Developing Brands with Purpose and Personality with Nathan Sinsabaugh

nathan sinsabaugh

“Most brands don’t risk enough — there’s too much jargon and too little personality.” As a designer, brand builder, and agency president, Nathan Sinsabaugh has spent his career bringing design thinking and innovation to applications outside of a traditional design context. Along the way, he’s worked to infuse B2B brands with more personality and purpose. I couldn’t wait to discuss all of this with Nathan on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

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About Nathan Sinsabaugh

As President of Studio Science—an Indianapolis based design and innovation consultancy—Nathan leads an amazing team of designers, developers, writers, and strategists that are helping enterprise-focused tech-companies design and build the new generation of digital business products and services.

Central to Studio Science’s work are the beliefs that true insights only come from a genuine understanding of people, and that purposefully crafted brands have the power to unite teams, transform cultures, and produce truly meaningful outcomes.

Episode Highlights

Design thinking led Nathan to branding. As a design student, Nathan was drawn to the power of design thinking finding it “influential beyond the aesthetic.” He and his business partner shared this belief and apply it daily as they lead Studio Science. This begs a bigger question …

So what is design thinking? “It’s a more strategic approach to design.” As luck would have it, Nathan and his colleague Christopher Vice came up with a great working definition for design thinking which he shared with us. “Design thinking is a conception of design that allows the competencies of design to be more transferrable to more contexts and more collaborative to create more integrative solutions.”

Understanding people is key to brand building. We all nod along in acknowledgement that people are an important part of branding but “It’s intimidating to know what to do with them. It’s messy and requires a new set of competencies.” It also requires work externally with your customers as well as internal work with your employees. “Your internal audience is more important than your external audience. If you can inspire your people, you can inspire the masses.”

Why is it important to get an external set of eyes on your brand? In an era when many are opting to taking branding and marketing in-house, Nathan stresses the value of having an external view. “It’s hard to look at your own brand objectively. We also have context that cuts across the business — to other departments.” In the end, “it’s hard to serve as your own therapist.”

What are most brands today missing? Personality and purpose. “You’re going to end up communicating above and beyond the words you use. Brands can be as complex as people and yet most brands don’t risk enough. They use too much jargon because it’s safer.” Where do you begin? Purpose. “Can you express your purpose succinctly. Do your employees agree? Do your customers agree? Does what you’re marketing says support this?”

What brand has made Nathan smile? Nathan did early work for ExactTarget and experienced the power of culture first hand when an employee offered to give him a ride when he was walking downtown based on the fact that he saw him carrying an ExactTarget bag. “(Thinking of) that makes me smile all the time.” He also loved the recent Airbnb rebrand. Especially how they stuck to their guns in spite of a digital pile on.

To learn more about Nathan, please visit Studio Science where you can find information as well as helpful 30K essays. You can also follow Nathan on Twitter.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Speaking of agencies … Drew McLellan of the Agency Management Institute just launched a great podcast — Build a Better Agency. His first guests include Scott Monty, Jason Falls, and Peter Levitan. In addition to being an upcoming guest, I’ve also listened every episode and learned something each time. Check it out here!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!