Fast Company has an interesting article about brand design company JDK, a small firm that's won huge accounts and plaudits for work that's so far out of the box that it's in a totally different room. Among the points it illustrates:
* the power of analogy. In pitching for the X-Box account, JDK principal Michael Jager suggested changing its image from The Incredible Hulk (pure power) to Bruce Lee (powerful but also sleek and elegant). It worked. My example: my new book, I use the the coaching metaphor to distinguish it from writing books that take a teaching approach. My point is that it offers emotional support, not only intellectual support.
* the power of leaving the rules behind. Their first business was a skateboard company run by Jake Burton Carpenter. He says, "There were no traditions. There was no religion to our logo or word mark. We felt free to do whatever looked good and whatever seemed to work." My example: I'm working on an ad for the book that's not a standard book ad--you'll see it first, here.
* the power of making people feel like insiders. For the X-Box campaign, JDK developed a graphic code that looked like just a cool design to most people, but also sent secret messages to those who make the time and effort to decode them. My example: people who buy the book find in it secret words that unlock bonus features on the website (live in 48 hours).
There's quite a bit of psycho-design-jargon and maybe a bit of ENC (Emperor's New Clothes), but there's also some good content in the article.
BONUS RANT, NO EXTRA CHARGE:
Why do some people on panels or giving talks think it's a badge of honor to start by saying, "Uh, I haven't actually thought about what I was going to say..." Maybe to them, the message they're sending is, "I'm so brilliant that I can just make stuff up as I go along and you'll be fascinated." To me, the message is, "I don't care enough about this event or you to spend any time preparing for it." Now, if they really ARE so brilliant that they can make it up and keep us fascinated, that's fine. But 9 out of 10 times, they're not. The next time I encounter this, I hope I have to guts to say, during the Q & A, "Just a suggestion: next time DO think about what you're going to say." I'll have to be positioned near the door...