Inside the Mind of Brand Design’s Toughest Critic
Before heading to next week’s Brand New Conference, a few of our creatives reached out to conference co-creator Armin Vit and picked the brain of brand design’s toughest critic. They chatted with him about everything from the unfortunate outcome of the new Hershey’s logo to the courage it takes to keep the design industry on its toes.
LPK: You’re in the business of critiquing brandmarks and identities. Do you think it takes some courage to give hard critiques?
Armin Vit (AV): Yes, I feel this more and more every day as Brand New gets more notoriety and, for better or worse, is seen as an unofficial barometer of what is good and bad identity design. The bigger the brand or the design firm behind it, the bigger they fall—if the work is bad. So, I do feel like there is some pressure and responsibility to both be fair and not a complete jerk. Some courage is involved, yes, but after almost 8 years of writing these critiques it’s almost second nature.
LPK: Any advice on how to straddle the hard line between constructive and unconstructive criticism without being insultingly abrasive or dismissively soft?
AV: I like to think that I’ve sort of achieved that sweet spot and the key thing is to explain why. “It sucks.” Okay, but why? “It’s awesome.” Okay, but why? As long as you are able to explain what specific sentiment is being offended and how or why that is I think you can sling aggressive criticism as much as you can. Having said that, I think it’s important to always put yourself in the other person’s shoes: if someone said what I’m about to say in regards to my work how would that make me feel? More often than not, you will find a better way to say what you are about to say.
LPK: What do you think brands and designers aren’t doing that they should be?
AV: Taking more chances. Which is completely understandable that it doesn’t happen as often. No client wants to try something untested and no designer wants to be the one putting a client through it. But if we all—designers and clients—made an effort to step even one step sideways and carve a new path, I think that would be a great way to find new roads to take and sort of parallel paths that can get you what you want (profits!) but with a different direction.
LPK: Any suggestions on how to introduce self-awareness to a brand or client who’s in full denial about who they are and how consumers see them?
AV: Today, more than ever, it’s so easy to find out what people are saying about your company, presuming it’s a big enough brand that people will tweet about them. So, yeah, as easy as having them do a search for their name on Twitter or a search of Google Images—you have no idea the kind of weird brand-related stuff I find on a daily basis simply from googling “X-company logo.” And then do a search for the competition, see how people talk about them.
LPK: What do you think about brands who release a redesign and, because of it, face a lot of backlash?
AV: The most important thing to realize is that people hate change. So, no matter how good a redesign is, the initial reaction to a change is negative and most clients don’t seem to expect that and tremble at the first sign of opposition. After one month, most people get used to the new thing and simply accept it because it is what it is. A beneficial thing to do would be to put the client’s C-level executives and PR people in a bunker with no connection to the outside world for 1 month and then let them come out after all the gut reactions have happened. They would be more sane and more comfortable with the fact that the world has kept going regardless of their logo looking like vaginas or little mounds of poop.
LPK: Any sneak peeks into your opening remarks this year at the Brand New Conference?
AV: I wish! I’m a little behind on this. There is some comedy gold that has been handed to me thanks to Airbnb and The Hershey Company, so it’s up to me to screw it up.
Follow @lpkdesign on Instagram for photos from the conference courtesy of Senior Designer Meredith Post (@meredithwhitney). You can also follow some of our other passionately inquisitive designers, Senior Designer Dave Heyne (@daveheyne) and Senior Trends Analyst Rebecca Huffman (@rebeccahuffman), as they post updates from the conference using #BNConf.
Online registration closes Thursday. Walk-in registrations will be accepted on the days of the conference. Visit the Brand New Conference website to register and check out the speakers and sessions of each day.