When limits produce better creativity

I think it’s human nature to feel like limits are somehow equal to inhibitions.

For some reason, we think if we had more money, more time — more of everything — we’d accomplish more, be happier… and become Chuck Norris. However, I have noticed in my own work (and through reading studies and observations of others) that, very often, when we are faced with constraints of some sort or the other, we actually produce better stuff. That stuff can be creative design, music… and whatever else.

If you keep up with any of the popular advertising blogs, you consistently find smaller agencies producing some of the best work. Why? Usually because their budget are limited and they are forced to do their best, most creative work to cut through the chatter. Too many of the huge guys simply throw money at problems — but money is never a solution to a creative dilemma.

That’s one reason I like Twitter (check out @micahtouchet and @nbcda)… It’s amazing how when you want to express an idea,  you really can do it in 140 characters or less. Of course, we all love the URL shrinkers when there is more to say.

And time? Very often, my best work has been screeched out minutes before a ridiculous deadline. Sometimes I wonder why it’s that way, but pressure increase performance for me.

So, if you’re not the biggest and richest company — don’t worry too much about that. Do the best, the very best, with what you’ve got.

After all, you could have tons of money — and be Microsoft.

Ouch.

Best regards,
Micah Touchet
Creative Director

10 amazing brands

As the creative director of a small creative design agency, my duties run the gamut of directing everything from print design to web development. However, my favorite area in the design and advertising world is a little niche known as brand identity. Wikipedia defines brand identity like this:

“How the brand owner wants the consumer to perceive the brand – and by extension the branded company, organization, product or service. The brand owner will seek to bridge the gap between the brand image and the brand identity. Brand identity is fundamental to consumer recognition and symbolizes the brand’s differentiation from competitors.”

The path required to be taken while developing the brand identity is always wide in scope. The brand is built or destroyed by the public’s perception of the goods or services that the brand represents. Although customer service, sourcing, quality control, human resources management and a host of other things are vital in building a great brand, my focus is primarily on the good design of the brand—namely, the logo, tagline and color palette.

So, here—in no particular order—are my picks for 10 amazing brands. Before I start, please recognize these aren’t necessarily the 10 best brands, and in several years, they might not even still be amazing. These are simply some brands with which I come in contact nearly every day, and they stand in my mind as being great.

Coca-Cola. Certainly, no one can deny the strength of the venerable Coca-Cola brand. These guys own the cola category. Sure, there are a few others, including Pepsi with the ever-evolving logo (currently a knock-off of the presidential campaign winner), but Coke is, as they say, “the real thing.” With the bright red and white colors, and the distinctive logo, it presents an image of being both classic and timeless. Now, anybody would admit that the logo is a far cry from anything that today’s designers would attempt, but in the day it was developed, cursive lettering logos were all the rage. But that is part of the appeal of Coke—nothing much has changed in all of these years, and paradoxically, that may be one of the biggest reasons it’s still so relevant today.

BMW. Out of all the great cars, particularly the European models, there is none like a BMW. Sure, there are better, cheaper values. Sure, there are flashier, faster cars. But nothing, in my opinion, says sporty, luxury and downright cool like a BMW. I’ve owned a BMW Z3, the best and most fun vehicle I’ve ever owned, and incidentally, I’m in the market for a 5 or 7 series now. Although this company doesn’t have the most spectacular logo, it’s still an appropriate design. More importantly, the brand experience is smooth, consistent and feels great.

Apple. This is one of my favorite brands by far—and I’m certain it’s not just because I work on one every day. Buying an Apple computer, setting it up and using it is such a seamless and breathtaking event that it makes you wonder how PC’s are still even sold. Of course, if you use an iPod, iPhone or any of the other “i” products from Apple, you’ll quickly realize the ultra-high priority that these guys give to great design.

ING Direct. If you know anything about ING Direct, you certainly recognize the great experience they provide across the brand. Obviously, this isn’t your grandpa’s bank—no gray, green or slate blue colors here. Anything ING Direct does is very orange, very electric blue—and very, very sweet. Everything from the website, the debit cards, the brochures, to the customer service toll-free number is cohesive and perfectly branded.

Google. This might be the least pretty of all the brands, but hey, everything they do is so consistent with their implied “hi-tech, easy-to-use” familiar face. With a literal wealth of online services and apps available, and the majority of them as free as air, Google certainly understand how to take something that is confusing to the average computer user and create a well-integrated experience. No one wonder their sites are the most visited on the web.

Target. Now, big box stores often get a bad rap, but when it comes to a mass-merchandiser, you can hardly beat the great branding that Target has. I can still remember the first time I walked into a Target store. I was immediately grabbed by the unified “feel” of the store, and I still love what I see every time I return. Makes me understand why Walmart is jealous, and why they’ve now abandoned the old wild-west logo for something that pretends to be chic. They still don’t have anything over Target in brand experience.

Starbucks. With the current economic crunch, luxury brands are particularly feeling the pinch, but Starbucks still has a strong, loyal following. Who would of thought that someone could have taken a forgotten, almost boring category like coffee, and created a brand experience so intriguing that people would pay five bucks for something that cost 15 cents to make? The power of the brand. Everyone knows to be cool you have to drink Starbucks every day—at least, that seems to be the consensus of opinion.

Burger King. I think McDonald’s might have them beat in providing a (relatively) consistent experience, store after store, year after year, but Burger King has the edge on a great design experience. This is one of the few places I go where I find myself reading the French fry box, the paper bag, the sign on the drink machine—even the sign on the door. This place is fun, smarty, and very memorable.

Vineyard Furniture. Okay, I am a little partial to this one. Not the oldest brand by far, but from the view as agency of record, and more importantly by what their customers are saying, Vineyard Furniture provides an experience that is unprecedented in the furniture industry. Right now, they are a middle player in the crowded category of wood case goods and, more recently, upholstery. However, due to changing industry and economic conditions, as well as a plenitude of amazing, fresh designs preparing for launch in the not-too-distant future, I predict Vineyard Furniture will become a major player within a few years, particularly in the upholstery category.

Nike. Probably among the most powerful brands ever, and it all started as a shoe. I suppose nearly everyone could recognize the great logo and quote the tagline, “Just Do It.” Nike has now become the name in sportswear and equipment. It only takes a few minutes of looking through the ads, browsing the website, or using the product to realize Nike is a company that values brand and design higher than the average company—and they reap the benefits to the tune of over $18.6 billion last year alone.

Well, that’s all for now. If you’re ready to take your company to the next level, consider a brand evaluation—and get in touch with us at NewBirth Creative Design Agency.

Best regards,
Micah Touchet
Creative Director

NewBirth Creative Design Agency featured in local community newspaper

NewBirth Creative Design Agency was recently featured in the local community newspaper, The Franklin Sun. Here is our official press release.

Local design agency making waves in community

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do.” For a local businessman, these words ring especially true.

Micah Touchet moved to Winnsboro in the winter of 2003 with little more than a young company and a desire to make his community a better place. “It’s true that none of us can do it all, but all of us can do something,” he says. “And my goal is that what I do will make a positive impact on someone today, and tomorrow.”

Micah Touchet is a designer. His official title at the company he owns and operates is Creative Director, which encompasses the work of a graphic designer, copywriter and marketing expert. His company is NewBirth Creative Design Agency—a small design and branding firm in Winnsboro that boasts an impressive clientele. With companies from California to North Carolina and other states in between calling regularly on the services provided by NewBirth Creative, Touchet relates a number of high-profile projects of which he has been privileged to be part. “We’ve worked with an international realty company in Los Angeles to develop creative for an upscale outdoor shopping mall. We’ve also provided design services for several NASCAR sponsors, including vehicle wraps for the race cars.” Another project was product packaging and point of sale material design for an energy drink recently introduced by Hooters. “We’ve worked with Ball Corporation to provide design on several beverage packages,” says Touchet.

However, NewBirth Creative seems to have a particular enthusiasm for working with clients right here in Franklin Parish. “Some of our best clients are right here at home,” says Touchet.

“One of the strongest brand names in quality furniture is Vineyard Furniture, International—and their corporate location is Winnsboro,” relates Touchet. “We’ve been honored to work with them for a number of years. They have an impressive position in the market and are serious about providing the customer with an outstanding experience.” Eric Ashley, Vice President of Vineyard Furniture, International, agrees the relationship with NewBirth Creative has been advantageous. “Our industry is extremely competitive and, over the past decade, has generally become more driven by commodity pricing on sub-standard workmanship. We’ve chosen to take the route of offering better products; but marketing to our target customer can be very difficult to understand and even harder to execute. The team at NewBirth Creative was insightful enough to listen to what we had to say and was quite methodical in deriving a branding scheme that portrayed who we were and who we wanted to be in a manner that effectively targeted who we were trying to sell. We’ve worked with high-powered branding agencies before…some who said they ‘got it’, but didn’t. I’m frankly not sure anyone’s done a better job than Micah.”

NewBirth Creative was also instrumental in developing the brand of a local deer attractant manufacturer owned by Hank Parker. “We created a new logo, packaging design for their entire product line, as well as provided myriad other creative support for C’Mere Deer, which is based here in Winnsboro,” states Touchet.

Any company desiring to be a good influence is involved in the community, and NewBirth Creative is no different. Touchet shares, “One of our partners is the Princess Theatre, and we provide pro-bono media services to the organization, including a recently revamped website.” Gene Thompson, who is Executive Director for the Princess Theatre, says, “The Princess Theatre is so very fortunate to have Micah and the team from NewBirth Creative creating its web site. NewBirth Creative is professional in the very manner of the word. Their approach to not only the business relationship but also the site itself is refreshing and new. We are excited about the future we have through technology and NewBirth Creative makes it even better.”

Other community projects include being commissioned by the Winnsboro-Franklin Parish Chamber of Commerce to develop a fresh web presence, and an upcoming launch of a new website for the City of Winnsboro. “Mr. Paul Price, Jr., has been a great friend and mentor in the community, as well as influential in providing many of our local opportunities,” says Touchet. “I’ve worked closely with NewBirth Creative over the past couple of years, and have been very pleased with the results,” says Paul Price, Jr. “They’re very easy to work with and give prompt service when there are problems, and you can’t ask for much more than that. They did a great job on our B&B website design, and implemented a number of little things that enhanced it even more. Their attention to detail made a big difference with the site.”

In addition to their efforts here in Franklin Parish, NewBirth Creative was recently commissioned by the Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance (NELEA) to work with 57 communities across north Louisiana, providing each community with a presence on the web. These websites will individually reflect what makes each area special, as well as features unique to the community.

In the annual meeting for NELEA, held Friday, December 12, 2008 in Delhi, Louisiana, Tana Trichel, CEO of NELEA, formally recognized NewBirth Creative Design Agency and introduced Creative Director Micah Touchet to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and the others present there. The crowd of approximately 350 included U.S. congressmen, senators, state officials, mayors and CEO’s from regional corporations. NewBirth Creative will also be agency of record for NELEA, providing creative and media service to the organization. Creative services will include websites, brochures, presentations and other media services.

To be sure, there have been challenges with short-sighted clients and even erratic personnel. “We have learned many lessons about managing in the eight years of business,” Touchet acknowledges. “But it’s that experience that gives us a real advantage when it comes to understanding how to help our clients. And we are very strict about our talent resources.”

With many businesses looking merely to stay afloat in these times of economic uncertainty, it’s clear that through diligence, NewBirth Creative has not only grown—it’s flourished. “My vision is to have a world-class design agency right here in the heart of Franklin Parish,” Touchet reveals. “I once read a quotation that says, ‘Most people have the will to win—few have the will to prepare to win.’ This has become a personal dictum to me, both a challenge and admonition of sorts.”

Indeed, with his ardor for excellence that drives every project and the evident blessing that he attributes to God, Micah Touchet and NewBirth Creative Design Agency will continue to be an integral and unique part of the community—now and for years to come.

On the web: http://newbirthcreative.com