Q&A with Tate Linden

We did a Twitterview yesterday with HOW Conference speaker Tate Linden. Here’s a recap:

First, tell us a bit about yourself and the work you do.

President/Chief Creative of @stokefire – a brand/ad agency in Alexandria, VA.

Home: Married, wo young kids, dog, cat, bliss. Office: 12 Staff working on stuff for tech, assoc, gov’t

So, the 3-word tagline is a branding no-no. For the HOW Conference, we used Create. Connect. Community. Bad idea?

Where they don’t work is in situations where you need to create a PERMANENT connection.

Would it make you happy if I said it wasn’t actually all that bad in this case?

Why yes, yes it would … but seriously, feel free to pick it apart or say why it didn’t suck.

You had the tagline everywhere so it demanded people acknowledge what you wanted to convey.

What’s a better approach? Why?

Alright… we’re getting into secret sauce territory, but I’ll give a taste…

Instead of telling people what to think try to find ways to get them to come to the conclusion on their own.

So for  the HOW Conference — instead of telling us to connect and the other two ‘c’ words … what could you say to get us to actually do it?

It’s cheesy, but trying to figure out the motivation is really important.

I get it. It’s much harder to tell someone than to get them to feel it and act accordingly.

When advertising tells you to do something the natural reaction is to resist. So make them decide to do it themselves.

Your presentation noted that, on a brand project, your opinion doesn’t matter but your instinct does. Explain, please?

Opinion doesn’t matter. It’s interesting, and perhaps even entertaining, but without facts and experience to back it up it’s entirely useless. Who cares what I think unless it has basis in fact—or in shared experience?

Some smart guy said “Instinct … is memory in disguise” and that seems to be the case with me.

The challenge is to figure out where instinct came from and ensure that the inspiration doesn’t conflict with your idea. Often when a design feels ‘right’ to me it’s because it is derivative of something else I’ve seen or done.

The challenge is to figure out where instinct came from and ensure that the inspiration doesn’t conflict with your idea.

You talked at the conference about using consensus to SET goals but not to ACHIEVE them. What did you mean?

If you don’t have agreement as to where you’re headed chances are good you’ll never get there

I wrote this down in your session: It’s not your talent that’s holding you back. It’s your ability to influence my decisions. Why do creatives have a hard time with influence/persuasion?

Because designers are often taught technique rather than storytelling, perhaps? I’m battling this daily. Still.

You said, Beauty is easy; meaning is hard; adding value is harder. Designers are good at beauty. How can they add value?

So many see design as the summing up of everything else. It is so much more. It’s a chance to say something new.

Stop drawing green tree logos for sustainable causes, and sunsets for retirement homes. Get people to think & act.

Find what is different and powerful—and just revel in it.

Great branding looks simple. It is incredibly difficult—not just the idea, but convincing the client to use it, too.