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The e4 Method.

Every company has a culture which defines it. At GO2, we are defined by our people — all from various backgrounds — strategy, art, copy, account services, interactive, sales, operations and more. It’s a place that houses a group of unique individuals who can take on daily client challenges with a flexible attitude and a heart of passion. With all of these different types of personalities and smart minds, we all need a framework to follow — a backbone to hold us all together. That is where our e4 Method comes into play. It’s a common ground that our company stands on knowing it will get us to the end results that will please our clients and help lift their brands in the market place.

So what is the e4 Method? It’s our process; it’s how we function internally as an agency to generate the best customer experiences, strongest creative materials and the most impressive results. There are 4 steps that lend themselves to one another for a continuous creative cycle.

Step 1 – Engage
Within this step, account services is taking the lead and introducing our team to the client. It’s an onboarding step where everyone meets each other and gets to know who the players are on both sides. The client is getting a great understanding of our capabilities, and we as an agency are listening close to the client’s points of pain and understanding their industry challenges. Rough timelines are also shared so the agency has a sense of timing.

Step 2 — Evaluate
We just had a client kickoff meeting to get to know them, and a great amount of data was collected. Now is the time our strategy team dives deep into studying the information. Once understood, the strategy team comes back with an outlined plan of action. Fueled with strategic tactics, this plan is designed to help alleviate the points of pain that the client had outlined. These ideas are presented to the client with the intention to get a signoff so the creative team can move ahead.

Step 3 — Execute
Client signoffs are collected…now on to brainstorming and figuring out how this is going to look and sound using the strategic plan that was established. Art and Copy work closely to create concepts, also working with the Account Service and Strategy team who make sure we are going to be on mark from a client perspective. These well thought out concepts and/or final art are presented to the client.

Step 4 — Elevate
Once the client approves the art direction, the deliverables are released into the world. Be it a web site that is launched or an advertorial placed into a magazine, the agency measures the results and ensures objectives were met. The agency continues to build off of the successes that were achieved and we re-evaluate the client objectives to see if there needs to be any additional tactics that will support their brand moving forward.

And round and round we go within the e4 Method. Continuously moving from step to step and some times moving back a step in order to fully move forward with the elevation of our client’s brands.

Don’t Take This Personally, but What in the World Are You Trying to Say?

The Idea Sandbox – 101

These are some thoughts about the value of taking yourself out of the equation while developing ideas. Not so much on how to do so, but explaining the benefit of why you should.

I have worked at agencies where you had to beat on your chest like a gorilla and claim your ideas as your own. Proving yourself to the company day in and day out by hoarding your ideas and shoehorning them into creative executions. This mentality fails time and time again. This thinking does not form a team but instead divides people and makes them into individuals who live on islands. These individuals become resentful of one another and see each other as enemies rather than team members.

Developing ideas really is about collaboration, not domination. Putting together people with diverse backgrounds who can bring in different perspectives. Being able to feed off one another as a team rather than playing the hero. Being able to build something larger than you can on your own. A creative synergistic melting pot of people that are in a brainstorm can be more powerful than rocket fuel. Keeping the flow fluid, feeding off one another’s thoughts. Being able to put new twists to someone’s original thought. Elevating each other’s ideas, making good become great. Pushing each other, challenging each other. Does that make sense? Does it really work? Test it. Break it. Rebuild from scratch with new parts and thoughts. Dissect, analyze — approach honestly and thoughtfully. Know that when someone challenges you that it is not a direct shot at you personally, but a shot at your idea or thought. Let ideas take on their own persona, rather than claiming those ideas as your own. It’s not a competition on who can race to the best solution the fastest. Use your mind as an idea-generating tool, not an emotional one. Know and believe that no idea is a bad idea — especially at the beginning stages. In a previous brainstorm, we came up with the idea of flooding a stage with water for a company launch event. Crazy? Yes. Impossible? No, we did it.

I’ve not only worked in dog-eat-dog agencies, but I have also had the pleasure to work in agencies, like GO2, that do the exact opposite. Which is having a synergistic melting pot of idea-generating talent that can play well together in the sandbox. I’ve been lucky enough to win a few awards in my time playing in such sandboxes. Every award that I have been a part of has been because of a solid team of people who melted together for the sake of doing great work for the client. It was never set up in the beginning that we would set out to win an award, either. It was our intent to build an idea that solved a client issue, elevating their brand in the market and creating results. If you focus on that instead of winning an award, you might just win an award…

Stop Designing and Start Thinking.

A typical day as a designer can start with a project to tackle in which you are given vague direction and simply told to make it look good. Depending on what the latest buzzword is, good can be “sexy,” or it can be “make it pop,” or it can be “jazz it up.” So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get started, and, oh, I need that in an hour, okay?!

In this article, I would like to highlight some key points within the creative process and what it takes for a designer to come up with an idea — because it’s more about actually having an idea than it is about how sexy it looks.

Listen first, then create.
As a creative guru, you can get excited about using a new design technique or a popular style that you recently saw in CommArts. It’s great that you are loading your creative arsenal with visual references, but does it apply to the current problem that you are facing with your clients today? Perhaps, but before you jump on the computer and start building pretty pictures, for goodness’ sake, open up your ears and start listening to your clients’ real issues! As part of our ever-evolving design process at GO2, we work with clients directly to talk through their points-of-pain. This allows us to try to understand where they are coming from and the position that their company is in. Hearing issues directly from the clients ensures the message isn’t diluted or misinterpreted. The better you listen to and understand your clients, the easier it will be to align an idea that will fit their goals…which leads me to my second thought on the creative process.

The problem contains the solution.
The more you dig at the issues that clients are facing, the more it becomes apparent on how to solve those issues. Forming a partnership with clients is key to being able to understand what hurdles they are really facing in the market. At that point, you can start to tackle the real issues and stop tiptoeing around the edges. These types of partnerships will go a long way in being able to produce great work that helps elevate a brand. Nine times out of ten, the problem has the answer; it’s just a matter of bringing it to the surface and then spinning a memorable and creative message around it. No problem, right?!

Don’t avoid the obvious.
Sometimes when a designer gets wrapped up in a project, it becomes less and less apparent what the right solution can be. Step back, take a breath and think what the average Joe would do to solve this problem — what’s the simplest solution that the average Joe would understand? The easier the idea is to digest, the quicker the audience is going to get what you are trying to say. This isn’t high-end fine arts we are doing here — it’s advertising, and it needs to communicate well in order to be effective in the world.

Final thought.
There are several types of projects that do need to just look “sexy” or have that “pop” to them. But if you are looking for a finished piece that will move an audience and actually have an idea tied to it, it will take some time to think out and execute. Just know, as a designer, there is value in the creative process, and always remember who you are doing it for and why you are doing it.

Good luck, and design on.