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How we develop minimum viable brands to test new ventures

New ideas come from anywhere. The shower, the grocery store, waiting for the bus. Most of them disappear without us giving them a second thought. This is precisely why I encourage everyone I meet to carry a notebook with them everywhere they go. To capture those raw and unformatted ideas before they evaporate into thin air and trust me, they do! Personally, I like grid lined moleskins. If you can’t carry around a notebook, your smartphone will do just fine.

This is also a roundabout way of making my point that great ideas are both endless and a commodity. If we let our minds wander, we can generate literally hundreds of ideas in as little as a few hours. We could cure world hunger, achieve world peace, anything at all really. The reality is that these ideas will most likely never amount to anything more than a fleeting thought dismissed within the nanosecond. Furthermore, it’s incredibly difficult to bring a great idea into reality without the right execution, the right timing, and a disciplined team.

I’m not saying you can’t launch a new business or idea without a solid foundation. You certainly can! It’s been done and done well quite a number of times already. In saying that, the success rate of a new venture skyrockets when all stars align – timing, execution and the right team.

Unfortunately, we can’t help too much in the timing department. If we could, we’d make sure the world was ready for the Mercedes Avatar Concept Car, but it just isn’t.

A venture design studio really comes into play when you need the advice, support and access to an experienced group of minds, purposely built to bring your idea to life – dramatically increasing your startup’s chance of success.

I won’t talk about identifying the right time to launch or product-market fit right now. Instead for this article, I want to focus on the execution expertise we bring to the table and save the augmentation of your team for a post at a later date.

Our approach

We take a strict, three step approach to building a venture through design. And, if you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know that I use the term ‘design’ in quite a broad sense to encompass design thinking and the application of design principles to a multitude of things. 

Straight to the chase.

Our first step is to determine whether we believe there’s potential in your idea or not (and if we don’t, we hope you find someone who does believe in your idea, go forth and build an empire and come back to rub it in our faces!). Once we believe in and share your passion for the project, we start to develop your minimum viable brand (MVB) using the process outlined below.

If you’re not sure what a Minimum Viable Brand is, here’s a fantastic article from Harvard Business Review.

Step one: Strategic System

In this step, we work with you through a single one-day workshop to help you (and us!) gain further clarity around your idea. Why it exists, who it serves, what makes it distinctive, etc. 

It’s here that we develop guidelines for what will later become your strategic blueprint and the first iteration of your brand strategy. This becomes your internal compass and guides direction until your brand has the space to evolve into its own living, breathing thing.

Step two: Design System

The design system is the development of an identity for your business. It’s the first initial signifiers of the brand developed in your strategic system. It’s something for the market to identify with in the next step. This is a very stripped down version of your branding, your visual and verbal identity and your first tangible asset to live within your brand atmosphere.

It’s not intended to stay in the market (though it might) but it’s something to get you started. Something to get movement and start to build associations and hopefully, hype and consideration for your product or service.

Step three: MVB Launch

Step three is about launching your new venture to the market as quickly as possible. Here, we take the strategic system and your design system to put a foundational campaign together and start to generate some interest in your product. This campaign is not intended to generate revenue, or bring in leads or sell anything. It simply exists to gather valuable, real-time data and insights on how your target prospects are interacting with your MVB. 

Do they accept it? Do they understand it? Can we learn anything from them? What can we do better? What’s the most important feedback on the idea to include (or remove) from the development roadmap? And most importantly, is the idea both commercially and culturally viable!


During the MVB launch, we dig through the data in real time and prioritise what’s most important to build on next. Is it product development? Is it brand awareness and growth? Where’s the most potential to turn this venture, this blessing of an idea into a revenue generator as quickly as possible? Did we actually find product-market fit like we originally thought? Is the timing right?

The process is simply: Strategise, design, launch, adapt, repeat. Nothing fancy. The approach to each one of those steps is what’s important.

Moving on.

It’s important to note that the purpose of this process is to get you to market as quickly as possible to test, iterate and further define your idea, product or service before you invest truck loads of time and money into product development. 

It’s not a concrete set of deliverables or a polished brand book, and it’s sure as shit not something to craft, hand over and simply forget about. It’s a constant process and must evolve and grow in tandem with your business. A big word for that would be concurrently or simultaneously, but I like metaphors.

In summary

They say business is a marathon. If that’s the case, my question is why are we still briefing agencies to build strategies, craft identities and give us back a few documents to go and implement. With absolutely no room built in for the brand to evolve, to find it’s own feet as your business grows beside it. Rebrands are a totally different ballgame – remember, this is for startup ventures.

At the end of the day, strategy, design and craft are all signifiers for the brand your customers are building around our business. A brand needs room to grow and evolve. Our approach to branding does exactly that. It’s been built directly into our process from the very start all those years ago.

If you’re building the next best thing or have an amazing idea you’d like our help to build, I’d love to hear from you. You can catch me at the studio on +61 7 3556 5329 or reach out to me directly at and remember, it costs nothing to reach out.


Casey is the founder and creative director at Maker Street Studios — a brand and design consultancy helping disruptive businesses build impactful, changemaker brands.
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