Creative & Design

“It’s not about what WE want. It’s about what is right.

That’s an inside joke that we share often. We laugh, not just because it sounds like a pontificating windbag said it, but because it speaks to the subjective nature of creative and the need for clear and concise goals at the onset of every project. But, we also cringe, knowing that much is created in this arena to subjectively satisfy what someone thinks they want. A frustrated junior once asked us to “just tell me what you want.” And that was our response. “What is right” is what hits the right triggers to elicit the right response from the right targets. “What is right” requires us to suspend our personal biases and create as though we were the targets we were creating for.

To start that ball rolling, solid creative can only come from a solid creative brief. As the Make Something out of Nothing Company, we’re very good at writing them. We would be delighted to help you with yours.

Strategic Planning Graphic MarketingTugboat Group Vancouver

Creative solutions to business problems

"Creative" isn't always about making an ad, something pretty,  something "cutting edge" or even something you can hold in your hands. In this business, creative can't live on its own and exist for its own expression. We are marketing architects and creative is a building material we specify to achieve a desired outcome.

While, the sky is pretty much the limit on what we can put our marketing minds to, creative work usually falls into the categories of identity development, trade show experiences, packaging, web design, advertising, promotions, collateral design, publications, environments, promo items, you name it.

In our business, creative is relevant thinking applied to a challenge. It's never enough to just skin a trade show booth, use info@ for contact email, or follow the rules on packaging. Relevant ideas drive relevant brands. They drive relevant brand interactions. They drive relevant brand growth.

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Identity development, retrofit and polish

Please. Please don't call your logo a brand. A brand is so much more than a logo. Knowing this, our practice is to create, retrofit or polish a compelling graphic identity that reflects the attributes of the brand position and personality. Should you come to us without a position, we can proceed in one of two ways: 1) a brand challenge or visioning session where we challenge or create the brand architecture, position and personality or 2) take you through a thorough intake where we fill in the architecture, position and personality, based on you being the "living brand."

Identity creation

Each identity development project evolves a little differently, but generally, it goes pretty much like this.:

1 Creative brief in hand, the designers hit the sketchpads (with pencils - oldschool) and work a stream of consciousness approach to the development of visual metaphors that could embody and reflect the brand essence. This is a collaborative exploration,running in cycles until the team has multiple solid concepts that they can stand behind. These pencil concepts are presented to the client for review and collaboration.

2 With client-approval on a concept, or visual metaphor, the process continues onto the computer platform where details and typefaces are explored. Again, this is a collaborative process but the designs are getting more personal and are pushed and refined in league with the energy behind them. In most cases, this results in at least three logos for presentation, but sometimes more, and sometimes less, all depending upon the inherent strengths of each ID.

3 After all of that, the final stage sees a final ID emerge which is then refined to suit the final applications. Alternate colours and supporting typefaces may be explored but the concept is locked and we are down to polishing the final artwork.

Identity retrofit

Let's say that there is some equity in your identity. Some history. Lots of existing investment with the logo plastered on it. Not wanting a wholesale, overnight change but wanting a more modern, less-tired or better-assembled identity is the reason for your visit.

We can take what is good, memorable or plentiful and get rid of the detritus. Assuming your existing identity was not created in MS Word, we can maintain the essence of the existing while modernizing or adapting the identity for it's new life.

Identity polish

You like your identity. But, it's a little weary. Or, it was never fully considered during its  creation. We can correct obvious deficiencies, in type, colour, balance, tone, weight. Like a day at the spa.

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Retrofitted Windset Farms Identity

Trade show experiences

The visitor experience at a trade show can be passive or active. We prefer active. Every time. Active means engaging, energizing and memorable. This means saying no to images of every single product in your catalogue and yes to one singular idea designed to elicit a specific response from your best prospect.

Beyond the creation of exciting graphics and stock or custom display systems, we also help (in whole or in part) drive the whole experience, whether it's a 10x10 or 50x30. Show-only product samples, promotional items, staffing, uniforming, guerilla, sponsorship,  training, advertising support, video, social media activation, contesting and that je-ne-sais-Sham-WoW factor that generates buzz on the show floor. Everything we recommend or engage in is designed to get more of the right traffic to your booth.

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The product is the package

The Tugboat approach to packaging is the same approach we take to everything - start at the end and work back. Running head-long into something cool or something new or something a competitor is doing is a great way to do something weak. Packaging is about presence - table presence, shelf presence, social media presence, even Costco presence.

Rarely do we design a package on its own. We consider a packaging system and standard which becomes the genesis for all packages (well, most anyway - there are odd-balls out there just waiting to wreak havoc). A program that accounts for colours, new product additions, producers, production requirements, substrates, technology advances, packing lines, human involvement, government regulations, sub-brands/brand extensions, positioning, type, legibility, retail impact, consumer habits and other considerations that can disrupt the harmony of the product line-up.

Even working with clients who may have only a single product at the moment, it's important to treat the package design of said product as though it were part of a family of products. Because you never know what tomorrow may bring.

Ultimately, a considered system and standard is the driver of a consumer being drawn to more than just one product - a packaging standard helps ensure a consumer is drawn to the whole family.

A robust system removes arbitrary guesswork. It removes being caught without an answer. It provides rules to take comfort in. With a thorough system and standard, new product roll-outs are more efficient, more precise and more confident. A system means bottles, boxes, paper-foam, labels, bags, clams, top-seal, nets, bulk, trays, flow-wrap, POS and other means of delivering product to market have the ability to stand on their own and stand with their families.

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Collateral, documents, publications and supports

We can bring you to life on paper or in pixels. Annual reports, brochures, magazines, on-pack, posters, point-of-sale materials, media kits, digital and printed stationery, forms, guerrilla fodder; pretty much anything we can imagine to get the right message and emotion to the right people.

Sometimes what a client thinks they want isn't really what they need at all. We explore every request before we act on it. What are we expecting this piece to do and and to whom? Often, there is another solution.  It might be cheaper or faster or even more expensive but it will be better and more relevant to the target. 

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Brand Audit - Brand Development and Design by Tugboat Group Vancouver


So, what's the big idea? Good question.

It's easy to buy space, time or pixels. It's another thing altogether to craft the compelling and relevant message that resides in that space, time or screen and how it will present through all mediums as defined by the strategy. Take a step back before you pull the trigger on that media buy and let's spend a little time talking about why you think you should be advertising in the first place and to whom.  Are you ready to track? How will we track?

When we know what we want to have happen and how to track that it's really happening, it's a lot easier to create advertising that delivers relevance and ROI.  Advertising that is meaningful to our targets and your bottom line.


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