Design Dissected:

From Brief to Concept (and Everything In Between)

Written by Katherine Pendrill
Most of us think we know what good design looks like. Whether we’re professional designers or not, we all believe that we know a great brand when we see it. However, there’s a lot more to an unforgettable design than meets the eye. As Frank Chimero once put it, “people ignore designs that ignore people.”

To find out how to create designs that not only look great, but also solve real problems, Miami Ad School Toronto hosted a show-and-tell with the agencies who know design best: Huge and Art & Mechanical.

Concept Sketches for Piloti – HUGE
Creating Brands People Love (Not Garbage They Don’t Need)
At Huge, Executive Creative Director Allen Oke and Creative Director Chris Allen, are more than just a pair of “Allen’s”. Together, they “create growth for brands that put the user first.” This means that Huge doesn’t just design for the sake of design. Instead, the agency creates designs that people will love today and years from now.

“By making things people love, our work creates lasting value in a world of constant change.” – Allen Oke

The reason Huge is able to do design differently is because they actually embed the client in the creative process. This means no major decisions behind closed doors and no big reveals. Instead, the client collaborates with the creative team throughout the process with constructive feedback and bold thinking (not egos) in the driver’s seat.

“At the end of the day, we want to make things people love. We don’t want to create more garbage that people don’t need.” – Chris Allen

Piloti logo rebrand – HUGE
A Driving Shoe, But Make It Fashion
To reveal how Huge take a brand from obscure to adored, Allen and Chris brought up the case study of Piloti—a shoe brand you definitely haven’t heard of. As the story goes, Piloti was founded by a rich Californian man who created the shoe for race car drivers and car enthusiasts—a bit of a niche audience to say the least. The task for Huge was to take this brand stuck between a racing company and a luxury brand, to a premium lifestyle brand that would appeal fashion-savvy consumers. In other words, they needed to do for racing shoes what Vans did for skate shoes.

For Huge, the problem was clear: “how do we unify the user need through the graphic language of the identity.” This meant creating a brand that was flexible, part of the fashion world, and belonged in the motoring world—all at the same time. After a lot of research and visual identity exercises, the team landed on a simple, but robust brand identity that encapsulated the idea of casual performance in two sleek red lines.

As Chris explains, there are a few important lessons that anyone can take away from the Piloti case:

  1. Visit your vendors and make friends.
  2. Pick up the phone—time is of the essence.
  3. Get out of the office for firsthand experience.
  4. Be serious, but be sure to have fun.
  5. The greatest opportunity is the one you currently have.

“Being a designer, it’s never about us. It’s always about our client and it’s about the end user.” – Chris Allen

Piloti brand extended to influencer package – HUGE
Moosehead Small Batch Brewery Packaging Design – Art and Mechanical
Design is More Than a Logo
Like Huge, Art & Mechanical is also reimagining the way we approach design. As Partner and Managing Director Adam Zolis explains, “Art & Mechanical is a design studio that enables change for those who seek it.” This means thinking about design as more than just a logo, but as something that improves the human experience with respect to a specific problem.

“Design is about more than just a logo. It’s about the emotional experience that a brand creates.” – Adam Zolis

Moosehead Brewery Rebrand – Art and Mechanical
From 14 Moose to One
To illustrate how Art & Mechanical enables change through design, Co-Founder and Creative Director David Adams, brought up the recent Moosehead rebranding. For this project, Art & Mechanical was tasked with separating the Moosehead Lager from the actual Moosehead brand.

The first step in the rebranding was to define the problem. But, as Adam explains, “very rarely will a brief come to you that’s actually executable.” Therefore, the role of Art & Mechanical was to interpret the brief, and to build a bridge between the client’s business problem and the consumer’s problem. In this case, the problem was four very different beers that were not united under one cohesive brand. If this sounds like a simple fix, just consider the fact that there were 14 different illustrations of the the moose logo being used—any designer’s nightmare come to life.

Moosehead Brewery Brand Guidelines – Art and Mechanical
With the problem obvious, the next phase of the design process was discovery and research. By exploring the legacy of the Moosehead brand and looking outside the brand, the team came up with three different creative directions: heritage-nostalgia, modern-minimal, and the eventual winner, modern-heritage. From there, it was on to “the fun shit,” which was developing the new brand identity with the goals of simplicity and flexibility top of mind. This meant uniting all the different beers with a cohesive design that was modern, but with a nod to the past. After a bit of back and forth with the client, the team eventually launched Moosehead’s new brand identity, and it’s been so successful, you probably don’t even remember what the old Moosehead designs even looked like.

As David and Adam explain, the process of going from brief to final product all comes down to four strategic stages:

  1. Define: What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  2. Discover: What are the various ways we can solve this problem?
  3. Develop: How do we best express the solution to the problem?
  4. Deploy: How do we apply the solution to the problem?

If you’re ready to learn how to take a brand like Moosehead and give it a fresh facelift, consider Miami Ad School’s 2-year digital design program.

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