Brand New Conference 2013!

TheeBlog-BrandNewConference2013 Last week, I was very fortunate to visit New York City and attend, once again, my favorite branding and design event, the 2013 edition of Brand New Conference, organized by my good friends and extremely talented, hard working power-couple, Bryony and Armin (UnderConsideration). Although this was my fourth consecutive year attending this conference, (ahem, Armin) I must say that it felt as fun and refreshing as the first one, as it was full of inspiration and delivered a unique combination of talented attendees, stunning branding and design presentations, lots of learning, humor and great camaraderie. And of course, an impressive list of speakers including Stuart Watson (venturethree), Jason Klein & Casey White (Brandiose), Josh Higgis (Obama 2012 Campaign), my buddy Debbie Millman!, the iconic Bob Gill, Bruno Maag (Dalton Maag), Matt Stevens and of course, Michael Bierut. How could you not learn and be inspired with such a lineup? As it has become tradition with these post-event write-ups, I wanted to share some of the conference’s most memorable moments and some of my personal inspiration and learning takeaways, accompanied by some photos I was able to capture…

Brand New Conference 2013

Brand New Conference 2013

Brand new Conference - Speakers

Brand new Conference - Speakers

Now, before I start typing away, I want to thank Armin and Bryony again for their hospitality, for being so cool about the interviews, and all the photos! Oh yeah, and also for all their passion, hard work, dedication and for once again, organizing an extremely successful conference. Putting together a list of tremendously talented and recognized speakers AND hosting an event with such professionalism and organization is beyond admirable. So there, thank you again guys! I will see you next year.

I also want to thank and say hi to my good friends who I get to see every year and share some memorable conversations as well as my new friends, who not only read this humble blog, but that took the time to say hi and chat for a bit. Hey David! Thank you for your support guys, you have no idea how much it means :) A huge thanks to my buddies from Infinito (Peru) Claudia and Alfredo. I get to see you guys once a year, but it is always refreshing and fun. Thank you for the invite and I am sure we’ll see each other very soon again :) Thanks to Josh Higgins and Matt Stevens! These two badasses were top class! I had the fortune of meeting them and chatting during the conference and also catch up at the after party. It is so refreshing to meet extremely talented designers who are also friendly and humble. It was a pleasure guys! Another big thank you to Mr. Michael Bierut for his time, even after the conference was over and the theater was empty. Sir you are a true gentleman and scholar! And one of my heroes… but you already knew that :) And of course! the one and only, Mr. Matteo Bologna! Thank you for always being so cool and the loud laughs at the conference and over drinks, and swekers, at the after party. See you again very soon!

The hosts. Bryony and Armin.

The hosts. Bryony and Armin.

The amazing Debbie Millman

The amazing Debbie Millman

Bryony and Debbie

Bryony and Debbie

Michael Bierut getting ready

Michael Bierut getting ready

The great Matteo Bologna. These photos are now mandatory...

The great Matteo Bologna. These photos are now mandatory...

Bryony, Claudia & Alfredo - Infinto!

Bryony, Claudia & Alfredo - Infinto!

The legendary James Victore!

The legendary James Victore!

Bryony doing her thing...

Bryony doing her thing...

Matt Stevens

Matt Stevens

I’ve been posting, interviewing and promoting these conferences since day one, and during my brief time in NYC and upon my arrival, many friends had some questions about the conference. “Is it good?, Should I go next year?”… and my answer is always Fuck Yeah! I’ve been to many conferences and there are very few where everyone is in a good, friendly vibe and where you are able to easily meet and chat with iconic designers you have followed and learned from throughout the years. Plus, the amount of knowledge and inspiration you absorb is truly priceless. If you have attended one of these conferences in the past, you know exactly what I am talking about… and if you still have not, you must definitely try to make it! Believe me, you won’t regret it. Here’s a little review, just to give you an idea…

Registration started early as always and I really wanted to make it on time because I knew there would be a full house. I usually cab it to the event just to make sure I have enough time to greet and meet friends, register, collect my goodies and say hi to Bryony and Armin before it all begins. Unfortunately, my ride took forever and I barely made in on time. There was no time for my protocol and I went straight to the registration desk to get my badge (My favorite so far! But we’ll get into that later). Fortunately, the always great Bryony and Debbie were there so at least I had time to give them a hug before I made my way into the theater, attempting to get a good spot. As I had predicted, the theater was almost full, and all the best seats were already taken. Luckily, Armin offered one of the seats in the front, so i was able to settle and get phone, notepad and camera ready. As I finally looked up, I realized I was sitting next to all the speakers, right behind Michael Bierut :) The seat was great! I was surrounded again by iconic Design heavyweights and couldn’t wait to talk to them, but as soon as I started taking photos for my records and this post, I realized the location was not ideal for my lens. My apologies for some of the first photos you’ll see…

Sweet gif'd marquee!

Sweet gif'd marquee!

School of Visual Arts Theater

School of Visual Arts Theater

Schedule & sponsors

Schedule & sponsors

Registration Desk

Registration Desk

SVA Lobby

SVA Lobby

The lovely BNCONF podium!

The lovely BNCONF podium!

Bryony + Armin. Always working...

Bryony + Armin. Always working...

About to start...

About to gstart...

I always love these shots :)

I always love these shots :)

Armin going over last details...

Armin going over last details...

Packed house!

Packed house!

It was go time and everyone was anxious and ready. As always, Bryony and Armin took the stage to welcome everyone and begin their usual, entertaining and always on-point Opening Remarks. Armin began by apologizing for last year’s remarks, which some people considered were a bit too harsh against a few companies like the Miami Marlins, HP and the Brooklyn Nets. You see, some might call it harsh, but most of us would agree and call it real and true. No matter how big your company is, if your Design is shit, Designers will talk. Loud.

So, Armin began his remarks by focusing on the positive aspects of garbage logos like the one for the American Society of Furniture Designers. I must admit that for a second, while Armin was apologizing for last year’s behavior and playing nice, I thought his characteristic wit and call-them-as-you-see-them attitude was gone. Did he sell out? But then, it got real again and he was back to his normal self as he flipped the bird at the screen and stated he simply does not care if companies or bloggers think he is too harsh or an asshole. Hey, this is his conference, let him play… He then talked about a few more projects that made the Bad list this year, including the infamous Yahoo! logo, the overly comped Google rebrand, that whole web-mob deal with the University of California rebrand, the ridiculous and sexist State of Florida logo (I am ashamed that this is the second year that a Florida logo makes the presentation as part of the terrible examples. Second year!) and of course, that glorious Will.I.Am logo interview piece for the Wall Street Journal (HERE), which was remixed with the also infamous and entertaining Caitlin Upton debacle during the Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant. (HERE). By the way, hearing Michael Bierut laugh out loud to these clips was priceless…

Bryony & Armin welcoming everyone and kicking off the conference...

Bryony & Armin welcoming everyone and kicking off the conference...

600 programs. hand-crafted. Bravo Bryony!

600 programs. hand-crafted. Bravo Bryony!

2010 infamous bird...

2010 infamous bird...

Let's try to find the positive... - Armin.

Let's try to find the positive... - Armin.

When was the last time someone stopped you and asked for directions to the nearest eBay store - Armin

When was the last time someone stopped you and asked for directions to the nearest eBay store - Armin

Always Florida... :(

Always Florida... :(

Armin showing the uniqueness of the University of California seal.

Armin showing the uniqueness of the University of California seal.

yahoo blueprints. Armin adds a door, sink and breakfast table...

yahoo blueprints. Armin adds a door, sink and breakfast table...

Marissa Mayer on Yahoo! logo. FFS.

Marissa Mayer on Yahoo! logo. FFS.

Huge problem...

Huge problem...

The opening remarks were done and it was time for the first speaker of the day. And although this was not the first time the very talented Stuart Watson attends these conferences (he is married to Marina Willer, ex Wolff Olins and now Pentagram partner who was a guest at the San Francisco conference in 2011), it was the firs time he attended as a speaker. And what a great ‘let’s get it started’ presentation it was! As you probably know that being the opener speaker is always a tough challenge, but Stu’s great charisma, fun presentation and lovely work got everybody up and running in no time. Stu began talking about one of their most notorious clients, SKY networks, and the beautiful work Venturethree has produced over the past years, focusing on the actual content rather than in all the pretty colors and confections. Their idea behind this work was to allow the great content to shine instead of masking it with graphic elements. Yes, they used a lovely new wordmark, designed by Miles Newlyn by the way, but the content was always the main focus. Simply put, hey branded the content. And called it Brandvertising. Bam!

Stuart Watson - venturethree

Stuart Watson - venturethree

Stuart

Stuart

Loved all the neon!

Loved all the neon!

SKY

SKY

SKY - Believe in Britain campaign

SKY - Believe in Britain campaign

Now, as a soccer player I must admit that this beautiful spot for the 2012/2013 football season called ‘Every Goal Matters’ gave me chills and made me think of all those moments in my life when I scored or went nuts celebrating a goal from the stands. Simply brilliant guys!

Believe in Britain Campaign (Behind the scenes)

Stuart preaching...

Stuart preaching...

Mass Fantastic!

Mass Fantastic!

The Times

The Times

He then dropped another gem and talked about something that resonated well with all attendees and instantly made multiple appearances in Twitter. Mass Fantastic, which is the ability to take everyday products and make them exciting for everyone to enjoy. Stu’s presentation included case studies for a few more clients including the audacious campaign for The Times, consisting of single random photos being posted around London with no content or logo (at first), allowing the audience to interpret them, and abolishing the ’sale’ concept. “People love not being sold to…”

If there was a project we’ve all seen before at Brand New and that most of us immediately associate with Stuart, it has to be LittleChef. The inspiring and subtle resurgence of this iconic brand, and the work created for it (from design to copy) was simply perfect. We enjoyed a few before and after slides as Stuart explained that although this project didn’t count with a big budget, they managed to generate a buzz and execute campaigns by “creating objects that people would want to steal…”

Little Chef!

Little Chef!

We created objects that people would want to steal...

We created objects that people would want to steal...

You get Herpes. You don't just get SKY. Armin to Stuart...

You get Herpes. You don't just get SKY. Armin to Stuart...

Stuart’s time was up and after a couple of questions, Bryony began to introduce the next speaker(s), a branding duo that has been working together since College days and that has managed to become the go-to agency in the world of minor league sports. It was time for Brandiose to talk about what it is like to work with pretty much every team in the minor leagues, their big MLB breaks and how they learned to exploit and OWN clients’ unique stories… As absurd or silly as they might seem at plain sight. I must admit I did not know much about Brandiose, so I was curious to learn about their work and process when working on team mascots, names and marketing materials.

As soon as Jason Klein & Casey White stepped to the podium and Jason began preaching, I worried a little as it felt like a sales pitch was about to kick off. You know, that awkward board meeting with the client when your sales and marketing teams begin to ‘break the ice’ in a very sales-driven tone? Well, that’s how it all started. Not sure if it was the nerves or the pitch routine kicking in. I really wanted to learn more about their work and market, so I got over the sales/suit spiel. And I am glad I did, because I not only learned a few curious stories from middle America but also got a closer look at how complicated it must be to come up with variations of the same element most of your clients have in common. “There are so many ways we can draw a bat…”

Brandiose

Brandiose

Lovely sketches

Lovely sketches

The Flying Squirrels!

The Flying Squirrels!

We are in the circus business...

We are in the circus business...


“Are we in the baseball business or in the circus business? We’re in the circus business.”

Jason and Casey showed us the importance of immersive research and how breathing, eating and living the brand (or project) usually solves the challenge with a great sense of ownership and meaning. “Great brands are built on great stories. And beer”.

With a few fun and interesting teams under their belt including The Flying Squirrels, Flying Pigs, Diamond Jaxx, and Flying Tigers, the folks at Brandiose know that user research is crucial when building brands. And by user research I mean going to the games, watching people react and interact with the team, the mascot, the entire environment. And then, once it clicks and they find that unique characteristic, they go to work. To put it simple, they are creating more than brands for these teams… they are creating rituals!

True dat!

True dat!

Creating rituals!

Creating rituals!

Not only do kids show up to games in Hot Dog vendor uniforms. There's also a Hot Dog vendor camp! Genius.

Not only do kids show up to games in Hot Dog vendor uniforms. There's also a Hot Dog vendor camp! Genius.

Three methods of presenting ideas. Risky, Riskier and Riskiest.

Three methods of presenting ideas. Risky, Riskier and Riskiest.

Then it was time for a short break. Everyone was talking about the first two speakers and kept comparing notes, RTing friends’ tweets, and enjoying some cool tracks, courtesy of Mark Kingsley. I had the chance to meet new friends, some who read this blog, and catch up with some of my old friends…

Josh Higgins (Obama Campaign/Facebook) + Gary Hustwit (Director - Helvetica)

Josh Higgins (Obama Campaign/Facebook) + Gary Hustwit (Director - Helvetica)

Stuart Watson & Matteo Bologna saying hi. I think...

Stuart Watson & Matteo Bologna saying hi. I think...

Felix Sockwell

Felix Sockwell

The man behind the scenes... Mr. @ChefMongoose

The man behind the scenes... Mr. @ChefMongoose

If you know me or have follow this blog long enough, you know how much I admire and respect what, to me, is one of the most effective and best executed and successful branding campaigns in history. So, you can imagine my anticipation and excitement as Josh Higgins, Design Director for the 2012 Obama Campaign, was being presented by Bryony. Let me begin by saying that I had the pleasure of chatting with Josh a couple of times throughout the day and at the after party, and I wanted to share what a cool guy he is! Thank you for your time Josh, really appreciate it and yes, we’ll be in contact very soon :)

Josh began by sharing with us his musical background (Had no idea about this…) and how/why he transitioned from music to design. Talk about a successful career move! It turned out to be a smooth transition since Josh had designed a few band and gig posters during his band years without completely realizing it or knowing. Josh began studying design and took his first class, which was a Typography course. “I fell in love.” < This one is for my students! And with a great, simple statement that pretty much summed up his career switch, he closed his intro chapter “I didn’t want to be Brett Michaels”.

One of the things I truly enjoyed and that stayed with me from Josh’s talk was the fact that when he began making a name for himself, he was not afraid to become active and work in different projects benefiting social causes. In fact, Josh dedicates a percentage of his time, finding design-based ways to support social causes. Some examples: The Hurricane, So-Cal and Haiti Poster Projects. This eventually led to a short and life-changing email with a subject line saying: “You should come work for Obama” < Again, another gem for my students. You know how I always tell you, "You never know who is checking your work"? Well, take this as an example...

Josh Higgins!

Josh Higgins!

Josh at the after party

Josh at the after party

Josh talked about his social projects

Josh talked about his social projects

Josh Higgins dropping some analytical wisdom

Josh Higgins dropping some analytical wisdom

You know, one of those emails...

You know, one of those emails...

When Josh began showing some Obama campaign goodies, things got real as he began explaining the importance of immaculate branding execution, great design and the power of social and interactive media during the Presidential campaign. Everything, from the position and dimensions of photos to the color of backgrounds and buttons was meticulously measured for engagement. Extense research and Analytics played a huge role in this campaign, and we all know how it all worked out…

When the 2012 campaign was announced and materials started popping up everywhere, I remember I was surprised and kept asking myself, is departing (in a way) from Gotham – the signature typeface used for the first election campaign – a good idea? If it worked, why change it? Is there a reason? Well, Josh answered this for me as he explained how the campaign worked with H&FJ to add serifs to their signature Gotham in order to show “Hope and Change standing its ground and persevering” – Sounds good enough to me. Another important aspect of this campaign was the team’s ability to constantly change and adapt. Whether it was influence by states, demographics or web tendencies and analytics, the material kept re-adjusting constantly. Sites went responsive, videos were banned from donation pages – “People don’t like to watch videos when they are donating”, every single piece of information had to be designed before being released to the press in order to create that “straight from the source” perception, and collateral boring pieces like door hangers became a priority and had to be extra-designed.

The result? $690,000,000 raised online alone – First time ever in history of Politics that web generates more donations than traditional mediums like TV. “They (old experts and suits) took us guys with computers seriously then…” In the end, it all comes down to research, testing and consistency. After all, consistency builds trust, and there is no other scenario where trust is more important than politics.

Obama 2012

Obama 2012

Obama headquarters. I'll play the President next!

Obama headquarters. I'll play the President next!

Collaborations with Jessica Hische

Collaborations with Jessica Hische

Target specific material...

Target specific material...

Obama, Springsteen and Jay Z. What are they talking about?? - Josh Higgins

Obama, Springsteen and Jay Z. What are they talking about?? - Josh Higgins

I usually don't cry. But I cried like I've never cried before...

I usually don't cry. But I cried like I've never cried before...

Before finishing his talk, Josh shared a beautiful video, titled “What is in your heart” by Alan Watts, that left everyone in attendance speechless and extremely inspired. The short speech/video was so deep and touching that I immediately began looking for it online. Luckily I found it online – which means you get to enjoy it as well :)

Please, stop for 1:45 minutes and watch this video…

If there is a friend I must see or try to connect with when I go to NYC, it has to be my amazing friend, the iconic and extremely talented Debbie Millman. I’ve been following Debbie since I started in this field, and her unique charisma, enviable vocabulary, amazing talent and personality have turned me into a bigger fan. What can I say, this woman is brilliant! I had the fortune of meeting Debbie in person a couple of years ago while in New York, we exchanged emails and began connecting periodically through emails or in person whenever she would visit Miami. I remember listening religiously to her radio show, Design Matters and thinking, man it would be great to have the opportunity to meet her and absorb as much knowledge as possible… And now, I am fortunate to call her a friend and as you can imagine, I was extremely excited to finally see her in action.

Debbie Millman, introduced by her dear friend, Bryony Gomez-Palacio

Debbie Millman, introduced by her dear friend, Bryony Gomez-Palacio

The brilliant Debbie Millman!

The brilliant Debbie Millman!

It was time for Debbie to own the stage, and everyone’s attention. As Debbie began her slide presentation she explained that she decided not to talk about specific projects or case studies. Instead, she would focus on the principles of design and branding, but from an anthropologic angle. The reasons why we do what we do, and the effective ways to create successful brands from a human and culture-driven standpoint. Her presentation was divided into five waves: 1. Brands guaranteed quality and consistency 2. Brands become anthropomorphized 3. Brands as sel-expressive statements 4. Brand as an experience 5. Brands as connecters.

Debbie began by sharing some childhood anecdotes, and a drawing she did when she was eight years old and that her mom kept all these years. Debbie said this drawing had a very special meaning as it predicted her entire life. “…eight years old and I drew the Lays logo”. The drawing: an eight year old’s rendition of a busy, very Manhattan-esque city full of pedestrians (Debbie and her mother), a dense skyline and rush hour traffic. But what stood out, and marked Debbie years later was that simple, yet iconic Lays logo she drew n the side of a truck. To some people this might seem like just any other anecdote, but to many of us, it was a trip down memory lane, to those old drawings and paintings that without noticing, molded our lives and the way we see the world.

Debbie also talked about how brands constantly evolve, and how they have changed drastically over the years. Back in the old days, packaged goods provided a premium perception. Branding was a privilege very few companies could afford and very few people were able to experience.

Debbie's painting. (8 years old)

Debbie's painting. (8 years old)

A MUST-have when it comes to Branding...

A MUST-have when it comes to Branding...

As we moved forward in time, we began analyzing the differences between say the 1970s and today. How much have living standards and numbers changed over the years. Debbie shared a chart featuring statistics about the staggering growth of single-homes compromised of one person compared to previous years. These numbers contradict in a way with one of the theories previously discussed about humans’ need to be part of a pack in order to feel happier.

Debbie’s talk was extremely informative and inspiring. It’s not always that you can attend a class on brand science and the different intricate aspects involved. Debbie took us on a history drive, from ancient cave drawings and ‘marks’ to the celebration of female independence through Sex & The City :) Needless to say, it was an hour full of wisdom, history, science and fun facts.

Debbie teaching us a few things about Branding

Debbie teaching us a few things about Branding

Some cool facts I learned that day thanks to Debbie…

- The first product ever branded was Bass & Co’s Pale Ale – The beer hashtag comes up again :)
- The first ever product placement case was Édouard Manet’s 1882 Bar at the Folies-Bergère painting.
- There are over 47,000 malls around the country. And they all have at least one Old Navy or Victoria’s Secret store.
- There are over 100 active brands of nationally advertised water. Water.
- The “Big Brain Bang” occurred 50,000 years ago.
- The term branding was first used on Beowulf. Not the movie, the Old English heroic epic poem. And it means, mark by fire.
- Cereal box characters’ eyes are always looking down… to create eye contact with kids. Bam!
- Marlboro was first marketed to women.
- Today, online dating is the biggest online market. Over porn. Really?
- Reuters began as a 45 carrier-pigeons fleet in 1850.

First ever branded/trademarked product.

First ever branded/trademarked product.

First ever product placement. Edouard Manet's 1882 A Bar at Folies-Bergere.

First ever product placement. Edouard Manet's 1882 A Bar at Folies-Bergere.

There are over 100 active brands of nationally advertised water. Water.

There are over 100 active brands of nationally advertised water. Water.

Cereal box characters’ eyes are always looking down… to create eye contact with kids. Bam!

Cereal box characters’ eyes are always looking down… to create eye contact with kids. Bam!

How single women were seen back in the day and how they are celebrated now.

How single women were seen back in the day and how they are celebrated now.

Reuters began as a 45 carrier-pigeons fleet in 1850.

Reuters began as a 45 carrier-pigeons fleet in 1850.

As if this was not amazing enough, Debbie finished her amazing lecture by quoting the great Malcolm Gladwell “Never before have we had these kids of communication technologies in the hands of those who have the greatest desire to communicate. Designers.” Amen!

It was then time to close our laptops, and break for lunch (or charge our phones). Although I had to do some work through lunch, I was able to grab something to eat and I was charged -literally- and ready for our next speaker. The legendary and iconic, Mr. Bob Gill! If you are new to Design or for some strange reason, don’t know who Bob Gill is, here’s a brief introduction courtesy of UCllc… Bob Gill is a designer, illustrator, film-maker and a teacher. He was the Gill in Fletcher/Forbes/Gill which eventually became Pentagram. He’s written many books about design and illustration, and a number of children’s books, was elected into the New York Art Directors’ Club Hall of Fame, and the Art Directors Association of London presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He was recently nominated by the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum for its Lifetime Achievement Award. Yes, THAT Bob Gill.

Josh Higgins, Matteo Bologna, Armin Vit and Bob Gill

Josh Higgins, Matteo Bologna, Armin Vit and Bob Gill

Some fresh air

Some fresh air

While everyone eats...

While everyone eats...

Now, before I get all into Bob’s talk, let me drop a little disclaimer. Some of the things you will read below, although witty and funny should always be accompanied by Bob’s voice, tone and great delivery. Like a fellow attendee mentioned, there’s no way to deliver old New York tone and humor through Twitter – or a narrative. I would also like to share that it was an honor to finally meet this legend and to be able to chat for a few minutes during breaks. He was not only fantastic onstage, he was as funny and approachable offstage. Well, maybe a little too approachable at the after party where we was hitting -hard- on my wife, who first of all had just gotten there and had no idea who and what was going on. Luckily, my lady is a gem, and she laughed it off with Bryony afterwards. There, now that we cleared some things up, let’s get into Bob’s magic hour, which began with a GREAT introduction by Bryony, which pretty much summarized everyone’s feelings.

Bob began his presentation by stating that he was not going to focus too much on work, but that he would instead spend most of his time having “intercourse” with us all. And so, he began. Bob kicked off his presentation talking about ideas, stating that “we have to look really hard to find actual ideas in Graphic Design. They’re all layouts! And when they are images, they are facts.”. He then talked about the great amount of influence society and culture has over us, and how these, also dictate the way we live, work and think when it comes to Design. Bob’s advice, forget about culture. We are all victims. Do what makes you happy and always try to find different ways of doing things – or different results.

Up next, Bob Gill!

Up next, Bob Gill!

The legend. Mr. Bob Gill.

The legend. Mr. Bob Gill.

Learning...

Learning...

Five minutes had gone by and we all knew we were in for a treat. Bob’s statements, and they way he delivered them were pure gold. Not only was this man brilliant and an expert in the subject, but also extremely witty and fun. This tweet by @jlnguyencom says it all:

“Bob Gill is every graphic designer’s sharp, hilarious grandfather that keeps it real at the dinner table.”

And then, Bob talked about something that as a Designer, I’ve always strived to accomplish, and that I try to pass on to my students in class… When it comes to designing a logo – or finding a solution – it is far more effective to disconnect from what your brain tells you (remember how we mentioned we were programmed by culture?) and try to simplify things in order to find the right solution, which sometimes might be disguised within the challenge itself.

Bob Gill

Bob Gill

Bob Gill talking about Branding

Bob Gill talking about Branding

There were so many gems and invaluable advice shared during this presentation that it is hard for me to write them all down (buy the videos!) But what I can do, is describe some of my favorite moments and statements. For example, when Bob was asked if there was any piece of work he did during his career that he might be ashamed of or didn’t like, his answer was a resonant NO. Yes, we all laughed at his answer but upon further explanation from Bob, I realized how fortunate he was and how great it must be to only work on projects and for clients that you like and that make you happy. Zero compromise.

Another great fact, that you probably didn’t know… Bob Gill actually directed a Porno. Yup. Believe me, we all IMDB it as soon as he mentioned it. The name? The Double Exposure of Holly. Bet even Gary Hustwit, director of Helvetica and present during the talk, did not know about it. BTW, thank you for asking the question on everyone’s mind Debbie! Which was also followed by the hilarious exchange of puns between Mark Kingsley and Bob Gill.

So much wisdom and wit

So much wisdom and wit

Bob Gill does Jazz.

Bob Gill does Jazz.

A few other things I learned from Bob… He simply does not do spec work. Even if the work is not accepted, he charges a cancellation fee. I know that sometimes when working with clients and trying to get your contracts approved, terms like cancellation fees seem utopian and far fetched considering how clients think. But hey! they do exist and if Bob Gill uses them, damn it we should all do too! Bob’s time was up, but he managed to provide one last gem… ” The most exciting thing you can do as a Graphic Designer is reinvent the world every single day.”

Great moment. Michael Bierut and Bob Gill.

Great moment. Michael Bierut and Bob Gill.

As everyone was still smiling and tweeting away, Armin was up on stage again, introducing our next speaker. As a Type geek, I was particularly excited to finally see/hear the talented, and oh so experienced, Bruno Maag in person. I gotta say, Bryony and Armin did an amazing job at bringing in a fantastic blend of specialties and branches of Design and Branding. It was time for some Type wisdom!

As you might know, Bruno Maag is the Creative Director & Chairman of Dalton Maag, one of the leading typographic studios in the world. He is also responsible for an impressive amount of lovely fonts including Aktiv Grotesk, Dedica, Interface, Stroudley and many more. Oh, and he also hates Helvetica. With an enviable professional background, admirable experience in the Type business (Bruno worked for Monotype and is trained as a metal, photo and digital typesetter) and a great Design portfolio, it sure was going to be an interesting lecture.

Bruno Maag time!

Bruno Maag time!

Bruno Maag

Bruno Maag

Bruno's opening slide and a couple of minor notes on the new Yahoo logo

Bruno's opening slide and a couple of minor notes on the new Yahoo logo

Bruno began his presentation by also taking us back in time. To Ancient Rome to be specific. Bruno agreed with some of Debbie’s points but disagree on a few. For example, he shared his belief that the Roman Empire was the earliest prime example of branding. Not only did they invent a new alphabet system – that we still use today – but understood perfectly the concept of branding and ‘marking’. Everything they touched was branded.

After a few interesting facts about ancient presses and Type, Bruno began showing some of his great work, starting with the typeface created for the 2016 Olympic Games taking place in Rio. He began by showing some of the beautiful “sketches” they worked on, and that didn’t make the cut. If you are a Type geek like me, your mouth was probably salivating and your palms were getting sweaty. One of the main problems Bruno and his team encountered was the disconnect between the current logo (not created by Dalton Maag) and the proposed typeface. What looked to me like stunning samples, did not work for Bruno and they decided to go back to square one. So, how were they able to connect and create a typeface that worked with the logo? Well, two of their brazilian designers spent three days working on calligraphic exercises in order to immerse themselves in the letters and their flow. The goal was to understand the flow of each individual letter and how they work together. Once this was achieved, expanding and creating a complete alphabet became much easier. The result, a beautiful custom typeface that complimented became part of the identity.

Bruno Maag talking Type

Bruno Maag talking Type

Rio 2016 Project

Rio 2016 Project

Rio 2016 Type sketches. Yes, sketches that didn't make the cut.

Rio 2016 Type sketches. Yes, sketches that didn't make the cut.

More Rio 2016 Type exercises

More Rio 2016 Type exercises

Rio 2016's beautiful custom typeface

Rio 2016's beautiful custom typeface

Bruno then explained the different considerations and requirements when building fonts – and how corrupt the Chinese system is ($25,000 certification fees!?). For those of us who were there or who watched the live stream, this number will forever have negative vibes. GB18030-2005. Look it up.

We enjoyed a few more interesting projects like the rebrand of the Burberry wordmark. I always love seeing the work behind these brands and how subtle changes or adjustments can make such a big difference. The work for HP was another great example of Bruno’s versatility and attention to detail. He emphasized the importance of understanding how fonts work and the importance of testing. Over and over. In every platform. Oh, and how important it is to manage your clients’ expectations. Making sure your client understands fonts limitations is crucial. They might have no idea or might not be able to distinguish minor differences, but they react subconsciously to them. Fonts have that ability to connect and tell stories. Type is an emotive issue. But you already knew that…

Type Talks

Type Talks

Bruno showing some of his work for Burberry

Bruno showing some of his work for Burberry

And some work done for HP

And some work done for HP

Detail in Type design is extremely important. - Bruno Maag

Detail in Type design is extremely important. - Bruno Maag

Faena House project. In collaboration with Pentagram

Faena House project. In collaboration with Pentagram

To wrap up his talk, Bruno urged us to experiment a little more with Type, specially with Serifs. This comes from a professional who for the past twenty years has been dealing with clients’ requests for modern sans serif fonts. ” I am so bored of sans serifs!… Serifs can also be modern, clean, fresh and at the same time stylish and classic.”

I am so tired of Sans Serifs... - Bruno Maag

I am so tired of Sans Serifs... - Bruno Maag

During our second break, I decided to skip the stretching and fresh air in order to have at least 15 minutes to introduce myself and talk with Mr. Bob Gill. I made my way to the front, luckily he was sitting next to Debbie, which made my introduction a lot easier and the conversation even funner. We talked for a while and I asked him to sign my doodle card (these were part of our goodie bags and were meant for us to sketch or doodle during the conference) I figured what better way to keep this legend’s autograph than my Brand New Conference card. Sorry for not turning it in Armin and Bryony! It sits in my studio now :)

Had to ask Bob Gill to sign this for me :)

Had to ask Bob Gill to sign this for me :)

Well, break time was over and it was now time for Matt Stevens to inspire us all. Let me tell you, I’ve been following Matt’s work for quite some time already, and I was excited and proud to see him here, in front of a packed auditorium (and some web watchers) ready to rock. And he did!

Matt Stevens is an extremely talented designer and illustrator who worked the system for a couple of years as Senior and Creative Director but now, thanks to his enviable talent, list of clients and a variety of lovely self initiated projects – like the fake Dunkin Donuts or Home Depot rebrands featured on Brand New or his well known MAX 100book, promoted, shared and sold all over the world – is on his own after founding the Design Office of Matt Stevens and finally launching a portfolio site. Yes, he didn’t have one before… Watching Matt talk and show his work reminded me of another extremely cool designer who I had the pleasure of meeting and whose work left me speechless, three years ago, in this same room and conference. His name, Christian Helms. I am a huge fan of these gentlemen and the beautiful work they constantly release.

Matt Stevens

Matt Stevens

Matt preaching

Matt preaching

This photo reminds me of how much I enjoy drawing and doing what I do...

This photo reminds me of how much I enjoy drawing and doing what I do...

Amen!

Amen!

Matt’s talk focused on the importance of personal projects, and working on whatever makes you happy. Personal projects don’t only help us experiment and play with different ideas, as crazy as they might be, but could also open many doors for us. I usually hear the “I don’t have time for personal work” excuse, and I’ll admit that yes, sometimes time is a little tight – specially when you have a family – but what better way to go crazy and work on something that makes you smile, that reminds you how much you love what you do and how much fun you have doing it. With personal projects, there are no deadlines (although sometimes it helps), there are no meetings about meetings, there are no dumb client requests, and you have complete creative freedom. PLUS, and this is something I always tell my students, you never know who’s enjoying your work or where these projects might take you. Take Matt’s talk as an example…

Matt’s title screen Big Thinking & Heavy Lifting was a great preview of what we were about to enjoy. He began his presentation by sharing a timeline briefly explaining his professional background and where he is now. Not sleeping much. Being a 90s child, Matt shared he was a huge fan of pop culture, iconic figures and yes, Nike. So, what better project to work on than his now famous MAX100 illustrations, featuring the legendary shoe and its multiple variations. Thanks to the help of social media outlets, blogs, and support from Kickstarter, Matt was able to finish his illustrations and publish his own MAX100 book. This project gained so much national and international attention that the folks at Nike decided to commission Matt, license his work and collaborate on a few installations, collector items and products. How’s that for a personal project?

Matt's famous Nike - MAX100 project

Matt's famous Nike - MAX100 project

Draplin inspired Max! Loved this one!!

Draplin inspired Max! Loved this one!!

Inspired by the amazing work of Mark Weaver

Inspired by the amazing work of Mark Weaver

Impressive.

Impressive.

And it all started as a personal project...

And it all started as a personal project...

Another project we were all familiar with was Matt’s Dunkin Donuts rebrand, which got a lot of attention after being published on Brand New. Matt shared the story of how this project began and the type of positive reaction he received from Designers and non-designers. (my wife lovesthis rebrand. So I introduced her to Matt at the after party. Even she was inspired!). And just in case you were wondering, yes, Dunkin Donuts did contact Matt, and he worked on a few projects with them. That’s two major clients already…

Working with big clients, and constantly getting his work out there helped Matt land a few other projects he shared with us, including his illustrations for WIRED, New York Magazine, Evernote, Money Magazine, Facebook, JJ’s Red Hots, and many more. He shared a collection of beautiful concepts, executions and badges, lots of amazing badges, for different projects. He even shared how he turned a negative experience into a positive and lucrative one – regarding the Dunkin Donuts mascot ripoff by some douchebag who tried to sell it to a small shop called Varsity Donuts. I personally loved how we handled the situation, how he ended up working together with the client, and all the insane work he did.

Another personal project. This time, Dunkin Donuts...

Another personal project. This time, Dunkin Donuts...

A blatant rip-off of an unofficial version of a real mascot for a pretend rebrand that I did because I was burned out.

A blatant rip-off of an unofficial version of a real mascot for a pretend rebrand that I did because I was burned out.

JJ's Red Hots identity and branding

JJ's Red Hots identity and branding

Exploded Type sketches for Wired Magazine

Exploded Type sketches for Wired Magazine

Matt also shared some work done for Facebook

Matt also shared some work done for Facebook

Matt’s time was up, and we were all inspired and wanting to get home to go back to those projects we’ve had archived and forgotten due to lack of time or excess of work. If you knew Matt before this talk, you became an even bigger fan, because now you understand where it all comes from. And if you were not familiar with Matt’s work before the talk, I am sure you became a fan and are probably following his site, blog and Instagram already. Thanks for the great and inspirational talk Matt. You killed it!

I've gotten to work with great brands by doing work that I care about

I've gotten to work with great brands by doing work that I care about

And then, it was time for the last speaker. The closer. And who better than the brilliant and legendary Mr. Michael Bierut to close such an amazing conference. Michael was already a guest speaker three years ago, but as part of a panel discussion accompanied by Armin and the also illustrious Paula Scher. This time, Michael was in charge of sharing his magic and send us off with tons of notes, ideas, and a smile in our faces. Needless to say, he delivered!

Before he began, Michael congratulated Matt on his great presentation and mentioned it would be hard to follow up such a positive and inspiring talk. It was so nice to hear a heavyweight acknowledge the talent and passion of a fellow Designer. Thanks for showing us how it’s done Michael. I could also picture Matt jumping of joy deep inside. If you ask me, I would use that line on every pitch :)

I’ve been a HUGE fan of Michael Bierut since I started working professionally as a Designer. I think I could name all the projects he has worked on and I can honestly say I have studied his work since college. His ability to always find the appropriate solution and deliver beautifully executed work is something I admire and hope to achieve someday. And right when we were getting ready to enjoy some work samples and case studies, Michael surprised us by stating he wanted to do something different since we were an “expect crowd”. Instead of showing work, he wanted to share something more personal with us. He wanted to share some of his latest success stories and some of his not so successful pitches. WHAT!? Michael Bierut has ‘failure’ stories? And just like that, he had everyone’s attention.

Michael Bierut closing the conference

Michael Bierut closing the conference

The one and only, Michael Bierut

The one and only, Michael Bierut

Michael introducing the Pentagram family

Michael introducing the Pentagram family

Michael began by telling us how Pentagram, and all its partners, have annual meetings in which they talk and share latest projects, what each office has been up to, business issues, and of course, finances. He explained how each partner has to prepare a presentation for these meetings. And just as I was thinking to myself, “Oh, how I would love to see one of those…” Michael mentioned he would share his with us. We were going to witness what goes on behind closed doors and how Pentagram not only plans its pitches, but how they are presented to clients. Definitely a treat we were not expecting!

As you can probably imagine, Michael’s presentation was full of clever ideas, research and beautifully pitched executions that are still better than many agencies portfolios out there. One fact I really enjoyed, Pentagram always gets paid. Even if it is a pitch. And the amount varies between $15,000 and $97,000. No, he did not say who these clients were. Another fact, Michael does not like to present even-number concepts. He would either present three or five ideas. Never four.

We were fortunate to enjoy a 'private' Pentagram presentation...

We were fortunate to enjoy a 'private' Pentagram presentation...

One of the proposed identities for The Whitney Museum

One of the proposed identities for The Whitney Museum

The proposed identity for the Whitney Museum was the first project Michael showed. Yes, the one that didn’t get accepted. We were able to see all five concepts and ideas behind each one, along with some branding materials created by the “magic of Photoshop” as Michael described it. It was interesting to see all the different angles and approaches considered and how each idea had a backstory or reason. Michael again showed the experience and class of the scholar he is when he shared his reaction after learning that Experimental Jetset had been the selected agency for this project, and how we reached out to both, client and winning agency, with a congratulation letter. This is how it should always be done!

His next project was one that not only Pentagram won and was proud to work on considering it is an iconic NYC landmark, but also one that had a lot of history, meaning and carefully crafted details and hidden messages. The new Grand Central Terminal logo. I can’t imagine the pressure and how difficult it would be to work on a project of this magnitude, for one of the most recognized buildings in the world. A ‘client’ that so many people love and connect with n a very strong personal level. The legendary information booth, with its iconic clock, is considered the ‘heart’ of this terminal and was the element that Michael decided to celebrate. Two things that I enjoyed from Pentagram’s pitch were the fact that they quoted Lady Gaga and the the strategic positioning of the clock’s hands (7:13) which represent the year in which the station officially became known as Grand Central Terminal. - What client could say no to something like this!?

Grand Central Terminal's new logo

Grand Central Terminal's new logo

Michael Bierut quoting Lady Gaga

Michael Bierut quoting Lady Gaga

And showing off his 1930s Radio voice...

And showing off his 1930s Radio voice...

After a couple more projects for MIT Media Labs and IDA Congress, Michael focused on the work produced for Mohawk paper, which we all have seen in numerous magazines and Design annuals. Michael explained Pentagram’s role and concept behind this well executed rebrand, before sharing a lovely video featuring the one and only Mr. Massimo Vignelli, created for Mohawk’s ‘What Would You Make Today’ campaign.

Oh, and if you have ever wondered if Pentagram turns down work (considering their portfolio is beyond impressive) the answer is yes. I was so glad when Bryony asked Michael this question, which he answered without thinking twice. “You know those electronic cigarettes? I don’t like cigarettes period. But there’s something even worse about electronic cigarettes… so we said no to that.”

Michael’s time was up (although it felt like he had only been on stage for 5 minutes) and as predicted, we were all extremely inspired and ready to take on new projects and look for solutions rather than meaningless pretty pictures. Oh, and smiling, of course :)

Michael showing more beautiful and smart work

Michael showing more beautiful and smart work

Mohawk paper rebrand

Mohawk paper rebrand

This is a real photo... I know, it does look Photoshopped - Michael Bierut

This is a real photo... I know, it does look Photoshopped - Michael Bierut

Michael's closing observations

Michael's closing observations

Michael answering Bryony's questions...

Michael answering Bryony's questions...

Being the huge fan I am, I had to talk to Michael one more time since he was not going to the after party. So, as everyone was exciting and heading towards Stout , I was making my way down to chat with Michael who as always was very attentive and friendly. We walked and talked for a few minutes and shared with him a big personal project I am working on, asking for his advice and inviting him to be part of it(I promise I’ll share details very soon…) Michael not only liked the idea but invited me to contact him to talk a bit more about it as he offered his business card. I am sure you can imagine my excitement at this point… I walked out of this conference with Michael’s business card!!!! Yes, that is a huge deal. And of course I took a picture and shared it with my friends as soon as I stepped outside the Theater.

YESSS! Thank you again for everything Michael!

YESSS! Thank you again for everything Michael!

That was it. The conference was over, and Bryony was on stage sharing her closing remarks and details on next year conference, which will be 2 days long and will take place in Chicago. (Again, if you still have not yet made it to these conferences, you must make it next year!) Another Brand New Conference under my belt (ahem again Armin) (: An unforgettable day full of wisdom, inspiration and lessons I will definitely apply to my career. Thank you again Bryony and Armin, and congratulations on yet another fan-fuckin’-tastic conference!

Oh, here’s the link to purchase the conference videos:

Brand New Conference 2013 – Videos

PS. And one more disclaimer… If you find any typos or weird misspells, forgive me as I typed my entire conference experience at once, without stopping. Once I realized how long it was, I decided to skip spell-check :) I know, I know…

Now, I know most of you (specially those of you who were not able to attend) love to see all the goodies and materials we received and were able to bring home. So, as it has become tradition, I photographed them for everyone’s enjoyment. Be aware that photos don’t make these beautiful pieces any justice. There’s nothing like the smell of good paper, the texture of cards and the impressive hand-sewn logos on all 600 programs. Go Bryony!

2013 Badges

2013 Badges

2013 Badges

2013 Badges

Goodie bags

Goodie bags

The beautiful programs

The beautiful programs

Black and yellow

Black and yellow

Lovely presentation

Lovely presentation

My kids loved these :)

My kids loved these :)

Sponsor gifts

Sponsor gifts

Programs details

Programs details

Schedule

Schedule

Speaker spreads

Speaker spreads

Speaker spreads

Speaker spreads

Brand New Conference 2013 Tee

Brand New Conference 2013 Tee

Thanks for reading!!!

- D



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