A Brave New World

Man Hiker on top of a Mountain Peak

By Nima Falatoori, Creative Director at ico Design

In 1532, Nikolaus Kopernikus – a Polish mathematician, astronomer and devout Catholic – finished the first manuscript to his book, “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium”. In it he referenced long forgotten theories on the solar system, mixed with his own celestial observations, to put together a controversial point of view that the Sun, not our Earth, was the centre of our solar system. Not only was this totally against the zeitgeist at the time, it was also deemed heresy by the Catholic church, a foundation that Nikolaus firmly believed in. His bravery to be open to other opinions, no matter how unpopular, and build on those theories, allowed him to discover the truth to our solar system.

Fast forward to today, and here we are, on a 5-billion-year-old rock built from iron ore, silicon and oxygen, orbiting around a massive nuclear furnace emitting heat through the fusion of hydrogen protons to make helium, travelling at intense speeds through an endlessly expanding void. On this little rock right now, us humans are being as busy as we’ve been at any time in our history — making noise, creating objects, and implementing modal structures in order to sustain a curated, interpolated ecosystem.

Within that ecosystem we have created a plethora of brands all vying for our attention. As brand creators we are often heard spouting the mantra to our clients that they need to be brave in order to survive in this environment. Too often this point of view is bastardised by some to make it feel that brands themselves have to be brave to exist. To shout. To be awkward. Disruptive. Fly in the face of reason.

This is wrong!

Yes, the world is changing. It’s complicated and busy. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the loudest voice in the room to be heard. Why should we tell all brands to be brave as a way of their being, if that’s not in their DNA? Who are we to determine other businesses’ personalities when they are at odds with the truth of who they are? You don’t need to be a brave brand to be successful. But you do need to be a brave client if you want to build a successful brand identity.

As logic goes, if you want to realign – be different – change tact – transform – you must tread a different path. Think different. Do different. For that to happen as a brand during the creation of your visual identity, you as a client need to allow space around the brand for development to occur — space to flex, to explore opportunities that express your brand ethos. As a founder or entrepreneur, being able to create that open space can be scary and counter intuitive. You have lived with this product/idea/concept from its inception and will naturally have a myopic view that feels safe to you. Roger Philby, CEO of the Chemistry Group, describes this feeling “(As founders) we’re not thinking about much else. It dominates your thoughts. When I’m pottering around at home, I’m not thinking about anything else, I’m playing out scenario after scenario.”

As a client it is truly tricky to be able to let go and trust in others. By doing so, however, you are unlocking a skill that enables others to manoeuvre and explore concepts. Concepts that might have been challenging for yourself to have uncovered, as they may have not followed the same logical path it took you to get to the product. Standing back and taking stock, rather than being fearful and micromanaging every process, allows creativity to thrive in an open safe space.

As Chris Hobson, founder of skincare brand Patchology states “I would say to somebody starting out; be very conscious about cultivating a network of advisors. People who have a vested interest in keeping the guide rails on and pushing you (to realise your brand). To keep you from your worst impulses around optimism bias. I’ve probably had 1 million ideas. 999,999 of which have been terrible. But my weakness is I want to pursue them all. It’s a little different if you are the hired gun, where you’re brought in from the outside to deliver on someone else’s vision. I think you end up being a little more objective about it (the brand) … But I think if you’re the entrepreneur, it’s really hard to be objective.”

So, to be a brave client doesn’t mean you have to be risky or loud as a brand, doing something silly or obtuse. It just means you need to let your gut instinct go quiet for a bit. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. To be able to allow others to fill the space with thoughts and ideas. To be the anchor that allows others to flex and discover. To be confident and comfortable with a brand creator that will help you find your truth. By having the bravery to do this, you are then truly able to let go and see opportunities and truths that may not have been apparent before. Much like Nikolaus Kopernikus had to let go of his deep-seated religious ideals in order to see our true place in the solar system and find a way to simply communicate a difficult concept to a new audience.