highway.
You know how DNA is built on a double-helix structure? Well scientists had examined that structure for years and identified the actual DNA as the parts that looked like the little horizontal ladder rungs. The rest of the structure they literally labeled, and talked about, and published in scientific journals as “junk DNA.” Junk. Worthless. Meaningless. Of no use whatsoever.
Until now. A bunch of scientists around the world started looking more carefully at that junk DNA wondering if maybe it does actually do something. As it turns out, while the big-time DNA instruct cells how to grow and combine to make babies, and barn owls, and barracudas, the “junk DNA” tell the big-time DNA what to do in the first place! This means that what was previously considered worthless junk is in fact the DNA’s operating system. It’s the underlying code, the foundation from which everything else in a living organism launches. Ha! Doesn’t sound like junk to me.
Here at Skidmore we do a ton of branding work. And almost invariably during the Discovery process—the process where we’re learning everything there is to know about our client—someone starts to talk about the DNA of the brand. Typically the notes from that conversation are a bullet list of words that we label “Core Values”—Integrity, Customer-Service, Quality, Speed, etc. But this is the obvious stuff; this is the big-time DNA that everyone looks at. What about your brand’s “junk DNA?” What about the parts that weren’t meant to be seen?
The junk DNA is your culture. It’s what powers your Core Values. And everything else. It’s who you are as people, how you carry yourself, the way you view and treat the world around you. It’s your all-nighters and never-say-die attitude that launches your new products. It’s your personality and passion that influences every business decision and marketing headline. And it’s coming through loud and clear, whether you want it to or not.
So what’s a brand to do? Design for it. How? Skidmore CEO Tim Smith and I will be leading an event this Friday (9/21) at the Detroit Design Festival called “Design: Why Startups Should Start Now.” We’ll be talking about your big-time DNA and your junk DNA—how no other startup, company or brand has the unique personalities, ideas and opportunities that you have, and how to make that a win. From your products, to your website, to how you engage in social media, we’ll show you how to pursue original design that is a mirror reflection of you. Everybody’s already looking at your junk, so design for it and show it off proudly.