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These days, all I see are posts, articles, and social media influencers waxing on about branding. Personal branding, brand this, brand that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that people are finally understanding the importance of branding. But I’m not sure everyone understands what it is. Not really. So, let me make this as simple as I possibly can. Wait, scratch that. I’ll let multiple author, public speaker, and decades long brand strategist Marty Neumeier say it:

 

“Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”

 

This philosophy is catching on, thank goodness. But I’d like to introduce a few branding influencers who have a full understanding of branding, how it informs the personality of a business, how it affects the audience, and how it feeds into design.

Chris Do

Chris is the epitome of what it means to understand branding. He’s an Emmy award-winning designer, director, CEO and chief strategist of Blind and the founder of The Futur—an online education platform with the mission of teaching 1 billion creative people how to make a living doing what they love. And yet, he openly admits that he’s learning along with the rest of us.

You might say he’s classically trained yet continuously looks to the future. So much so that he and his team have pivoted their focus from being the deliverers of creative, to helping creative truly understand their worth. I’ve personally taken several of his courses and it’s changed my view on design, customer relationships, and what branding REALLY means.

Follow Chris on Twitter and Instagram.

Melinda Livsey

 

Melinda started out as a graphic designer, like many a creative talent out there. But over time, in order to bring REAL value to her clients, she started to dig deeper into what makes a brand…a brand. It goes beyond a logo, beyond a questionnaire. Fully understanding a brand starts with a conversation. By asking questions that get to the heart of who and what her clients are, and how they want to project themselves, many of her clients come out knowing more about themselves and their customers than they thought possible. That’s a strategist if I ever saw one.

She also happens to be extremely genuine and generous with her time. Not only does she help with brand strategy, she teaches others how to do so as well.

Follow Melinda on Twitter and Instagram.

Sagi Haviv

Sagi Haviv is a partner and designer at Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv. Among the more than 60 identity programs he’s designed are the logos for the US Open Tennis Championships, Leonard Bernstein at 100, Harvard University Press, Conservation International, and LA Reid’s Hitco Entertainment.

I’ve seen him speak at Adobe MAX (Adobe’s creativity conference…think COMIC-CON for designers) and have even taken one of his classes. He’s a master at crafting brand stories through visual identities. In his words, a logo should be “1. Appropriate,2. Distinctive & Memorable, and 3. Simple.”

Follow Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv on Instagram.

Paula Scher

Paula Scher is literally a living design LEGEND. She is one of the most influential graphic designers in the world, and is a partner at PENTAGRAM, a world-famous design consortium in New York. Described as the “master conjurer of the instantly familiar,” Scher straddles the line between pop culture and fine art in her work. Iconic, smart, and accessible, her images have entered into the American vernacular.

I had the privilege of seeing Paula interviewed at Adobe MAX in 2018 by Chris Do, who I mentioned earlier. To listen to her describe her process of getting to know her clients and helping them through design decisions was akin to eavesdropping on a conversation with the Avengers. She’s got a great episode on the Netflix series “Abstract.” I highly recommend giving it a watch. I’m not one for awards, personally, but she’s won HUNDREDS of them, and deservedly so.

Follow Pentagram on Instagram and Twitter.

Antoinette Carroll

I’ve saved the most personal for last. Even though I don’t know Ms. Carroll, I’m a great admirer of her initiatives to bring design, diversity, and community together. It boggles the mind.

Antionette is the President and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab, a nonprofit educating, training, and challenging Black and Latinx youth to become leaders designing healthy and racially equitable communities. Within this capacity, Antionette has pioneered a new, award-winning form of creative problem solving called Equity-Centered Community Design—named a Fast Company World Changing Idea Finalist in General Excellence and Urban Design.

There’s so much more to say about what she’s done to help communities all over. If you love design and branding, look up anyone on this list. If you want design and branding that affects change, look to Antoinette.

Follow Antoinette on Twitter and Instagram.

Time would fail me if I were to recount all the times I was inspired to be a better designer, better professional, better brand strategist, even a better human by looking to the people on this list, as well as many others. But if there’s one thing I would impart from my time as a designer, it’s that your brand—any brand—has very little to do with a logo, or a marketing campaign, or anything visual. It’s the thought and intention behind it. A strategy based on being as sincere as possible for your customers. Anyone who understands that fundamental truth will go far.

About the Author

Cecil Cross
Cecil Cross
Cecil Cross, Associate Creative Director, is a 20 year veteran of the creative industry. As part of the expanding creative department, he brings a unique perspective with his knowledge of B2B tech marketing and design strategy from previous in-house roles. Cecil will be leading the creative brand strategy and digital asset creation at Idea Grove, including websites, creative marketing assets, infographics, case studies, social branding, and interactive online experiences.

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