Deep Listening as a Creative Approach

Text reads "The lake swirls around us, and crashes on windy days. The lake, in all its glory, is a teleportation device." on top of a photo of Lake michigan

Soft film photo of Lake Michigan with buoy

Rebranding never means turning our back on a client’s roots or past. For us at Otherwise, it means using our process of empathic inquiry to host provocative conversations with clients that spark meaning and inspiration while revealing the brand’s soul. These dialogues allow us to process the brand through our own individual word-based practices — whether it is exploring poetic structures or tinkering with the elements of a great short story. In this particular exercise, one of our content strategists applied her creative writing gifts to craft a powerful reflection on our client’s brand that became an anchor in the brand strategy we devised for Becovic:

In a lecture at the Poetry Foundation, Stuart Dybek once said, “Chicago is not the city and its lake, it’s the lake and its city.” His perspective is a reminder that the lake swirls around us, and crashes on windy days. The lake, in all its glory, is a teleportation device. It can move us to any moment — a memory of someone as a child standing in the country they were born in, transfixed by an entirely different body of water.

For generations, the lake has befriended newcomers. Immigrants with one suitcase and two children, grandmothers with chemical engineering degrees working as nannies, toddlers who grow up to be doctors and poets; vast numbers of people searching for an opportunity to start fresh, to escape a crumbling system, to seek the possibility of a better life elsewhere.

In this journey, this forced displacement or deliberated voyage, people search for a new home. What is it about Lake Michigan that translates into home? Beauty? Peace? Refuge? Reminders of lives and lands left behind? Is it its vastness, the way we can’t see how it ends? Its connection to somewhere else? Its tranquil facade, that regardless of the current, still manifests a sort of quiet no other part of the city can capture quite the same way?

At its very core, Chicago is also its neighborhoods along the lake. Storied Edgewater courtyards. A mesh of spices filling the air on Devon in Rogers Park. Uptown’s uproar of jazz, beaming through The Green Mill. Treks to the beach on a sunny day and a freezing walk down Lake Shore Drive for contemplation in the thick of December. These are Chicago’s gifts; its treasures; points of access to the very place one has come to call home.