As you probably know by now based on my last post and interview with Armin Vit, I had the opportunity to travel to NYC to attend the firs ever Brand New Conference organized by UnderConsideration. A one-day event focusing and Branding & Identity -Yes!, they do exist!- including profoundly interesting lectures and panel discussions by some of the most inspiring, influential and brilliant professionals around the world. This is my attempt at sharing this event with you, including photos and a few valuable gems from the organizers and speakers.
Those of you who know me or that have come to know a little about me through this blog know about my passion for what I do and everything that is art. You may also know by now via my posts that I am a strong believer of continuous self improvement and education. Being able to attend this event and having the pleasure and honor of meeting such legends as Paula Scher, Michael Bierut, Erik Spiekermann, Michael Johnson, Tom Dorresteijn, the creative minds behind Wolff Olins Jordan Crane & Karl Heiselman, Connie Birdsall, discovering amazing designers and entrepreneuers with a bad-ass portfolio like Chris Helms and having the chance to chat with the legendary Debbie Millman is definitely a humbling, inspiring and unforgettable learning experience.
But before I go on to share some details, I want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-Palacio -again- for successfully organizing this wonderful event, gathering an anviable group of speakers and being extremely nice and taking the time to chat for a bit after a long day. You guys rock!
The first speaker of the day was Michael Johnson - Johnson Banks – London and he sure set the bar high with a beautiful presentation of his work and brilliant ‘food for thought’ statements and witty remarks about embracing constraints. It was still early and most of us in attendance were already smiling like kids at a toy store, knowing the rest of the day would be a real treat.
After an inspiring and thoughtful presentation, it was the turn for Michael Lejeune - Metro Design Studio – Los Angeles to share his wisdom and admirable achievement of successfully reinventing Los Angeles Metro System Branding. His presentation was impressive and to be honest, had me thinking and daydreaming about how easy things could be if a proper structure and strategy are complimented by effective executions. Sounds simple right? Ha!
During our first short break, I had the pleasure of meeting a few designers from all over the country while checking out our goodie bags which by the way were simply awe-some! Check out the photos below…
Then, it was time for one of the moments I had been waiting for! The awesome Debbie Millman presented two of my personal design idols, Michael Bierut and Paula Scher - Pentagram – New York, who sat on stage along with Armin for a casual, yet so incredibly good Q&A. Questions ranged from Pentagram’s history and structure, to specific anecdotes about jobs, clients and meetings, both good and bad. Yes, Pentagram has had a share of those… With their characteristic wit, knowledge and brilliance Paula Scher and Michael Bierut demonstrated why they are on top of their game.
Some of this brilliant couple’s quotes….
“You can tell how a client relationship will go, by the way you were hired.” – Michael Bierut
“It never gets easy, with clients, even if your name is Pentagram.” – Michael Bierut
“If you can fake your way through something 3 times, you’re an expert.” – Paula Scher
“Designing and selling a brand to client is like convincing them to wear clothes that they didn’t buy themselves.” – Paula Scher
Their presentation/chat was followed by a few questions from the audience, including the now popular… “You guys are awesome”… “That’s not a question.” response from Michael Bierut. Now, I would have been more than happy and satisfied by the lecture, stories and answers from this incredible duo, but I HAD to meet them, and let them know the great influence and inspiration they have been throughout my short career. After standing in line for a few minutes -yes, they’re that good… I had the pleasure of meeting them. Both Paula and Michael were as nice and open to dialogue as I had hoped, greeted me with a sincere smile and even let me photograph them ;)
Following Scher and Bierut was Chris Helms – The Decoder Ring Design Concern – Austin who, to be completely honest, was a bit of a new face to me and stated he felt he was boxing above his weight… But man! did he rock the house! Chris had some technical difficulties but was a great sport, I mean, who wouldn’t when you have Erik Spiekermann, Armin Vit and Tom Dorresteijn helping restore your presentation while Michael Bierut and Paula Scher go back on stage to answer more impromptu questions from the audience… and the ‘long arm guy’. Where else could you see this!?
Now back to Chris. His presentation left me speechless. His incredible body of work and admirable view on life, work and play were definitely a huge hit! I mentioned I did not know much about him, but after this presentation, consider me a fan! (And I promise I’ll do my best to interview him)
I also had the pleasure of meeting Chris after his lecture and let him know how inspired I felt after seeing his work and preach. He was also extremely nice, sharp, humble and kept telling everyone to stop by if we were ever in Austin ;)
Chris also gave us some unforgettable quotes…
‘Promise big and work really hard to deliver on that promise’
“…circus came to town and t-boned a hot dog cart.”
…one in particular, will be remembered for us all, including Mr. Spiekermann, who gave it his own twist at the end of the conference. “… getting someone laid on a handjob budget”
I couldn’t get any shots of Chris’ work because I didn’t want to miss any part of the presentation or slides, but here’s some of the work he presented…
After lunch, it was the turn for Tom Dorresteijn - Studio Dumbar to show, tell and mesmerize us all with Dumbar’s unique and always innovative work. Tom explained the process behind Dumbar’s work, their delicious ideas and innovative methods and had us all wondering what will they do next. But Tom’s presentation was not only about sweet work and innovation, it also covered the importance of appealing to your client’s heart instead of numbers. How we should “Describe brands as a human personalities. Defining his/hers most essential paradoxes.” and how our job is to “Protect clients from what they want.” Brilliant!
Following Tom’s informative lecture came Connie Birdsall from - Lippincott – New York and even though her presentation – and Lippincott’s work – wouldn’t seem as exciting and innovative as Studio Dumbar’s, she took us back to basics and taught us the importance of strategic thinking, elaborate research and a complete understanding of our clients. Some of her most memorable quotes included…
On Brand-building…“It’s not just about logos and awareness, it’s about creating advocates.”
“You cant create brand equity if you change it every year.” Heard THAT dear clients?!
As Connie finished her lecture and volunteers set up chairs on stage, you could see people setting up their phones and taking out their cameras, knowing it was time for Wolff Olins Creative Duo, Karl Heiselman & Jordan Crane. We already had a vague idea of the direction this discussion would follow since Armin asked attendees a month prior to the event to submit questions for both guests… and let’s be honest, because we all knew the London 2010 and AOL jobs would come up! and hopefully we would be able to get some answers this time… Karl & Jordan began by playing a short intro reel introducing their firm and their ideas on branding.
Their charisma captured everyone’s attention, and after lines like “You don’t hire books, you don’t hire portfolios, you hire people…” or “People come to work already motivated. Our job is to not unmotivate them.” OR “You can’t order people to do great things — you have to provide the conditions, inspire them, understand them.” I have to admit, I thought to myself, ‘I want to work there!’ Another great quote, that really got to me was… “You’re probably not doing the best work of your life if everyone is ‘OK’ with it.” A-men!
Another classic moment came when Armin, referring to the 2010 London Olympics logo, stated that he also thought that it “resembled Lisa Simpson giving Bart a blowjob…” with Jordan responding… “WHAAAAT!?” and Armin shooting back a “Yes, and there’s also an arrow n the FedEx logo”
Karl and Jordan finally opened up about the 2010 Olympics ordeal and answered a few blunt questions submitted by blog readers, but I won’t get into detail here… if you want to see what they had to say, purchase the lectures available soon at Brand New Conference
I am sure I was not the only one who didn’t want this event to come to an end but it came down to the last speaker… and who better to wrap this conference than the legendary and mythical Mr. Erik Spiekermann!
Not only is he a genius at what he does… and he has done a lot!! But his wit, humor and f-bombs had us all cracking up the entire presentation. If you followed the conference via twitter or FB posts, you probably noticed the insane number of tweets and posts and were probably asking yourself, are they referring to the same Erik Spiekermann when they say ‘Rocking the house’ ‘Killin’ me’ or ‘I love master German typographers with potty mouths”? Well, the answer is YES! If you were not able to attend or were not able to watch the live webcast, you HAVE to check out his lecture on branding and typography. It is a classic!
On branding, he had a few brilliant quotes to ‘SHARE’ (stated Americans love to use this word…)
“They want us to design a brand so they can sell their shit for more money”
“Same bloody washing machine, made in the same factory, but with a different price and different logo. It’s called branding.”
“Brand is just a typeface, it’s all you fucking need.”
A classic one… “What’s a beige fucking bus?”
Mr. Spiekermann also had a few things to say about typography…
“Designing a typeface is like writing a pop song. Others are going to sing it. Naked in the shower or on the toilet, never in tune…”
“Typefaces are like your children, you let them go and they get out of your control.”
“We don’t do free pitches cause clients don’t know what the fuck they want.”
See… You HAVE to watch his video….
Oh, and yes! I also had the honor of meeting this genius, share a few thoughts and photograph him. Even though the lighting was not my friend that day…
And that was it! An unforgettable day full of wisdom, amazing design and inspiration came to an end with Armin and Bryony’s closing words and Brand New Awards announcement! YESS!
If you were not able to attend, and you are still reading this… You have to make sure you plan your trip for next year’s edition! I can only see bigger and better things coming from UnderConsideration and I thank them again and wish them the best of luck on all their future projects!
As I promised earlier, here’s a look into the Brand New Conference goddie bag ;)