Episode 2: Marty Neumeier | ‘The Brand Gap’ author – “Thinking Wrong”


– So hey guys, welcome
to the second episode
of Just a chat with, we are
here today with Marty Neumeier
who is a branding legend
and thought leader
on brand and story, we have a
very excited studio behind me,
and I’m also myself of
course I’m really excited
to have you here in
the studio with us.
So I suppose for
people who are watching
don’t know who you are, so
I was just wondering Marty
if you can maybe like
tell us a bit about,
like describe in your
own words, who you are
and kind of like a
bit of your story.
– Actually my title,
for Liquid Agency
where I’m employed
most of the time,
is Director of CEO Branding.So my job is to help CEOs tell
their part of the brand story
on behalf of a company, so
I’ve done all the other things
under that and now I’m
like a, CEO, level,
and have no takers on that
yet, so it’s brand new
but we’re seeing a need for
that, so we’ll see what happens.
– Is that a new title, is that?– It’s a new title before I
was Director of Transformation.
– Yeah that’s they
one I was right.
– Yeah which is still
what I do really,
but we’re pushing this idea
that CEOs need their own brand
that relates in a logical
way to the company brand,
and that’s a pretty
delicate balance,
’cause you could overpower a
brand by emphasizing the leader
instead of the company
and vice versa.
– Yeah there’s a balance
thing there, that you’ve got
to kinda get right,
and that’s something
that we could talk
about later on.
– So 30 CEOs out there
open for business.
(chuckling gently)– Great so I suppose you’ve beenin the design and brand worldfor a reasonable
amount of time now,
we’d be interested to kinda
know of like when it all began,
where did your journey start?– Well, I started as an
assistant to Gutenberg,
and I’ve been, since
several centuries now,
I was a graphic designer,and that’s all I ever wanted
to be, graphic designer.
And after about 20, 30
years of that, I realized,
that profession is incomplete
because there’s a gap
between any kind of design
really and business strategy,
two different worlds,
different languages.
And the result of thatis that design can’t
be very effective
unless it’s really attached
to business outcomes,
and so I realized I had
to do something about that
just ’cause I couldn’t keep
just doing the same thing.
You can be super designer,
but if you’re not as concerned
about results as the
leaders of the companies
you’re working for, there’s
a limit to what you can do,
so you can do really
great work in a vacuum
and win lots of awards,
but where are you?
I got tired of all that
after about 20, 30 years
and started looking for ways
to connect the two worlds,
which led to my
book. The Brand Gap,
I identified that gap and
it resonated with people,
and that was
life-changing for me.
But I was pretty
senior at that stage,
I was probably late 50s
when I ran with that.
– And how did the
book come around?
What was your
thinking at the time?
What was the reason why you feltyou had to get back
into the world?
– Well I had before that,
sort of work my way up
in the design world
from a general designer
doing everything
to moving to Silicon Valleyand focusing only on tech
clients, which is pretty absurd
because I know nothing about
technology to this day,
but I realized that that’s
not what they need from me,
is to know their
business, what they needed
is help translate what
they do into action
in the marketplace, which
means developing a language
around technology, there
was nobody doing that
when I came here.Like making it friendlier,making it understandable,
so my first clients
were like Atari and
Apple and Adobe Systems
and I helped introduce
the Macintosh Plus,
and it was the first one
that you could actually
do something with like you
could print things using that.
And Adobe helped them
launch PostScript
because nobody knew
how to explain that.
– And this was about
2000, is that right?
– Well this would be before
that, this is 19 late eighties.
– Probably late 80s ,sorry yeah.– Late 80s yeah, and I did that,and I realized that the idea
of specializing in something
for a designer was
very powerful, or
anybody, any business,
specializing is a way to
increase profitability,
because you
eliminate competition
the more specialized you are.So I was specialized
in technology,
but I realized that if
I specialize further,
I could make higher profits
if I could find something
I wanted to specialize in,then realized what I
really wanted to do
was the packages that
software came in.
But she doesn’t do
that too much anymore,
I don’t think you get
it in the package,
you just download it.But at the time you
had to go into a store
and buy it on the
shelf, and I thought
that’s a pretty cool
thing to work on,
I don’t know anything
about packaging,
but the front of a
package is like a poster
and it’s got an
image of something
and it’s got a
logo, I like logos.
The back is like a selling ad,
the side is like a data sheet
and I can do all those things.And so I just took
that on as a specialty,
I just decided I will learneverything there was
to learn about it.
And by testing, research,
in the store with customers,
and then I just presented
myself as the only guy
who knew anything about
it, and which was true,
I didn’t know that much, but
was the only one who cared
enough to learn about it.And in the course of doing
that, Apple became my client,
I did all the
software for Apple.
All the major software companies
had to at least talk to me,
and so that was
really successful,
and in the course of that,
I started to understand
that I needed
information from them
about what they were trying
to do with their business,
and they couldn’t give it to
me, they actually had no plan.
There was no
strategy other than,
oh, we’re gonna
make some software
and see if we can
sell a lot of it,
and you know how to do
that, so yeah, I said, I do,
but I have to know why this
product that you create,
is better than that one that’s
next to it on the shelf.
And you’re not able to give
me that, and they said,
well, it’s got all these
features and it does this
and that and that,
and I said, well,
what does that add up to?I mean, who cares about that?Sure people read all that and
they try to make a decision,
but you’re not helping them,so what can you say
in 10 words or less
that makes people wanna buy
this one instead of this one?
They didn’t know,so that was something
we learned how to do,
so working at the product level
of how to brand something,
how to message it, we learned
how to do whole companies
and realized that companiesdidn’t know how
to do this either,
even though they
talked about branding.
So I set out to like, what
is this branding thing?
And all it really
was at the time
in the minds of business people,was well branding is logos
and colors and type faces
and advertising campaigns
and things like that.
And I’m like no it’s not,
it’s not, it can’t be that,
it’s gotta be something
much more important.
So that led to thinking
and writing about branding,
I had a magazine at the
time for graphic designers,
it was about graphic
design thinking,
the first magazine
on design thinking.
And I talked about it a lotand I kind of met
with resistance.
People back then, they didn’t
wanna hear any of that,
strategy, business,
blah, blah, blah,
and a bunch of bad things
happened to the business
all at the same time.We had 9/11, the
Stock Market Crash,
and something else
like slips my mind,
and I think another thing.– They don’t come
in ones, do they?
They come in many forms.– Crashing down on me,and I lost my packaging
business, the design magazine
and I let all my employees go,never had to do that
in my whole life.
My wife and I had built this
business up over 30 years
and very carefully,
and then suddenly
it just crashes like that.– What’s that team that you
had, how many people were you?
– I think we had 15,
not as big as you guys,
and we were doing, I
would say 75% magazine
and the other 25% was
supporting the magazine,
which hadn’t made a profit
yet and everything collapsed.
And so I had to let
everybody go, sadly,
and sitting around in a
warehouse with unsold magazines
by myself, and I thought,
okay, what happens now?
And I thought, you know,
I’m doing this all wrong,
I’m trying to tell
creative people
how to understand businesswhen all these business
people are just clamoring
to know more about how
they can use design,
they see the value in
it in some vague way,
but they don’t know
anything about it.
So I thought, I’ve just got
it backwards, typical for me,
I get everything backwards
before I get it right.
So I decided I was gonna talk
to them, I wrote the Brand Gap
to talk about that and instant
success, it was a home run,
my publishers after a few weekssaid your book is an evergreen.I said, I don’t even
know what that is,
that means it’s
gonna sell forever.
And they were right, it sells
the same amount every year,
never slowed down in the 15
years that it’s been going,
and that led to
many other books.
– And how many does it sell a
year now roughly just design?
– Seven and a couple others
that aren’t business books,
just for the heck of it,
but and I’m not gonna stop
because that’s my medium,
I’m a graphic designer,
I can design them,
I can write them.
I picked up writing on the waysjust as a journalist
writing about design,
and also then I had this
magazine for five years
that I was the editor of and
I had to write lots of stuff.
So writing a book was just an
ordinary stuff at that stage,
so, that’s how I started
this whole thing,
and then that led to a
company called Neutron,
helping companies understand
branding from the inside,
so instead of doing all
the work on the outside
like you guys are doing,
I just said, done that,
the need is, how do we get
companies on the inside
to embrace this, to
know how to use design,
to be prepared to
capitalize on it,
and that was an instant success.Large companies were saying,come in and just tell
us how to do this,
help us work together,
help us collaborate,
tell us who to hire
for advertising,
for design, for products.And so we created a little
kind of boutique company
just handling the best
clients, the ones we wanted,
and it was quite profitable.– And did you niche so
again on a sector there?
Or did you niche on
the service offering,
– It was the service offering
and we did some design
but all the design was
for internal use only
and that was never
seen by the outside,
but it was award-winning design.I mean if it was the
other kind of design,
we would have gotten
a lot of attention,
but that’s not
what we were doing,
it was all proprietary client,
only the company saw it,
but it was the highest
quality design we could do,
and it was just great
because for the first time
our clients didn’t
tell us what they liked
and what they didn’t like
and what they wanted from us,
and what was good, what was bad,which they had no
business doing anyway
because they don’t
know anything about it.
But they hired us on the basisthat they don’t know
anything about it,
and so whatever we did, they
would just sign off on it,
it would be, it’s not
important to them.
The important thing is
they’re getting their culture
aligned around innovation.– Yeah We do a lot of that
in terms of we call it
kind of branding
from the inside out.
– Exactly I think that might
have been our tag line.
(laughing)I was branding
from the inside out
So, and I think
it’s only just now
starting to be a big thing
that a lot of companies
can get involved in
because leaders now realize
cultures and I thought
the right culture,
that’s the biggest
thing, that’s the thing
they have the
biggest problem with
because you wouldn’t
think that CEOs
would have any difficulty
getting people to follow them,
they have all the power.But that’s what
they complain about,
is like I don’t know what’s
wrong with this company?
I tell them what
we’re trying to do
and they just don’t follow
me, like how could that be?
(laughing)Well, because they don’t
have the right systems,
they’re not incentivizing
people in the proper way,
they’re incentivizing maybe
with the low-level incentives
like money instead of,
hey, we want you to join in
and help us be successful and
that’s gonna be great for you
because you’re gonna
get opportunities
like you never thought possible,
that’s what people want,
they don’t want a little
perk here and there,
a free tote bag for
doing something.
So that’s been huge,and so I sold that
company to Liquid Agency,
and they absorbed all my
materials and methods,
which left me free to go
around the world like I am now
and talk about this, and
write books, and do workshops.
– So does that free you
from the business side?
(mumbling)– No spreadsheets, no
employees, no responsibilities,
and I think you can relate.(laughing)Well I couldn’t have done
that in the beginning,
I had to earn that right,
but I’m at that stage in life
where I really love doing
that and I like travel,
so, and now I’m
working with Andy
to make more of that happen.So we have a little enterprise,
to teach leaders, designers,
strategists, more about branding
specifically about branding
and certify them in
this at various levels,
like almost a karate,
kind of like a black belt
whole kind of thing.But we have five tiers and we
just released the first tier,
and it looks like it’s
gonna be big success,
we’ve got just people
saying, I work in,
are you gonna bring
it to our country?
When can we take it?When’s the next one in London?So we think it’s gonna be big
and this is gonna be our job.
– Brilliant.
– And the great thing about it
is it’s translatable to
any country, isn’t it?
Any culture or anything.– If they speak English, yeah.(laughing)Because I don’t
speak anything else.
– Where in this time
when did you realize
that you were a designer?or that that was your calling?– When did I realize I was a
designer, when I was seven,
yeah I knew it, I was like,
you know when they ask you
what do you want to
be when you grow up?
And when the kid over there
says, I wanna be a firetruck.
(laughing)‘Cause I wanna be a
commercial artist,
and everyone went, what is that?But I knew because my
mother went to art school
and she showed me how to
draw, and that was magic,
I mean if you can draw
when you’re seven years old
or something and you draw a birdor like I drew these really
complicated clipper ships
with all the sails and
perspective coming at you
and the kids were like,
like photographically,
’cause I learned
to make it look.
To me that’s just there was
nothing magic about that really,
it looks magic when it’s
done, but it’s just seeing,
it’s just about seeing
things in perspective
and being good about
measuring stuff with your eye,
and being careful, and if
you care enough to do that,
you can do it.– And so are you just
doing strategy side now?
or you still, do you still?– I design my books and
all my presentations,
so that’s enough design
for me, I get to do it
exactly the way I
want and that’s great,
and we hope to be doing some
video and stuff like that
in the future too, which I’m
looking forward to doing.
– Yeah, now I know
how you describe brand
and then, I really like
hearing different people,
how do they describe it.You know, Jeff Bezos,
Amazon talks about,
is what other people saywhen you’re not in the
room looking at a room.
– Yeah, he didn’t invent that.(laughing)No, it wasn’t by then,
I’ve heard it before,
none of these CEOs say
anything original by the way,
you think they’re, they’re not.But it’s great that
they’re saying it,
Steve Jobs said a lot of things
that I’ve heard before too,
but it’s that
Steve Jobs said it.
– Yeah, so I’d love
in your own words,
how do you say, how do
you describe pro branders?
– It’s a person’s gut
feeling about a product,
service or organization.So the idea there is that we
make our purchasing decisions
more through
emotions than logic,
even though we try to use logic.(mumbling)We do it through emotion and
then we rationalize it later,
and often, I mean, think
about you’re gonna buy a car,
and there’s all
these cars out there
and a lot of them have similar
features, but you know,
they’re different, they
look a little different,
but you could get it
anyone and just drive it,
it’s not gonna be
that different.
But there’s so many
features and so many numbers
to think about, torque
and braking power,
and stopping distance.(mumbling)Who knows?You know I’m not a car person,but if you start looking
at things that way
and then consider
price and all that,
you just drive yourself nuts.And so when people
start that way,
and maybe they make a decision
maybe on one or two features,
I like the trunk
space or something,
usually it’s you can’t,
you have to do it
through gut feeling,
it’s the best way to do it.– It’s a trade you
wanna join, Isn’t it?
I did that interest
thing, I did a talk,
quite like go over there
over there and I took cars,
and took all the badges of them,all the logos of all the
cars, all the models,
and I put them up to the
audience, and I said,
do you want number number one,
number two, or number three?
And like they didn’t go
for the most expensive car,
they ended up going for
the one that looked better
without the badges.– It might have been a
Hyundai or something.
– And then I can’t remember
exactly what it was,
but then I put
the badges back on
and suddenly they
all want the Audi.
(chuckling)– That’s the best way, that’s
a very good, the exercise,
take any old car and
put a BMW badge on it
and see how much the price goes.How much do you
think this car costs?
– It’s good social
experiment there, isn’t it?
There’s something
that they’d enjoy.
– And that’s the
value of that brand,
if you multiply that by
all the cars being sold,
that’s the incremental
value that the brand adds.
And brands can add, they
can be more than 50%
of the market cap of a company.With Apple I’m sure it’s
like 70%, it’s just nothing,
it’s in our heads, right?It’s what we think about Apple.And I saw that in action,
about maybe 20 years ago now,
but when I was doing
a lot of research
in software and hardware stores,testing our package designs,I would see all the computers
lined up on the table.
And there was an iMac
was the one with,
that kind of looked like
a big see through bubble,
bright colors and stuff,
next to an eMachines,
which had the same kind of
look, maybe not quite as cool,
but pretty close, side by side.And the eMachines, this is
when apple was trying to do
what Microsoft did, which
was to license software,
so it wasn’t just there,
wasn’t a walled garden.
And so they had, this
was the first company
that was licensing Apple’s OS.And so they had it
and side by side,
and there’s a little
card on each one,
that says what the specs are,
and the specs were the same,
except for the eMachines had
some specs that were better,
so in other words, this machine
is actually better than,
slightly better than, okay.And so the Macintosh was $1,300
and the eMachines was $700,
you’d think that people
will go, well, look at,
it’s just clearly better
and the price is amazing,
we’ll take it, nobody
bought it, nobody.
They all wanted the Apple, why?Because of the meaning,
I’m joining that tribe
and I trust apple, they’re
gonna stick with me,
I know what they’re about,
they care about design,
I care about design
or whenever it is
that you could care about,
simplicity, I need simplicity.
So, good lesson right
there, so that means,
large, large part of Apple’s
value is in their brand
and nothing concrete
or material.
– Yeah, and you saw
all this change,
we all buy in tribes now,
companies that are no longer,
there’s this, kinda
tribe, surrounds,
make brave and campfire.You saw that stuff really early,how do you keep
ahead all the time?
How are you seeing further
ahead and kinda keep up?
Andy and I were just
talking about that,
and interestingly, you’d
think that I’d be like reading
all detailed reports of
everything that comes out,
I don’t at all, in fact,
the more I do that,
the worse I get in prediction.(chuckling)If I don’t pay attention
and just let things
hit me from far away, the most
important things get through
and the other ones down, and
that’s all I’ve ever done,
and be willing to not
believe everything
that people believe.– Something great in that,
we talked about that,
it’s just like don’t
look at everyone else,
if it’s working in
your gut, it’s right
and you’re moving forwardand it’s going the right
direction, just keep.
– Yeah, for me it’s not my gutas much as I’m
questioning everything,
anything that people believe,
I go, is that really true?
And then I think what
would make it untrue?
What would be good about
not doing it that way?
And so most of my insights
come from just thinking wrong
about things, like I said,
I make the wrong decision
about everything, we’re
staying in hotels.
Andy can attest to this,
if I come out of my room,
even if I’ve just come into
the room for the first time
I come out, I will
turn the wrong way.
I will just go the
wrong way then go, ah.
(mumbling)The elevator’s the other
way, I don’t know what it is.
(chuckling)My mother taught me
how to tie my shoes
and I decided I
couldn’t do it that way,
had to do it a different way.And I did that, I’m
still doing it that way,
so it’s just a mindset for
me, and I’m very interested
in what’s gonna happen next,
like what should happen?
More like, what should happen?And then I have to test
that against reality,
is it really going to happen?How long is it gonna take?So just don’t accept
anything at its face value,
don’t accept that the way thingsare the way they should be.And you’ll start thinking
about what’s probably next,
and then be careful
about that too,
’cause you can just
mistime by years and years.
– Yeah, do you ever find that
you pre-empt things too early?
– Always, yeah, I
have to think about,
if nobody else is talking
about what I wanna talk about,
it’s probably too early.I mean, I wrote a book,called Metaskills: Six
Talents for the Robotic Age,
this was 10 years ago
now, no, not 10 years ago,
seven years ago.About the workplace
of the future
when machines start to
really get in high gear
and they become
really predictive,
they do a lot of work
that we’re doing now.
What becomes of us, what
does it mean to be human
in an age of artificial
intelligence?
And then my whole
thinking was, well,
our human creativity is gonna
come to the fort, it has to,
that’s what’s gonna be valuable.And so I laid out
the whole thing
about where’s that come from?And I went all the way back
to the beginning of the world,
basically, I had to do a
lot of research for that.
Beginning of the world,
who knows what happened?
Well I do now.So I started with the
cave paintings in France,
that I visited ’cause
we have a house there,
wonderful cave paintings and
draw a straight line from there
to where we are and
then say, okay, now,
we can see this whole pattern,
it’s laid out in front of us.
There’s nothing surprising
about what’s happening now,
all this technology, this isn’t
machines really, this is us,
this is an extension
of human beings.
So, but we have choiceswhere are we gonna
take all this stuff?
So it lays out a case for
the importance of aesthetics,
and what are they?Or what is it?How will we be valuable
as human beings
when machines take over
a lot of this work?
And so that was kind of
way ahead of its time,
and still today, I think it’s
hardly gets any readership
at all except by philosophers.And I was really meaning it for
policy makers and educators,
but they’re like, you don’t
know what a big change this is
to introduce this kind of
stuff from where we are now.
And so I realized
okay, slow down.
(laughing loudly)I overshot that by 20 years,it’s not hard to
do that by the way,
it’s not a genius or anything.It’s just like you just
read the tea leaves,
you see where everything’s
going, you’re, okay.
I mean, I’m reading people that
are predicting 50 years out,
so I can probably
be pretty correct,
but what good does that to you?(mumbling)I’m gonna be maybe 10 years
ahead max, so it’s doable
and my books will last that
long and that’s the sweet spot,
and it’s hard to hit sometimes.– How much of your
success, I suppose to date,
do you attribute to the books?Do you think it was based
on the launch of Brand Gap?
And that set you off.
– Everything.
And I know people
don’t read books,
blah, blah, blah.Yes, they do the
right people do,
and a book makes you clarify
your logic, it’s there forever,
it’s printed there.And if you’re serious about
doing a book that will last,
you really have to make sure
every single word is right,
and that makes you think
of a really precise way.
And I need that ’cause
I’m not a precise person,
I’m really intuitive, and
so this is kind of like,
runs counter to who
I am, so I need that,
that’s how I do it.I have to do a lot of research,I have to keep very good notes.I have to make sure it’ll
just logic and everything,
but at the same time
I’m surprising people,
so they turned the page.– And how long does that
process take for years?
– Now these books, like The
Brand Flip that you have there.
– Yeah (laughing).– Thank you, is probably, after
I do the initial research,
nine months from including a
writing and design, production,
so pretty short, but then I
might do two years of reading
before that, kind of figuring
out what I wanna say.
And I don’t ever start a bookuntil I have a title
and a cover design,
because I’ve seen how
that can go wrong,
if like, you write a beautiful
book and it was like,
what are we gonna call it?And then you pick something
stupid and then some designer
does a really bad
job in the cover.
I’ve done bad jobs on
my own cover, so I mean
I know how easy that is, but
I always have that first so.
– And do you write all of it,and do you work with writers or?– Well interestingly, good
question, I do have help,
my last book called Scramble
is a business thriller,
so it’s written as
piece of fiction
because it enabled me to get
into the heads of executives,
as they’re trying to do
advanced work on branding.
Like, what’s that really like?It’s not just following
lists and everything,
It’s gotta be much
more nuanced than that,
and of course it is, because
when you’re trying to do
any kind of new thing in the
business, you’ve got obstacles,
you got setbacks, you got
human beings to deal with,
you got saboteurs in
your own backyard,
all this stuff happens,
it’s pretty thrilling stuff.
So why not just
write it that way
and illustrate it with a storythat instead of trying to find
an example in the real world,
and then not really
knowing the full story.
You can get a case study
and guess at things,
but you’re never
gonna have a CEO
tell you how he felt
about something.
So what I did is I had a
bunch of CEOs, especially one,
Andrea Dorigo, who
loved my book Metaskill.
So that dared me to meet
him immediately and he says,
you know, you really
should write that,
write a book as a story
and I’ll help you,
’cause you haven’t
run a big company.
And so I used him
and some other CEOs
and a bunch of other
audience members
to help me through this story,the whole plot and what’s
in it and everything.
So, I would just release
a chapter at a time
to first to my CEO friends
and then and then later
to the whole the rest of
the potential audience
and got lots of feedback.Like, I love that character,or that doesn’t
ring true for me,
or you’re leaving out something
that I’ve experienced.
It’s like, oh yeah, cow, so
I go back and rewrite it,
so, there’s 40,
about 40 chapters,
so that’s 40
conversations really.
And then that was key,I don’t think it
would’ve been on target
without hearing
back from people.
So you have a hit before
you even publish it,
people were saying, I’m
gonna buy 10 of these
for my whole team, and
I think it’s great.
I don’t know if I could do thatwith my other whiteboard
books because it’d be so much,
so many new ideas in there
that I would just end up
going in circles with peoplewho couldn’t quite
understand it.
So in that case,I would have to just
really think through it.
But when a story, people relate
to stories really easily,
so if it doesn’t ring
true, they’ll tell you.
– Why do you think
storytelling has become so big?
I’m a big believer in
storytelling and obviously.
– Because of the world
world is really complex
and we can’t understand it
logically, it’s just too hard.
That’s why Netflix,
and Amazon and Apple
are going crazy with
content and stories
because it’s the way we can get
at these complicated issues,
and all the
complexities in there.
But somehow we manage to
understand that better
than if you broke it down
into just the principles
and rules to follow.– You speak about
research a lot as well,
how do you think you
get research right?
And why do you think it’s
an important valuable bit
of making good work?– Well, it depends
what it is, so I mean,
if you’re talking about books,if I know what the title
is, and what the subject is,
and what I want
people to take away,
then I have to make sure I
understand all the parts.
I’ll do it, like here
are the parts I need
to make this case, and
now here’s a few parts,
I really don’t understand, I
don’t know a lot about retail
for example, what the
challenges are there,
so let me read a couple
books on those challenges
and they may be kind
of dry for most people,
but I’m taking notes,
and I’m saying,
that’s a great insight.And so with my research
is mostly reading,
a lot of it’s online,
a lot of it’s in books,
and I have a giant stack
of three by five cards,
and anything I see that
strikes me as usable hour,
I’ll write it out,
the whole thing,
might fill up a whole card and
I’ll just put it in a pile.
And as I’m thinking about
that, I may say, Oh,
I’ve got an insight
that nobody said,
write that down, this
is something I’ve seen,
okay, write that.So I’ve got all these
cards and then at the end,
I just go through them all
and I put them in piles
and those piles become
chapters and those chapters
could put in a certain
order that makes sense,
and then I have all these
things to talk about,
and then I can start writing.And some cards never get used,
but it flows pretty quickly,
then it’s just a journeyman
work at that stage.
You’re just like plowing
through it, you’re writing,
you’re seeing how to make
connections, you go back.
And I would say, typically
when I write a book,
by the time I get to the end,the first draft is about
90% good, it’s not rough.
I can’t stand going back
and untangling things
that never should
have been written.
So it’s just really
about tidying things up
and tying loose ends, making
sure that you foreshadow things
that you’re gonna
talk about later,
that when they hit in
the end they resonate
’cause you read it
in the beginning
when, ah, ah, fantastic,
especially with fiction.
You see all that stuff
becomes really important,
characters become important,
foreshadowing, emotions,
the emotional arc of a story
is it has its own story.
And you have to pay
attention to that
if you want people to get
to the end of the book.
So I learned a lot of that
through Scramble my latest book
and if that does what
I think it’ll do,
I’ll probably be write.I have two more and I have
the covers and titles already.
– I’m halfway through that
on Audible at the moment.
– On Audible, hey, how is it?– It’s good, I don’t
know about the end,
this one’s not on
Audible, is it?
– It isn’t.(mumbling)Because so I’m
publishing my books now,
because Amazon has forced us
all to become self publishers,
it’s just, there’s
no money in it
if you work through a
publisher for them or you.
So they’ve kind of forced
us into this position,
So, and then I own
the rights to it,
and I can do my own audio books’cause if the publisher
doesn’t pay for it,
I mean just to record a normal
audio book is about $10,000
and it takes maybe a week
of time to record it,
and then to edit it, and
then rehearsing before that,
all that stuff takes time,and if they don’t
wanna pay for it,
but they’re gonna
make all the money.
So I did Zag if you’re
interested in it,
one of the whiteboard books.– Yeah, I’ve read it, I
have a question to that one.
– Okay, and I really like
it and I learned a lot
with this last one about
reading, like dramatic reading
that I started paying
attention to actors
and how you use your voice
and I’m still not there yet,
but I think I made
it halfway there.
– I like how quick these
are, these are really good.
– It’s called whiteboard
overviews and they were designed
to be read in two
hours out a plane.
– Yeah I get that,
well not in a plane,
but I did it under two
hours, so, they worked.
(giggling)– But they should be
rich enough with insights
that you keep going back
because you’re, what is it?
How do I express that?I need to talk to my
client about that,
and you can go back and
find it pretty easily.
– That’s totally what we do,
our creative director Steven,
he’s always running over,
come here man remember this
can I highlight
some things in here.
– So I’ve taken, just
taking those things
and sticking them
right at the end,
so you don’t have to even look
for them, they’re just there.
You know, it’s interesting
on Kindle books,
people read those books and
then they highlight things
in their copies and that
shows up on everybody’s,
once you get to like
a little sentence
that a lot of people have
underlined, it’s underlined,
you buy the book and
it’s already underlined
by everybody else, and it’s for
an author, I can go and say.
– Yeah, they’re a lot.
– Those are a lot, yeah.
Well somebody once said, I
started highlighting everything
and then well whole
book was yellow .
(mumbling)Pre-highlighted story,but I love to go
through my Kindle books
and go, oh, that’s what people
are really liking a lot,
to me that was almost a
throwaway, but to them,
that’s really important.– I’m gonna keep my pen.– And then I’ll keep that
and pull that forward
or I’ll put it in a talk and
make sure that I cover that,
because obviously people
think that’s important,
so that’s kind interesting.– Yeah, and I’ve got a
sort of question around
sometimes when you
go into a company
and you know the brand
needs to change or evolve,
or something needs to happen.The first job usually as a
creative agency or your strategy
is that you’ve got
a board of people
and sometimes you’ve got half
a board that don’t agree.
They don’t believe in branding
and another half that do,
and want to see change, and we
do a lot of trying to educate
on what brand
means at that point
and why they should
invest in it.
I’m interested to know
how you approach that part
of the creative process.So when you’ve got a room
that still not bought in
and you arrive, and what
does that look like?
– We don’t get to work
with boards of directors
very much because
they met separately.
If we did, that
would be interesting.
Sometimes they get
a board member in on
what we call a swarm
where we have all the leaders
together with our team,
banging through some prototypesof what change would
look like in some form.
It’s nice to have
a representative
from the board there
who can report back, but
mostly it’s getting the CEO
and the other leaders togetherwith the appropriate
department heads,
and the project
owners, whatever it is.
And getting an understanding
together of what a brand is,
what it could mean
for the company?
A good idea of
where they are now,
and a good idea of
where they could go,
and then trying to figure
out a path between A and B,
which may require rewriting
the purpose of the company,
could require a
repositioning products
or the company itself.It could require
changing the culture,
it may be inventing some
products, like in a rough form
and whatever it takes.We plan a week, like five
days, four to five days
of just eight hours of
really intense work.
Everybody working at the
same time, all at once,
to come up with
some visualization
of what the future looks like.It could be products,
it could be a new name,
it could be a new business
model, it could be anything.
And it’s really intense for
people who haven’t done this,
it’s intense for us,
but for the company,
they’re seeing their life
flash in front of them
because they’re seeing
a lot of bad ideas
getting thrown out, and
they’re going, no, no,
we can’t do that.But we always say, look, bad
ideas can turn into good ideas
because, ideas are like,
they’re like babies,
they’re helpless, you
have to nurture them.
You don’t give up a baby just
because it can’t hold a job,
you raise them right,
then you train them,
and so, and don’t worry
about the bad ideas,
they will never end up
seeing the light of day,
but the bad ideas are
stepping stones to good ideas,
and so once they understand
that they can relax
and just say, you know, you
are in total control of this.
But wait until you
see what happens
because it’s gonna be amazing.How you’re going to see ideas
that you never even imagined,
just sort of come to
life out of things
like purpose and
differentiation,
and a bunch of minds working
on this at the same time.
Later we can test
our assumptions
and make sure they’re right,
we can do all that research,
but we can get really farjust with the brains
we have in this room.
Watershed moment for me,
I moved to Silicon Valley
because I saw what Apple
was doing and I thought,
wow, these guys are so
creative, these two Steves,
and I know they would
really appreciate
what I could bring to this,because I can see what
they’re trying to do
and I know I could
help them do that.
I need to get to know them firstand see if there’s any
relationship possible.
So I moved my company
from Southern California
up to Silicon Valley and
started getting clients.
And I got my chance,redesigning all the packaging
for all their software,
which they had published under
a different name, Claris,
so Claris was their company.They spun off this
whole software
and that’s, I mean that was
a watershed project for me
because we transformed
not only their packaging
but the whole software
packaging industry.
We created a look
that everyone copied.
– Still going.– Oh yeah, a logic to the
system and how you do it,
what goes on the front of a
package, the back, the side,
the top, what you
have to say about it,
how you talk about
it, how you sell it,
all that stuff we pioneered,
and yes, like you say,
it’s still going in some form.But that was great for usand we became a really
successful company.
– Is that your favorite project?Your most iconic?Or the one that you’ve(mumbling)– Of all the graphic
design projects I’ve done,
I probably would point to that,
because I love the people,
I loved working with the
CEO of their company,
and I learned a lot,
and a lot about testing.
So up to that point, designers
don’t like to test anything,
they don’t wanna really know
when people think of it,
they wanna believe something
about how great their work is.
They don’t really want to knowbecause they might have
to change something,
or they might feel bad about it,so, we don’t we don’t
really test those things.
It’s all intuition,
and we’re just so smart
that we don’t need to do that.Well I kinda thought
maybe we’re smart,
but I can probably sell a
lot more of these projects
if I can make companies feelthat the package that
they choose is going
to be successful,
before they even
bring it to market,
because we’ve proven it in
theory really, but with testing,
in an actual store with actual
customers buying products
in that actual category.So we can just invent this
really quick way of doing that,
and it was hugely successful,and boy did I learn
a lot about design
and what I didn’t know about it,and what none of
us knew about it.
Most designers,especially when they get
really sophisticated,
they overshoot the
audience by 10 miles.
I mean they really expect that
people are gonna see stuff
in their work that they see,
and it’s not true at all.
They don’t care about
that, they’re just focused
on some very superficial
thing, and if you forget that,
it doesn’t matter how
deep your design is,
if it doesn’t work
on the shallow level,
it’s not gonna work.So I learned a lot about that
and what I learned really
is don’t trust yourself,
test everything.
Anything that’s important,
test it first, learn from it.
And you’ll be learning about
different groups of people,
how different groups
of people think,
depending on what
profession they’re from,
or what social
tribe they’re from,
they’re gonna think differently,they’re gonna have the
sort of group thing
that you can tap into.And it’s probably not
gonna be your group,
it’ll be somebody else’s
if you’re a professional.
So, it’s good to
learn about that,
and the more you learn
to respect your audience,
the better your work is.And that’s a lesson
that designers
still need to get cozy with.– Do you think that
testing help the client
to trust you to do
something more creative?
– Absolutely, yeah, they
stopped telling us what to do
because they asked us
okay, what should we do now
that we got that feedback?We have some ideas, and
so they stopped telling us
how to design stuff,
we like the blue ones.
Not matter anymore,
and I said, yeah,
what if we show you the blue
one, it’s the third best
out of these, you’re
still gonna like it?
Well, no, probably not.If we think customers
are gonna buy it,
that’s the good one, yeah, well.It doesn’t mean that
aesthetics don’t count,
all that stuff,
those are all tools
to get something to happen
with in people’s heads.
But aesthetics by themselves,
can really mislead you,
and take you in the
wrong direction.
– How do you think in
the kind of, I suppose,
age of the algorithm where
things are infinitely optimized
and machine learning,
how do you keep
the kind of creative
magic alive?
– Well we’ll see, I don’t know,I think it’s just another
battle we all have to fight,
it’s like, when is it good
and when isn’t it good?
Can machines know something
that people don’t know?
Maybe, can they
believe something that
people don’t believe?
No, probably not,’cause it’s more like machines
will reflect our beliefs
more than our desire
for actual knowledge.
You could program something
to do anything probably,
I don’t know.I think it’s that the whole
thing is like emotions
can lead you to better
understanding sometimes
than the numbers, evidence.So you have to weigh bothand see if there’s a
difference between them
and then to kinda decide, and
negotiate that difference.
This is not an easy
time we’re heading into,
it’s not gonna make
everything easy.
– Thanks Marty,
thanks for joining us,
you’ve been an absolute delight.And thanks to you guys
and thanks for joining us
for our second episode
of Just a chat with,
and the next one that
will be out in one month.

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