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08 Jun 2015

Building Ourselves, Part One

By Scott Smith

This blog post begins a four-part series that outlines how — as the saying goes — we’ve been eating our own dog food: creating a new brand for ourselves, changing our name, redesigning our website’s user experience, and then prototyping and launching the site.

It’s an ongoing process and we thought it might be interesting to see how we operate when we’re dealing with the worst clients of them all — ourselves.

It Was Time

Late last year, the three of us—I and my two partners Talie and Becca—had a retreat to discuss who we are and who we wanted to become. At the time, we were Jerusha LLC. The name is Talie’s middle name, which made sense when we got started: Talie had originated the company as a freelance business years earlier, and we’d just rolled right into the new company. But the name had some issues.

Jerusha is a nice name, but it’s a little hard to pronounce and spell. Being a Biblical name, people came with their own associations (never our intention). While we had a clear image and voice, a distinctive color and logotype, it wasn’t right for us anymore.

As we met, it became clear: It was time to change our name and image. We're three partners, and we were doing bigger, meatier projects. That’s where we wanted to go.

Being Our Own Client

Once we agreed that we wanted a change, I said, OK, let’s just come up with a new name and brand. No problem. It was one of my more mature and intelligent partners who suggested that we put ourselves through the process we go through with our clients.

That made all the sense in the world. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. Often, a bit of distance helps the process. You can’t always judge your own writing, just as you can’t always tell if you’re being a good parent. But we had to practice as we preached. It is the only way. So we forged on.

Discovery

We started, as we always do with clients, with a discovery session. We got out the pinboards, Post-Its, and Sharpies, and started to interview ourselves: Who were we, really? What did we do this for? Who are our potential clients? What clients did we want? What did they want from us? (I’d add Which projects/clients/people really inspired us and resulted in us doing our best work (and why)?)

We found quickly that we did stand for something (whew), and we had something to go on.

boards

Crafting a Brand

What we do after Discovery is to take those findings, put them together into a set of beliefs and language that expresses what’s unique about us and how we want to help our clients. This isn’t always language that we share outwardly, but it represents our values, and that’s proven to be a powerful north star for us.

we believe in

We spent the time and energy to put down on paper what it is that we do and how we aim to help our clients.

how we benefit our clients

Then we summed it all up in a brand statement about how our company operates and where we stand in the world.

brand statement

Naming Us

The final thing, before we could come up with a visual identity, was to come up with a new name. Naming is a funny thing. On the one hand, it seems like it’s important to come up with words that have real meaning, and then you can come up with a lot of counter examples — Amazon, Google, and so on. We wanted our new name to embody, as much as possible, our values and beliefs, but what does that even mean?

We came up with an initial list of about 100 potential names, and went through about four rounds of ideation and culling before settling on a list of about 15 strong candidates. Here are a few of those:

Some were taken, but mostly many just didn’t feel right. Ultimately we realized we didn’t want a cutesy or cool name, but one that would be clear and direct. We also wanted it to express that the company is about the three partners, that we embody the creative and technology vision for all the projects we work on. So we chose Smith & Connors. Clear, simple, us.

Next time, we’ll explain how we went through the process of building a new vision design for our new identity.

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