FrankLY Speaking with Lemon Yellow

 

You know the brand, you use the advice, and you love this newspaper. But who are the creative geniuses behind the brand? Our founder, Vivek, interviews his old pals and creative partners in Jayaram, Erika Morales + Julian Martin, founders of Lemon Yellow.

 

 

VJ  How did we all meet, does anyone remember?!!

EM  Oh oh! That’s a tricky one to ask us at this age (ha!) We definitely met through Carolina, your partner. Aside from being socially linked, she was also one of the early LY supporters as we were engaged on LegalArts projects back in 2005/2006 at our inception. We must have been introduced at some art or social happening as soon as you both started dating just can’t remember exactly where. But one thing is for sure, we were all babies!

JM  That was a long time ago. It’s all a bit fuzzy but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that drinks were probably involved.

VJ  What process do you engage in, generally, when a client comes to you wanting to create a new brand identity?

EM  We have a “getting to know you” session, do our desk research, and then set out to define the constituent parts of the brand such as the category, concept, mantra, differentiators, values, etc. The most important thing for us is to not be working in a purely aesthetic way, but rather build the brand based on some foundational truth.   

JM  Nicely articulated. The only thing I’ll add is that we really try to orient the client throughout the process so they have a sense of what’s going on and why certain decisions are being made. That can be a lot of fun because you’re walking someone through your creative process and hopefully teaching them something about this discipline we love so much.

VJ  When we started working together, I was a few years in, and was starting to clearly identify the vision. How did your process apply to our situation?

EM  I think you’ve always done a great job articulating what Jayaram stands for. But we also had the benefit of knowing you because we were friends which afforded us a deep understanding of what you stood for as a person and founder and how that might impact the brand. In your case, we actually worked more intuitively developing a brand that revolved around “innovation” as that was your positioning from the onset. We also knew this needed to look nothing like any other existing legal brand out there because you didn’t want to create a cookie-cutter law firm.

JM  Yeah, it was very intuitive from what I recall. Much like when we were developing our own identity. I think because we’re aligned in so many ways, and we were both just starting out, that approach made a lot of sense.

Looking back I can say that the circular configuration is suggestive of a wheel and that is, in turn,  tied to the idea of innovation. We purposely returned to that concept for the Innovator logo but I can’t honestly say that was the initial intention for Jayaram. It was a bit of a leap of faith, but it paid off nicely.

VJ  Lots of people think a brand identity is simply what a logo looks like. Correct us, please!

EM  A logo is the superficial expression of a brand. A brand is simply an ‘expectation’ in people’s minds. You have all these ‘brand assets’ to reinforce that but in reality, it’s how a brand behaves and communicates that ultimately decides how people are going to perceive you and whether or not they’ll choose to stay loyal or go elsewhere. This is where the strategy really comes into play because now you have a set of guidelines to which the brand should stay true to.

 

JM  In fact, I would go so far as to say that the logo isn’t even as important as the name. You can change a company logo for example, without affecting the overall perception of the brand. But if the name changes, the expectation goes with it. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the name becomes a tool for the patron of a brand. Like when we say “Google something” we mean, do an online search. Changing the name is asking people to learn a new term, which is a big ask.

So the name is key not because of any aesthetic considerations, but rather because of what it represents. Ultimately you have to ask, what does the brand stand for? That’s the most important thing. Everything else is in support of that.

VJ  I often think of us as being the first design-first law firm, maybe similar to how Apple was the first design-first computer company. Are there unique challenges to building a brand in a space as traditional and stale (from a design standpoint) as the legal industry?

EM  Branding is all about differentiation and Jayaram has never struggled with that. Our job, in essence, is to encourage and communicate all of those idiosyncratic qualities that make a company unique. It’s frankly one of the most rewarding things about what we do…encourage people to be their authentic selves and help them build an audience that understands and appreciates that.

JM  Totally. We’ve always admired how brand-centric Jayaram is. We’re lucky to be working with a founder who sees the value in design and consistency in a brand.

VJ  What’s going to be the secret to thoughtfully scaling this brand?

JM  Focus. There’s so much going on at Jayaram that the main hurdle is making it digestible for people. That means staying true to the core ideas and positioning the new ideas in a way that clarifies the brand rather than obfuscating it.

EM  Staying true to the core values that have always made the brand truly different. Staying design-focused and brand-centric. Making sure that corners aren’t cut for the sake of numbers and it continues to innovate and disrupt the legal sector.

VJ  What does LY have planned for the holidays?

EM  We have an annual studio dinner at one of our favorite local spots (Palat) in the Design District. This year we’re also giving our team more time off as well so they can spend time with family or away from the studio. I’ll be traveling to Chicago for a wintery Xmas!

JM  We’re also going up to Winter Haven this weekend with the rest of the team for a couple of nights. Max Strang and his team have graciously invited us to stay at two homes designed by his mentor Gene Leedy. It’s not exactly a holiday thing but close enough to get that festive spirit. Then we’ll all be running around during Basel, which is also not a holiday thing but as art and design dorks, it’s always the highlight of the year. We’re particularly looking forward to the Making Miami show, can’t wait to catch up then.