The wood and the trees


If you keep your eyes and ears open and pay attention, there are business lessons to be learned everywhere and correlations between all sorts of apparently unrelated subjects.


In the studio the other day, I paused to watch a part of the design process for a new flyer. There were a lot of different elements that needed to be combined – imagery, text, brand colour and pattern elements etc. – like different species of tree that grow together in symbiosis to make up a healthy forest or woodland.

The copy was written in the right tone for the organisation, and it had all been proof-read and laid out in accordance with the brand guidelines. The imagery elements were on-brand, and the photos had been treated to make them consistent – in this case, cropped to circles and framed in brand colours. But when all the separate pieces were combined together and carefully arranged on an empty background, there still seemed to be something missing: it was somehow soulless and fragmentary. The elements weren’t in conflict, but they weren’t supporting each other and working together to create anything bigger than the individual parts.

Then the designer tweaked the background. All it took was to flood the plain white space with a pale shade of one of the brand colours, and suddenly everything was held together, and a clear, unified picture emerged.

I’m not a designer myself (my skills lie more in words than visuals), and I know this was only an initial draft for a proposal, but watching the process got me thinking about how we often focus on the individual trees of our business: our attention is too busy with the tasks and tactics that keep things going from day to day, not the big picture that lies behind it all – the forest that’s formed by the trees coming together.

There are definitely times when tactics need to be foregrounded; but as long as that is where we focus, there will never be complete coherence. It’s bad enough when each element is vying for the spotlight, but if they end up pulling in different directions, real conflict may arise.

In the same way that the flyer design was incomplete without a single unifying background that held the different elements together, all our business tools and techniques, all our tasks and tactics, need to be viewed in relation to the underlying goals and strategy of our organisation. Only then will we leverage the potential synergies and access the full power of purpose and coherence.

Synergy: the bonus that is achieved when things work harmoniously together.
― Mark Twain

At Tantamount, we specialise in words and design and in making sure they work together to communicate brand messages effectively and appropriately. If you need help finding the right words and getting the tone right, why not mail us on or give us a call on 0798 661 3437 and let’s have a chat?