The Magic Of Prototyping

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Creativity is a strange thing. One moment you have it, the next minute it’s gone. At least, that is how it can feel. Perhaps the worst feeling you can have as a creator, as an entrepreneur or change-maker is that feeling of “getting stuck”. Maybe you can relate?

I remember one time I was working on a spirits product for a large spirits company in the Nordic region. Our job was to create new concepts, i.e., combining branding and innovation (my favorite thing to do). They told us they wanted “a new vodka product that does not play to the category stereotypes”. That was all they said.

A broad brief can be challenging to work with, just as building a business on a vague business idea. There are simply too many options available, nowhere to focus.

After some research and ideation, we had a BIG idea that we loved. Not only were we going to create a new Nordic-based spirits brand, but we would also re-invent spirits innovation itself. Enter Nordic Spirits Lab – a new brand, and a collaborative “open” platform for exploration and innovation.

The brand became an instant hit with our clients, and soon after the launch, I got interviewed for Wallpaper Magazine, Condé Nast, and a few other lifestyle magazines.

It would have been tempting to tell the reporters what I creative genius I was, how I mastered both strategy and design to create this new “ground-breaking,” “innovative,” and “beautiful” brand. Was I really “Shaking Up The Nordic Drinks Industry?”

But the truth is, I was not a strategic or creative genius. Still ain’t. Breakthrough stories like this one come about when you understand and appreciate the true nature of the creative process.

There was one thing in particular that made the difference between “nice work, man”, and being featured in Wallpaper Magazine. That turned out to be the white color of our first product. Sometimes, small things make a big difference. Sure, the concept was great, but it probably would not have been noticed if it wasn’t for that distinctive color.

You see, one of my designers at my brand consultancy had played around with some empty bottles, and in our innovation lab, he had decided to use white spray paint to make it easier to photoshop different conceptual designs.

These white bottles were lying around the studio when suddenly it clicked. Wait a minute, I thought, why are there so few white spirits bottles? And wouldn’t a white color perfectly capture our minimalistic, Nordic new brand concept?

I took the bottle and ran downstairs to a bar. I asked the bartender if I could put the white bottle on the shelf and take some pictures. Sure enough, it stood out, and it looked really cool.

To cut a long story short, (well, shorter), this little design tweak changed the whole story of this new brand. But it all had nothing to do with some sort of creative magic. It was just a typical thing that happens as a result of PROTOTYPING.

Prototyping is simply a way to “build to learn.” It works for every type of creative work, including strategy.

Instead of “getting stuck,” simply start building out even your crappiest idea, and you might discover gold “by accident.” In fact, it’s not an accident; it is more like “planned serendipity.”

My experiences with design thinking and the whole design process (as a non-designer by education), was what led me to use this same method for brand strategy, and other abstract problem-solving challenges.

The next time you are planning your brand, and your business, and you feel stuck, take one of your ideas and sketch it out. Create a mood board. Write a short story. Share it with someone. Have a conversation.

That is how to un-stuck yourself.

I created a strategic brand-building program based on this concept. It’s called The 5-Day Brand Challenge, and it works wonders because you are given so little time to work across five different areas of your brand and business. It forces you to “build a prototype of your future brand and business. And that’s the beauty of it.

If you’d like to learn more about it, check it out and see for yourself. Once you adopt the prototyping mindset (or call it design thinking, if you like), there is no turning back. 

Prototypes can make all the difference. Just like it did for me when I created The Nordic Spirits Lab with my team.

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