Adobe MAX: Your (Brand) Voice Is Your Super Power

Adobe MAX: Your (Brand) Voice Is Your Super Power

At the Adobe MAX Conference in Los Angeles today, artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon spoke about the importance of finding your voice as an individual artist. And while her talk was geared toward the creative community, it had many hidden takeaways for businesses that are trying to stand out today.

Her main piece of advice: Don’t conform.

“Nonconformity is not only a desirable thing, it is an actual thing,” she said, quoting artist Ben Shahn. “All art is based on nonconformity… Without nonconformity, we would have no Bill of Rights or Magna Carta, no public education, no nation upon this continent, no continent, no science at all, no philosophy, and considerably fewer religions.”

This value that Congdon spoke to of being different and putting your own ideas into the world, very much applies to businesses today because while in mainstream culture differences may be seen as flaws, these same idiosyncrasies are your strength as a brand.

Discovering your voice and who you are as a brand, is one of the most important things you can do as a company. “It requires hours of repetition, frustration, agony, humiliation and self-doubt,” Congdon said. “And your voice is always morphing. … It’s not fixed and final.”

And while one goal in finding your voice as a company is to find a voice that is distinct, it rarely happens without influence. This influence can come from anywhere: other brands, billboards, T-shirts, clothing, stationery—you name it.

“It’s what sets you apart, what makes your work interesting and distinctive, worthy of discourse and desired by others,” Congdon told attended. “Having your own voice is the holy grail.”

For a business trying to find its own voice, it is first important to understand what having your own voice means. According to Congdon, it spans everything from the color pallet that you choose, the POVs you put out into the market, symbols and lines in your creative work, markings, the mediums you choose and the consistency in which you do all of this.

Having a voice means having a unique perspective, identity and value and it is what makes your work yours and what makes it different from the work of others. And finally, Congdon said, your voice is your story.

“[Finding your voice is] both an exercise in discipline and process of discovery that allows for—and requires—loads of experimentation and failure,” she told attendees. She provided the audience with some tips, some of which we have adapted below for businesses:

1. Encourage yourself, and your teams, to do something creative every day: Even if you feel there isn’t enough time in the day, make time for creativity. This helps your people grow, which brings you one step closer to finding your brand voice.

2. Get your people comfortable with feeling uncomfortable: Taking risks and trying new things is absolutely critical to finding your voice. Things can become muddy quickly, but if you can continue to work through this muddiness, you’ll find that finding your voice becomes easier.

3. Stay open: Be open to new ideas and trying new things. Be open to experience. All of these things can help shape your brand voice.

4. Employ constraints: Working in monochrome forces people to get creative in thinking outside of the box.

5. Consider everything as an experiment: Not everything should be, or needs to be perfect right off the bat. Iteration is a good thing. “You need to make a lot of crap to make something good,” Congdon said.

And remember, all of the artists (think: companies) out there today that have found their distinct voice have made bad work, struggled with skills, blundered, felt lost and questioned their work. They’ve faced learning curves, made mistakes, felt fear, and didn’t always know where they were headed next. And all of that has shaped them into what they are today.

“Your creative voice is your superpower,” Congdon said.