Specializing in not specializing

Every marketing expert we read seems to agree on one thing: to succeed you have to specialize. It’s far easier to stand out if you are the “one and only” in your field.

But the world needs generalists. Particularly in strategic brand design.

Blinders are normal

Clients bring a deep knowledge of their own industry to the table. That knowledge balances and informs the broader expertise of the designers they’re working with. But, regardless of what industry you’re in, it’s always difficult to step outside your own field and see yourself as the rest of world does.

Our job as designers is to help put that knowledge in context. Broad experience creating marketing tools across multiple industries is valuable — perhaps even critical — to the success of the process.

Making creative connections

Some of the very best designers aren’t tightly focused on an industry or, in fact, on design itself. They are curious, enthusiastic explorers of all sorts of areas. Yes, they love design. But they also pursue music, literature, philosophy, movies, politics, science, architecture, and dozens of other areas. They generate big, and sometimes off-the-wall ideas that come from the juxtaposition of those interests.

Great design is almost always a synthesis. It happens when we draw on multiple, disparate experiences and sources that we reassemble, rethink and reconnect into something new.

We can solve difficult creative problems precisely because our experience is wide instead of narrow. We think differently and in ways that are most valuable to our clients when we bring in expertise that’s outside their industry. Expertise that comes from working in other fields, on other types of projects. It’s those fresh connections that help brands stand out from the crowd and get noticed. That give them a specific personality instead of creating clones of other brands.

A different specialty

So let’s think about “specialists” differently.

Designers specialize in getting to the heart of the matter. They specialize in bringing their broad interests and expertise to bear on real business problems, in solving them intelligently and creatively, and in helping them relate to the real world of their client’s customers.

When that happens, brands come to life. They become more accessible — and more successful.

Every smart company understands that its brand represents an emotional connection with its customers. Brands are powerful because customers identify with them. They see a part of themselves in the brands they love. And generalists can help design brands that connect emotionally precisely because we can see them from a broader perspective.

That kind of specialization is not only valuable, it’s essential.

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