Feb 10, 2013
Will's view on design. 

What Happened to January - Part 1

– Will Burke, CB'a Brand Engine Principal and Chief Innovation Officer, brings his unique perspective on design as he writes about his own daily life experiences. What will Will write about next?!

It's Chinese New Year, the year of the Snake – my birth sign. I'll let you guess what age that makes me this year. And no, I am not 24. Back on topic, what happened to January? It's all a blur and yet so much has happened with CB’a. First I should mention that this is my first posting in a very long time – since beginning my partnership with CB’a and forming CB’a Brand Engine in 2010. It was like a new startup and while the culture was a fit, the business side of transforming our design agency took most of my time such as focusing on the basics, growing new relationships, and accepting change. Yes, change – this would be the biggest change to the agency that I started out of my one bedroom apartment back in 1997. We were now part of a larger family, with a new purpose, a new personality, a new perspective when it comes to branding and design.

It wasn’t all work – there were a few trips every year to visit colleagues in Paris or Milan or Barcelona to recharge the spirit and know that this was the right move for the future of Brand Engine. As we enter the third year of CB’a Brand Engine, we have much to celebrate. We can hardly hold in our enthusiasm and soon you will know why. More on that in a future post. 

Now back to January. It started with a 5 day strategic summit in Sausalito (our first outside of Europe) with key brand and creative strategists from our Paris, Milan, Dubai and Sausalito offices focused on developing a common structure for how we design. Sounds simple. We all use the same or similar design tools, share similar design backgrounds, and create design primarily for consumer brands. Yet, while we value our multi-cultural diversity we often fell back into our provincial norms and failed to take full advantage of our talent and resources around the globe. To build the agency we wanted, we knew we had to do better, and we could. 

Our first step was to ask the one question we ask our clients at the start of any engagement, “Why?” Why is a difficult question. We are not use to being asked “Why” we do something – unless you have child under 5 years of age following your every move. From our experience to get to the “true Why” takes asking “Why” at least 5-7 times. Really, it does. A “true Why” goes beyond a logical, fact-based statement, it has a humanistic, emotional element to it. The latter being the most difficult to capture as it requires one to look deeper and inward, then having the courage to express that emotional Why. Yes, it is scary to put yourself out like that. Yet, once you’ve done it a few times, you find it liberating and rewarding. When it comes to us solving branding and design issues, we call finding this “true Why” The Burning Question (I’ll cover this topic more in a future post). 

It took most of the first day to get to our “Why.” Some people were nervous that we would not get to the “real” work that we were here for. The reality is that this was the real work, the most important work. Finding your “Why” makes understanding and articulating “How” and “What” you do so much easier. The remaining four days were very productive and we accomplished what we set out to do and more. 

As you plan for your next strategic initiative either for your business or your brand, take the time to find your “Why.” 

I’ll leave it there for today and continue with part 2 in a future post. And for those that are curious, the inspiration for the image above comes from our CB’a Asia office and their animated 2013 Chinese New Year greeting card. The saying in Chinese reads: soar to great heights. Gung Hay Fat Choy! — Will Burke



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