There may seemingly be nothing less ‘startup-esque’ than the process of developing core company principles. It’s what big, old-school brands do, right? Sit around a giant conference room with myriad whiteboards and an agency leading an exercise in wordsmithing.
But, it’s essential to be able to effectively communicate your company’s vision and principles in order to grow. Especially if you want to bring a company of more than 350 employees across 13 offices and five continents together around a common goal: to stay truly innovative and help shape the future of an industry.
As you may have read in my How to Get Your Old School Tech Company Thinking Like a Startup series, we recently developed and launched our renewed vision and principles to our company, Trading Technologies (TT). And, yes, the words were carefully selected and distilled down again (and again) in order to capture our unique culture made up of the collective values, characteristics and behaviors of our people. We landed on the following:
However, we all know companies tend to make bold statements that fall by the wayside when the next initiative takes over, i.e. check that off the list and put it in a binder in a vault.
But we truly believe in what we have developed. And we think it is representative not only of who we are today — but inspirational and telling of the future of our company and the type of co-workers we want to attract.
In order to foster buy-in, we presented every employee with their own ‘brand book’ that walked through the steps and thinking that went into the renewed vision and principles. We also set up a monthly opportunity for peers to give “shout outs” to co-workers in order to acknowledge the work that embodies and amplifies our principles.
We also wanted to create something visual that reinforced our principles and would be a part of our everyday environment. And, not in a “generic motivational poster” kind of way, but in a way that was seamless, made sense in our environment and spoke authentically to our people.
This was the really fun part: We decided to create original artwork that would exemplify our principles, while also speaking to each of our inner tech geeks.
At TT, we develop the technology that enables professional derivatives trading. And we have been a part of the growth and change in our industry over the last two decades. Our journey is that of a 22-year-old software company that is starting to think and act like a true, innovative fintech startup.
With that as the foundation, we started to scan through imagery and ideas that we thought were really cool to get the creative juices flowing; like old rock concert ads and vintage sci-fi film posters. Some of my personal favorites below:
We looked for examples that were inspirational to us and scoped out initial ideas. From there, we outlined a creative brief with a charge to:
develop poster concepts that creatively and distinctly articulate the four principles of TT, leveraging shared inspirational ideas and brand themes, but also pushing the envelope of brand guidelines to let creativity reign.
We then brought in trusted creative agency, BatesMeron (BMSD) to run with it. BMSD has worked with us in the past and really understands our company and culture. We knew they would have fun with the project and develop some interesting concepts while staying on strategy. We were not disappointed.
BMSD came back with creative explorations in four areas: “Technodelic,” “Fantasy Noir,” “Punk Rock,” and “Futurism.” They really got into the artistry of the project, but also skillfully crafted concepts that were rooted in our principles.
Early on we knew we wanted to explore a theme centered around sci-fi films, futurism, or NASA-related propaganda. As I mentioned before, we’re all a little geeky here at TT. And these themes all have the added benefit of illustrating that what we’re doing as a company is not only cutting-edge, but simultaneously challenging and rewarding. Here are some of the early concepts we explored inspired by sci-fi films, futurism, NASA-promo art:
A great thing about the creative process is that it’s iterative.
We ultimately chose to go with the theme of space travel because of the boundless creative opportunities. But, we narrowed the focus to optimally align with our vision at TT. Much like the early space exploration programs, in many ways we are venturing into uncharted territory with the TT platform. So, we carried this imagery throughout the posters to remind ourselves that what we’re doing is truly innovative, challenging, and the way of the future.
We wanted to get it just right with further refinements:
The final product was fully hand-sketched and then re-created using an iPad Pro and ProCreate software and Apple Pencil (for more details on the creative production, see the blog from BatesMeron):
What we ended up with is a series of four limited-edition, hand-illustrated pieces of art. Now that the pieces are live and hanging in our offices around the globe, it’s apparent that we hit the nail on the head. They’ve become inspirational showpieces for our people. And, partly because they are truly original, they represent our principles perfectly. Go check them out if you happen to stop by TT in Chicago, New York, Houston, Sao Paulo, London, Frankfurt, Geneva, Pune, Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Singapore.
The reaction from the team has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, at the end of the year, we will retire these and create a new set of original art that we hope will be as reflective and inspirational. And, this time our people will take direct ownership in choosing the next theme.
I look forward to sharing our next creative journey in 2017!