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Margo Chase is one of the most influential graphic designers of our time. Over the past 20 years, Margo's highly expressive work has been seen in movie posters for Bram Stoker's Dracula; on album covers for top performers like Cher, Madonna, and Prince; and in ads for brands such as Starbucks, Target, and Procter & Gamble. With a background in biology, Margo migrated to the world of graphic design, where she brought a unique, organic quality to logos, lettering, and identity design. Never one to live life passively, Margo has developed a love for competitive aerobatic flying in her own high-performance plane. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers inside the studio, portfolio, and adrenaline-pumped lifestyle of this inspired and inspiring designer.
(Music Playing) Margo Chase: As we're started working with different bigger companies we realize that they really needed a way to understand why we were making recommendations that we were making and the more sort of quantitative and repeatable and sort of mathematical the process could be, more comfortable they were with it, because the idea of sort of the black art of creativity makes a lot of marketing people really uncomfortable.
And so they like knowing that there is a process that makes sense that they can understand and repeat. Chris Lowery: So one of the things that we realized along the way is that when we are bringing really well thought out and good creative ideas to the table that we were being perceived as not having really understood the business problem, understood the marketing objectives, understood all the things that our clients were grappling with. So it was important to us to be able to express to them the process that we go through before we ever get to creative, before we really are able to put anything on paper and make something, we really try to understand what we're trying to achieve, what the business goal is and really who we're speaking to, because often we're not the audience, in fact, most times we are not the audience.
We are not speaking to designers, we are not speaking to other businesses, we are speaking to consumers in most cases and we've got to really connect to them on a specific level. Margo Chase: And we have to convince our clients that we can do that because a lot of the time we are walking in with maybe a design solution that is really a stretch for them or it's really a change from where they were, and we understand that, that's necessary for them to achieve the goals that they have told us they have, but for them to just sort of see it out of the blue, it's scary. So a lot of the strategies, our process of kind of gradually opening their eyes to why a big change is necessary and why this particular change is a good recommendation.
Chris Lowery: The next thing we do after we really feel like we understand the client, their challenges, their competition and how their consumers are thinking about them is to really get a better idea of what the consumer's mindset is like. Who they are, what they feel about their lives, what they aspire to, what they love, what they hate, so that we can know them as people and the first step for us to do that is to really take the brand and the aspiration of the brand and look at it in the realm of just generally how people are in society.
So we use a tool called a psychographic map, which is for us to be able to take the aspiration of the brand, what Chinese Laundry in this case wanted to be, which is to be represented as a fashion forward brand that was affordable and match it up with the consumer aspiration. So that using this, what we are trying to do is find the sweet spot where the aspiration of the brand and the aspiration of the consumer line up, which leads into the next thing that we do. So once we've got this psychographic mapping and we kind of know where the aspirations line up, we really develop actual personas as we start to design, as we start to make decisions and then also as the company and their brand starts to make decisions.
We want to have a specific person in mind, not a general person, not a woman from 26-32, a specific woman who has got a name, who has got a job, who has got a history, she lives somewhere, she does certain things, she reads certain magazines, watches certain shows, we want to know her inside and out. If we convince her about what Chinese Laundry represents, it is the right message and it will work for everyone else in the group. Margo Chase: Yeah, and this is a perfect example of trying to make myself relevant as a designer because this is pretty close.
I mean I am a woman, I like to wear high heel shoes. So I could actually really confuse myself with the woman that we're designing for and creating persona helps me to identify that we're designing for this one particular person. In this case, we created a persona of woman named Stephanie and she has a lifestyle and she likes really girly pink things and that's not what I like. I mean that's not the way I dress. So if we hadn't created her, it would have been much easier for me to be confused about what we were -- who we were designing for and maybe create packaging that really appealed to me which would be probably a lot more simple and maybe black, instead of designing something that was really right for the brand and then in this case right for Stephanie.
Chris Lowery: So the next step we do is try to develop what's called a brand board or a design theme, there is different terms for it that really summarizes what the brand's visual language is across many different touch points, whether it's photography or typography or color, any application. Margo Chase: Yeah. So we have an emotional target process that we also go through that helps to identify a particular word, in this case it was sexy. Emotional expression of the brand actually needs to have a focus as well.
So once we get our sort of persona and we get our psychographic map and then we've got our sort of word, our emotional word, then we can create these visual boards and we bring in a range of visual boards and we talk to the clients about how each of them manifests itself and what it might mean to Stephanie if she saw something that look like that. Out of that presentation, we come up with a sort of one visual direction that everybody can agree on and all of that happens before we really create any design. So in the case of this one, we kind of agreed on this feminine and decorative direction because it help to differentiate the brand from all of their competitors and it help to actually appeal to Stephanie because we had already recognized from our research and from our persona development that, that was something that was going to appeal to her.
So we already knew exactly where we wanted to go from a design standpoint before we ever put any pencils on the paper. There were a couple of really important issues or limitations that we had to take into consideration when we went into the design process. One of them is that the logo primarily appears inside what's called the sock or the insole of the shoe and the production process for creating that is really limited. So they can do basically what amounts to kind of deboss or a rubber stamp or they can do an embroidered label that sits inside, both of which require, that they are not be very much detail in lettering that it'd be pretty clean and simple.
So I knew that it had to be -- it couldn't be very detailed and very ornate. So that was one limitation going in. It also needs to be something that can be read really easily from a distance and something that can be used in a variety of different ways from actually the insole of the shoe all the way into their print collateral and their trade show. So it was really needed something that had to be very, very multifunctional. Chris Lowery: And this part maybe goes with that same that it also had to be ownable. Their previous identity was so forgettable and/or derivative of existing work, that it really wasn't ownable for them and that's a key thing for any brand is you have to be able to stand, your logo has to be able to stand by itself and portray the character of the brand.
So we really started to achieve that at a base level. Margo Chase: Yeah and that's something that we do whenever we can which is create custom letter forms and as part of an identity system for our clients instead of using an existing typeface and just sort of spelling it out which makes it possible for sort of anybody to emulate them. We create something that's custom that no one else can copy and that they own. So in this case, the Chinese Laundry logo is all hand lettered and it also has an icon that we created which is a humming bird and that came out of a couple of conversations that we had with the clients about imagery that evoke the idea of sort of femininity but also lightness and then the icon it helped to unify the system.
So when we created the logo for Chinese Laundry, it has a humming bird, and then when they used their other band names, they were able to use the humming bird as a link visually, so that unifies and also the type style unifies since the whole entire family uses the same type style and create it. So from there, we went into packaging and started working on the shoe box. Chris Lowery: What a lot of the research pointed to is that women have a lot of shoes especially women in the category who buy Chinese Laundry shoes, in many cases, they store them in the shoe boxes at home as an organizational piece because they don't necessarily have all the shelving to do it.
So the shoe box was actually living in people's houses and brought the brand to all of these different places since it was the strongest opportunity they had. Margo Chase: Yeah. So this is just the shoe box or one of the sizes that we ended up creating for them and you can see it's really strong color, it's pink, it's really feminine, and appeals to Stephanie and there are a couple of things about it structurally that make it really workable. First of all, it has this handle, so when you buy the shoes, you can actually carry this around the mall. You don't need the shopping bags, so it becomes like a little billboard when you walk around the mall.
So that client like Chinese Laundry who can't afford a lot of advertising kind of has this instead. The other thing is actually it has a drawer which makes it great for -- I keep them when they go in my closet at home. So you can put things in it, your shoes or other things too and it's made out of much heavier weight cardboard than the original one was, so it's not going to fall on the sales associates head when he pulls it out of the shelf. So from structural standpoint, a little bit more expensive in terms of production but absolutely worth it for all of the reasons that we just said.
The other thing that was really important about creating this identity for them was this illustration, we call it brand artwork. When we gave them that and on discs as part of the style guide that we created, we allowed them to change things and move things around. So we gave them this artwork as layers, so they can take it apart and they can use the background separately, they can take the illustration separately, they can take the logo out, the humming bird and they can reorganize and recreate things. And they need to be able to change things seasonally, so things stay fresh and they feel fashion forward for them.
So we can walk them into one way this is how it always has to be. Their launch of the new brand was really successful. They did it at -- there is a big shoes trade fair that happens in Las Vegas every year. They had done their own booth using our style guide and it was really dramatic. We suggested that they wrapped MINI coopers with the brand artwork so there were these like flowery pink MINI coopers driving around Las Vegas. So they got a lot of press and it was a big splash for them, big and really helpful. But, the thing that was even more important than that was that it helped their sales and that made us feel great that it was successful because as we said in the beginning, the reason we do this is really to help client solve a business problem and when they come back afterwards and say that their sales increased 40% because of the design we did and we think we did a good job.
Chris Lowery: And by proving all the upfront work and the foundation and then all the tools in the brand guide, we really allow them to own it in a larger way and be able to keep living the brand as they go forward even when we are not involved which is really, our goal is to make them self-sufficient in managing their brand and we give them what they need to go forward and really understand it and love it.
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