Throughout my 14 years in the design industry, I’ve used countless tools to work on my design projects. One of the first tools I used was the venerable design workhorse Adobe Photoshop, and it became my favorite tool for web and print design back in 2004. In the early days of my career, I considered Photoshop to be the most complete tool in terms of web design and mobile application design. Challenging Adobe’s dominance, Sketch arrived in 2010 and in my opinion revolutionized the UI/UX design process for Mac users. I loved Sketch and used it whenever I could for my web projects, but its lack of compatibility with PCs proved to be an inconvenient limitation in mixed-platform environments.
cha·ris·ma : a special charm or appeal that causes people to feel attracted and excited by someone (such as a politician).
“Someone”, it says above. Charisma is typically a trait attributed to a person, not a company. So can a brand have Charisma?
Out of the gate there are more questions than answers when it comes to charisma. Why are some public speakers so captivating, while others easy to tune out? Why are we intrigued by, and attracted to, certain people and not others? Why does one person constantly struggle to inspire others, while another seems to motivate, and garner cooperation with ease? Where does this magnetism come from? Is it simply communication skills? People skills? Is it their ability to speak well? Their ability to present a positive self-image? I’d say it is all of those things … and more. I’d also say that though charisma may be difficult to define, we always know it when we see it.
There is definitely a certain presence, energy, intelligence and ability to emotionally connect in charismatic people. They make it look so easy. Charismatic people make a positive first impression. They make eye contact, put the attention on you, they listen actively and attentively, seek to understand, and are very aware of others—they’re intuitive and empathetic. They’re engaging, smile, aspire to positive thoughts and positive outcomes, enjoy exploring new ideas and possibilities, and are always looking for solutions. Their intelligence is palpable. They are quick of mind and very efficient problem solvers. They engage on a deep and meaningful level. Charismatic people seem to really care … about everything.
To that end, one might summarize that charismatic people have a positive ‘life philosophy’.
So … can a brand possess these same qualities? Can a brand be charismatic? I say “yes.” Here are 5 ways:
1. Positive First Impression: A charismatic brand makes the time and investment to look good. It has a strong logo and uses smart imagery. It has a color palette that is balanced and appropriate within its marketspace. When you land on the home page of a charismatic brand you feel it—you get more than just information—you get a User Experience. The website, marketing collateral, mobile experience, display advertising, media—across the board your first impression of a charismatic brand is generally positive.
2. Customer-Focused Messaging: Brands that spend an inordinate amount of time telling you how awesome they are … are not awesome—they’re a bore. A charismatic brand does not need to beat its chest. To the contrary, a charismatic brand puts the focus on you. It’s messaging is succinct (as it respects your time) and is about the value it will bring to you. The charismatic brand recognizes its job is to serve you and fulfill needs that you have. Its messaging is primarily conveying its understanding of your business needs and the value-rich ways in which it will solve your goals, wants, needs and challenges.
3. Market Expertise: Charismatic brands are intelligent and very good at what they do. They employ smart people and offer products and solutions that are state of the art. Charismatic brands have an unfair advantage—there is something that they do better than all of their competitors. They are ‘in it to win it‘, and they aspire to be the best. Charismatic brands are masters of their domain, thought-leaders and innovators.
4. Listening: Like charismatic people, despite their success or intelligence, charismatic brands are still skilled listeners. They take the time to listen attentively and understand their customers. Charismatic brands make very few mistakes (but own their mistakes when they do), get things right the first time, and deliver solutions that meet all of the functional requirements of their clients. They engage in due diligence, conduct market research, ask really good questions, and take the time to understand their customers. This active listening makes the brand’s customer base feel important, and results in high quality deliverables and loyal client-partners.
5. Empathy: Charismatic brands not only listen well, they have an uncanny ability to put themselves in the shoes of their customers. Empathy is essentially the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. Charismatic brands have a way of making you feel like they ‘get’ you. They simplify your life, make you look good, effectively meet needs, save you time, save you money, creatively and painlessly solve your problems, all the while appealing to you as an individual. Yes, even though they have a mass audience … you feel like they get you. It’s a situation where art, finesse and business merge. Charismatic brands make you feel heard. It can be subtle, and there are many ways to accomplish this feat, but charismatic brands have a way of making you feel understood and like they’re your ally. Charismatic brands somehow make you feel important … because you are.
In the same way a charismatic person has a positive ‘life philosophy’, a charismatic brand has a positive ‘mission’. That mission is rooted in awareness, respect, quality, integrity and serving others at the highest possible level. Charismatic brands take the time to polish their image, yes, but ultimately recognize that it isn’t about them—it isn’t about the brand—it’s about you, the customer. Brands that are looking outward, listening, educating, empathizing, building relationships built on respect, brands that care and genuinely have a mission not just to make money and be successful, but to serve others and put their customers first—these are indeed charismatic brands.
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When I tell people that I’m a user experience (UX) designer, most people nod politely as their eyes glaze over for a second, and they try to move the conversation along. Early in my career I thought they were completely uninterested, but over time, I came to realize that many people simply don’t know what UX is and might feel awkward about asking. On behalf of misunderstood UX designers everywhere, please allow me to introduce you to the wonders of quality UX and why you should care about it.
What is a visual brand identity, you ask? It’s only one of the most important things about your business. Branding is far more in depth than aesthetics. It delves into the core of why you exist as a business. It requires hours of research and analysis to ultimately cultivate something visually appealing that communicates your message: your visual identity. A visual identity is comprised of a system of external expressions such as a logo, color palette and texture, typography, iconography, illustration, photography, motion principles, and composition.
I went fishing the other day and all I caught was a good UX lesson for you. Here’s the deal: my daughter entered the neighborhood annual fishing derby. For a decent UX guy, I’m a terrible fisherman. But I do know how to bait a squirming worm and unhook the slimiest of fish.