Top-of-Mind Thoughts and Inspirations From Brand New Conference

Last week, a group of VSA designers convened at the Brand New Conference to hear insight and inspiration from some of the industry’s leaders. Eager to hear what was discussed, the group shared their top takeaways from the event.

The art of designing an identity system
Most designers are equipped to create a beautiful logo. But designing an identity system that speaks uniquely of the brand and can flex as the brand scales requires some guiding strategies and a thoughtful process. It is when design meets strategy and have a beautiful child. Laura Stein, former Creative Director at Bruce Mau Design, shared her strategy and process on creating an identity system. Here are three key strategies she uses to tackle identity system designing:

1. Create a baseline and riff


For OCAD University in Toronto, Laura’s team created a simple logo mark that took inspiration from the building architecture while incorporating students’ artwork. The mark could flex infinite ways depending on the medium and purpose.

2. Mix and remix


We’ve all been there: We’ve concepted a ton of fun ideas throughout the exploration process, only to see most of them end up on the floor. SONOs is a great example of thoughtfully maximizing all kinds of sketches and concepts and mixing them in a genius way that still stays true to the brand.

3. Develop a distinct dialect (find your “freak flag”)
Create a language so distinctly your own that everything you do is uniquely yours by nature. Focus on creating a strong conceptual idea to start with, then really embrace and commit to that concept as you build out the identity system (and the other touchpoints of your brand).

With the rise of smart technology and minimal design, it was intriguing to hear Laura’s thoughts on designing an identity system that could translate across all platforms. Her advice on why designers should embrace complexity and take risks when creating an identity system—and seeing how that mentality has brought her projects to fruition—was refreshing and comforting.

Danger is real—But fear is a choice.
Founder and Creative Director of Futura, Iván García’s, presentation was hilarious, creatively inspirational and a reality check for the audience. Everyone deals with fear in their career. Fear paralyzes. It happens to all of us. But Iván reminded us that fear is a choice. Speaking to an audience of brand designers, he reminded us that, when you boil our job down, we “make business cards.” We are lucky. We are designers. We are not pilots, doctors or bomb defusers. This should be freeing—it should allow us to feel like we can (and should) take risks in our work and do something good.

Let go of perfection and work on your dials.
Tosh Hall, Executive Creative Director at Jones Knowles Ritchie, explained the art of creating a healthy work/life balance. He referenced a graph, with “time/effort” as the X-asis and “quality/perfection” as the Y-axis, and the illustration curve to show how close the came to perfection, but was never able to quite hit it.

In order for Tosh to reach the elusive perfection line, he was adjusting his “dials”—maxing out “work” and sacrificing “life.” And, while this produced some of his  great work, the work was never perfect, and inevitably caused countless troubles in his life.

Adjusting the dials to be equivalent, Tosh let go of perfection, understanding it was not truly achievable. This talk compelled listeners to keep their dials well-balanced because “if you don’t, you will fall out of balance, split your differential and tip the **** over. Or worse yet, implode.” (original quote by Mark Hanna, Stockbroker L.F. Rothschild.