Put Intuition to Work for Your Brand

Leigh Chandler, Creative Director & Partner

Leigh Chandler, Creative Director & Partner


Often when you are presented with a challenge, you think of a solution immediately.

And then you spend time thinking of alternatives. Sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes months. But often, you end up coming back to that first idea and you find yourself asking, “Why didn’t I just stick with that in the first place and save myself all this time?”

Isn’t it annoying how you second-guess yourself? Your gut, your intuition, gave you the right answer straight away, and then your analytical side started questioning it.

In the design industry, agencies often hide behind lengthy processes and analysis to get to big ideas, and it usually doesn’t lead to bigger or better thinking. If we all trusted our gut instincts more, we could save a lot of time and energy and also remain excited with a laser-sharp focus along the way.

This article lays out what’s needed to enable a process that works on intuition, and not analytics, as a base.

Having ‘The Knowledge’

The most important thing is to partner with a creative team that has experience. It sounds obvious, but with experience comes our ability to trust in our gut instinct and have the confidence to go for it.

After years of being immersed in brands and creativity, it’s possible to build a sixth sense. You start to converse, explore, and work through problems during the design process. You build up what’s almost like ‘The Knowledge’ for London taxi drivers, but instead of swiftly and knowledgeably winding through the streets of London, you’re navigating the world of design and inspiration without even consulting a map.

Foster those ‘jinx’ moments

Spend time getting to know a few agencies, talking to them about your hopes, dreams, ambitions, and thoughts on the space you’re in or about to enter. Discuss on-topic ideas around things like cultural trends and your target audience, but don’t shy away from chatting about what you did at the weekend, the last book you read, what playlist you’re hooked on. If your future engagement is going to be a success you’re going to have to like the people you’re working with.

Ideally, you’ll discover the kind of bond where you ‘say the same thing at the same time’ with your agency. If you know you are on the same wavelength, you can spend two minutes having a two-hour conversation.

You’re building a partnership, not a client/vendor relationship. You need to break down traditional boundaries to work to your best ability and speak freely about fresh left-field ideas. By dedicating to this before you commence work, you save so much time by avoiding a lack of alignment and misunderstandings further down the line.

Get under your brand’s skin

Whether it’s newly created or existing, once you’re on the same page about how that brand behaves in every way, what is on- or off-brand becomes intuitive and ideas flow.

If it’s a new brand, talk about it as though it was a person to quickly get on the same page. What would they wear, where would they hang out, how do they speak, who would they spend time with? Discuss other brands that might have similar beliefs (brand mentors) and which brands yours would loathe. Use whatever language — visual, verbal, sign! — you feel comfortable talking in to get it across and bring your agency into that conversation.

Scrapbook it, scribble it, talk, talk, talk until you all leave the room knowing this brand as well as your best friend.

Work with strategic designers and creative strategists

At Vault49, we blend our expertise. We have creative people with strength in execution, and others better at idea generating and strategizing. And a ton of those magical pixies who sit in the middle and can do both.

Having a team that is constantly bouncing ideas around, test driving strategy through design, and strategizing gut-instinct design ideas with smart thinking makes for collaborative working without baton-passing.

This saves so much time and energy and ensures our clients get to ‘see’ something early on. And importantly leads to much stronger ideas – the insights and innovations aren’t lost along the way as they’re still fresh in all of our minds.

Bravery beats death by Powerpoint

If there is a deep understanding of the brand and a great collaborative team in place, then you shouldn’t feel the need to have a 200-page strategic rationale deck to justify each decision along the way.

Sometimes your instinct will tell you it’s a great idea, and that’s OK. And if you work from intuition, then creativity thrives, ideas are discussed openly, and passion is retained on both sides ensuring momentum is kept throughout the process.

Safe ideas can be great, but it’s the brave ideas that create the future.

What IS the big idea?

If you don’t know what the big idea is, then your future customer definitely won’t.

Make sure you come to one, agree on one, and don’t lose sight of it. It enables quick decision-making when evaluating design and provides you with a guiding star for the moments you might lose sight of what you’re doing.

If you find yourself lost in a sprawling deck trying to explain what the idea is, go for a walk around the block, think about it, come back to your desk, and write it out on one page.

Be in touch with culture and trends

Hopefully, you have a grasp of what’s new and exciting in the world in which your brand will be existing. But if not, you should be able to rely on your agency to inspire you by discussing things they’ve seen, topics they’ve been discussing, brands that have been ‘flavor of the month.’

If you can use cultural references as shortcuts to explain your ideas or things to avoid, we save time on research and sharing our findings.

Grey hair matters

Sometimes failure can happen by working with a younger team who might have fresh awesome ideas but not enough knowledge of the industry or audience to know what will work.

Every success and, importantly, every failure brings lessons, and therefore the more experienced the client/agency team is, the less likely they are to make mistakes. Their intuition and gut instinct is fine-tuned.

Get everyone on the same page

All stakeholders involved with the project should either be in the room or trust you. If you have to relay work back to others, bring them up to speed, or explain something to them second-hand, the intent will often get lost, and those same stakeholders might then throw a curveball that confuses the working team.

Know when it’s done

I have often seen fresh, ground-breaking projects die from noodling!

Death by noodling is the most heartbreaking to witness. Sometimes it means no one really loved the idea in the first place, but most of the time it’s just that annoying analytical side of your brain coming in and questioning your first idea. That part of your mind that makes you think if you just ‘move it left a bit – right a bit – try it in yellow – no green! – make the logo a bit smaller – make the text bigger’.

But in fact, it’s just soul-destroying for all. And I promise you, will kill the magic.

Trust that it’s done.

Leigh Chandler, Creative Director & Partner