Stefan Sagmeister Interview

(Email Interview with Zvezdana Stojmirovic and Helen Armstrong, July, 2010)

1. Describe one experience creating a flexible identity for a client (Seed Media, or other?). How was it different than designing a straight-forward identity? Unexpected triumphs and pitfalls?
I have long thought that sameness in branding is overrated. There are situations where a static logo makes sense, specially when used as a quality mark, but there are many other instances where a more varied approach turns out to be superior. Flexible identities need: 1. A client that utilizes many, many brand applications and an attentive audience that will be able to see a wide variety of these applications on a regular basis.


2. Thinking designers also at the level of implementation.
Its important good people are involved on all levels.


3. How would you define a flexible brand identity? What are some of the challenges in designing one?

Definitions bore a coat hanger out of my butt. You want me to say: Transformation branding? Non-static identities? There is already much too much esoteric nomenclature in what is basically a rather simple field. Just visit any site of any international branding agency and sink into an avalanche of brand speak. My impression is these are people insecure about the quality of their work with a need to dress it up in pseudo scientific verbiage. Flexible brand identity. It pretty much defines itself.


4. What percentage of your clients are asking for flexible identities? Do you find it difficult to convince them to go in that direction? Why do you think that might be?
Nobody asks for it. In a number of cases (Seed, Casa da Musica, Museum Plaza) we recommend it. They listen.


5. What advice would you give another designer undertaking a flexible branding project for the first time?
Go for it. Make sure its for a proper project where it makes sense.


6. Why is it important to make design that encourages others to participate?
When communicating anything, participation of the people we communicate to is clearly a good strategy. If we can involve them, they will remember what we have to say.


7. How has the participatory nature of the Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far project influenced your client-based practice?
We are working on a documentary movie where we likely will explore further some of the concepts first tried out in Things I have Learned. And: Numerous commercial projects came out of this, I just directed a bank commercial in Asia and we designed Levis billboards, in both cases the client was attracted by the Things I have Learned projects.


8. What do you think the new cultures of user-participation (sometimes referred to as co-creation) are doing for the design profession?
Make it stronger.


9. What inspired you to start thinking about flexible branding (or participatory design)?
Boredom with the status quo.

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