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When working for clients, it's important to understand what brand personality they want to convey in their designs.

  • Do they want fun, young, and energetic designs?
  • How about a rough, masculine, outdoorsy aesthetic?
  • Maybe they want something that looks conventional, serious, and trusted?

For designers, thinking and talking this way comes naturally. For clients, not so much. Many small businesses never even consider it until a designer asks.

I'm trying to figure out an efficient way of getting this information out of the client.

It needs to be something I can ask inside an app, instead of having a long drawn out face-to-face conversation.

It also needs to be quick and easy for the client to do, but convey sufficient information to the designer at the same time. The designer will be relying on this as as guide when creating things like social media posts, blog post images, etc.

Some initial ideas:

1) Ask the client to choose one brand archetype from Aaker’s Brand Personality Dimension Framework:

  • Excitement: carefree, spirited, and youthful
  • Sincerity: kindness, thoughtfulness, and an orientation toward family values
  • Ruggedness: rough, tough, outdoorsy, and athletic
  • Competence: successful, accomplished and influential, highlighted by leadership
  • Sophistication: elegant, prestigious, and sometimes even pretentious

2) Ask the client to describe their brand in five words or less (perhaps from a list of 20-30 suggested adjectives). For example:

  • Smart. Sophisticated. Successful. Elegant. Respected.
  • Eco-Friendly. Protected. Aware. Intelligent. Relaxed.

3) Use brand personality sliders. Ask the client to indicate where their brand lands on these spectrums:

            [Friend] <-----|-----> [Authority]

[Young & Innovative] <-----|-----> [Mature & Classic]

           [Playful] <-----|-----> [Serious]

       [Mass Appeal] <-----|-----> [Elite]

      [Conventional] <-----|-----> [Rebel]

Do you have any ideas or advice? What have you found works best?

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    A bit outside what I normally work with so I'm looking forward to seeing some answers. The slider idea sounds interesting. I'm just thinking it gives the client the possibility of making some self-contradicting choices. For example how would a authority, young, playful, elite, rebel company look like? – Wolff Sep 27 '20 at 12:03
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    Make life even tougher - imagine a theoretical product & public perception campaign… let's pick… erm… 'at random'… the iPhone. Try to place your sliders [or either of the other 2 criteria sets, tbh]. Stuck? Then the sliders don't work. You cannot describe a brand in 30 seconds or less. – Tetsujin Sep 27 '20 at 16:07
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    I have the conversation. Interesting idea. -- I like the sliders and think they may be the most fruitful. #2 is going to present all sorts of irrelevant answers and possible hiccups - "but we are 'professional, reliable, dependable'" -- those nondescript words. If they aren't part of the available options, it may be seen as detrimental to users (even though it's not). I think to a degree #1 will present that same issue. While the sliders may be slightly contradictory at times, at least they provide more of a window into the personality in my opinion. I don't really have "better" to offer. – Scott Sep 27 '20 at 18:53
  • Another idea - give them a visual reference and ask them to choose which styles they like best. Show them a short visual quiz with each question pairing two standardized design examples and asking "Which of these two design styles do you like best?" and then iterate through a variety of them (some minimal, some outdoorsy, some elegant, some energetic, etc) until you have a clear picture of what they like. That way they don't have to articulate with words, just what their eye prefers. And you don't have to worry about their understanding of subjective words matching with yours. – Ben Turner Sep 27 '20 at 22:45
  • @BenTurner, That last idea is better I think, but perhaps most fruitful after you've had a conversation with the client? There are so many ways to go, you can't show them all from the beginning. Another thing is: who says the client is best fitted for choosing the visual style for their brand? Perhaps the person coming to you isn't even part of the company's target group themselves? – Wolff Sep 28 '20 at 20:34
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30-minute conversation is your best bet. No system that is quick and easy for a client will match realtime conversation in providing the nuances that help the designer understand the client's expectations. What is extravagant to one person may be vanilla to another, and what is sophisticated to one person may be low-brow to another.

You may get what you're looking for if you combine two different approaches, but it will be a lot of work. For example, provide three visual pieces (logos, compositions, photos, etc) and ask the client to describe each using only five words from a provided list. Then you'll have a better idea of what the client means they say they want a brand image that would be contradictory in one fixed system, such as 'young, mature and elite with a mass appeal' if we use your sliders example.

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I think there is an important piece missing here and that is what is their end user's perception of the brand? Without understanding that angle you are designing in a black box. It's important to have that knowledge to see if there are any gaps in perception and where the opportunities lie for brand expression, etc.

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  • Hey Monica and welcome to GD.SE. This seems more suited for a comment than an answer to me. Perhaps you could try to address the question more directly and flesh out what you're saying a bit more? – Zach Saucier Dec 31 '20 at 23:16

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