Growing Up Frictionless by Kevin Landwehr

“When I was a kid, if you wanted a jacket you had to go to a tailor.”

“When I was a kid, if you wanted a jacket you had to go to a store.”

“When I was a kid, if you wanted a jacket you had to order it online.”

“I am a kid, and if I want a jacket… well, nothing. I do basically nothing and I have a jacket.”

Frictionless-Strategy-Uniqlo-to-go

Experience seekers today are hard-wired for a seamless world. For Gen-Y—Millennials, “Frictionless” added value; for Gen-Z through Alpha it’s simply the way they live; anything else feels messy.

Gen-X parents are deeply attracted to experiences that meet this expectation, because in this environment experiences can be absorbed and enjoyed by everyone in the family.

A brand is a promise — a promise that’s either kept or broken the moment a customer experiences a brand’s product or service. To create strong brands, design experiences that frame your promise through design strategy, customer journeys, built environments, and satellite service touchpoints like these.

This way, at every opportunity and in every detail, your brand will reflect three all-important Gen X-A characteristics:

  • Modern
  • Relevant
  • Active Culture 

Beautiful details that communicate innovation, activity, connection, and community support your brand promise, promoting your (frictionless) promise:

A connected, human experience in a dynamic and technologically rich mixed-use environment.

Looking deeper, we see that "frictionless" is merely one of five requirements for meeting Generation X-A expectations.


 

A Frictionless Experience

Clear, Concise, Intuitive


 

A Personalized Experience

Thoughtful, Considerate, Validating

While recently developing digital strategy for an historic institution in Chapel Hill, I presented a mini-profile of a potential experience seeker. I surmised she was on the go and looking for something to do at exactly that moment. She whips out the mobile and she types in the URL. She's trying to get to very specific information as quickly as possible:

“What do you have that I can do with a 5 year old? What if I have to bring a 3 year old brother along for the ride?” 

When in the planning process, customers make decisions based on problems they have to solve. “I need something safe and fun to do that is indoors, cooled and out of the rain, where my 5 year old can explore and my 3 year old won’t be frightened. They will get hungry at 3, so there will have to be food. And it can’t be mid-afternoon because it’s nap time.” 

This woman has EIGHT different requirements, and she needs to get answers fast, while handling a crying baby, preparing to pick the oldest up from school, and trying to get the middle one dressed.

This is where you abandon traditional search — this woman doesn't want Google-style results inside an institution's website. We can solve this problem with a fast, simple search tool broken down into 3 components: Who/When/ What.


 

A Unique Experience

Better, Memorable, Effective

How does your brand experience differ from competing experiences? 


 

Enhance the Brand Promise

Enjoy your heritage, celebrate shared values, be consistent

Build loyalty by offering consistently great experiences.

Loyalty begins before purchase and ownership of an experience. Broaden outside of your typical space to give potential experience-seekers multiple opportunities to experience and advocate for your brand. 

Build loyalty over time, so when the moment for a decision comes, you are the first thought and a trusted choice.


 

Connect Emotionally

Validate enthusiasm for your brand by championing your customer socially, add quality to the community

Millennials have been accused being “The Me Generation”, but Gens Y, Z & Alpha are growing up inside the new social network. While kids under 10 may not be actively using these networks, their siblings and older school-age role models are, and they are receiving these messages on shows they enjoy. As a result they feel more connected than any generation before them, don’t carry the same social biases, and aren’t challenged by borders on a map.

The WE generation is increasingly community focused and want to use their voices to create change. Businesses that thrive over the next 5-10 years will be those who directly integrate that opportunity into their product experience. When we give the customer a sense that they are creating change, they see us as a valuable part of the change paradigm.

Find ways for your brand (especially your brand's website) to focus the creative energy of customers in ways that can be shared online, not just on your website, but on your customer's personal platforms.

Connect through shared values.

Product narratives that make sense of the world convey meaning to others. 

Across demographics, shared values give us something emotional to identify with, a feeling to attach to a logo or a name. 

Take your brand into the territory of "beloved" by expressing the attributes that set it apart. 

Tell stories that relate what your brand stands for to how customers live.


 

It has been my observation over the past decade that hot words like "empathy" and go-to phrases like “every brand needs a story” are really just symptomatic reactions to a big picture need. Problems today require multi-tiered solutions that fully tend to a crazy range of customer needs. “Telling a story” isn't the issue; the issue is connecting emotionally and telling a story is just one way of accomplishing that. “Being authentic” isn't the only way enhance a brand's promise; if it were, people wouldn't pay through the nose for a white t-shirt made by Chanel.

Ignore the echo chamber. When you pursue a complete, holistic approach to brand strategy, the best design reveals itself. 

 

Fascinating times.

CURRENT Artspace + Studio, Powered by Carolina Performing Arts by Kevin Landwehr

Opening in 2018 at Carolina Square in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, CURRENT ARTSPACE+STUDIO is Carolina Performing Arts new, unrestricted, Arts lab.

Working with the talented team at Rivers Agency, I had the great pleasure of developing names, branding, design thinking, wireframes, copywriting, and direction for this video for the wonderful people at CPA and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This is my first project with Rivers Agency and my first since moving to North Carolina. Rivers is loaded with a great array of talent and can produce just about anything in short order, which is a lot of fun.

Domicile Properties Rebrand by Kevin Landwehr

I’m just wrapping up my rebrand of Domicile Properties. I think it’s smart, fresh, and free of the dry, overblown elegance that plagues the graphic design in this industry — most of it stinks of a previous generation. The redesign of the website was well-served by the owners; who had faith I could create something appropriate to the category of real estate without rehashing the same tired approaches.

This was so much fun. It was so satisfying, in fact, that I’m tempted to call every realtor from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Aspen to New York to Miami and pitching them a vision for a better tomorrow.

The Domicile Properties website is slated to launch very soon, I’ll update this entry when it’s posted.

domicile properties rebrand and digital

Domicile properties, in partnership with Compass.

Stunning New Naturalist Invitation Designs by Melissa Constandsé by Kevin Landwehr

A mix of romance and innovation is on glorious display in this just-launched invitation suite, the Open Sea Collection. Graphic design can be so caught up in its category these days, but these designs powerfully redefine the expectation of what a wedding invitation can be.

Possessed of dazzling color palettes, crisp typography, and an elegant naturalism, these floral-inspired suites are classic masterpieces. 

Here’s Your Stupid Incredible Five-Step Secret Guaranteed Recipe for Everlasting Creative Cool. Totally Works! by Kevin Landwehr

Need to revitalize your creativity? Try pushing the limits of your talent, you lazy ass.


A five-minute read about staying sharp and proving something until the day you die.

keep-pushing-till-you-die

I’m an idea maker at Nothing Something. Some designers wear many hats; mine say creative director, branding specialist, and experience designer. Anyway, it isn’t important what we’re called, it’s what we create that matters: a look, feel, intellect & spirit for somebody else’s dream. The best of us wearing “creator” hats in the modern marketing world know that the history books won’t waste time remembering our names. In the end, you may judge your career only by whether you’ve enjoyed your work and made the world a more beautiful place.

For 15 years I’ve been designing and leading unbelievable talent. We’ve conquered a broad range of commercial projects, and I recognize each for their unique, relatable stories. I cherish knowing that we’ve helped companies tell their story with maximum impact across social, digital, and print outlets. 

Why, though? If 10,000 work hours makes an expert, how, after 30,000 hours, could anyone still care?

Warning: Here comes the advice.

Constantly expand the reach of your talent.

I think if you’re a designer — truly — a pure designer — you should be able to confidently design anything, in any medium and on scalable platforms. If your platform is big, try going small and battling limited reach, or working pro-bono for a charity or a friend. If you primarily serve independent clients, seek out some corporate work and discover your flexible side.

Design as a cultural anthropologist.

If you’re a marketing professional, you’re empirically rigorous and theoretically sophisticated. You’re excited by changing linguistics. You’re fascinated by food culture. You follow economics, cultural analyses of value, debt, capitalism, and globalization. You’re a social animal, and you love to study folks in their natural environment. Make sure to get beyond your tribe though — can you design for moms as well as millennials?

Design as an ambassador bridging the human/digital experience.

If you’re in marketing, you’d better be keeping your client relevant. That means you’re digital first. More importantly though, it means you have to innovate. You have to take cold technology and and communicate soulful charms that warm the soul.

Design as a writer, a painter, a calligrapher, an actor, a bartender (same thing?)

You get the idea; bending your talent into adjacent or closely related derivatives feeds your talent. Beyond that, try working within the constraints of various creative fields. How would a painter design a poster? How would a bartender improve a coaster? How would a dancer have done your commercial? If you gave a writer from the 1930's a flux capacitor, how would they design a website? 

Master a complex skill that compliments your discipline.

This is where, by a power of ten, you will really sharpen up. As a creative director working in digital environs, it was an absolute revelation to take it further and design branded spaces. Observing people interacting inside my design enhanced my understanding of how we connect customers to a brand, a product, a website, SaaS and more. 

So how does it apply to you? Only you can answer that, but it usually presents itself as something your clients ask you for that’s just out of your skill set. Like if you’ve been directing commercials for ten years and you’re overly reliant on your writers, enhance your wit with a year of improv classes. Awww, c’mon. You can do it! I mean, the entire point here is that you kind of already have what it takes, #amirite?

Wondering how marketing & graphic design professionals segue into environmental concepts? Simple: We told our client we could do it better. Our pitch? If you want a fresh message, pull creatives from beyond the echo chamber.

 

Our clients wanted to see just how attached to their brand customers could become. We were happy to do whatever it took to create lasting moments with brands. Now, you may know that part of the XD discipline improves the online experience; but the other side of the concept revolves around designing brand-supportive moments which integrate naturally into the ways we experience the world. And so, without much fuss, we just did what we do: we took it further. Well, okay. A lot further. Did it work? Sure it did. Let’s look at some social data.

I guide brands through difficult problems using a combination of empathy & first principles. What’s really there? Not the paradigm, not the perception; what’s actually happening? What are we trying to accomplish? Are we addressing real problems? Identify not just what works visually, but what caused the problem in the first place. Once you’ve nailed that down, the rest is execution. The magic will flow.

Which brings us to my recipe, one I’ve cultivated over the years:

Does the work have texture? 

Does it engage the human experience? 

Is the storytelling alive? 

Does it give the brand soul? 

Marketing seeds with cold analytics and consumer insights, and succeeds by connecting us to the beauty of our shared humanity. It’s what makes it all so much fun; we’re just working hard, everyday, to be more human... and I promise — being human, feeling alive? It never gets old.

Trust me.

-KL

Brand Launch: La Milpa de Rosa Disrupts by Kevin Landwehr

With 500% growth over 5 months, it’s clear something’s working. La Milpa de Rosa became New York’s top supplier nearly overnight. How? The concept was simple:

They’re doing it wrong, we’re doing it right. 

In addition to the delightful growth, it’s been bizarrely fun working on the branding, mobile / web, and packaging for Tortilleria La Milpa de Rosa. It's a great example of the benefits that come with branding from the bottom up: Everything's in sync, from the name to the frame. Here's a look at the new website.