Vol. 37 No. 2, p. 18
I’ve been creating brands for over 25 years, and in that time the nature of branding has changed. Brand design has evolved from a mostly 2D discipline concerned with creating timeless expressions of corporations and their products via packaging, advertising and retail to a blend of software design, audio branding, animation, storytelling and social media. Not to mention that the traditional channels still exist. It’s not only a more complex landscape for designers to consider; it’s also much more fun—and engaging.
In 2017, IDSA saw an opportunity to create a new conference that would appeal to this growing diversity of design disciplines. It would build on the traditional strengths of IDSA—its expertise in aesthetics, usability and user-centric design thinking—and use these as a platform to welcome discussion and thought leadership from other disciplines of design including UX and brand.
To help launch the reimagined IDC, Stitzlein Studio was approached by IDSA to develop an identity that would be modern and compelling and speak to the diversity of design disciplines present at the IDC.
To help establish a firm foundation in this more complex world, at Stitzlein Studio we follow a set of principles, which were helpful for the IDC and hopefully are helpful for you as well.
1. PURPOSEFUL: Strive to capture the brand’s soul with beauty and simplicity.
The International Design Conference stands for a diversity of design disciplines and the timeless values of craft, beauty and simplicity. Our solution was to create a ruthlessly simple mark that reduced the letters IDC to their essence and placed them in a circle born from the geometry of the IDSA word mark. The result is a strong, confident stamp that can be easily replicated and, most importantly, is simple enough so as not to compete with the conference itself. This is a delicate dance; it has to be an interesting mark, but it also must provide quiet support for the sum and substance of the conference as well.
2. CONTEXTUAL: Respect the cultural and business context while challenging it.
We began with two points of reference. First, the iconic IDSA logotype, with its red dot over the I. Its simple geometric Bodoni letterforms inspired our custom geometric typography within the IDC logotype. Although the Bodoni letterforms are timelessly beautiful, they don’t scale well to digital use cases, and they don’t have a youthful attitude. Our solution was to create a logotype that is a younger sibling of the precedent set by the IDSA word mark.
Secondly, New Orleans is an important brand context in and of itself. A center of American creativity for music and food, New Orleans has an aesthetic DNA that should be considered. It also has pitfalls that can shift the identity toward clichés. To solve this, we took the colors of the NOLA flag and shifted them to be more vibrant and more modern. In subsequent years the palette will shift to the colors of the next host city.
3. LIVING: Identities should work harder in the digital era—they should interact with and serve the user.
Unlike timeless analog identities of the past, digital identities need to scale from the constraints of iOS to the animation possibilities of Instagram and to retail and beyond. This is an opportunity to put brands on a timeline and consider animation, interaction and responsiveness. Mobile and new forms of user input such as voice require brands to now live in multiple dimensions.
We created the IDC system with data and animation at its core. We wanted to delight the viewer with multiple images, voices and color. Modern brand systems don’t derive their appeal and authority from being static. They are algorithmic and alive.
4. SYSTEMIC: Digital identities are not only logos. They are patterns that bring an organization to life.
Brand identities give birth to a system of form, pattern, typography, color and animation that can occupy the channels of a modern brand and show the variety of expression inherent to environments, websites, print and digital. People now engage with emotional brands, and brand patterns help them to create experiences that are more delightful. To support the diversity of design, we crafted a family of images that were data driven.
5. SOULFUL: Digital identities leave a memorable, emotional impression on people.
The Nike Swoosh. Apple. Netflix. Great brand identities should be beautiful, memorable and stirring. Great brand systems leave a positive impression, create love for the brand and, above all, make you feel something for the organization. The feeling is a promise of a great experience and is an ambassador for the product the organization is selling.
Creating a Living Digital System
Our insight for the IDC was simple. We wanted the attendees to leave the conference wanting to take action. What if design wasn’t a noun, but a verb? The modular “Design For______” voice speaks to the end benefit of design for humanity and brings to life the variety of aspirations that every designer has, whether serious or fun. When used as a noun, design is a thing to look at. An industry. When used as a verb, design can show the broad impact we can have on society itself.
The result is a modern design system that captures the creativity of New Orleans while avoiding its clichés. It’s a clean, dynamic system that should present the IDC as a welcoming, exciting platform for thought leadership in design for years to come.
Joe Stitzlein is the co-founder and executive creative director of Stitzlein Studio. The firm has worked with technology leaders, governments, entrepreneurs and Olympic athletes to create identity systems, iconic images, typefaces, digital experiences and brand-defining products. Clients have included Intel, Nike, Apple, Netflix, Herman Miller, P&G, KQED, FedEx, Dwell magazine and Michelle Obama.