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IBM believes that the way to build a great brand is to authentically be a great company—a company that lives by values and is in service of the success of others.
That is why the IBM brand has never been defined by what the company makes or sells. Instead, the brand is defined by IBMers who believe they are identified and united by three values. These values were written by IBMers in 2003 and, nearly a decade later, taken one step further in a record-setting global, digital employee brainstorm in March 2013 called the Client Experience Jam. More than 250,000 IBMers collaborated over three days to identify nine “practices.” These practices define what their values look like in action when IBMers are at their best, working to be essential to their clients and the world.
The results led to an exciting new internal program—created by IBMers for IBMers—celebrating their values and exploring how they put their practices into action in service of their clients. When IBM came to us, they wanted our help bringing these ideas to life as core elements of the IBM culture. We collaborated with IBM to create tools and assets to help bring out the best in IBMers. As part of our work to help develop and activate this program, they challenged us with creating iconic visual representations of the nine practices that would resonate with IBMers all over the globe.
Our approach to creating illustrations that capture the essence of each aspect of the initiative was completely iterative in nature. The VSA team worked with IBM in a close partnership that made the client an integral part of the process. We were tasked with bringing these fundamental and defining elements of IBM culture to life, so making IBMers part of our team was critical while working on this inspiring program. Because IBM believes that storytelling is a critical part of building culture, we needed each of these illustrations to tell a compelling and purposeful story. We also needed these illustrations to be meaningful to a global audience, conveying the same meaning and story to IBMers in company locations spanning more than 170 countries. Exploring many styles of illustration through many iterations, we touched on different levels of realism versus abstract designs. Our final direction was found somewhere in the middle, with a visual style that felt right for storytelling and striking the right emotional chord. We then spent a lot of time tweaking colors and to match the associated color system for the overall program and exploring themes.
The IBMers we collaborated with on this initiative were thrilled with the illustrations and excited about using these visuals to fuel IBMer pride and passion for showing up at their best for their clients, colleagues and communities. These illustrations are being applied to digital experiences for the more than 400,000 IBMers around the world and they are making their way to walls of IBM locations globally.