Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

A Contemplation On The Quest For Brand Solution-Making, “Magical” Intention
And Creative Cartography.
We’re All Looking For Answers.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

In everyone’s life, there’s a quest to find answers to questions—which, simplified, comes to: what, why, where, how—who? An answer might be this. And why, because. Then where, here. And how? There. Who? You.

Questions like these are brand-related, that is: they’re narrative inquiries—consider the metaphor: “you’re working inside a brand, see this, for a moment, as an allegory of the campfire, a circled gathering of people listening to the storytelling of—in this analogy—the brand, a telling of characters, legacy, memory and meaning. That’s how brands work—what is it, why is it relevant to me, where can I get it, and how?

These questions are, too, personally relevant in any aspect of your working world—and life threads in the quest for meaning in the shape of content: you’re here because of…
what, my own creativity;
why, the search for meaning, content, and momentum;
where, I am; and
how, I want to work my life [or not work;] to live full, boldly, large…
When—another question– I look back, I want to know: if there was meaning—
who, that I did something that meant something, first for me, then for others…”

And, working as a designer around enterprises, it is invariably—for me, for others at GIRVIN—working around people, listening and learning from them; and translating their big ideas into tangible reflections to community.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

There’s an idea. We get it.
Then, it’s a matter of translation—
the idea into tiers of expression.

Here’s how it could be expressed [sold] to community. People to people. One to one. One to one billion. It’s a story—and back to the campfire allegory—it’s also about who leans into listen, and why? In my own meditations on meaning, I see this process—this brand work—as entirely magical. Magical, perhaps, in the context of Apple “magic,” the surprise of “what, how’s that work [for me?]” More questions, answered.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

Why would I say that—magical?

In working around the world, sitting in hundreds of brand focus sessions, retail interceptions, interviews and consumer forums and conclaves, there’s always science, tabulated results—but if a customer says, “I can believe how this works, it’s…” Well, it’s transformationally surprising, it’s uniquely relevant and distinctly disparate from other comparative brands—and, it’s magic.

And what’s that?

Magic is an ancient word, emerging, and roughly 5000 years ago, as a sequence—a seed sound—*magh—it comes from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to be able, have power.” It’s seed that speaks to “might”—“as in physical strength and power,” and too: main; machine; mechanic; mechanism; and mage, magi and magic.

It’s been described as “the manipulation of natural forces.” But, in brand, it might be more about the transformation of decision-making and perceptive recognition of a deeper psychic condition—needfulness, narrative transitioning of emotional responsiveness.
It’s not science, it’s magic.

I take it as a perceptual shift
—a brand-working strategist and designer takes an idea—and in exploring the notion of that inspiration—the imagination that sparks the brand idealization—it’s actualized. Then there’s the “poof” of its creation and coalesced, the psychic dimension of choice—
the feelingness of the momentum forward into the market.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

Finding Answers in the Mist—do you know because you can see it,
or can you sense it in the fog?

Sometimes, interviewing people—it’s like getting through their veils to learn more, lean in more anthropologically—it can be foggy. To that, you’ll need to circumambulate to learn more—get around to the right personal reach-in to what the brand stands for, why it’s relevant, and how that authentic story could be told.

I revisit this earlier journal entry.

Part of my history, as some know, is a viral curiosity that takes me to some unlikely places. Looking for answers, inspirations, solutions, contact with the mysterious. But I’m most interested in places, and people, that require some effort to get to. I mean this literally—and metaphorically. I don’t look for easy work.

Look for inspiration.

I seek learning relationships. And I pursue people—and their brand enterprises—that I admire.

And, to the notations below, and my personal history, I am obsessed with the quest — and its question—what’s the heart of this enterprise, what are the key principles of its creation? And, in the beginning, it’s never the surface, it’s what lies beneath. And how do you get there? Surely by another route, as in the Apple allegory about; it’s in the magical, the undiscovered mysticality, the mysterious quale and the occult, hidden, shimmering — the trembling wonder of that state known as mysterium tremendum.

That’s the moment, that instant of discovery, the surprise, the momentary revelation, when you see something that was. And now is yours.

And you’re different for it.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

Is that relevant? If you contemplate the proposition of interpretation of content, its translation to relevant media, and the shifting of content to new storytelling, visualizations and messaging tiers, it’s magical. Magic is channeling forces of action. That, inherently, is the nature of brandwork.

And for me, that journey is derigueur since my early years—such is the way—questing the hidden and the mysterious. And, obviously, going where you are not to go. This was, and is, the rigor of the journey. And, I’m not alone.


I met this person, J.J. Abrams.
He shared a similar telling.
And exploration.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

And the journey in understanding him, is a take on how I tend to approach project pathways, inquiries and solutions.And in being open to the potentiality of story told —appreciative feelingness:
+ w a t c h f u l l n e s s.

I find that I have an ongoing awareness of things that are aligned with my own research and interest-sets, but then there’s the rest of the world.

And if I don’t know about it, well, then,

I don’t know about it.

And it can be typical things, that many others live by. The worship of the American Idol.The salt of the Mad Men.Or those that are Survivors. Kardashians and Jenners. The Oranges, the Blacks, the Bones. Cheerios, Frosties and Lucky Charms. Lawnmowers and lawns. I just don’t understand them. But of course, I know about them.

But when I—and we at GIRVIN—work on something, a new relationship, a new brand, we dig in, we go deeper, and circumambulate —

WE walk the talk of the story.

Go there, be t[here.]

And so it was with J.J. Abrams. That is, I had a project to pursue, and it required that I know something about him—as the Paramount executives said, “we’re talking to the director of ‘Lost’.” So I dug in. But the real key is learning more about his thinking in connecting with him personally—journey closer.

Here’s the content that I found compelling. For years, almost the entire lifespan of the Mission:Impossible series for Paramount and Tom Cruise, I’d worked on design packages for all of his films. Elder times, that was a full title, core identity and support title. Then—under Tom’s direction, a string of messages and drawings from him, it became a monogram, as in M:I:etc.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation
Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation
Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation
Above, Girvin’s work on M:I:III

To that, Paramount executives told me that a film in this sequence he would be directing—so I’d be designing for J.J.—who’s already a well-known writer and director. To connect with him, the idea would be about the uncovering of mystery—his direction.

And while you might wonder, “what’s that got to do with him? But it’s how he thinks about stories—that is, if you get into the compulsion of exploring a story, you are drawn in. “There has to be some magic there, something uncovered, hidden, a surprise to be revealed.”

You get to a place of revelation, and examine that telling, you are drawn in.You embrace it; you become psychically connected; you’re not just reading, you are there, inside the story.

And in any good telling, that revelation becomes a deepening.

That is, you go deeper, get pulled in deeper; it’s working that way: drawing in—into the nature of the string and the story. But, with really good stories, in that deepening, we go to the next realm of the mystery.And if you are a person that is exploring this in your own life, you will always be peeling the layers. And it might be just it—life and exploration, personal storytelling, lifework: peeling the layers. As a brand designer, I’m looking for the layers, and the mystery, of what can be found on the surface, within, and beneath.

J.J. spoke of this to me, in his own telling—that goes like this: He had this mysterious box that was given to him—as a young person–from a magic shop. I had one of these too. It was a box of mystery, with a big question mark on it. You’ve probably gotten one yourself, right? A mystery box? What’s inside?

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

And this prop—in his instance—was from Tannen’s Magic Shop, which speaks well to the nature of a hidden, yet discoverable storytelling. The point to clarity is about looking for that next mystery, that next level, that next space towards discovery. For GIRVIN, it’s not the obvious, but rather the deeper, foundational currents that drive the brand and how they be visually messaged, and brought forth as relevant—even as a surprise, for customers.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

It’s about finding the magic that lies inside the box, inside the story, and knowing that it’s unstoppable; it’s every present—it’s in there, an exploration of discovery and explication—you open it, unfold it, and it shall be revealed to you. Its presence is forever. And you keep looking, keep going deeper. To find more.

And in finding more, you are more.

For us, too — that quest from M:I:III,
led to Abrams’ rendering of Star Trek.
Worked on that, too—in that instance, more on-lot, on-set with the design strategies of production designer, Scott Chambliss.

Brand Speed | Rethinking Brand Innovation

What mystery, untold, next?

Looking forward.
Onwards with the journey
Tim Girvin | Principal, Founder and Chief Creative Officer,
GIRVIN | Strategic Branding & Design
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B R A N D + A R C H I T E C T U R E
A brand design consortium integrating branding, architecture and interiors—
a creative coalescence that is a working environment, called Osean.
A new [10 year old] collaborative partnership with GIRVIN’s teams.