Brain Sinew

08 Mar 2020

Standing in front of an auditorium filled with board members, zoo keepers and employees, I take a deep breath. I begin to tell the crowd how excited I am to lead the design for your new brand. Yet, I’m nervous. Visibly unable to speak with confidence. What if I can’t do it? Will this determine my career as a design leader? If only I had the power to see the future, where everything turns out great. Where parents speak of a wonderful new look for the zoo; children beg for branded merchandise from the gift shop; and my boss says “Well done, Brian.” If only I had the power to see the future, I could speak with confidence.

During our conversations with the zoo, there were other less confident voices. They sounded like “What’s wrong with our logo?” and “We don’t need to change, I think we’re just fine where we’re at.”

I often think of vision as having a superpower. In fact, Webster’s dictionary describes vision as having a power of imagination or a mode of seeing what is not yet there.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

– Henry Ford

When difficult change is needed, I think we all question our confidence. This brings to mind Henry Ford’s comment about the invention of the first mass produced Ford automobile, the Model T. He said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford had a vision.

A 1921 Ford Model T

I’ve come to realize that having great vision is, in fact, a superpower.

The Sedgwick County Zoo has vision. We asked Dr. Jeff Ettling and their team where they see the zoo in the future. They responded with, “A global leader in conserving wildlife and wild places at home and around the world.”

Michael on the left and our state flower, the sunflower.

I considered this statement as I worked through over a dozen well crafted identities. But it was my final creation that truly connected to that vision. The Kansas Lion, as I call it, represents conservation of wild life and wild places around the world, while our state flower, the sunflower, represents the wildlife and wild places at our very home. Without their vision, the Kansas Lion would not have been born and so the opportunity to create something truly unique.

Looking forward, this identity serves to tell their story and stand as a reminder to all staff, and board members, where they’re headed. And most importantly, where they’re headed with confidence.

Finally, the day came, where I stood with my team at Gardner Design to present the new identity. The auditorium was filled zoo keepers, staff, and board members. We talked about our research, we talked about branding, but as the time came to reveal their new logo, I was confident, like I had a superpower, to tell the story about a Kansas Lion.

The video reveal used when presenting the new logo and brand
Read Next Dad fueled my creativity.