Intention, Cohesion, and Dinosaurs

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Before striking out on my own with Collective, I worked with multiple agencies and in-house design departments. One of those companies was Very Good Chairs, Inc. (VGC.)* As you might guess, they make very good chairs. The company recently celebrated their 100th year of business. They have a reputation for doing honest work and creating good quality, no-nonsense wooden chairs. Their marketing materials usually look a little something like this.


chair example

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the well-meaning but horribly misguided.


One day I was asked to meet with one of the sales managers to discuss an upcoming ad campaign. He had lots of ideas. Here are a few of them, verbatim:

“Our current stuff is boring.”

“I don’t like the wood backgrounds”

“A new chair store just opened up down the block. They know how to market. Their logo is FIRE! People love fire! If we don’t put fire in our new campaign, nobody is going to buy chairs from us.”

“The new campaign also needs some patriotic elements.”

“My son really loves dinosaurs right now. Dinosaurs sell.”

If the sales manager was solely responsible for that campaign, this is what it would have looked like.



I can’t blame the guy’s enthusiasm. This is fun stuff! But let’s pause.

Ignore the fact that fire would actually set the chairs ablaze and that dinosaurs have nothing to do with chairs. Personal tastes aside, his ideas didn’t make it out of that conference room because they simply weren’t consistent with the brand.

Imagine that for generations your family had purchased all of their chairs from Very Good Chairs, Inc. Then one day you see a billboard for VGC with fire, dinosaurs, and eagles. Best case scenario: you don’t recognize it at all. Other likely reactions: you see all the fire and confuse the billboard for that of the new chair shop down the block (essentially paying for the competition’s advertising, classic) or you recognize the company name but (understandably) assume the store must have new owners and (likely) new values. All of these scenarios are bad for business.

VGC survived for 100 years by keeping a cohesive brand. They valued craftsmanship, hard work, and community. Those values showed through in every part of their business from the way they interacted with their customers to the simple signage in their retail store.



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My favorite web designer/adventurer/spirit animal, Emily Thompson of Indie Shopography, says it best, “consistency breeds legitimacy.” Amen.

Consumers want to do business with brands they know, like, and trust. The number one way to build trust is through consistency. It’s about more than just slapping your logo in the corner of an ad. Look for it in your online presence, your print materials, in all the little details like price tags or to-go bags. Build a cohesive brand by using the same fonts, colors, textures, and photography styles in all of your materials.

That doesn’t mean every ad or brochure should be repetitive and predictable. Cohesion ≠ boring.

Here’s how one of the most valuable, recognizable brands in the world does it.


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on the web



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on Twitter



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on YouTube



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on Facebook



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on Instagram



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on television



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on Tumblr



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in the air



They’re everywhere. And they keep it fresh with only two colors and a couple of typefaces.



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A less “corporate” example of cohesion is the Puffin Chalk series of books by the amazingly talented Dana Tanamachi. She was commissioned by Puffin Books to illustrate and hand letter a series of well-known children’s books. The finished products are easily identifiable as a set while staying super strong on their own.




Tanamachi is really well known and respected for her intricate chalk illustrations. She produces each by hand with chalk at a large scale. Once completed, the works are photographed and resized for digital production. See her in action here:

Puffin Chalk: Peter Pan from Dana Tanamachi on Vimeo.


Whether you’re opening a new business or you’ve been doing this for years, be intentional with your design. Have brand standards in place and use them. Make sure everything you create/post/say/present is in line with those standards. That consistency is what will set you apart from your competitors and elevate your business.


If you have questions about how to create a cohesive brand or how to get yours on track, we’re here for you.

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