An Event Apart: The Real Me

by Luke Wroblewski April 1, 2013

At An Event Apart in Seattle WA 2013, Aarron Walter shared why having a personality and story matters for companies in his presentation The Real Me. Here's my notes from his talk:

  • With technology, we're trying to communicate with people. To do that we use our voice. A single voice can educate us, tell us stories in brand new ways, guide us, and more.
  • People may forget what you said to them, but they won't forget how you made them feel.
  • It often boils down to telling a story. We tell stories with design. Ultimately we want to communicate to our audience and connect people.
  • The story (voice, brand) and behavior of an organization must be aligned. If they're not, it feels dishonest and inhuman. No amount of marketing will make up for real world behavior.
  • Before public Internet sharing, organizations were able to speak their story to others. But today everyone can participate in telling that story through the Web so any dishonesty can quickly come to light. Organizations need to live their brand not just communicate it out.
  • Good design is honest: it does not make promises it can't keep.
  • If you can create a usable experience, you create transparency, which builds trust. Making things easier for people tells a story about your brand: you care enough to put in the extra effort. These bits of small kindness add up to an overall positive feeling about your brand.
  • Small kindnesses add up to appreciation and trust. When things go wrong, which will happen, people will be more apt to stick around.
  • A brand's story can be enforced by a value system. Those values can be aspirational and inspire people to be part of something.
  • Let ethos drive the things that you make. When people can get anything they want, they look for something special. A story can make a unique connection.
  • Human presence: can you feel the people behind a product? Personality is an important part of communicating human presence.
  • Craftsmanship shows through. If you care enough to craft your medium, people will recognize the effort you put into it.
  • We live in a world with a lot of options. We can't just be good. We have to be great. Craft can make this distinction between products.
  • Human presence can come through in the words, images, and even code we use to create our products. Example: hand drawn sketches.
  • A lot of personality (about 50%) has genetic causes. We're born with unique traits that define us.
  • In order to survive humans need to make connections between each other. Personality helps make those bonds.

Benefits to Personality

  • Personality is not an option. It is essential to everything we do.
  • Stand out: be different from the crowd by having a unique personality and features that back it up. Example: Hipmunk travel site sorts flights by "agony".
  • Emotion and memory: our brains are hard wired to remember emotional experiences. You can create long term connections between people and brands.
  • Find your tribe: personality helps you bring like-minded people together. Human beings just want to belong. You can't build a tribe with a wishy washy personality. You need a message that aligns people.
  • A tribe naturally excludes everybody. You have to design for someone. Designing for everyone means designing for no one.
  • Passion: personalities get people excited. Example: betabrand is very enthusiastic about their products and encourages their customers to do the same by highlighting photos they take using the company's products.
  • Finding out who your customers are is only half the question. You also have to understand who you are.
  • Design personas can help capture a product ethos. It describes your product as a person (real or fictional) and outlines supporting brand traits with clearly defined boundaries. Defining these traits helps you know what you should and shouldn't do.
  • An overview of the voice for a personality should include some examples of copy in use. Be aware not every situation calls for the same level of attitude.
  • A consistent voice can have a different tone based on the context at hand. Different contexts are often driven by the emotional state of customers. For example, when errors occur be clear and straightforward, not funny.
  • Empathy is required for good copy writing. Good copy writing is good design.
  • There isn't a formula for creating great personalities. But considering the voice you use to tell your story and crafting it well opens you up to critique. That's part of the definition of being remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise always.
  • Putting yourself out there may not be comfortable but it is where you can find the real you.