As a new year approaches with the COVID crisis continuing to linger, it’s safe to say we’re all beginning to feel more settled into our work-from-home setups.
We’ve mastered DIY lattes that we once grabbed from coffee shops on our morning commutes, shifted our mid-day watercooler chats to conversations with roommates and pets and, most importantly, we’ve found virtual solutions for processes that typically required more a hands-on approach back at the office.
For the BatesMeron team, there was no bigger hurdle to conquer when the pandemic hit. We were grateful to have a steady flow of incoming rebranding projects, but that also meant we needed a solution for virtual brand discovery collaboration—fast.
BatesMeron brand discovery sessions are the most valuable tool at our team’s disposal when beginning a new branding project. They’re a tactical opportunity for clients to go in-depth about their brand’s history, express specific collateral needs, discuss potential marketing endeavors and more. In each three- to five-hour session, we dive into a range of questions and activities designed to get to the bottom of the client’s brand—including uncovering ideal brand characteristics, the meaning of those characteristics and the alignment of the team members participating.
After talking through every detail of the brand’s purpose, needs, goals and personality, we dive into a visual assessment that gives our designers a solid understanding of which design styles the client is partial to, and which are a definite no-no. As one could imagine, the value of this in-person, strategic effort is unparalleled in our work.
How would we maintain the collaborative energy of an immersive, analog experience through a virtual discovery session held through a Microsoft Teams meeting?
After much frantic search-engine digging, we found our answer: An online tool known as Miro came into our lives and we haven’t looked back. A browser-based platform, Miro has effectively worked to enable and encourage client engagement from the comfort of their respective spaces, and ours. Its capabilities include collaborative writing, sketching and importing of any type of file, all in real time for every invited participant.
Once we stumbled upon this gem of a tool, we immediately got to work, taking our existing discovery activities and translating them into a digestible working Miro board that was branded for BatesMeron and organized for participation from both the client and our team.
Thus far, we’ve conducted seven successful discovery sessions and can happily say not an ounce of creative passion was lost through the screen. In fact, we’ve found a new appreciation for the on-the-fly teamwork and real-time editing the virtual boards allow for. While nothing beats a real-life, hands-on meeting, there are plenty of reasons we’ve come to love our new virtual discoveries.
The dialogue between the designers, writers, project managers and clients during a discovery session can lead to a better understanding of what the client is looking for in their brand. We hand them the mic, and the floor is theirs. The tone and passion behind their reasonings can help build understanding and even spark an idea for our team. The client has the platform to tell us everything—from the origin of their business to what they ate last night for dinner. Their comments and reactions (or even the lack thereof) then provides us with a solid temperature check when it comes to design and copy. None of that is lost in the virtual environment.
We’ve found that our clients can be a bit more at ease and open with us through our new virtual discovery sessions in a way that in-person meetings can sometimes hinder. For one, they can be anywhere that’s comfortable for them, as opposed to a set location. They always have a consistent visual of our designed board for reference, so the pressure to remember past activities is eliminated. Microphone muting and hand-raising controls through Microsoft Teams allows everyone to get a word in without talking over other attendees. And let’s face it, who isn’t more relaxed in the comfort of their own personal working space?
No one wants to risk an in-person meeting in a global pandemic. While the alternative virtual communication platform to Miro would be good ole email, the thought of having to switch back and forth through email after email, for answer after answer, to question after question, is too tedious to bear. It would waste time, misunderstandings are inevitable and interactivity would be capped at a minimum. Just like our in-person discoveries, working through Miro and Microsoft Teams allows us to get all our preliminary questions and concerns on the table in an organized, collaborative fashion. (And while we should mention we are neither paid by nor sponsors of either Miro or Microsoft Teams, we would happily accept their swag or any other compensation for our brand loyalty!)
The switch to Miro for conducting discovery sessions allows us to maintain one of the most important aspects of design: Empathy. Hearing the passion in a client’s voice when discussing their business is a completely different experience from getting that information secondhand. It sparks a desire to produce something that meets their passion and exceeds their expectations. Empathic design requires the ability to put yourself in the client’s shoes, understand their wishes and design or write to them precisely.
As described in an article by CareerFoundry, “empathy is considered the starting point for any design project, and constitutes phase one of the Design Thinking process. During the empathize phase, the designer spends time getting to know the user and understanding their needs, wants and objectives. This means observing and engaging with people in order to understand them on a psychological and emotional level.” In being able to maintain engagement, fun and collaboration in our virtual discoveries, we’re also able to put the client at the center of the project. After all, the future is all about human-centered design, and with virtual discoveries, we can stay on the forefront!
While we would have enjoyed a less frantic race (and depressing reason) to find a virtual discovery tool, we’re thrilled to have an easy-to-navigate, go-to solution in Miro. It’s safe to say we haven’t lost any of our brand discovery jive—and if anything, we’ve come out the other end with a better understanding of how to adapt and push through a demanding situation.
Looking for some virtual collaboration tools of your own, or hoping to be the next lucky participants in a BatesMeron discovery session? Look no further.