Armin Vit has established himself as an influential figure in the logo design space through his fantastic logo and brand identity reviews under the umbrella of Brand New, which now receives over 1.8 million page views each month. But how did he get started, how does he approach his reviews and what lessons has he learned along the way?
In this interview, Ian discovers how Armin got his job with Pentagram in the New York Office, the lessons he learned from Micheal Beirut, how he started the Brand New blog, his approach to critiquing logos, what makes a great logo design and how and why he started the Brand New Conference.
Books, Blogs & Resources Mentioned
- Flaunt: Designing effective, compelling and memorable portfolios of creative work Amazon UK | Amazon US
- Speakup Blog Archives 2002 – 2009
- Brand New Blog
- Brand New Conference
- Under Consideration
Armin Vit Interview Transcription
Ian Paget: Most listeners will know of you from your Brand New blog. And that’s become one of the most influential logo design critique sites out there, so huge congratulations for that.
Armin Vit: Thank you.
Ian Paget: I understand, prior to this, that you worked in the New York Pentagram office under Michael Bierut. Can I ask you about this time… how did you get that opportunity? Because it sounds like a dream job for most people.
Armin Vit: Yeah it’s really a dream job. And the way it came about was, before we had Brand New, we had another blog called Speak Up. And that one, we started it in 2003. And the focus of that blog was just general graphic design discussions. And they were more about, like, the ethics, and the profession, and you know, discussing the AIGA, which is a professional … or, you know, member organisation for professional graphic designers. So, I started this blog out of boredom, at some point in my life.
And this was early 2000s, so there was no other design blog out there. So we were the first. And you know, I don’t say that as, hey we were the first. It’s just like, there was nothing. So we just happened to be the first ones. And you know, I used to send out the emails to people that are respected in the industry, just saying like, hey I have this blog, come check it out.
Next thing you know, a lot of those people started to read it regularly. Some of them started contributing, you know, like Steve Heller, or Rudy VanderLans from Emigre, things like that. And then, you know, one day, probably like two years in, Michael Bierut left a comment on one of the discussions, and I just freaked out. Like, oh my God, Michael Bierut left a comment on my blog.
So, I just reached out and said, hey thank you for doing that. You know, I’m glad that you’re enjoying Speak Up, and hope to run into you at some point. So, then we sort of established a light email relationship where we would email sort of behind the scenes about things that were happening on Speak Up. And all of this happened while I was still living in Chicago.
And then eventually moved to New York, or wanted to move to New York, and one of the first people that I contacted for, you know, getting a job in New York was Michael. And I said, like, look I would love to work for you. You know, I would do anything, and he said, like, thank you, that’s great, but no. Because usually, at that point, I already had five years experience in the field. Which is, you know, it’s not much, but what they do is that they hire really young designers, and just keep them for a really long time.
And at that point, Michael had, you know, two or three … He had two senior designers that, you know, that was enough for him. And there was just no room for me. So he said, good luck. See you when you move here. So I found another job, and six months later, Michael emailed me saying, like, hey my two senior designers just, at the same time, decided to start their own business, you know, separate. Would you still be interested in that job? And I thought, you know, let me think about it for, you know, all of half a second, and I’ll say yes.
So we had a very informal interview. I brought my portfolio, but I don’t think he was that interested in my portfolio, which was fine, but it wasn’t great. I think he just really appreciated the way i thought about graphics design, and that I was invested just the profession. So, you know, he, yeah, he offered me a job basically on the spot. I said yes on the spot. And then I stayed there for two and a half years.
And originally … Or well, originally, I thought, well I’ll stay there forever, because who wants to leave Pentagram. But then, we had our first kid, and then they gave me three months off, paternity leave, and I took my three months, then I thought, oh, I’ll come back and stay here forever. Then next thing you know, I’m thinking like, I don’t want to be here, I want to be at home with my baby, and just, you know, see all the poop that she can generate and not have her recognise me, whatever.
Yeah, so like, came back and a month later, I quit. You know, I didn’t quit like I threw my phone on the floor and threw a tantrum. I just said, look I would have loved to stay here, but I just can’t. So then, yeah. That’s when I left and started our own business. So that’s a really long answer to the original question.
Ian Paget: No, I think that’s exactly what we all want to hear. Because I find it amazing, it really sounds like that opportunity came up because Michael became quite invested in what you was writing and the way that you was thinking about your work. And it wasn’t so much about your portfolio. I mean, obviously there must have been something to it, because he wouldn’t employ you if you didn’t have a talent. But it’s amazing to think that writing about graphic design can open up the doors for that opportunity. So that’s an amazing story, and it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you had.
Armin Vit: Yeah, and you know, just working there … I don’t know if that was your next question, but-
Ian Paget: Yeah, I was going to ask about your experience with Michael.
Armin Vit: Yeah, so I think it’s … it was a really fantastic job. Michael is the best boss that I’ve ever had. He was very open to … Like, he had his, you know, whenever he had a strong idea, he would make sure that he would sketch it out and say, Armin do this. You know, find a way to make it look good in the end, but you know, this is what I want in the end. And every now and then he would be like, I have no idea what to do. You figure it out. And it wasn’t like he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he’s usually managing at least 10 to 15 projects at once. So, he can’t always be on top of all of them. And I think, you know, with me being more of a senior designer. He would just let me run with something, as opposed to having to oversee every single part of the project.
And yeah, I think what was great about it is that clients would have sort of a respect and expectation for Pentagram that I hadn’t experienced before at … When I was in Chicago, I used to work at a really tiny design firm where, you know, clients would sort of walk over you, because they were just like, you’re a vendor. I’m paying you to do this. And, you know, do it the way I say.
So with Pentagram, there was much more of a, you know, like I said, like, respect of what we were going to offer to their organisation and business, so they were much more receptive. And you know, with good reason, because Pentagram, as much crap as they get nowadays, especially on Brand New, they’re a really amazing design firm. And you know, the work that they do may sometimes feel very simple or basic, but I think when you’re able to achieve the sort of simplicity with clients asking for really complicated things, I think that’s a really, kind of like, interesting way of doing things.
So, I had a great experience. Had great projects, learned a lot from Michael. You know, I think the first time that we presented a logo and it was in red, and the client said, no I want it blue. And Michael said, like, fine, we’ll make it blue. Like, we got our main idea. But you choose the colour. Like, you know, he was … Like, I learned to let go of certain things the most designers obsess about not letting go. So, you kind of like, pick your … pick some victories to win. And you know, kind of like relent on some of the other things. Which again, sounds like a basic thing to do. But you know, it was nice to see, you know, one of the biggest design firms say, all right fine. You know, you don’t like that font, we’ll change the font. You don’t like that colour, we’ll change that colour. As long as it didn’t like, really take a toll on the AD or the concept.
Ian Paget: I think just knowing that story alone kind of gives some comfort to people that are just starting out. Because getting feedback from the client is always a challenge, and sometimes it is easier to go with what they’re saying, if it doesn’t interfere with the overall concept of what you’re working on.
Armin Vit: Right. Yeah. And I think one thing that I’ve started thinking about is, how much we think of compromise as being a bad word, in graphic design. That, you know, creatives shouldn’t compromise their vision. But I think what that means is that you’re not taking into account the other person’s, or the other organisation’s point of view and ideas and experience. And just saying, like, it’s my way or no way at all. Without thinking that the other person may have a valid point of view. And if that point of view is like, I don’t like this typeface because I don’t think it’s right for my organisation or my audience, then that’s something that you have to listen to. So, you know, I think compromise is not as bad a thing as we think it ought to be.
Ian Paget: Thank you for saying that, because I totally agree with that. Because obviously, it’s a two-way partnership. And you know, taking onboard what the client is saying is an important thing. Because they want to be listened to, and at the end of the day, they are paying you.
Now, I understand after you left Pentagram, you went freelance, as you said earlier. And you’re now at a point where you’re taking on almost no client work and as much as 90 percent of your income comes from your blogs. How did you transition from doing client work at the beginning to being able to focus almost all of your time entirely on your own projects?
Armin Vit: I would love to say that it was a premeditated strategy, business strategy, that we had from the beginning. But it was not that at all. What happened was that in 2008 … So, in 2008, the economy was pretty bad. We also decided to move from New York to Austin, Texas. And it coincided that we finished a lot of client work that we had up until that point, with New York clients, and clients in other places.
In the process of moving from New York to Austin, and you know, those two, three months of transition, all of a sudden, you know, we had no new clients, we had no new projects. And up until that point, we had always got in clients from word of mouth and referrals. So all of a sudden, we’re like, oh shit what do we do now? We have no idea how to get clients. We’ve never had to go out and actually find clients, or do new business development. So, not having that … not knowing how to do that, we thought, well we have to figure out how to make money on our own. And at that point, Brand New had started to grow, you know, somewhat significantly that it was a good, you know, we knew we had a good size audience.
So, one of the first projects that we did on our own was do a self-published book called Flaunt on how designers should make their portfolios. Like, the actual thing that they go to an interview and sit with, with a potential employer. So we did that. That did really well. And then, that’s when we also had the idea of doing the Brand New Conference. And we thought well, you know we have some savings. So let’s put those saving into this idea, and see if it works. Lucky for us, it did work.
And then after that, when we had those two things, like, Flaunt and the Brand New Conference, that game us a lot of confidence to just say, all right, we can sort of figure this out on our own, and not rely on clients. Not because we don’t need them, but just because we don’t have them, and we don’t know how to get them. Whereas this other thing, like, we knew how to talk to designers, because we’re graphics designers, and we’ve been running this blog, and doing little events here and there. So, we knew how to kind of like build on that audience. So we just went with that.
Ian Paget: That seems like a pretty big choice to make. You know, you’re in a situation where you’ve not getting any clients in. I’ve heard from a number of people that, starting a conference, you normally lose money, so was that profitable for you from the outset?
Armin Vit: Yeah. From the beginning, we made money, in part because, I think at the beginning we were very cautious about things. So we made sure that the … you know, we did the math. We figured, we have 500 seats at $400 apiece. That’s $200,000. Like, that’s a lot of money. Even if we are able to keep a quarter of that, this $50,000.
That’s a lot … That’s more money than we’ve ever charged a client. So, we were always, any decision that we made on venue, on production of materials, it was also measured against that number of potential tickets sold. So, we just, you know I don’t know if they were smart decisions, but at least they were frugal in that you know, we’re like, let’s not spend on a giant fancy venue. Because that’s going to cost a lot of money.
Let’s not spend a lot of money on the tote bags and the T-shirts, because that’s going to cost money. So, let’s just keep it simple. And then, so what happened is that … What we knew was that the content was going to be very valuable. Because no one had done a conference on just logo identity and branding.
So we figured the experience is going to come from the content, not from the venue or the stuff. So, yeah, I mean, from the beginning it was profitable. I can see, I can very easily see why people that organise conferences lose money, because the money, you just start bleeding money left and right.
We were also able to get sponsors. So, that really helps a lot. Usually kind of like whatever we gather in sponsorship money, that’s our profit. And you know, luckily that’s been kind of like sort of growing, and people see the value of the audience that we bring in. Because it’s not, we’re not bringing in, you know, 500 students. We’re bringing in 500, and now 1,000 like, actual professionals. That are going to spend money on the products or services that the sponsors are presenting. So it’s … I mean, we acknowledge both how lucky and how dedicated we’ve been to building a specific kind of conference that has value for us, has value for the sponsor, and has value for the audience and the speakers.
Ian Paget: Right. Yeah. It sounds like you’ve done a fantastic job. So, in terms of the growth of Brand New, because I’ve been following the Brand New blog for a number of years now, has that success come from the blog itself, or do you feel like it’s been in parallel that it’s all grown?
Armin Vit: Yeah, I think there’s a … I mean, if you drew a chart of the growth in readership from Brand New, and sort of the growth of the conference, I think they would be pretty much, if not parallel, they would both be on the increase. And I think it has to do with, you know, Brand New has sort of become a trusted source of, if not high quality content, good quality content. I mean, I do think though, there’s a high quality to it, but at the same time, I’m pretty modest, and I realise that we’re just talking about about logos and identity, so it’s not a huge deal.
But yeah, I think the fact that we provide this platform that delivers relevant content to a really large group of people day in and day out, and I try to do it with as much commitment and quality, and doing it as well as possible, that people see that. And when we announce other events, when we announce for our new conference or even our latest event, called First Round, people were like, “Well, it should be good, like even if it’s not great, just as a default, it should be fine because of the quality of Brand New. So yeah, I think there’s some good parallel, a good relationship between those two things.
And also, Brand New has grown a lot so we have … the average page views a month is 1.8 million a month.
Ian Paget: Wow.
Armin Vit: Which is insane. And again, I don’t say that as, “Look at us. We have 1.8 million page views a month.” This just baffles me to no end, that a blog about logos, written by a guy who wakes up at 5:00 AM and writes this stuff, you know, gathers that many viewers, is just kind of insane.
But I think once we have that big audience, even if just 1% of that audience attends the conference or buys the videos for the conference or whatever, that’s just … So it instantly yields a positive outcome.
Ian Paget: Well I’m not surprised with these numbers because I would say that your comments are probably the first I go to. When I see a new brand that comes out I think, “Okay, what’s Armin said about this?” I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and I tend to agree with them, and I feel that you’re very talented at giving honest, constructive critiques of logos.
I wanted to ask, on that topic, do you have a specific approach to working on your critiques. Do you have some kind of framework that you’re working to.
Armin Vit: I think over the … especially over the last three, four years, I sort of developed a formula of either what goes in to the first paragraph, what goes in to the second paragraph and sort of the things that I need to touch on, on any given project. And I do that not because I wanna be lazy or repetitive, but it’s the only way to get through so many reviews every year.
Pretty much every day, I have to write something and without that sort of structure, it would be really hard to reinvent the wheel every single time. So yeah, I’m always trying to touch on the sort of execution aspect of it. Which is , you know, if the kerning is right, if the look colour is right, whatever.
But then also sort of how this logo will make me feel. Does it feel right to this product, service, or company? Does it remind me of anything else? And not necessarily does it remind me of another logo. Does it remind me of another experience? How does it relate to what the company is trying to sell me?
And then I’ll talk about the logo, I’ll talk about the applications and then just give a collective, quick summary of, you know; was this good, was this bad, was this interesting, not interesting, was it sad? Whatever it is, so I just try to hit on a few points that are …
I try not to write really long things because people don’t even read the short paragraphs that are right. So I try to keep it basic and simple so that at least people get a sense of, “Alright, these are the things that I should be considering when I’m looking at this work.” Then whether they agree with me or not, that’s never the point. I don’t want people to agree with me.
I want to provide, kind of like jumping off point, for people to say, “Oh, I do agree with that because whatever,” or “I disagree with that because whatever.” And it’s just about getting people those entry points in to the identity so that they can think about, not just that identity, but how their opinions, or how their interpretations, should influence their own work.
Ian Paget: Yeah, I think what you do is absolutely fantastic.
Armin Vit: Oh, thank you.
Ian Paget: I mean, I do really enjoy them, and I know that probably all of the people listening to this, as well. I do feel like logo design for most graphic designers is kind of like the topic that people like to learn more about, because it just branches into branding and other things. So I think the information you provide teaches a lot of people. So, you know, from me in the audience, thank you for putting those together.
Armin Vit: Sure.
Ian Paget: Well, now tell us, how do you choose what projects you actually critique, because you must get hundreds of people submitting work. How do you know which ones that you’re going to pick?
Armin Vit: Yeah, we do get a lot of submissions and for the most part, what I try to do … One of the first things that I’ll look at is what is the client. So is the client big enough that people will care?
So if it’s a major brand like Uber, or DuPont, or Dunkin’ Donuts, those are like instant ins because people want to see, want to hear, want to read about them. No matter whether they’re good, whether they’re bad, whether they’re interesting, or especially if they’re bad, people wanna see it. So that’s kind of like the first criteria.
If it’s not something that’s huge, or if it’s something that’s regional, or just specific to one country, or specific to one industry, then it’s whether the work is interesting to talk about. Is it exciting? Is it doing something different? Is it just at least well done?
And then the other issue whenever it’s a small … Like, I get a lot of submissions for a law firm, or an architecture firm, or one restaurant with one location with one office, and sometimes the work is really great. But if I write about those, all those 1.8 million page views that we get, all of a sudden, half of those are like, “Well, I don’t care about this because I can’t relate. Like, it’s not something that rings any bells to me.”
Even if they’ve all been to restaurants, or if they know about other architects or lawyers, having kind of like more of a universal appeal and being able to sort of see your client in those clients, I think that’s really important.
So yeah, it’s really about trying to find things that are as relevant to as many people as possible that show low identity and branding in a somewhat large scale. At the same time, they also have the Friday Likes projects where those are the restaurants and the law firms and the, kind of like, tiny little shacks doing whatever. Because it’s also important to highlight those.
I sort of try to hit as many things as possible so that as many people as possible can also get something out of it. Recently, I covered it in the last year, I put in the new little section called Spotted which is all about … like I said, I get hundreds of tips, and some of them, it’s just a logo redesign and there’s not that much information, but still, the logo change might be interesting.
So that’s a place where I’ll just sort of dump a bunch of things. And that’s been working really well and just generating a lot more content and sort of acknowledging all these changes that happen all throughout the world, every single day.
Ian Paget: Is there a specific approach that you would want people to get in touch with you, because I know a lot of the people listening to this will be logo designers, graphic designers, branding experts, and I’m sure that they would be interested in submitting their work. What is it that you particularly need from them? Would it be a number of images or some brief summary of the project?
Armin Vit: No, usually it’s just whatever people will write after their case study on the website, just like an introduction paragraph. Sometimes people will just … I’ll get an email with no images attached. It’s just like, “We launched a new project.” That looks plain, the client briefing, in like one sentence or two, send me a link to the case study and that’s it. That can be as good as sending all the images in an email or sending me a WeTransfer or a Dropbox link.
And then the one thing that I sort of … I haven’t found a nice way to say this, but it’s like I don’t reply to anyone because otherwise it would be impossible. Like, I get so many emails and I can’t just say, I can’t write declination, whoever’s-
Ian Paget: Yeah, you’d spend all day doing that.
Armin Vit: Yeah. Initially, it will be really, like I will have a really horrible life if I wrote all of the emails saying like, “I’m sorry, but your work is not good enough to be shown on my blog.” And, you know, sad face emoticon. That would be a really miserable way of living life, so I just try to not respond. If I need more information, I’ll reply.
Another thing that I don’t do, that I think a lot of people don’t know, that sort of, I don’t know if it’s unique, but I get offered … Whenever there’s a big we design or a semi-big we design, people are like, “Oh, do you wanna speak to our client, or do you wanna speak to the head of marketing, or to our creative directors?” Like, no, that’s the last thing that I want to do. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to hear anything else other than what you’ve put out to the public. That’s kind of like a really hard line philosophical thing that I have, that I don’t want anyone to convince me over the phone over anything.
Whatever other people see online, whatever press release you put out, my opinion is gonna be based off of that. Whatever you can communicate to the public, that’s what I’m gonna base my opinion on. Not some … Because whenever you get with someone on the phone, they’ll tell you everything that went wrong or everything that went right, or all the epiphanies that they had, and also great stories. I just don’t want to hear them because they can really influence my opinion when that really shouldn’t matter. What matters is what gets put out there, eventually, for all the world to see.
Ian Paget: I find it really interesting that you said that because sometimes, or most of the time, your content is very in depth, and it feels like you have some secret, behind the scenes information to it. So is it just purely based on standard press releases and content that they would put on their case study? You’re not actually asking questions?
Armin Vit: Yeah, no. Never. Because also, as a sort of aside, is that you just … It slows down the process tremendously when you’re talking to people and having to schedule a conference call or getting responses by email. This way, a press release comes out at noon on, you know, today, and then tomorrow morning I can write about it instead of having to wait to talk to someone. Anything that I have is whatever was put out into the world.
Ian Paget: Yeah. I think your last answer then just answered my next question but I want to ask it in case there’s anymore to expand on it. I want to ask, how are you able to be so reactive with your content, because you’re generally one of the first people I see online to critique logos. How are you doing that to be so reactive?
Armin Vit: I’m just working on it all day long. It’s not that I’m working on it 24 hours a day, but I check my email for Brand New every day, so that’s how I get tips, that’s how I get submissions from the designers, or the PR people. At night, if there’s a big story, I’ll prepare the images at night. Well, not at night but right before going to bed.
Then, as I said, I wake up at 5:00 in the morning, so by 6:00, 6:30, I’ll already have the post ready to go, so it feels fast because I guess it is fast. But also because I always post so early, like at 6:30. If a big story breaks out at 9:00 in the morning that day, I won’t be able to talk about, to write about it, until the next day.
Then I start to get really stressed out like, oh my god, Wire is gonna get the story before me, if Fast Company’s gonna get the story before me, and Variety, and Vogue, and because every single publication now talks about logo changes.
Ian Paget: Yeah, they do.
Armin Vit: Well, what’s nice is that I’ve sort of grown out of that stressful feeling because I know that, sure, all these bigger publications make it the story first, but I believe that I’m the one that’s gonna get it right or the one that people are gonna come to, to read more about it, not just get kind of like a snarky commentary on Fast Company.
Ian Paget: Yeah, yeah. I know I do that myself because yesterday the Fat Face logo came out and obviously, I’m aware that that came out but I’m still interested to see what you put together on that and I normally read a few different sites but your critiques are … They feel like they’re not trying to impress anyone or you’ll basically say it the way it is. You’ll throw out all the punches so to speak.
Armin Vit: Yeah because I think there’s a lot to be learned from writing. For me, I learn a lot by writing about it. But I think for people reading, I think it’s just having a source, one source, where they can get one kind of breakdown of what a logo, an identity, is, or can mean.
I do try to write about it in an honest way. I never try to be mean to anyone. In part because a lot of the people’s, a lot of the work, a lot of the designers behind the work, I end up meeting at the conferences because they end up being our speakers, so I never try to be mean. I will always try to be honest. I think that sort of yields articles that are beneficial for anyone to read, so I’m kinda glad that you see it that way and I hope that most people will see it as, you know, not me trying to be …
We’ll see it as not me trying to be jealous or mean or sarcastic, just for the sake of it, but just actually trying to dissect something in the way that other people will be able to learn from it as well.
Ian Paget: Yeah. I mean on that, I know sometimes you … I can’t think of any specific example, but you might potentially pull a logo apart or a project apart because you don’t think it’s necessarily the best solution. Are you ever concerned about potentially upsetting someone or stepping on people’s toes? I know you are quite influential in the industry and well connected as well. Like you said, you do know a lot of these people or you do eventually meet them. Is that ever a concern for you?
Armin Vit: Every single day. It really, it was easier in the beginning when I knew less people and few people knew of me. I think it was easier just to be, “Ah, this is crap.” I’d never say it like that, but it was easier to write negative reviews when I had less relationships with people. I’ve had things where I work from Pentagram that I have to write negative things about. I lose sleep over it, because it really, it concerns me that they’re going to think that I’m being mean or just somehow not understanding them. I always try.
That’s why I try to be as objective as possible and always try to justify whatever I’m saying by saying … by comparing it to something else. Not just comparing it to … that it’s just my opinion. I’m comparing it against other work and comparing it against what other clients in the same industry might be doing.
There are cases where I have been nicer to someone’s work because I knew them and they’re super nice people and I just don’t want to … they’re nice, so I can’t bring myself to be completely … completely destroy a logo because they’re such nice people. That’s one other thing that I’ve been very clear, or tried to be very clear online, is that my opinions are not unbiased. I have biases, I am influenced by things that I like, by people that I know.
There’s no … it’s not the New York Times where you have to present, or CNN where you have to just present the facts and try to be as non-partisan as possible. Here it’s just me. These are my opinions based on the people that I know, the things that I’ve seen, the things that I like or dislike. I try to make that as clear as possible, because every now and then in the comments it’s like, “Oh, there’s Armin again, being nice to Pentagram.” Like, yeah, I like them. They used to employ me, so deal with it.
Ian Paget: I think as well, some of these comments, they are like knee-jerk reactions. They’re very subjective opinions from those people that do leap out and attack. What I do like from what you do, and where I do think you set a good example is you justify everything that you explain, and I think doing that, even when you do throw a punch, so to speak, you’re doing it very objectively and explaining exactly the reason why you think that. I do think it’s to the point where they would probably turn ’round and go, yeah, you’re right. So I think that, compared with other people that do just throw out these comments like you mentioned, you’re actually putting time into it and thinking about it, and being an expert, so to speak.
Armin Vit: Yep.
Ian Paget: I wanted to jump into some logo design related things. How do you determine what makes a successful logo or logo redesign?
Armin Vit: That’s a good question. I think a lot of it comes down to how … it’s really subjective. I always say, does this feel right? That’s the first question. Does this feel right for this company, product, or service? Do I look at it and say, and feel a connection to what they’re trying to sell? It doesn’t matter if that logo is minimalist logo or if it’s full of gradients and bevels or whatever it is.
The execution or the approach or the style sort of doesn’t matter, as long as it is true … as long as it feels true to whatever the company is. That’s one of the first things that I look at, kind of that emotional gut reaction. And then it does come down to execution. Is it readable, does it make sense, is it well spaced? Is it something that can be reproduced in as many places as possible? The last question is, is this going to last for more than two year? What is the … if it’s riding a trend, which a lot of logos do, that’s always something that … that’s very difficult for logos to avoid, to follow a trend. But if they do, does this have the possibility of lasting more than this trend?
For example, today’s post about Dream, where it’s a minimalist, geometric, san-serif wordmark, but then it has a little wave at the end. They took the trend, but added something that could make it last for a longer time just by adding a little something that is appropriate to the client.
AI think a lot of it has to do with having seen so many logos and thought about so many logos that some things just feel more naturally right than others.
Ian Paget: I think that’s a really good way of thinking about it, because simplicity tends to come up a lot, and people think that logos should essentially be minimal. But I look at something like the Guns N’ Roses logo and I don’t think that’s a bad logo, but technically, based on this idea of simplicity, it is. It’s full of so many details, it’s basically a painting. But it’s not a bad logo, but it feels right.
I think that way of looking at logo design is a nice way of thinking. It’s kind of like a cake with the right ingredients. Does it taste right? I think that’s a really good way of thinking about it and I’m glad that you explained it in that way, rather than going through the usual things of simple, appropriate, things like that. I think people actually get a lot more out of that answer.
I know we touched on it earlier in the conversation, but the Brand New conference that you run, I understand that you recently just had that conference and you have them, is it every year?
Armin Vit: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, every year.
Ian Paget: Would you be able to just tell us a little bit more about that conference, because I think it’s something that the audience will be interested in, and I’ve never been to one myself but I can imagine a lot of listeners would be interested in attending that. Would that be okay, to talk through that briefly?
Armin Vit: Yeah. As I mentioned, we started in 2010 and our epiphany was that there was no … there’s a lot of design conferences, so we knew we couldn’t just compete by doing another design conference. So we thought, one of the reasons why Brand New was so successful is because it sticks to one subject and that subject is logo identity and branding. What if you do an extension of that as a conference where the speakers are just people devoted to logo identity and branding? It sounds simple and sort of obvious, but because no one had done it, it was like, why would you do that?
We did it, and it turns out that that makes for a really interesting focused conference. People know what they’re going to get out of it. When you go to a general design conference, you go for being inspired and creativity and whatever. That’s fine, but I think when you go to the Brand New conference, you know that you’re going to get all of that creativity and inspiration or whatever, but focused through logo identity and branding projects that people are going to be able to relate to more easily, and bring back actionable knowledge back to their work.
One thing that we bring, kind of out guiding principle has always been, who would we want to hear speak? I think to our benefit, that approach has been good because a lot of people want to hear those people. We try to find speakers that are, again, within that circle that we’ve defined that … it sort of limits you, in a way, but at the same time it makes it somewhat easier to choose speakers because you’re not saying, all right, we need someone to talk about books and someone to talk about posters, or someone to talk about self-initiated projects. We just have to find people doing this thing, this very specific thing.
It’s been a great conference, I think people really get a lot out of it because, again, they know what they’re going to, what people are going to talk about. Even if they talk about different clients, different industries, different approaches, it’s all about the practice of logo identity and branding. I think that’s really … having that focus is really beneficial for people, and for us it keeps us … it gives us a framework to prepare something every year.
Ian Paget: It certainly sounds like something I’d be interested in, because I’ve been to a number of conferences and events and if a talk isn’t necessarily associated to what you’re working on, you can kind of fall asleep in your chair. I think because you are basing it around logo design, branding, and so on, there’s a lot of designers out there that are specifically focused in those areas, so I think it’s really good that you’re doing that. It gives a really high value experience to everyone that attends.
We are near the end of our time, so I want to ask you one last closing question. If you could provide just one piece of advice for logo designers, what would that advice be?
Armin Vit: I would say to not be afraid … the first thing would be, don’t be afraid of doing something that someone else has already done in one way or another. We struggle so much with having to be original and creative and finding something that no one has ever done. It’s great if you do it. If you find something that no one has ever done, amazing. Good for you.
I’m not saying copy something, but if you put a letter in a circle, people have done that. It’s okay for you to do that. Just make sure that it is somehow relevant to the client, that it gives the client confidence to push their business forward or whatever. It’s really just about losing that inhibition or that pressure to always find something amazing and unique. I’m not saying to stop striving for it, but I think when you take off that pressure, it actually allows you to come up with better solutions because you’re not thinking about, oh, I have to be original, I have to be original. But more, I have to find something that’s relevant for this client and for this industry and for their audience.
When you think about that first, and not about people on Brand New in the comments saying, oh, this logo reminds me of this other logo, which is always going to happen. There’s always something out there that’s going to look like something that you did. It’s just about trying to find that little extra something that makes it more unique, that makes it appropriate, that makes it more memorable without having to reinvent the wheel every time out.
Ian Paget: That makes me think of Paul Rand’s, “don’t try to be original, just be good.”.. Something like that.
Armin Vit: Yeah, exactly.
Ian Paget: Armin, we’ve come to the end of the time, so I just want to say a massive thank you for coming on the show and for sharing all of those insights into what you’re doing. I hope that after this people will, if they are not familiar with you, will go and check out the content on Brand New, and hopefully there’ll be some new followers and fans of your work. Again, just massive thank you!
Armin Vit: Yeah, my pleasure.
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