Authenticity is thrown around a lot as a desired trait. “Be authentic,” is the most difficult piece of advice you can get.
I come from the streets and now I work in the mainstream worlds of education and design. My two worlds could not be more different. I struggled with being true to self for years.
When you’re in a new unfamiliar environment you develop paranoia and your defenses go up. The easiest path is submission to the culture, rules, and regulations of the new environment. This is the plight of many people transitioning to different standards of living. Fake it till you make it can become a trap you cannot escape.
Inspired by Basquiat, my chariot’s on fire
Everybody took shots, hit my body up, I’m tired
Build me up to break me down to build me up again
They like “Hov’, we need you back so we can kill your ass again” -Jay Z
This happens with businesses as well. Many businesses go through an identity crisis at some point. It could be brought on by a myriad of things. It could be connected to people who work for the business, external factors in the market, or leadership. Often dipping revenue, profits, and reach are connected to the ethos of the company. We have to remember, our identity even as individuals is not only about who we are. We must consider that our identity is who we are in relation to other people and how those people view us juxtaposed with how we want them to see us.
What I learned is that authenticity is not as impossible as it seems. As a designer, I work with clients to bring out the authenticity in themselves and their companies.
Our process relies a lot on storytelling and influential people connected to the company or the person. When we think of authenticity it is usually connected to how we have been seen by someone, even if one person, or how we viewed someone in adolescence or at some point in the past. We want to connect to an emotion of wholeness that we either had or that another person or agent made us feel. When those stories start flowing true identities can be formed and authenticity can be released.
When a brand is authentic people feel safe and valued because they know they are not being lied to. It is easier for a customer to support something they know speaks to them. The most narrow niche can reach the broadest audiences. Stay real.