HOW Design 2012 in review: Part three

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This is a continuation of HOW Design 2012 in review: Part two.

HOW Design Conference 2012 I am attending the HOW Design Conference 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. Below are my notes from the sessions I attended on Sunday.

9:00 am-10:15 am – 20. Brand Thinking and Other Noble PursuitsDebbie Millman
Debbie Millman is president of the design division at Sterling Brands. In her 16 years with the company, Debbie has worked on the redesign of global brands for Pepsi, P&G, Colgate, Nestle, Hasbro and many others. She’s president emeritus of the AIGA, as well as a contributing author at Print and co-founder and chair of the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting the first weekly radio talk show about design on the Internet. The show, “Design Matters with Debbie Millman,” is now featured on and was awarded a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2011. In addition, Debbie is the author of five books on design and branding, including How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer (Allworth Press, 2007), Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design (HOW Books, 2009) and Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits (Allworth Press, 2011).

  • Session hashtag: #HOWdebbie
  • Why was MySpace so popular?
  • Why do we keep wanting, making and marking as a species?
  • 150 years ago, building a brand was pretty simple.
  • Now, your average supermarket has over 35,000 brands in it. There are 19 million variations of a Starbucks beverage. There are over 100 brands of nationally advertised water and contact lenses.
  • 50,000 years ago was the beginning of human behavior; also known as the “big brain bang” or the Great Leap Forward
  • Three distinct brains: reptilian, mammalian (limbic), neocortex
  • Cultural universals: language, art, music, cooking, self-decoration (making and marking)
  • Flags used to identify military coordination on the battlefield.
  • Brand first appeared in Beowulf (1010) – marking or destroying by fire.
  • Brands as we know them originated in the late 19th century with the advent of packaged goods.
  • The Trademark Registration Act went into effect on January 1, 1876; brands became legally recognized, kind of copyrighted. First registered trademark: Bass Ale. (Bass Ale appears in a painting in 1882.)
  • 5 waves of modern brand evolution (each ushered in a new class of brands):
    • Wave 1 (1875-1920)
      Brands guaranteed quality and consistency no matter the location (meanwhile: Industrial Revolution apex; beginning of homogeny). Leaders were food brands: Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola, Quaker Oats. You also expected that they would be safe. Original FDA founded in June 1906.
    • Wave 2 (1920-1965)
      Brands become anthropomorphized. Metaphor begins to show up in brands. Examples: Morton’s Salt, Betty Crocker, Uncle Ben. The first emotional connection to brands. You could relate to and project onto a character/personality. Note about cereal packaging: Characters’ eyes are almost always looking down, making eye contact with kids.
    • Wave 3 (1965-1985)
      Brands as self-expressive statements. Cultural revolution in the 1960s. A brand could provide status: Levi’s, Nike, Marlboro, VW Beetle, etc. People wear brands to fit in. Note: Marlboro was initially targeted at women (and featured a red-tipped cigarette), but became increasingly more macho.
    • Wave 4 (1985-2000)
      Brands signifying an experience. You anticipated an emotional transformation: Disney, Starbucks, Apple. Brand zealots are born.
      • Basic human needs: food, shelter, reproduction, survival. We have an instinct to organize ourselves in packs. We feel safer and more secure in groups.
      • We use all sorts of things to signify that we belong to a group. The most common example of pack organization is the family. Given the choice, a baby will choose the connection with their mother over food (attachment theory). Emotional attachment is a profound human need. Consider the the inhumanity of solitary confinement, and yet…
      • Demographic change from married to single households. One in three households are comprised of one person today. It was one in 10 in the 1950s (and the popular opinion of people who lived alone then was: crazy or a spinster).
      • The path to wave 5. Our brains have invented new frameworks to connect. Social media is a depopulated space we can control that still allows us to connect personally. The online dating industry surpassed the porn industry last year.
    • Wave 5 (2000-present)
      Limbic brands: brands as connectors, brands as belonging. We create the constructs that we then choose to believe in.
  • Entertainment technologies that underlie each wave:
    • Wave 1 – radio, crafts
    • Wave 2 – black & white TV
    • Wave 3 – color TV
    • Wave 4 – cell phones, MTV, Blockbuster
    • Wave 5 – Internet, iPod
  • Lifestraw: make dirty water drinkable anywhere.
  • Dan Pink: “The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that human beings metabolize (brands) very quickly. I’m specifically using the word metabolize because we are talking about hunger and thirst. If a big-screen TV is your symbol of stature and significance, it’s a fool’s game. These kinds of external objects do not provide enduring satisfaction.”
  • Human beings metabolize our purchases quickly. That’s the truth.

10:45 am-12:00 pm – 24. How to Make Killer Logos and Identities in the 21st CenturyArmin Vit
A lot has changed since the days of Paul Rand and Saul Bass. Join Armin Vit as he takes a look at what makes for successful logos and identities in the age of multiple screens (TV, mobile, web) and multiple platforms (print, web, media). You’ll examine case studies of some of the best and worst work being done today as you learn that logos are not static, identities are flexible and brands are adaptable.

  • Session hashtag: #HOW21logo
  • I’m a professional logo ripper-aparter. See: Brand New.
  • First: Avoid making logos that look like a penis.
  • 1. Basics
    • Logo = the “thing” – can be an icon, wordmark, monogram or combination
    • Identity = the “stuff” – typeface, color, photography, layout
    • Brand = the “experience” – mission and vision, personality, associations, attributes
    • Brand is the boss. (Brand > Identity > Logo)
    • A logo without a brand personality is nothing. Examples of brand personalities: Nike, BP logo
    • Provide a context for it to succeed.
  • 2. What makes a good/bad logo?
    • Good logos: UPS, IBM, CBS, Target, Cingular, Citi, Twitter
      • Simple, memorable, perfectly executed
    • Bad logos: UPS (3D redesign), AT&T redesign, Wacom, Gap redesign, Brooklyn Nets, London 2012 Olympics
      • Complicated, hard to recall, poorly executed (poor finesse)
      • Their saving grace? Of the last two bad logos (Brooklyn Nets and 2012 Olympics): their flexibility
    • Years of logos as a reaction to 1960s standards. Literally. (No flexibility. No room for interpretation. Strict.)
    • In 1981, things changed. MTV logo/identity changes. OMG! Logos don’t have to be static.
    • Then this happened: Apple computer (1984)
    • 20 years later: The rise of digital contexts and a savvy audience allowed for more flexible identities.
  • 3. Rise of the flexible identity
    • Logos have variations in color, shape, etc.
    • Logo is applied in different ways
    • Additional visual identity elements complete the identity
    • Logo is larger than the sum of its parts
    • Generative identity: Making flexible identity look static
    • Flexible identities: Made for TV
    • Create a visual world were diversity equals consistency.
  • 4. Is logo work dead?
    • Good examples: Starbucks, Peru, New Theatre, AngryFile, Bluebeard Coffee, etc.
    • With logo work: One idea, executed right.
  • 5. Trends: ride ‘em or avoid ‘em
    • Gotham: The chicken breast of design
    • Gradients. Realistic renderings. (Will it fax?)
    • Can the core idea survive without the decoration?
    • Logo as a window: Sells great to clients, snoozefest to designers.
    • Trends: If they are gratuitous … avoid. If they are relevant … embrace. Haters gonna hate.
  • So, how to make a killer logo?
    1. Pick one story – the most relevant story – and tell it.
    2. Execute flawlessly. (Keep refining.)
    3. Blend the austerity of the mid-20th-century design principles with the robustness of 21st-century innovation.
  • Your logo designs are not art. They are not precious. That is bullshit.

2:00 pm-3:15 pm – 26. Cranking the Creative TrebuchetKody Chamberlain
We’ve all been there – you’re on the verge of a brilliant idea, but the walls of deadline mediocrity are closing in on you. To smash your way through those walls with ideas the size of one-ton boulders, you’re going to need leverage, and lots of it. Get your leverage from Kody Chamberlain as he discusses the unconventional-but-still-practical techniques he’s used to launch big ideas through the walls of graphic design, illustration, creative writing, comic books, graphic novels and deep into the Hollywood hills. His arsenal of oddball techniques includes collateral thinking, oscillating sketchbooks, making clay, and creative advice from Jaws, Bruce Lee and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. You’ll even learn Kody’s top-secret networking technique, proven to generate deep personal and professional connections.

  • Session hashtag: #HOWbig
  • Download slides and poster:
  • It’s all about leverage.
  • Art: Sweets: A New Orleans Crime Story and Punks: The Comic (MTV)
  • The mechanics of sequential art (comic showing before and after an event). Sequential art is a painfully underused art form. (Sequential art examples: Picasso, Lascaux cave art.) Instant understanding of complex ideas.
  • “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” – Thomas Edison
  • What happens when you don’t have a pile of junk?
  • Making clay. Don’t get it right, just get started. Be process junkies, from start to finish. Track your thoughts (notebooks, sketchbooks, email, audio, video, etc.).
  • Good ideas begin to clump. Add and subtract. Use fundamentals to develop your ideas and kill the bad ideas.
  • This is where most people fail. Something is lacking in fundamentals and/or good judgement. Bad ideas persist.
  • Sculpt, but resist the urge to polish.
  • Execute your ideas. Finalize the good ideas, trash the bad ideas.
  • How do you know when you’re done? When the project works, stop working.
  • Sketching is not a gift. It’s a process. Bad drawings create great ideas. It’s the thought that counts. One you have a good idea, you can always get help.
  • In addition to his famous logos, Saul Bass did storyboards, including the Psycho shower scene.
  • Sketching is not about good drawing. It’s about good thinking.
  • The happy accident: An essential lesson on creativity from Bob Ross. Mistakes are your new best friend. Creation through mistakes.
  • Benefits of analog: Happy accidents, the important things take over, fast evolution of ideas, problems instantly become apparent, gives tangible form to abstract concepts.
  • Technology is a tool, but it’s not the only tool. It’s not good at critical thinking. Perfection is a bad idea.
  • The most creative people are the most productive. Have you noticed?
  • Inspiration is a placebo. You don’t need it to create.
  • “Inspiration is for amateurs.” – Chuck Close
  • Cross the finish line. A sketch is not a comic. A guitar riff is not a song. A thumbnail is not a logo.
  • Data mining. Dig deeper, analyze the core concept, revisit the goals, dissect something, find hidden gold.
  • Collateral thinking. What impact does one thing have on another? Send shockwaves and ripples through your project.
  • Random input. Go to a toy store, library or circus. Take a walk or hop in the shower. Isolation is a bad idea.
  • Keep it real. Spend time with humans. Build a creative think tank. Drink and Draw Social Club, for example.
  • Don’t be a geezer. Everything you love was once a new idea.
  • Design how-to: black & white photocopy, scan at 1200 dpi color, grayscale, 1.5 px radius in Photoshop … make vector path
  • See: Chris Ware, comic book artist

3:45 pm-5:00 pm – 35. How to Survive Your Soul Crushing Day JobMelissa Morris Ivone
Chances are you’re not currently working at your dream job. You know you’ll get there some day, but right now you’re focused on gaining the experience you need, or waiting until the job market improves. So you might be feeling a little drained from constantly making the logo bigger and jazzing things up (make it bold! and red!). But just because your day job may be crushing your artistic spirit, there’s no reason to let your creative muscle atrophy. Melissa Morris Ivone will share her recommendations for living a creatively fulfilling life while surviving corporate drudgery. You’ll learn how to: make minor adjustments to your daily routine, leaving you feeling more fulfilled at work; constantly challenge yourself (and find out why that’s so important); find something in your life that you are passionate about, if you’re not passionate about your day job.

  • Session hashtag: #HOWdayjob
  • Works for a hospice pharmaceutical management company
  • Why would we ever stay in a soul-crushing job? House, family, benefits, bills, etc.
  • A few choice quotes from managers:
    • Can we make that red?
    • I love it! But can you jazz it up a bit?
    • It isn’t that hard. It should only take you five minutes.
    • Make the logo bigger.
  • Six tips to find creative satisfaction in the face of soul-crushing work situations:
    1. Think positive. Attitude is contagious. It’s easier to be creative when you’re laughing. Two book recommendation for team-building and maintaining a positive attitude: Caffeine for the Creative Team and The Artist in the Office (make a list of the things your job provides for you)
    2. Let your freak flag fly. Don’t be a “business” version of yourself. You don’t need to fit into a beige/corporate mold. Don’t hide your personality or you will become really resentful of your job really quickly.
    3. Join a gang. Form a posse of creatives, in person—or remotely/electronically, via a forum or email or whatever. A design gang is good for organizing creative side projects that are not related to the industry of your day job.
    4. Get passionate. If flow charts, email templates and styling spreadsheets aren’t your passion, make sure you are tending to your passions after work. Get yourself to do something different in order to stay excited about design. You can move from one passion project to another if a previous passion becomes stale and work-like.
    5. Get busy. Cites Von Glitschka about the metaphor of collecting matchsticks (experiences) that may someday ignite a passion for you. Collect matchsticks! Pack your calendar and stretch your life experiences.
    6. Don’t stop believin’. A stable corporate job might be right for you right now, but don’t settle. Don’t wait for a knight in shining armor. Update your portfolio and website. Make a goal list. Rescue yourself.
  • In February 2012, she rescued herself from her beige hospice tower after nine years and eight months. Now she works longer hours for a little less pay, but she feels creatively fulfilled and passionate about both her work and home lives.

Continue to HOW Design 2012 in review: Part four »

Similar posts that may be of interest:
    None Found