Now that I’ve returned from Denmark and the colorful world of textile design, it’s time to return to graphic design and branding. And that’s exciting (to me). I’m so thankful I got to do something new and challenging the last two months. I feel inspired and rejuvenated to finish my thesis and start the next chapter of my life … working in NYC. Before I left Denmark I spent hours applying to countless design jobs for anything I felt I was remotely qualified for. And to my delight, on Monday I received the good news I’d been waiting for … someone wanted to hire me! I’ll reveal full details when it becomes 100% official. I went on a few other interviews because it’s great practice talking about one’s work and I wanted to explore all my options. One interview I was very excited (and nervous) for was a designer position at a huge branding firm, one I’d admired since I moved to NYC. Very intimidating, but also an exciting opportunity.
During the interview, I talked about my work experience, favorite projects, my interests in design, etc and then was asked, What is your favorite brand? I was stumped. It’s a simple enough question right? I ended up talking about how interesting the entire Gap logo fiasco is compared to the success Starbucks redesign. Which I do truly think is interesting. Both Starbucks and Gap are iconic global brands. But one did it so wrong while the other flourished. People said during the Gap logo scandal that some logos are so well established and iconic, they should be left alone. I argue Starbucks built just as much brand identity as Gap, perhaps more, and they were embraced. Why is this? And more importantly why do we care?
This brings me back to a project from one of my Pratt MFA studios. For the project we had to communicate humanity or “humanness” to aliens. I proposed sending aliens an alphabet comprised of logos establishing a shared language and making a commentary on American values. A modern day Rosetta Stone, sponsored by Adobe, Budweiser, Coke, etc .. While this idea isn’t new, lots of these logo alphabets exist, it’s so interesting to think about these logos as living things, as brands, that communicate. In this project the alphabet symbolizes way more than letterforms and logos, they are cultural symbols of our society at a specific period in history. While listening to Design Matters one night, I heard this quote by Phillip Meggs:
It’s so interesting how in the last 10 years brands have really become alive. They’re living things. While brand loyalty has existed since the creation of brands themselves, brands they were not always living things. I believe the shift happened with the creation of social media. We all have these digital lives, alter egos, and so do these brands. They have personalities that must communicate as effectively on the iPad as they do in the store. I think that’s so fascinating because as a designer working in brand strategy, you’re creating emotional relationships that must be nurtured. So things brings me back to the original question, what is my favorite brand?? While researching brands, I came across report from Interbrand about America’s most valuable brands:
In thinking of which brands are my favorite, or that I find the most interesting, I decided to come up with a list. Initially when I think about brands, I only think about retail brands. This is due to the lifestyle fashion and retail try to sell consumers. I didn’t even consider food brands in the grocery store, which are just as powerful as these retail giants, and probably even more so since we interact with them so frequently. According to Stores.org, “Americans have an ongoing love affair with brands. Threaten to take away their Dawn dishwashing detergent or their Kleenex and you’d better be ready for a knock-down, drag-out fight: Those items, along with Bounty paper towels and Crest toothpaste, are among the products shoppers choose most often when they roll their carts up and down the supermarket aisles.” I’m completely guilty of this. For example, I only drink coke products, I’m totally addicted to Aquafresh toothpaste, and I generally don’t trust store brands. Some of these brands are my favorite because I use their products religiously, like Coke or Apple. Other brands I admire the lifestyle they symbolize (Kate Spade, J.Crew). With these brands I want to live in the beautiful glossy world they create. I’m totally under their spell.