Elliot Jay Stocks

You might notice that we’ve had a little facelift at Maido. Or you might not — and that’s totally fine. What we launched last month was not really a redesign, but more of a re-align. An evolution rather than a revolution.

Why the change? As we wrote in our last blog post, Maido has evolved over the last few years from working in the purely commercial world to partnering with commercial, NGO, and government organisations who are striving to positively change the world through design and technology. And it’s not only that we’re bringing our experience from both sides of the coin to our clients; we’ve also made some fundamental changes internally about how we evaluate which projects we take on, and how we feel driven by what we do as a team. And to reflect this revised approach to our work, we knew we had to update the way we talk about ourselves on our website, and choose two new typefaces and an accompanying logotype to solidify our redefined brand.

You’ll notice that our typographic updates were meant to be a relatively gentle next step, and the decision to root our brand’s new typography in the same world as our former one wasn’t just us not wanting to upset the apple cart; it was something that came out of the internal workshop we ran to determine the kind of message we wanted to convey. In short, we realised that we were actually already doing a lot of things right: Playfair Display, used for headings on our website and slide decks, did a good job of communicating the authority we have on the subjects we care about, and Circular did a good job of alluding to our young culture and start-up-y-ness (that’s a technical term for you there, by the way). And the unique pairing of the formal and informal type also spoke to the two worlds we operate within. But those two particular typefaces are in use by a lot of brands and we wanted something more personal. So the hunt was on for two slightly less well-known faces that could continue doing the good work started by Playfair and Circular.

Our old logo and headline typeface

In a world that not only has thousands (millions?) of typefaces to choose from, but also has the vast majority available for free, how do you go about standing out from the crowd? One tactic I’ve employed a few times now is to limit my font searching to one platform or service, which helps frame the search within a manageable set of parameters, and — if the platform or service you’ve chosen isn’t not one of the ‘major’ font vendors — has the added bonus of surfacing typefaces that not every single other designer on the planet is using. For this reason, I decided to limit the search exclusively to Fontstand.

With a pretty clear direction informed by the conclusions from our internal workshop, there were already a few restrictions in place, but at the same time I didn’t want to delve too deep into one particular direction from the get-go, and the first ‘typographic explorations’ workshop was presented to the entire Maido team with a few contrasting directions, intended to serve as both a sanity check and a test to ensure that we hadn’t accidentally ruled out wider options too soon. So what I showed in that session ranged from families such as Utile to wildcard choices such as Daisy.

Some initial typographic explorations

You’ll notice from the specimens that many of the pairings are from the same type designer, or at least the same type foundry. This is another very deliberate ‘hack’ I often use when choosing and pairing typefaces; you’re simply more likely to find that there are natural characteristics that appear in typefaces from the same source, and hence a lot of that will-this-one-compliment-the-other-one hand-wringing is already done for you. It’s not always true, but in general it helps add a few more useful parameters when faced with the daunting search of finding not one but two typefaces.

The feedback from the team after that presentation was that although more exploration was needed, everyone tended to lean towards the combination of Grifo and Sul Sans, both designed by Rui Abreu for R-Typography. (I was a little sad to not use DSType’s Breve superfamily, which I’ve been saving in my typographic back pocket for a few years now, but I agreed with the team that it leaned too heavily towards formality, and using the face for both serif headline and sans-serif body wouldn’t work.)

With a few of these choices, I did some quick-and-dirty experiments, manipulating the ‘M’ to introduce a curve that directly referenced the ‘M’ of Nouvelle Vague and therefore paid homage to Maido’s history — a way of not deviating too wildly from our established brand. Regardless of our eventual choices, everyone agreed that this would be a nice touch for the final logotype.

Early experiments with manipulations that hint at the old logo

After that initial presentation, I went away and researched more typefaces — again, sticking exclusively within the confines of Fontstand’s offerings — and specifically did a bit more experimenting with the ‘sister’ families of Grifo — Grifino and Grifilito — throwing options back and forth via our Slack channel. They’re essentially the same typeface, but condensed and compressed versions (or extra-condensed if that’s your naming bag). Personally, I love it when a typeface comes in a variety of widths as well as weights (or exists as a variable font — but that’s for another day). Yes, it adds way more parameters to the mix, but once you’ve pretty much settled on a face, it’s useful to have some minutiae to debate, especially when considering exactly which variation you’re going to use for a logo.

Grifo, Grifino, and Grifilito, along with a few different accompanying sans-serif faces, all from R-Typography

But then Cambon happened.

Harry (one of our designers) pointed the team towards a Dribbble shot that used a typeface called Cambon by a new and little-known foundry called General Type Studio, run by designer Stéphane Elbaz (who’s also Design Director of the rather excellent website The Outline). It piqued my interest — and changed everything.

Cambon specimen from General Type’s website

Here was a face quite dramatically different from the ones we’d been experimenting with, and yet still ticked the boxes: authoritative, but a little quirky; steeped in history, but modern. I threw around a few specimens, and although the team were a little reticent at first, over time everyone came to love Cambon, especially when they saw it in action on our website.

Using Crome’s ‘inspect’ tools to try out different typefaces in-browser

At the time of writing, General Type Studio has released just four typefaces, but another of those — a sans called Mier — just so happened to fit the bill for our body text: contemporary, friendly, kind of cool, not too serious. Plus, I’d been agonising about whether we should use Sul Sans for our body type given its uncanny similarity to Circular — would people even notice we’d made a change at all?

Circular (blue) vs. Sul Sans (pink) — although with Circular tracked at 21 to better match Sul’s spacing

So I presented the final options to the team, with a recommendation for the pairing of Cambon and Mier. Everyone agreed, and after some further debate on which weights to use, we settled on Mier B Book for our body typeface (the ‘B’ version most notably has a double-storey ‘a’, and curved tails on the ‘j’ and ‘t’), with the ExtraBold weight for emphasis. It’s a personal preference, but I tend to favour greater contrast between normal and emboldened text, and the weight difference between the Book and ExtraBold provides just that.

For our headline type, we chose Cambon Black, but, in a perfect demonstration that branding is a moving piece of work even after all the decisions have seemingly been made and the recommendations documented, we got the website ready for relaunch and realised that the Black weight of Cambon was just too heavy for some of our smaller headings. True, we could’ve changed the size, maybe switched out to Mier B, or even just given them a different treatment, but we decided that needed another weight to offer us a little more flexibility. After a fair bit of internal debate largely centered around deciding whether we should opt for the next weight down from Black to optically suggest the same weight when used at smaller sizes, or intentionally pick a lighter weight for a more conscious contrast, we opted for the latter and chose Cambon Book.

(Sidenote: font weight names are arbitrary, and in my experience the ‘Book’ weight of a typeface usually sits below the Regular as a lighter version; in Cambon and Mier, it’s actually heavier. It’s not right or wrong either way, but it’s worth remembering these naming quirks when substituting typographic candidates.)

Exact sizes and spacing notwithstanding, our general lockup using Cambon and Mier B

With our new typefaces chosen, and all arguments around the specifics of weights and styles settled, our branding work was done. Or was it? There was still the question of the logo, and actually it presented us with a problem: typing ‘Maido’ in Cambon Black somehow just didn’t have the same impact as it did when we were experimenting with some of the other contenders, largely because it’s not a particularly high-contrast face; i.e. the difference between the thin strokes and thick strokes is not that intense, or at least not nearly as much as a typeface such as Grifo, or our original typefaces Playfair Display and Nouvelle Vague.

To tackle this, I decided to manipulate the outlines of the type to create a greater stroke contrast. Although a little fiddly, I was already editing the paths for our own unique touches for the logo. I’ve mentioned the swash-y ‘M’ to hint at maido’s past; along with that, I added a ball terminal to the ‘a’, which was derived from the dot of the ‘i’. For both the ball terminal and that dot, I adjusted the angle of the ovals slightly to match the slant of the ‘o’. The ascender of the ‘d’ and dot of the ‘i’ were extended a touch, and all glyphs were negatively tracked a little (with custom kerning between the ‘M’ and ‘a’, and ‘d’ and ‘o’), resulting in a tighter feel all round.

Animated evolution of the type’s manipulations that eventually got us to our final logotype

However, another long-standing gripe with Maido’s original logo was how the thinner stems of the characters disappeared when the logo was used in decks or as an avatar, so one final bit of work that needed to be done to finalise our new logotype was to create a version suitable for use at small sizes — a ‘body’ optical style, essentially. Ironically, this involved adding some of that stroke contrast back in, as well as loosening up again some of that spacing that had been tightened. As with different optical sizes with type, the aim was to create two versions of the logo that felt the same when used at their intended sizes, but would have some noticeable differences if you compared them at a big scale, like-for-like. Like most things in typesetting, it’s really all about bending the rules a little for some reader-friendly optical illusions.

Comparisons of the new logo’s two optical sizes

Typography aside, this was a good opportunity to give our website a fresh coat of paint, too. Some new content and imagery, some tidying-up (hello, new footer), and the integration of the blog into the website itself — but all with a focus on redefining who we are, with a renewed focus on our work in the social impact space. Again: evolution, not revolution.

Our website’s re-aligned footer

So, the new Maido brand (hopefully) feels refreshed, somewhat more usable, and more accurate for who we are today. We hope you like it. And it’s also the first step in a much deeper rebranding process: a soft relaunch to close out 2019 before we go all in with our, er, hard relaunch in 2020. Watch this space.


The majesty of America’s National Parks needs little additional aggrandizement—its splendor, and the generations of visitors it has enraptured is no secret. However, one designer is trying to do just that, by paying creative homage to what has been called America’s best idea. Austin-based designer JP Boneyard is the creative director of the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series, an expansive visual celebration of National Parks that includes immersive prints and goods which showcase the unabashed natural richness of America’s parks.

The project is collaborative, with prints in the series created in conjunction with an incredibly talented roster of designers—including many Dribbblers, such as Brave the Woods, Eric Nyffeler, Curtis Jinkins, Emrich Office and more.

Threads of Boneyard’s previous work as founder of the National Poster Retrospecticus—a popular traveling poster exhibition featuring hundreds of participating artists—can be seen in the Fifty-Nine Parks Print series. It, too, features a true breadth of participating designers, and the project has also toured across the United States—including stints at Disney Animation Studios, Adobe Max, Facebook HQ, and SXSW. Additionally, the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series has also been licensed for the board game PARKS in conjunction with Keymaster Games, as well as a limited-edition collection from Field Notes.

Importantly though, alongside the success and popularity of the project, Boneyard seeks to make a tangible, positive impact for the parks system. 5% of each online poster sale is donated directly to The National Park Service to continue its stewardship of America’s national parks.

JP Boneyard takes us behind the scenes of what inspired him to usher the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series to life, the incredible design talent he got to collaborate with, and what designers can learn from the disconnected experience America’s national park system offers.

  1. Yellowstone National Park

  2. 59 Parks - Virgin Islands

  3. 59 Parks

Row 1:
Brad Woodard,
Glenn Thomas.

Hello, my name is JP. I provide creative direction for Fifty-Nine Parks and produce The National Poster Retrospecticus. My background is in graphic design, code, printmaking, and event production. I grew up in Massachusetts but have lived in Austin, Texas since 2014.

What spurred you to bring Fifty-Nine Parks to life?

Our love of printmaking and National Parks is what inspired Fifty-Nine Parks. Back in high school, friends and I would take road trips all over the United States. Sometimes we were on tour with our bands, and other times we went on road trips just to see what was outside of New England. It was around this time that I discovered my passion for graphic design and printmaking.

Design and printmaking came out of necessity to promote the DIY music events we set up. When we were on tour we’d often visit parks and public lands because they were affordable, inspiring, and sometimes a place to sleep. In a lot of ways, Fifty-Nine Parks is about going back to our original passions. To this day, travel, design, printmaking, and parks are some of my favorite things that exist!


Brian Buccaroni and JP Boneyard of Fifty-Nine Parks.

With designers often glued to screens as an inherent part of their profession, what lessons can be learned from the offline experience of the National Parks and what they offer?

Dang — there are so many lessons to be learned from the offline experience. Not having a cell signal often reminds us to be present in the moment. Being offline limits so many distractions that come along with always having a gosh-dang supercomputer in your pocket. Just being able to sit and stare at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park for 35 minutes is so refreshing. The air is amazing, a huge elk is eating berries to your right, little kids are tweaking out with excitement over the view—and when the kids head out—there’s just the sound of the breeze and some cool birds, like a Stellar’s Jay.

Being in the parks and offline reinforces my efforts to simplify and be mindful of sustainability

Being in the middle of nowhere also reminds us of the essentials—things like food, shelter, water, reliable transportation, and our personal relationships. When the maps app goes MIA in middle-of-nowhere-Montana you often have to learn to trust your own sense of direction, too. All of these ”lessons” are invaluable in those moments but also in our day to day lives. I’d say being in the parks and offline reinforces my efforts to simplify and be mindful of sustainability. Those considerations could be seen through the lens of our natural resources, our time, our work, our health, or how we live our life as a whole.


Rocky Mountain National Park detail — Rory Kurtz

You mention that Fifty-Nine Parks posters pay deference to the WPA posters of the 30s & 40s, without simply being modern reproductions.

What sort of creative direction is given to the participating artists to achieve both a distinct voice for the project, and common thread amongst the series of posters?

Totally! Any poster of a National Park is going to draw comparisons to the beautiful WPA (Work Projects Administration) posters of the 1930s. WPA posters are an eternal sense of inspiration for us—even dating back to my early gig-poster work. Those are the posters I looked at endlessly for inspiration. Not just aesthetically but in deconstructing how to actually print a poster with my DIY setup.

There have been a number of modern poster series made in the WPA style. Many are done incredibly well. It was a conscious decision on our part to distance ourselves from that aesthetic. Mostly because it’s already been done. While all of our posters are screen printed — screen printing technology has evolved so much since the ’30s. Making prints today we’re able to employ so many new tools and techniques that have evolved since the ’30s. In a lot of ways, the thought was, “what would those classic travel posters look like if they were made today?”

Our creative direction really starts with the pairing of each artist with each park. We want to play to each artist’s strengths and interests.

Our creative direction really starts with the pairing of each artist with each park. We’re incredibly intentional with these decisions. We want to play to each artist’s strengths and interests. A lot of our creative direction is also based on the scene—meaning the location, wildlife, or activity we’re depicting.

Color is another place where we share a lot of feedback. It’s important that the prints feel unified despite having so many unique visual voices contributing. The format and template of the posters aren’t heavy-handed but they do help unify everything. We do so with consistent borders, type placement, type size, and a portrait orientation. To that point—Catlin Sans—the beautiful and custom typeface made by Riley Cran—does a lot of heavy lifting to unify each print. Not to mention the typeface evokes an awesome blend of classic and modern vibes. It’s perfect for the series. Riley nailed it!

Select a few Fifty-Nine Parks posters and give us your rundown on them.

Sequoia National Park — Glenn Thomas


Glenn Thomas’ Sequoia poster comes to mind. Depicting the scale of those massive trees is deceptively difficult. The warm, delicate lighting of the scene totally captures the magic and quietness of the park. Glenn felt like a great fit to handle all of those challenges. A lot of parks have epic views. Sequoia is more about the intimate experience of being surrounded by some of the oldest—and tallest—trees in the world. Those trees have a presence in person that’s hard to describe. Glenn captured the vibe so well!

Mesa Verde National Park — Claire Hummel


The scene in Claire Hummel’s Mesa Verde poster is so much fun to explore. Partly because she developed a 3D model of the Cliff Palace to get the layout and the lighting just right. That’s a level of commitment—and nerdom—that we really admire. Claire loves drawing rocks and has a great sense of lighting so she felt like an inspired fit for this park. Having visited Mesa Verde after the poster was made—it was so much fun to walk through the scene in real life. It helped us have an even deeper appreciation for Claire’s hard work, too!

The National Parks Map — Brad Woodard


Our US Park Map with Brave the Woods feels pretty remarkable, too. Brad invested so much of his time and himself in that print. Brad does the classic road-side-attraction style so well—he felt like an awesome fit for the map. Brad was super gracious when it came to the amount of detail and feedback that went into the map. His hard work really shows through. I smile every time I see that map!

I could go on and on about every poster in the series. There are fond memories of struggles that were overcome, moments of total joy, and so much inspiration throughout. I admire the heck out of everyone we’ve worked with!

What takeaways do you have for designers who wish to build collaborative design projects? Any words of wisdom?

Keep things simple. Don’t over-promise. Think win/win. Honor your word. Share gratitude often.

What’s next on the horizon for Fifty-Nine Parks?

We have our busiest touring season coming up. That will take us through January. By then we’ll be gearing up to roll out the next batch of prints—perhaps expanding on our theme. In the meantime, we’re stoked about collaborations on a beautiful board game with Keymaster Games, custom backpacks with Topo Designs, puzzles with Mondo Games, and more notebooks with Field Notes!

Want to keep up with the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series? Follow JP on Dribbble, and check out the series of prints on and on Instagram at @fiftynineparks.

Find more Interviews stories on our blog Courtside.
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About The Author


We sat down with Aaron, a creative director at Ueno, to talk to him about Ueno’s approach to a branding project, his thoughts for the future, and how he got started with design.


How did you get into the world of brand identity design — and what made you stay?

The rock group KISS was my first exposure to a brand when I was just 3 years old. The hair, make-up and album covers are embedded in my mind to this day. It’s funny because KISS has a ‘maximalist’ aesthetic, whereas today, I consider myself to be a modern minimalist.

Aaron Poe — Creative Director at Ueno.

As I got older, as an active athlete I was interested in sports branding, so I’d rebrand NFL and MLB teams as self-initiated projects. During my junior year of high school, there was a competition to come up with the logos for 2 MLB expansion teams, the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies. I submitted my ideas and they were super similar to what they ended up becoming when the teams launched. It was then that I realized I could become what my mom called a ‘commercial artist’ which clarified the difference between art and commerce. So, I give most of the credit to my mom who always encouraged me to see things in a more positive light. I’ve been a visual designer ever since, starting in surf/skate branding, and now more corporate branding for well known companies like adidas, Beats, Lyft, Square, and too many tech companies to list. Creating brands from scratch motivates me, and I still find the industry challenging as I progress in my career. Ever-changing technologies, mediums and consumer habits all play a role in keeping me intrigued and insanely curious.

Is there a perfect brand identity brief? What does it look like?

The best brief should not have it all figured out. Of course, it’s preferred and expected to have main objectives, deliverables, KPIs and key stakeholders identified. That said, the best briefs have a bit of ambiguity — it allows me to ask questions, identify the gaps and challenge assumptions on what the client thinks they want or need. It is that creative tension which generates new ideas and allows me to help shape the brief with the client. It’s also a clever way of building immediate trust. The client sees that you care, that you’ve done your homework. When a client gets that you’re into what they’re doing, you can begin to communicate more clearly. It’s my job to push the client — make them feel slightly uncomfortable. Change only happens when you’re uncomfortable.

Essence logo.

You recently did the Essence Global branding. How do you creatively approach a project like that — from beginning to end?

It begins and ends with strategy. For a rebrand of an established industry leader like Essence, I will pose questions like “If your company went away tomorrow, why would anyone care?” This elicits a really candid conversation. It gets the client thinking differently about themselves, helps them organize their thoughts and encourages self-reflection about what is ‘good and true’ about their product or offering. The best thing a design consultancy like Ueno provides is objectivity. Essence has an in-house team, but they recognized that they were too close to their own brand to successfully help redefine and reinvent it from a strategic and visual standpoint.

Old vs new logo.

At its core, Essence is a data-science advertising agency. Since joining Ueno, I’ve worked with a lot of data driven brands across different verticals such as AI, Advertising and SaaS. It’s a trip. Data is the new currency. At first, I was hesitant about working with yet another data company on a rebrand, but I took a step back and tried to focus on the positive and turn it into an opportunity to learn and grow. (Thanks mom) All the brands I’ve helped launch come to us with unique business challenges, all with different audience personas, and different business goals.

So, once we’ve discovered their purpose and shaped the brand strategy into an actionable deliverable, the design part becomes an exercise in inevitability. As we get ready to launch the new brand into the wild, we are very strategic about it. We partner with their internal team to make sure they are set up for success. Design agencies are there to provide the tools and guidance to allow their team to confidently own the brand moving forward, but ultimately, it becomes their domain.

Essence logo construction.

Thankfully, the team at Essence is a well oiled machine. Not only are they design savvy, but they operate with a collaborative attitude during the entire process. It couldn’t have been a better partnership. The work speaks for itself. It’s simple and direct, elegant but not pretentious — and it’s honest to who they are as a brand who deals with your sensitive data. Check out the Essence brand guideline here.

What is your preferred client/studio relationship or process when working on a brand identity concept?

I love extreme collaboration. I prefer to expose the client to our process, invite them to take a peek behind the curtain if you will. By involving them earlier in the process and in a more informal manner, it helps speed things up. Exercises such as in-person half-day workshops, preparing brand identity spectrums, asking open and direct questions like “Is your brand in need of a reboot or are we flipping the table here?”

Essence color palette.

Once the fog of the brief begins to burn off, we quickly move from talking to doing. If the client or the internal organization is design savvy, and have experience working with agencies, the education part may not be needed. If they are new to this process, then we roll up our sleeves and unpack how to evaluate things like a logo, typography or color palette.

At Ueno, we don’t build decks, we build brands. Of course we put the ideas into a keynote, but sometimes that’s just a formality. Typically, we open up the Illustrator or Sketch file and show messy artboards, with loose sketches. Some clients can handle this level of ambiguity. For those who prefer a more buttoned up presentation, we deliver that way as well. It takes a certain level of EQ to determine which approach to take.

Essence homepage.

What do you or your studio do differently than others in regard to brand identities?

Ueno is a natively digital agency, with deep roots in development. So when we create brands, we have a leg up on the digital storytelling aspect. That’s our special sauce. We’re not a traditional studio, we’re aware that a brand lives on the streets, in print, and on the social web so it’s important to be able to flex in both OOH marketing as well as motion driven branding for screens.

What are your thoughts on brand guidelines? How do they fit into the process?

They’re important. It helps codify things and provides some healthy guardrails. Lately, thanks to Brandpad, we’ve been delivering public facing web-based guidelines for all of our branding projects. Clients love it, the press loves it. We as designers love it. It just makes sense.

Do you have a ‘truth’ you follow when working on visual identities?

Strategy first.

Has brand identity design changed in recent years? What do you expect for the future?

Currently, it’s become a sea of sameness. I see a lot of dull stylish appropriation. A copy, of a copy — thanks in large part to the social media attention economy and instant gratification.

A positive change is the reemergence of strong copy. I feel strongly that the ‘verbal identity’ is way more important than a logo. Type as voice is super powerful. It’s what helps cut through the noise. Motion and audio branding is another positive trend of late. Purposeful and contextual animations or living identities, when appropriate, can add a level of inventiveness that sticks in your mind.

Essence illustrations.

The good news is the next wave of brand, does not exist yet. That seems like a great opportunity to help define the future of branding at large. I predict the logo will matter less and less. A logo is not your brand, rather, purpose driven brands with a moral compass will rise to the top and it will become more content-driven, less style-driven. More more impactful, less decorative.

Aaron Poe is a Creative Director at Ueno in San Francisco. Ueno is a full-service agency, busy designing and building beautiful digital products, brands, and experiences. You can read more about them here.

Behind Brands™️ is an interview series by Brandpad, initiated to explore the people and processes behind visual identities. See all the interviews here.

For questions, please
contact us.


We sat down with Bjørn, a designer at Blake in Oslo, to talk to him about how he got started with design, his process and how he approaches a brand identity project.


How did you get into the world of brand identity design — and what made you stay?I knew right from the start. I´ve always been more of a problem solver than an artist. Identity design often lets me play around with my biggest passions in design; typography, custom lettering, and illustration. Combining these in logo design, and creating a universe around the brand reminds me of how I used to play and think as a child. I´ve kind of taken the back way into it, working with many other aspects of design and advertising but I think that is a strength in itself. It changes the way you look at problems and challenges. It is not just playing around though, good identity design is the most challenging part of visual communication. But that’s also part of why I love it.

Bjørn I. Thomassen. Photo by: Simon Tonev

Is there a perfect brand identity brief? What does it look like?

It’s the same as any other challenge, preparations are essential. The client needs to have a clear mind about why. Why do they need this, what are their core values? Both designer and client need to understand who the client is. Surprisingly many haven’t thought this trough. We are happy to be part of the strategic process and guide the client on the road to create a good brief. Communication, collaboration, and level of expectation are important factors.

Blake recently did the Höegh branding. How do you creatively approach a project like that — from beginning to end?

Having the same level of expectations, when is what delivered, when do we touch down together. Good communication is important. When the brief is in place we do an analysis of the client’s vision, values and needs we can start research. In this part, we work closely with the client. After it is only the rest left, in this phase we withdraw a bit and focus on developing solutions and answer the brief we have created in partnership with the clients. If we need to involve any of our friends (Blake and Friends) this will be the part we do so. In this case, we chose to reach out to Lisa Tegtmeier from Hamburg, after the strategic phase we knew we wanted a playful look on it and Lisas style was perfect. This is the process we create the visuals based on the tone of voice we have set earlier in the process.

On this job in particular a lot of the strategic job was already done by the client, and they had prepared for the process. This foundation carries the entire brand and it has to be solid. It also gives us creative freedom within a set of frames that helps us focus on the right areas to build a strong brand and guidelines that fit the individual client.

What is your preferred client/studio relationship or process when working on a brand identity concept?

I like the first part of the process to be the same for all clients. Finding out together the whys and wherefores. Then, when we take a step back to work creatively the process can take any direction depending on the previous decisions and how our foundation is built.

Typically, it’s not so different from client to client, some have a clearer thought on why they come to us in the first place, either an idea or a problem. Other needs us to help them analyze this and find a path. Either way, the end goal is the same and both starting points have their pros and cons.

What do you or your studio do differently than others in regard to brand identities?

I’m not sure what we do differently than other studios, but we try to work harder and more organized in the research phase. We steer away from the classic team set up and involve whoever has the qualifications among our staff that is needed for this brief or client.

What are your thoughts on brand guidelines? How do they fit into the process?

Consistency is important, and so is being true to your brands tone of voice. This is where your guidelines are important so you don’t wash out your image and keeping your brand on the path you have set out on. It is important to find a good balance as brands change along with the world at a terrifying speed. Don’t get locked down to hard when your competition changes, and don’t be so fluid that no one understands what you are trying to communicate.

Do you have a ‘truth’ you follow when working on visual identities?

Its “easy” to make something beautiful, the hard part is to make something right and smart. Don’t get too carried away with trends, and dare to be different.

Has brand identity design changed in recent years? What do you expect for the future?

Absolutely yes. And I don’t think we have seen the half of it yet. It’s impossible to say for certain whats next, but we see an increasing amount of living identities and adaptive profiles. There is also a trend in branding to create what I call “festival branding”, by that I mean that some seem to want to put all new tech and ideas into a profile, often it looks beautiful and it’s super “up-to-date” and modern, but also often lacks the ability to withstand time. It’s important not to forget that classic is classic for a reason. It is, of course, important to be curious and experimental but don’t overdo it and use it at the right times.

Bjørn I. Thomassen is a designer at Blake and a board member for Grafill both located in Oslo. Blake is a branding agency that develops strategic advertisement and digital solutions. You can read more about them here.

Behind Brands™️ is an interview series by Brandpad, initiated to explore the people and processes behind visual identities. See all the interviews here.

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Arguably one of the best-known logos in the world, the McDonald’s Golden Arches were untouchable – from Turner Duckworth’s perspective – when it came to rebranding the restaurant chain. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty to change, though. With the iconic mark being “completely under-utilised” and the rest of the branding having become cluttered and disparate over the years, the design consultancy set out to overhaul the visual identity so it made the most of its best features. It also needed to be coherent and easily translated across 120 countries and 35,000 restaurants, no less.

Colour use has moved from a “wide spectrum, basically any colour, to a much more disciplined palette,” explains the design team at Turner Duckworth’s San Francisco studio, this being the McDonald’s gold and red. Within the brand guidelines, the agency has specified what proportion the two colours should be used in, with gold as a far more prominent primary choice. “We’ve really aimed to embrace the “Golden” part of the Golden Arches. We also slightly tweaked the colour targets for McDonald’s gold and red for legibility and optimum ‘foodiness’.”

Photography has had a “facelift” they proclaim. “No more muddling up the photos with unrealistic props like marble surfaces, cutting boards, glass bowls, and linen tablecloths. We wanted to be more authentic and celebratory of the way the food is actually enjoyed – whether that’s in the restaurant, at home, or on-the-go.”

The logo, as previously mentioned, hasn’t changed, but the way it’s now used is a lot freer. “The Golden Arches are an extremely well-crafted, recognised asset, that symbolises a sense of welcome, familiarity, connection, etc, but they were hidden away or shown small and preciously,” the team explains. To fix this, Turner Duckworth developed a system it’s coined “Archery” which sees the arches used in new ways – oversized, cropped, angled, bold, even implied (exemplifying their recognisability).

Meanwhile, any other logo use is being reeled in. “There was a tendency for McDonald’s to create a new logo for something at every opportunity, both internally and externally. We’re really working to communicate more straightforwardly, let the content do the talking without being so heavy-handed and logo-tastic.”

Continuing the mission to pare down the identity and celebrate what the restaurant is known for, the team created a set of flat illustrated icons featuring a plethora of staple items from the McDonald’s menu. Importantly, though, they aren’t cleaned up too much. “Anyone can draw a burger or fries, so we needed to set the graphics apart in a distinctly McDonald’s way. ‘Flawesome’ is one of our creative principles for the brand. It’s about celebrating imperfection rather than hiding it.” Hence these illustrations show features such as the cheese melting, the tapered ends of the fries and the sprinkled arrangement of sesame seeds. This follows in patterns the team has created for digital applications and branded apparel.

The typeface also aims to simplify the branding, with a variety of fonts being ditched – including the most consistently used Lovin’ Sans – in favour of Speedee, a new typeface developed with Dalton Maag – which has previously worked with Netflix, Airbnb and BT named after McDonald’s Speedee Service System. “We sketched up initial letterforms taking inspiration from the form of the Golden Arches and the McDonald’s wordmark, and the typeface used in the iconic McDonald’s ‘You deserve a break today’ ads from 1971. Speedee is friendly and characterful, but also highly legible and functional.” It comes in three weights and a single custom font.

Even the brand guidelines were streamlined, with Turner Duckworth wary of “the standard 200-page PDF” likely to confuse a global roll-out. Therefore they introduced the McDonald’s Design Hub, an online bank of inspiration and brand assets, as well as so-called Cheatsheets, a small set of pages spelling out the new identity in a way that’s easy to absorb and keep up-to-date.

As with a project of this scale, the work doesn’t stop here, and the design consultancy is continuing to refine elements of the branding, including the Happy Meal identity. The smile has been “subtly evolved” using Archery as inspiration, and will be rolling out soon globally.