Takeaways from Brand New Conference 2012

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Photos courtesy of Eric Ryan Anderson

At the third annual Brand New Conference – a one-day event focused on the practice of brand identity – designers from around the world gathered at SVA Theatre in NYC to trade stories and soak up wisdom from the industry’s best. There was a lot of plaid, and eight knockout presenters, each with a different style and philosophy. Here are my favorite takeaways from BNConf 2012:

1. Simon Manchipp of Some0ne
Simon dismissed the common marketing goal of brand consistency (sameness), and instead stressed that we should aim for coherence. He believes in delivering A LOT of harmonious marketing ideas to a client, not just one big idea. He added: “We are hired for our principles, so we should stick to them.”

2. Yah-Leng Yu of Foreign Policy Design Group
At the start of a recent project, Yah-Leng asked her team “Can we design this brand without a logo?” This was a recurring idea throughout the day, with smart arguments (and beautiful solutions) on both sides.

3. Miles Newlyn
Miles primarily designs typefaces and letterforms. He considers a new logotype assignment “a gift” in that each has a specific set of letterforms to incorporate a built-in meaning. “A logo is a type of flag, and people fight beneath flags.”

4. Howard Belk of Siegel+Gale
Simple is smart. That is the mantra at Siegel+Gale. It defines the company, measures the work and lures clients with big, complex design problems (like Aetna and YMCA). Howard says they succeed as a company by hiring simplifiers. Every project should begin with a great question, and “Whatever the question, our answer is simple.”

5. Massimo Vignelli
Massimo is a legend. He has designed corporate identities, packaging, furniture, signage, showrooms, dinnerware — you name it. “From the beginning, I wanted to design everything from the spoon to the city.” His passion was contagious. “Design is not an accessory to increase sales. It is a moral issue.”

6. Yo Santosa of Ferroconcrete
Yo loves to design for every touchpoint (see Pinkberry) and bring personality to a brand. After all, “People don’t fall in love with businesses, they fall in love with personalities.”

7. Mike Rigby of Interbrand Australia
Mike spoke about design as an emotional process — we should really care about our clients’ businesses. Interbrand Australia’s work for Alzheimer’s Australia is a great example of this approach, and drew some tears from the crowd. “We design feelings first, not graphics.”

8. Aaron James Draplin of Draplin Design Co.
Nobody can match his brash spirit – or his impatience for designers that complain. Whether Draplin spoke about creating his own product brand (Field Notes) or designing for the president, his advice was simple: “Work hard and love this shit.”


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