Fresh

Visiting France again is a long awaited dream of mine, and it is something that I hope to accomplish within the next few years or so. When I was 19 years old, I traveled to Avignon and Cannes for a week and fell in love with the French people - their joie de vivre, their society's tendency to be reserved at first before opening up and showing a tremendous affection for others, and their zest for all that is good in this world: food, sex, and art. This beautiful country and the pride held within its land has resonated deeply within me all this time. I don't think I've ever met a French person who wasn't proud of being one. There is a good reason why this is so.

Seeing Anagrama's branding for Bonnard, a confectionery shop in Mexico that was inspired by and named for French post-impressionist painter, Pierre Bonnard, reminded me of the airy, carefree nature that was infectious for me from the getgo once I landed at Nice Côte d'Azur Airport. Pastel colors, swished brush strokes, and a simple san-serif typeface all pay tribute to Bonnard's method of artistry, as he was a man who had a deep devotion to color. He also loved macaroons, and this detail is examined in the cross shapes that lie within the wording on top of all the O's. A good studio finds ways to incorporate the special, important aspects of any brand in a quiet, unassuming, yet impactful manner.

Despite Mexico and France being continents apart, Anagrama was still able to take a slice of the latter's culture and make it an enjoyable and relatable experience no matter where you are. In my bedroom in New Jersey on the other side of the world, I sit here contentedly drinking in these sights until I'm able to take this journey once more.

Name

One of the more painstaking memories of my childhood is not that a boy pushed me on the playground one afternoon in 5th grade, or that I once had a sleepover where I invited a mixed group of friends who instantly hated each other, thus invoking a lifelong fear of events where people don't know each other to begin with. It's that my name is and has always been difficult to say or spell. I don't think you truly realize that fact until you look at a delivery receipt and see "Juslen Eu" in the To: field. Talk about a case of mistaken identity. 

When you meet someone for the first time, one of the initial things you do is introduce yourself. When you take a test, the first thing you do is write your name. When a baby is born, one of the first acts of passage is giving he/she something with which you can call. So many emotions surround what you are identified as, that having someone mispronounce or misspell it can be a buzzkill.

How does one cope with this? By taking charge of the situation of course, and that's exactly what Brazilian graphic designer Guilherme Dultra Villar did with the identity of his personal studio. Guilherme provides a phonetic pronounciation of his first name in a way that makes it instantly clear as to how you say it. Instead of having future prospects be embarrassed of completely butchering it or waiting until they do to correct them, he proactively gives a helping hand in a smart and friendly manner. Using neutral colors such as dark gray and muted yellow along with a middleweight sans-serif typeface like Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk ensures that the introduction goes smoothly and the transition to his work is seamless. 

What have I done? When all else fails, I go by "Jess". Especially in Starbucks.

Pencil

Designing for any corporate entity has the potential to be flat, creatively draining, and for lack of a better word, boring. Given the strict guidelines, legal hoopla, and office politics that have to be dealt with throughout the entire process, it's no wonder that a design team feels compressed and restrained, unable to really let go and push forth as they wish.

But every once in a while, given the circumstances, you still come across a concept that is fresh, inspired, and also clever, and that's what I found in designer Alex Dalmau's identity for Deskidea, an office supplies company located in Spain. Keeping the color schematic simple with only black and white, the brand stands out amidst the many products that are housed on the website. At first, I wondered why the two horizontal lines were not continuous from the K in "desk" to the I in "idea", until I saw the pencil that becomes apparent once the logo is rearranged vertically. In its current state, it also has the potential to look like a paper clip.

All good ways of making something that could otherwise be one-dimensional into something mult-faceted that lends itself well to the task at large.

Icon

Something about icons makes them so elementary yet exacting at the same time, and that is a notion that I've had difficulty grasping in the past. Whenever a project I'm working on calls for these small nuggets of information, the designers I manage usually elicit a small groan before slumping back to their desks for an afternoon of brainstorming. And I never understood why, because it's just a picture right? Compared to whole websites or branding strategies, how hard can a 40x40 pixel drawing be?

But then I really start to think about how much an icon has to represent by itself without any other supporting feature behind it, and the careful analysis and attention that must be paid in order to prevent the viewer from misunderstanding what it stands for. There are restrictions about what it can look like, what size it needs to be, how complicated it should be, how simple it should be, etc. Suddenly, it's not so easy after all. On the contrary, these boundaries generate an expotentially claustrophobic situation that would make any head spin.

I find myself having a newfound appreciation now for icons that are done well. Lotta Nieminen's identity work for Feyt alongside RoAndCo is extraordinary in its ability to speak volumes about what the website does without overcrowding the page. The design process might have been trying, but you wouldn't guess. Thanks to a couple key images navigating my way, I will never get lost. 

Mulberry

The mark of a successful redesign connects the past to the present and gives way for the future, and Mulberry is one of those brands that can be summed up in one word: timeless. Their look and feel is attributed to the work of London studio Construct, the brainchild of founder and creative director, Georgia Fendley, who also serves as Brand Director for the clothing and lifestyle company. Georgia's creative hand brought a new mood and tactility to all identity, collateral, and retail components without compromising the British heritage or eponymous tree logo that this establishment is built on. Her team at Construct designed everything with a sense of function and aspiration, in the hopes that consumers may touch one of Mulberry's products and know exactly where it came from and why.

Diner

Last summer, I spent the almost obligatory (for any New Jersey native, at least) weekend at Atlantic City and stayed at The Chelsea Hotel. While I did partake in boardwalk activities and beaching, I regret that I did not visit Teplitzky's, the diner that resided 7 floors underneath me, especially after seeing their menu design on Mucca. The New York based studio derived the restaurant's brand and identity in a way that instantly reminded me of an ice cream parlor from the 1950s with its eccentric typeface and pastel palette. The eatery was actually named for the hotel that used to be where its current location is now, and is a loving homage to the past.

In a place where glitz and glamour are the main ways of grabbing customers' attention, seeing this vintage, old fashioned look and feel is refreshing and a throwback to the thriving community that A.C. used to be during that period. Next time, I will be sure to stop in for a treat.

Block

Lately, I have been seeing an increasing amount of branding design that specializes in a mix of illustration plus graphic expertise. Typeverything is a site that collects and curates many such examples of typography whose profilic, old-Italian yet contemporary style makes its owner stand out to the masses in every shape or form. Designers Jessica Hische and Dana Tanamachi (the latter whose work I have described here) are two artists who subscribe to this authentic and timeless look in their work.

Despite the rising popularity that this has in our industry today, I sometimes find myself yearning for something that feels a bit more substantial, hefty even - a design that I can grip by the horns, shake, and know that the pressure will render it undamaged. Vietnamese studio Egregius's new identity for local coffee shop M Teafé hits the spot right on the head and brings forth memories of the Bauhaus era with its industrial appeal and heavy block lettering. My favorite piece of the project is the menu, which has been printed on thick cardstock with the type clearly displayed in equivalent width and stroke for each letter of every word. 

Utilizing the stark color(less) backgrounds of black and white, the design is a unique identifier for a place that is stereotypically supposed to exude a folksy charisma, and its bridge-like logo of "M" is an appropriate call to action for connecting the gap between the two. Egregius has assigned the same importance to everything on the page, and the deliberate nature of these elements is not one that should be missed.

Details

Once in a while, you come across a studio whose keen perception and diligence to application spawns work that can only be described as visceral. Minneapolis-based (and aptly named) Studio On Fire is one such place where ideas go in and stunning, tactile work comes out. It is amazing what kind of information our senses of sight and touch can provide to us, and founder Ben Levitz keeps that in mind while interlacing ink and paper through his Heidelberg letterpresses. What started out as a hobby for Ben has ended up becoming a medium without which his graphic design skills would not be complete. 

I am particularly enamored by the attention to detail that is paid by this incredibly talented team of creatives. From the crisp, clear notes of the ink to the exact imprint of each letter and shape, nothing is too insignificant or small for the studio to examine. This reaction then gives us the power to notice the slightest dot, spot the thinnest line, and fully appreciate the level of effort and passion it takes to produce art like this. The final product is thus stamped into our memories because of its visual richness and the emotional connection it evokes in all of us, rendering it indisputably successful in every way. 

WAAITT

Nothing puts a smile on my face more than designers who have banded together to create an unified force to be reckoned with. Danish design studio WAAITT is one such example of the artistic power that is born from the pure desire to produce good, quality work and share that passion with others. Architected by three friends and former classmates, Jess Jensen, Dennis Müller, and Anders Rimhoff, WAAITT is a moniker for "We are all in this together", which is also the studio's motto that defines its founders' belief in collaborative design and the distribution of aesthetic knowledge.

As a project manager, I have been blessed to be included in creative conversations that shape the future of brands, products, and campaigns, and I have to say that in my day-to-day role, this is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a part of this industry. There is something incredibly powerful about being in a room with people whose innate abilities enable them to come up with ideas that constantly push the boundaries of current design, as WAAITT's talented team suggests. This feeling is electrifying, and for this experience, I will always be thankful.  

Ten Thousand

I am continuously amazed at the kinds of ideas designers come up with for projects other than the ones that are client-facing or freelance. I'm talking about being inspired by something in the outside world, internalizing it, and creating a tangible edifice from which these interpretations can be shared and seen. Designer and art director Nicole Meyer has decided to do just that by coming up with a logo for all 10,000+ lakes in Minnesota in her series, Branding 10,000 Lakes. Concoting one logo a day, Nicole has resolved the next 27 years of her life to completing this.  

I write about this series because I do not believe that design in general has retained its original purpose over the years. What started out as a "Form meets function" mentality is now a mindset so compressed and compromised by outside forces that designers are often left with a devil-may-care attitude in order to churn out the work as quickly as possible. The end result is usually not what was incipiently conceived.

By limiting herself to only one lake a day. Nicole is giving herself the time needed in order to be as thorough and absolute with her ideas as she can. By taking on this task for no one but herself, she ensures that her work remains completely honest. Perhaps this is truly the only way we can counteract this imbalanced equation of what we want versus what everyone else wants.

Lines

As the shortest distance between two points, a straight line is sometimes the most direct and simplest way to make an impression for one's identity. Australian design studio Worldwide was commissioned by photgrapher Georgina Matherson to create the branding and collateral for her services that best represented the personal touch that an artist leaves behind when numbering the amount of editions he/she has made of a single project. They used a custom Gotham font and perforated cardstock for the business cards to bring this idea together. 

I own several prints that utilize this system and always feel a warm glow knowing that I own #56 of a limited release of 100. Georgina too, wanted her clients to feel this same exclusivity, and it is one that Worldwide designed very well. Black against white has always been a classic in my book, and Georgina can rest assured that these will continue to stand the test of time no matter where her practice takes her.

The Periodic Table of Brand Elements

I came across the internal work of French design studio W & CIE today, who won a Silver Lion award at this year's Cannes Lions Festival in July for the revamped visual branding and identity of their Paris office. While all of their interior touches were well-received, their version of the (normally scientific) periodic table stuck out to me the most. What a beautiful and fun way to brighten up office space with depictions of the world's most famous brands, helping their employees to remember the studio manifesto of collectivism, relevance, dedication, and optimism. 

It's interesting to see how an agency takes the time not only to focus on their clients, but also to heal and nurture themselves internally. We give so much of ourselves to make other people happy, but when our minds are tired, our work reflects that tiredness. Rest, rejuvenate, and return with something better. 

When Life Hands You Iced Tea, Make a Brand

 

I love iced tea and I love a good brand. Mix those two together and you get ISST, a drink concept created by Polish design studio, Artentiko. Wanting to go beyond the general realm of what this beverage is (read: leaf buds and cold water), Artentiko strove to revert back to its natural origin and really explore the molecular basis for this product. By doing so, they were able to build a lifestyle that was one part salubrious and all parts complete. 

There are many things I could say about the verity of this brand, but one thing I particularly enjoyed was seeing how all the components fell into place. The in-depth process in which they came up with the name and logo of circles that denote the simplest shape in existence all add up to an imprint that drips in meaning and significance. Even though all of the bottled flavors are uniform, each colorful label holds its own character so that they may stand out from one another without trying too hard. The campaign was translated across three languages, but the paramount trademark is one that is universally understood.