Trickle Down Processes: Why Project Stories Should Belong to All, Not Some

Processes can often feel like an intimate language that only you know how to speak.

In reality, they’re shared lexicons that have a cascading effect for all creative partners.

As creative partners to folks like Indie Shopography and Braid Creative, we depend on “trickle down processes” to inform the work we do in planning, creating, and publishing content. Working from the same page helps all of us stay focused, but most importantly, consistent when it comes to clients that speak different languages, whether they design, develop, or create. 

The best example is Braid Creative’s big, beautiful Brand Vision Guidelines. They start with Kathleen and Tara, but often pass through Emily, who in turn, passes it on to us. This passing of the baton gives us all a jumping off point when it comes to finding that just-right voice and tone, ownable key words and phrases, and ethos statements that the brand rallies around in all of its content. In addition, seeing mood boards, color templates, and basic brand guidelines helps us – and all of Braid Creative’s creative partners – understand the story behind the brand, so that we create the most resonant and authentic content possible.

Braid Creative calls this a “creative checkpoint”, a base where project stakeholders gather to forage for what they need to complete the task at hand. Whether working with a web developer or photographer, hand-lettering whiz or copywriter, the Brand Vision Guidelines offer a helpful blueprint for every creative architect involved with the build-out and creation of the brand.

For Lexicontent, our Trickle Down Process looks a lot like our Emotional Targeting Workbook, hand-crafted and personally delivered to each and every one of our clients regardless of size, scope, or length. The workbooks provide a clear understanding of story which, in turn, informs the emotional intention of the brand’s many touchpoints, from design and development, to typeface, print and digital collateral, displays, voice and tone, and of course, content.

When we work with developers, designers, photographers or other creative allies, our process helps set the tone for how the brand is to unfold in the project before us, and gives us a consistent set of emotions from which to create from, so that we’re all viewing the project from the same vantage point.  

Trickle Down Processes are documents, systems, guidelines, or tools that bring creative partners together under the same strategic umbrella, while holding space for a shared story.

Below, we pose three questions that get at the heart of great Trickle Down Processes: 

Does it tell a story that everyone can champion?

Trickle down processes exist to marry a project’s purpose with a brand’s story. If your process doesn’t help your partners or collaborators understand the mission and vision of the brand at-a-glance, zoom out to think more “big picture” and less “creative brief". Does your process allow room for the brand to communicate its goals, talk about its target audience, or share its past, present, and future victories? Can your process help others see what products, services, or offerings are available, and how they connect back to the brand’s larger vision? Does your process allow your client to speak passionately in their own words so that others can listen into the conversation they might’ve missed? If not, rethink your process in a way that helps everyone feel like both a witness and a participant to the kickoff stage.

Great trickle down processes help others grasp the big idea at a glance, while offering a big idea that everyone can get behind. 

Can your creative partners see how it relates to them?

Great trickle down processes don’t just tell a story; they offer a map for where the brand is headed and take stock of those who are on board. If your creative partners can look at your process document and understand where they play their part, you’re on to something. Processes exist to outline the purpose behind the brand, but they also set everyone else up for success by clearly outlining who governs each piece of the project. Take a look at your process to see if you’re helping to lead others in the right direction. 

Great trickle down processes help others play their part by defining the “who” behind the “what”. 

Can everyone that needs it access and share it? 

Transparency is one of the key elements behind great trickle down processes. Project managers we work with say that they often ask themselves, “If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, could this project, in theory, continue onward?” Processes that are transparent, accessible to all, and ideally collaborative in nature are processes that are easily adopted. While we often hear about “owning” a process, creating a truly successful Trickle Down Process isn’t about being territorial – it’s about being transparent and generous in sharing it with anyone that asks to see it. Are you comfortable giving access to your process to those that need to reference it most? 

Great trickle down processes advance projects by belonging to everyone, not just someone. 

We’d love to hear how you use your Trickle Down Processes to inform those invested in your projects. Leave us a comment below, or talk to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!