1Core Identity. I help organizations understand their story, and I help them understand how to use that story as a tool for transformation.


The Clarity Brand Design Process uses branding, design, and group facilitation processes as tools for visioning, alignment, and – ultimately – transformation.

Core identity work typically falls into three buckets: brand discovery, brand design, and brand strategy. Most of my clients need need help with only one or two aspects of core identity. Some engage me for all three.

A process of collaboration and co-discovery

I call my way of learning by listening the Clarity Brand Design process. It is the way I work with you to discover your story and its place in the larger world. It’s a method of turning your staff, colleagues, supporters, customers and members into active collaborators and change agents. The end result is an understanding of your position in the ecosystem of ideas in which you operate, the opportunities available to you, and the clear strategies for realizing these opportunities.


All of my client relationships start with a Clarity Brand Study. I offer this through both public workshops and tailored in-house programs.

Many clients use their Clarity Brand Study as the foundation for their own internal organizational growth and improvement efforts.

Others employ me further to help them use the Study to transform their team building, strategic, innovation and/or communications efforts.

2Strategic planning: I help leaders use brand strategy as organizational strategy.

A message that is clearly understood by everyone in the organization has the catalytic effect of aligning everyone’s intentions and energies toward the same goal.

While you’re under the hood, why not make sure your mission and strategy are aligned? Why not make sure your team has a shared understanding of your goals and tactics? You get one message to share. Make sure that leadership, development, marketing, and operations are all sharing the same one.

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Mission and message are inextricable

The Clarity process treats every element of the design and delivery of a service or product as part of a whole. We, client and consultant, create systems whose parts work together, synergistically. Central to this approach is the understanding that mission and messaging are inextricable. They are two strands of the same thread. When you work on messaging, you are working on mission.

The work starts with brand clarity—the heart of the system, the linchpin of effective communications. Are you really clear about who you are, who you serve, and how you help? That’s where we start. We strive for common understanding, buy-in, and enthusiasm among all your stakeholders.

3Capacity Building: I help teams put the change in change agency.

The Clarity branding process relies on an open, honest review of organizational assets and liabilities. This often reveals opportunities for executive and team development and coaching. I’ll help you identify your ideal team and then build that team to serve your vision.

One of the core principles of the Clarity business model is the ability to connect clearly identified needs with the best-fit resources to answer those needs. I call it the ‘right person for the right job’ model. Sometimes these people are already in your office and just need some focused training or process coaching. Other times it makes the most sense to refer a respected and reliable independent professional. Often it ends up being a hybrid.

Like many, this story starts at a point of transition

Sally Mixsell, the first alumna to serve as this private all-girls middle and high school’s Head of School, took the reins in July of 2008.

That autumn she hired me to conduct a core identity, positioning and messaging exercise. In the winter she asked “We need an integrated strategic plan. Will you lead that discussion?”. That work was finished by the end of the spring.

Clarity first. Then the team to execute clarity

Next, the summer of 2009 was devoted to finding and hiring the right communications director. The school hired the just-right Susanna Thompson, who brought her own incredible focus, drive and big-picture ability to the effort. I coached her in understanding the school’s core brand promise and I trained her in best-practice creative and content generation processes. And. she. ran. with. it. I became an active member of her new school-wide communications team, with representation by admissions, alumni-relations and development. I was thrilled when Susanna would routinely cite the Clarity Brand Study as a part of her process.

That fall I recommended that they engage Pete Chilton as a freelance designer to act as art director for their whole burgeoning brand. He’s a gem who understands brand from the ground up. Amongst many other things, Pete is a bass player in a straight-edge punk band. He’s not easily flustered and he keeps the beat. (Coincidentally, Pete and my son, Sayre, are now business partners at Nova Motorcycles.)

Design and execute a full identity makeover

Finally, I worked with this new team to launch the development of the school’s next generation visual identity and communications system. This is a giant process that firms charge as much as a million dollars or more for. It included all of their primary communications vehicles, including their magazine and website.

I stayed involved from the design and approval of the Creative Briefs for all projects, through the approval of the messaging and visual look and feel of the whole brand, including the UX of the new website.

Then I left.

Look, ma, no training wheels

And this new hybrid in-house/freelance team finished this amazingly great new brand id and website all the way to successful launch, roll-out and integration. All by themselves.

In under two years this proud school had added the rudder of clarity, clear positioning and messaging that would support their vision, and the proven capacity to deliver it.

That’s what I mean by capacity building.