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November 10, 2010 / Kuan

Things I’ve learned from the Brand New Conference

It has been 5 days since the Brand New Conference 2010, the original idea of a grand recap of the conference was somehow shrunk to these bullet points of things I’ve learned, because @bnconf offers a great deal on the recap videos.

Micheal Johnson from Johnson Banks

  • Be brave, think differently, and then persuade clients to agree.

Think London identity design

British Film Institute identity and logo animation

  • Design should make a difference

Housing charity Shelter identity

Swanswell identity (via Brand New)

  • See constraints as benefits

Pew Center for Arts & Heritage logo and animation

  • Identity could be flexible

The examples above all share this trait that identities can be animated, varied for different purposes and contexts. This is actually the one thing that struck me the most throughout the talks in the conference. The level of integration of the identity with its environmental graphics, interior design or animation really shows the depth of how playful the identity can possibly be. Amazing!

NOTE: One thing I found interesting during Johnson’s talk was that sometimes an identity really has to be explained in order for the public to fully appreciate it. The amount of thinking went into the process of making the identity isn’t always visible to the audience, and it creates a gap between the brand and its audience. Shall the identity be explained? Or should it be clear enough to begin with?

Michael Lejeune from Metro

Lejeune is the creative director for Metro (Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Graphics on Metro’s van, promoting van pool

  • Make one change at a time in corporate design, since you can’t really stop the flow of a river to start a new one.
  • People don’t care about the logo of a brand, rather what it can offer to them.

TIPS: Metro uses Scala Sans and DIN for their designs, they work very well together.

Paula Scher  & Michael Bierut

  • Designers are planners with purpose.

Pentagram‘s recent work, photos are taken at an angle due to my seating in the conference.

Armin Vit in conversation with Paula Scher & Michael Bierut during the conference

Michael Bierut’s new work for New York University Abu Dhabi, click here for an extensive view of the project

Again, I love the integration of the logo with the environmental graphics. Isn’t that a trend?

Chris Helms from The Decoder Ring Design Concern

  • When designers have fun, the public usually does too. So choose the right client, do the enjoyable work.

Poster for band Modest Mouse

Dirty Kitchen Rats logo for Carolina Panthers Chefs Association

Probably the best logo design for chefs? Helms also talked about how the chefs loved it so much and they got it tattooed on their arms. Best of the best.

Tom Dorresteijn, Independent strategist & partner of Studio Dumbar

My favorite talk of all in the conference. A fresh Dutch perspective on branding. Beyond the description of words, he challenged the notion of “identity” versus “personality.” Must get the video. (Click the image below for purchase info)

  • A logo needs as much as needed, as little as possible.
  • Research shows that good design brings 19% more profits to the company, and innovative design brings 10% more. So don’t follow the herd, lead them instead.
  • The more space designers have, the better the results are. Give trust to the designers, they know what they’re doing, (if you pick the right one).

Logo animation for University of Twente. I love this & this dude with a passion. Such depth of thinking went behind the animation: example of Da Vinci’s saying “Simplicity is the ultimate form of Sophistication.”

  • identity = sameness, personality = uniqueness, so “personality” is the word. Think the human personality of a brand, and define his/her most essential paradoxes.

Connie Birdsall from Lippincott

  • A logo embodies authentic stories and inspiring experiences. Wal-mart’s early failure resulted from its disconnection from “Saving and Having a Better Life.”

NOTE: Her talk reminded me of Allen Adamson‘s talk earlier this month in Syracuse University. He is the managing director of Landor New York office. In his talk, he mentioned that branding is about shaping the stories of the brand. Birdsall and Adamson’s common view on branding made me wonder if that’s the practice of branding consultant agency today?

Karl Heiselman & Jordan Crane of Wolf Ollins

NOTE: Wolf Ollins London office did the logo for London 2012. I didn’t like it when it first came out, but gradually I found the concept interesting and refreshing. The creative concept behind the design is that Olympics is for everyone to be involved instead of a game that just lasts for weeks. Go here and download their case study, pretty interesting stuff.


  • A role of CEO isn’t to motivate people to work; instead, he/she is to make sure people come to work already motivated.

Eric Spiekermann

  • We are not judged by our intentions, but by outcomes.
  • Good typeface WILL make the brand stand out.

Never have I ever imaged Eric Spiekermann to be that funny. So if you would, download his video as well (here). I mean, he is German and they’re not funny, right? Anyways, a type design legend talks about type design. Can anything be more perfect?


Let’s end this post with Eric’s notes on types. Cheers, Brand New.

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