Creating the Manifesto Brand #1 – The Brief
Let’s set the scene: it’s December 2011 and Simon, Curtis and I are on the verge of forming the company we’d always dreamed of working for – Manifesto Digital.
We had a great combination of skills and abilities, we had expertise in a content management system (Fatwire) that had just been purchased by Oracle and we had the desire and energy to turn our brainchild into a world beating digital agency.
The problem? We had no brand.
No logo, no business cards, no colour scheme, not even a favicon to our name.
We wanted to start putting the Manifesto pedal to the metal but – even though none of us had started an agency before – we knew that the lack of a cohesive visual identity for the company was going to be an obstacle.
Time to get serious
Now the run up to Christmas isn’t the best time for getting business stuff done. Distractions – of the familial, social and bright shiny variety – abound. But luckily business meetings can take place in the pub. So, despite a few false starts, we were soon all around a table discussing what we wanted the Manifesto brand to look like.
We already had a designer in mind – the very gifted Katie at What Katie Does. Designer, crafter, foodie and cat lover extraordinaire (and a mate to boot, which is always handy).
The problem we now faced was how to turn our amazing company story, mission and values into a brief that would, in turn, allow Katie to transform them into an iconic visual motif.
What’s that? You don’t know about our amazing company story, mission and values? Well, let’s rectify that right now.
The Manifesto Story
In August 2011 I wrote a document called ‘The Manifesto’.
I wasn’t planning to run for government. Nor was I putting forward a competing set of guidelines for Agile software development. Rather, it set out some of the ethos of a company I’d want to create; a company that would be my ideal employer.
Me and Curtis had already talked about how I was planning to set up my own company after the project I was working on finished.
Simon was looking for a challenge bigger than the next promotion at an agency.
Oracle had just purchased the content management system that Curtis specialises in (FatWire in June 2011). This was likely to create opportunities for people with this knowledge.
The three of us had met on a difficult FatWire implementation and all have some knowledge of the product.
Things were dropping into place. It was now or never.
Through the autumn of 2011 we got together regularly and made plans in pubs, patios, greyhound tracks and living rooms.
Simon suggested we call the agency Manifesto after the original document.
In December 2011 Manifesto Digital Limited was formed.
By March 2012 all three directors were working full time in the business.
What was in the Manifesto?
This is from a version written before the company was officially formed:
To bring together clever people and give them the space and tools they need to be brilliant. To channel this brilliance in a way that can makes people’s lives better, easier, fairer, more interesting or fun through the use of technology.
We will develop products that fit in with the above with the aim that they will spin off into their own entities if they’re good enough.
We will be London’s best Agile technologists and a whole lot more besides.
Goals and Values
We’re honest and always give people advice that we genuinely believe in
We enjoy what we do
We’re confident in our ability
We understand our value
We make work a fun place to be
We’re sociable but don’t force the fun
We aim to accommodate
We give time to all staff to think independently
We work hard and expect high standards
We measure by output and contribution
We always want to improve
When something isn’t working, we change and adapt
Everyone is encouraged to develop specialist knowledge
The company will have activities in 4 main areas.
A full service digital agency offering design, hosting, web, social and mobile development.
Enterprise Content Management
Built initially around the opportunity created by Fatwire moving to Oracle there are two sides to this business – moving people from Fatwire to an alternative content management system or getting them on to the main Oracle path.
The creation of our own products that may spin off into start-ups.
Agile and Scrum have become the de facto standard for delivering successful software development projects. We have specialist skills in both the organisational and technical elements of Agile.
There you go. Pretty ambitious stuff, eh?
The Briefest of Briefs
The temptation when working with a creative person is to chuck all that at them and let them deal with it. We knew, from having received vague yet demanding briefs before, that this wasn’t the way to go. It was up to us to distill all this information down into the points that were most relevant to the design of the brand and specify the deliverables that we wanted.
So, after knocking down the Mission/Values bit to a non-overwhelming length here’s what we came up with for the design brief (grabbed from the actual end of the actual email to Katie – I know, it’s like Wikileaks or something):
Pretty concise, right?
We thought so. After a coffee meeting with Katie to hammer down the parameters (face-to-face meetings are essential to make sure you’re all on the same page), she was ready to go to work.
Join us for part 2 to find out what Katie, er, did.