24 March 2020
We launched our website at the end of January this year.
2020 was off to a super strange start, so we put the brakes on activating our journal. Somewhere within, the moment did not feel right for us to, well, write.
When everyone was having such mixed feelings about their year so far, what topic would we start with? What would make our blog meaningful? And when there were incredible projects that needed our time and focus, it felt indulgent to dedicate so much as an hour to ourselves, to share our voice.
But after this week, a persistent inner voice said “now is a good time to start your conversation with the world”.For those who don’t know our story, Craig and I started our studio 10 years ago – the same year we were married. Working from home this week, like so many people in the world, took us back to our humble beginnings where we worked from our flat in a small “should-have-been-a-walk-in-closet” space before committing to studio rent. It was literally a slither of a room that we would enter through our bathroom. Needless to say, no client meetings were held there! Ha!
It’s been a solid 8 years since we worked elbow-to-elbow and yet here we are again, this time shouldering a weight of responsibility in a time where we need to step up to safeguard our family, and our studio team from the uncertainty that lies ahead. Thanks to one brutal force that will be forever forged in our collective memory – coronavirus.
On reflecting where the sudden burst of inspiration came from to kick start the journal, the answer emerged with stark clarity: for the first time in years, I feel completely vulnerable and we share this fragile, human state with people in every country across the world. The playing fields have been leveled for all of us: we are all connected, we are equal and it’s time to get back in touch with what really matters.
While design and brand may, at its surface, seem like a process of pixels and pantone, it is, in fact, a business fundamentally rooted in *people*. At Parsons we spend, on average, 200 hours with every new brand we take on, with the sole aim of helping them to distill the deeply human purpose behind their product and service, and articulate it to the people and communities that need it. We cannot perform in this space without intuition and one overarching necessity: empathy. If we aren’t able to ‘see’ people and relate to their journey, we cannot discover the attributes that make them mighty, nor unlock the beauty or utility of what they have to offer.
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COVID-19 has thrown the world as we know it into a pressure cooker and a fish bowl. The world is looking to political figureheads, industry leaders and business owners for answers. Their mettle will be tested and their true colours will be on full display with nowhere to hide.
Now, more than ever, the authenticity of company values will be subject to the most potent of litmus tests. The integrity of their actions, their empathy for their people and customers, and their ability to uphold their bold missions will determine how they will be perceived and remembered in the years to come.
In the coming weeks, South Africa will see a staggering increase in COVID-19 cases, a 21 day lockdown has been instated and our public health infrastructure will be stretched far beyond capacity. Small businesses will take a hit that they may never recover from. The majority of our population will run the risk of losing their already minimum wage jobs as offices, shopping malls, tourist attractions and construction sites shutter their doors. Without an income, they will struggle to put food on the table; some simply won’t afford soap. Businesses and brands have a decision to make: will they step up and act with empathy and kindness for those within their workforce and immediate communities? Or will they retreat, self-preserve and abandon their leadership roles?
Where everything else feels out of our control, our survival instincts are calling on each of us to connect and strengthen our human bond. We know the world has changed for good – as will the brands that survive when all of this is over. Right now, our personal freedom has been restricted, but we take comfort in knowing that our creative freedom is still ours to explore infinitely.
Kim Parsons, co-founder, Parsons Branding.