D&AD – In Book – Branding Series
A’ Design Award – Platinum – Packaging Design for Blue Goose Pure Foods
That’s a lot of vodka…
Do you like reading annual reports? I like reading annual reports and Diageo‘s 2013 A.P. is a treat.
Their statistics are remarkable: Out of the top 20 premium distilled spirits brands worldwide, Diageo has 7; out of the top 100 they have 17. Diageo creates, nurtures, innovates, markets and protects their brands with diligence and flourish.
We here at Ian Brignell Lettering Design are proud of how many of these brand (and sub-brand) logos Ian has designed: Captain Morgan, Tanqueray Rangpur, Pampero Anniversario, Don Julio, Parrot Bay, Cacique, Leyenda, George Dickel #8 and #12 and Crown Royal. Have I forgotten something? Possibly… and he has designed too many sub-brand logos to list.
So, let’s raise a glass to Smirnoff. Cheers!
Smirnoff logo b. 2002
Ian Brignell designed this Dove logo and dove illustration about ten years ago. This iteration (i.e. the words Go Soft and the bird image) is the work of the illustrious Beto Lima, an Art Director in Rio de Janeiro.
Beto Lima Studio has generously posted their Dove Go Soft Brandbook. A Brandbook is meant to illuminate the creative journey of a design evolution.
We here at Ian Brignell Lettering Design are always trying to offer a peek-behind-the-curtain to all you graphic design students and fans. Enjoy!
Two graphic design students from Humber College (Toronto) contacted Ian because they wanted to feature him and his work for a project assignment. Part of their project included this interview. Our thanks to Austin Anthony Louis Mateka and Ryan Yake for allowing us to post it here.
What inspired you to get into the field of typography, lettering and design?
It may sound strange, but it all began for me in grade 4 during reading class. I remember being fairly bored with the book I was supposed to read, and my mind wandered until it was struck by an idea. I decided to sharpen my pencil as much as I could, and then I attempted to duplicate, size-as, the 16 point century type that was on the page before me. It seemed like it might be amusing. And it was. I no longer have this early example of my work, but the results were good enough, I guess, to hook me for life. It’s as if letters became living, real entities for me.
Besides this moment, which was specifically about type, I should mention that I was always drawing and painting in my spare time. Art was probably the most significant thing for me as a kid, besides playing sports and watching tv. I’m pretty sure that drawing is the most important skill in what I do now, since it forms a foundation for things like balance, rhythm, draftsmanship and composition.
In grade 10, I was lucky enough to be in Miss Esford’s art class, and she introduced us to calligraphy. I loved it, and soon I was doing the graduation certificates for the school, yearbook artwork and signs for local businesses. I bought books, and I practiced all the time, just because it was so satisfying. If I were to give one piece of advice to someone who wanted to pursue the sort of career I’ve had, it would be to learn calligraphy. Besides being the structural foundation of Roman type, it teaches most of the lessons you need to know, and once you’ve done it for a while, you’ll never wonder which stroke of a capital “A” should be the thick one. (Don’t laugh—it’s a very common mistake)
Where did you study design?
I studied graphic design at Sheridan college in Oakville (Toronto).
Who and what influenced you and your designs?
While I studied at Sheridan, I found a Graphis Magazine annual in the library, which contained some work by Herb Lubalin and the letterers he primarily worked with: Tom Carnese and Tony DiSpigna. I was amazed by the power and grace of the scripts they drew, not to mention the contemporary feel they were able to impart to an old style of lettering. I wanted to do stuff just like that.
I also found myself drawn to much of the packaging work done in the 19th century, because it contained so much energy, exuberance and high level of craft. I have an entire book about cigar box artwork that I bought 25 years ago, and it’s still an endless source of inspiration for me.
How do you go about your creative process?
The brief is my guide on any project, and is the starting point for ideas. One of the first questions I ask a client is “Why do you want to change this logo?” and “What do you think is wrong with it?” I should point out here that virtually all of my clients are design studios or ad agencies, so I’m always dealing with creative directors who are able to explain in visual terms what they’re after. I almost never work directly with the end client, so I depend on the creative director to filter the clients’ needs accurately.
Many clients also send me references of work that they like and think is appropriate for the project we’re working on, as a way of kick-starting the process. If they send me a lot of these references, I like to have a chat with them on the phone to narrow down the range, since sometimes they send examples that ultimately aren’t applicable.
Once I feel that I know exactly what the client wants to express with their logo, I’ll usually sketch some loose ideas with pen or pencil in order to work out the basic structure of the piece, as well as the relationships between the letters. Then I’ll usually do some larger sketches that explore the detail of the letters, and work toward a cohesive style. (Sometimes I’ll only do a few of the trickier letters in sketch form, because it’s faster to draw the simpler letters on the computer.) Once I’m happy with the larger sketches, I’ll scan them and convert them into outlines that I can manipulate in Adobe Illustrator.
Everything I send my clients is in vector format (as Adobe Illustrator files), since they always want to drop my work into a layout or package design, and need to manipulate colour etc.
What skills and applications do you use daily?
My primary skill is drawing, which I use every day. Even if I’m not sketching out ideas, drawing informs the way I assess and adjust letters, determine balance and establish rhythm. Calligraphy comes second in the skills department, because the ability to manipulate a broad pen or a flexible pen can help generate ideas very quickly and fluidly.
Strangely, diplomacy is also a much-used skill on the business side of my work, since sometimes you have to convince a client not to go down a particular creative path, and you have to do it with a gentle touch.
In terms of computer applications, I use Adobe Illustrator to do most of my vector work, and I use it to generate all the final artwork that goes to my clients. I also use Image Capture for scanning, and occasionally I’ll use Photoshop to adjust a scan before outlining it. Fontlab and Fontographer, the font creation programs, are very useful not only for designing the fonts I create, but they’re also very useful for things like cleaning up vector artwork and changing the weight of letters. I often use Fontlab for autotracing as well, since it’s much better and quicker than the Illustrator feature.
What is one of your favourite projects you have worked on?
I really enjoyed working on the Miller High Life beer project, since it had many different elements to consider, and there was a lot of really good archival material from the company to use for inspiration. Not only that, but the creative director is a real type nerd as well as a friend, and we’d have these long conversations about type and lettering as we worked through the process.
And lastly, how do you stay on top of all the current design trends?
To a large extent, I stay on top of trends through my clients. At the beginning of a project, they will often send references of work that they feel might apply to the project at hand, and this is often current work that I might not have seen on my own. It’s a bit like a clipping service, and I will put much of this work into my own digital reference library. It’s very convenient.
To be honest, I don’t collect design annuals and that sort of thing, since my approach is to try to add as much of my knowledge and experience to a piece as I can, as opposed to imitating the work of others. Having said that, I’m pretty observant when it comes to design work, which is all around us all the time in the form of magazines, websites and television. So I guess current design seeps in constantly, all on it’s own.
I hope that this has been helpful to you, Anthony, and best of luck with your studies!
Note: The image at top is the crest Ian Brignell designed for Bigelow’s
We received this question from Ketume via Twitter: “@ianbrignell if I may,do you c letter’s as lines or jst plain letters when designing?”
Here’s Ian Brignell’s response:
How did you get into lettering and type design as a career? Did you receive formal training?
I started in lettering around grade 9, when my art teacher introduced our class to calligraphy. I bought a few books, including a Speedball Text Book, which had lots of great historical lettering samples with instructions on how to construct them. During high school I did certificates for the graduating classes, as well as sign painting for local businesses.
I went to Sheridan college for Graphic Design where we had lots of typography courses, which included the technical side of drawing accurately with ink. We were encouraged to be expressive with type, but we weren’t really tutored on the creation of original forms. So I guess my training was fairly informal.
How long have you been working? In what ways has your process evolved over time?
I’ve been working as a lettering specialist for 26 years. During that time, my process has changed mostly because of the introduction of the computer to our industry. This has allowed for much more exploration in a tighter format, which is good. One problem when you work in pencil sketches is that the transition from graphite grey into solid black doesn’t always work as you’d hoped. It’s also easier with the computer to test things out in their true setting, on top of photos or whatever. I still do lots of sketches, but the lettering tends to get really developed and fine tuned on the computer.
What are your major influences? What inspires you?
I’m influenced by just about everything, but I especially like the work that was done on packages from the 19th and early 20th century. I also enjoy amateur hand-lettered signs, since they often contain very quirky and original details that I would never think of. I have to mention that during college I saw a book with some examples of Herb Lubalin’s lettering work, and this was one of the moments that really made me want to pursue lettering for a living.
How do clients normally approach you? Do they have a specific vision in mind or do they work with you to develop the finished lettering? (Do they ask for a range of options to choose from?)
Almost all of my clients are designers or art directors, and the projects they send me arrive at my door in many different forms. Sometimes the client has a very good idea of what they want, but need me to work out the detailing and final execution. Other times they call me and give me a 2 minute brief on the phone with no visual reference and say “go”.
With some projects I get very thorough briefs where the client has specific directions that they want to explore, and they supply samples and supporting reference to guide the work. In almost every case I’ll show the client a number of options, and then we’ll develop the lettering based on their feedback.
How do you typically take on redesigns when the company has an extensive history (such as with a brand like Bell or Smirnoff)?
I take my cues from the client. Most projects that involve big brands tend to be evolutionary, in which case the history of the mark must be considered carefully. When I worked on the Smirnoff mark, for example, I had to maintain the arched baseline and colour scheme, but the client wanted me to create letters that were a bit softer and more broadly appealing.
Occasionally the brand needs a complete overhaul, and then I have to explore a range of possibilities based on the clients visual concerns and marketing objectives.
You have so many projects under your belt; do you have any favorites, or ones that you felt came together particularly well?
I’m very happy with the Miller High Life redesign, because it had everything; a brand with an impressive design history, decorative caps, formal script as well as various bits of supplementary type. All of these elements contained lots of tasty details which ended up working very well together.
我超喜欢Miller High Life 的重新设计，因为它囊括一切，有令人印象深刻的设计史，装饰，正式脚本以及许多各种延伸的风格。所有这些因素构成精巧的细节，这令作品最终达到一致的完美。
A number of you have written in to ask about Ian’s creative process. The following is part of Ian’s response to the question as posed by A.M., a graphic design student at Humber College.
How do you go about your creative process?
Besides the fact that Canadians drink a lot of both, the juxtaposition of MILK and ALCOHOL tickles me and that’s why I chose the these two examples of Ian’s work for this post. (A note to non-residents: The LCBO is our government-mandated purveyor of fine wines and spirits.)
Much of Ian’s work is illustrative and these are two fine examples. The work he did for the Milk campaign was great. Ian began his roughs stage by drawing with whole-fat milk on a large blue platter. Seriously.
Ian designed the new logo and monogram for Blue Goose. The packaging as a whole is inspired. Utilizing some remarkable animal drawings by illustrator Ben Kwok the new Blue Goose line is tantalizing.
A proud Canadian company, their high-end organic products are available across the country.
This post is a shout-out to all you wild-and-crazy A.D.’s.
Ian Brignell’s strongest professional relationships are with Art Directors. They speak the same language, creatively speaking. Many of them have changed companies, cities, states – even countries but when the right job comes in, they contact Ian.
Ian sings their praises all the time because In the world of commercial art and design, people got to work together and the quality of Ian’s creative work is reliant upon the quality and clarity of the brief.
A gifted Art Director knows and understands what his or her client wants, what they need (because sometimes these diverge) and is able to communicate precisely all these things to Ian. The brief is an exercise in creative direction: How the lettering or logo should feel, what emotional qualities it needs to elicit, size and technical details, legibility issues. Great Art Directors can offer nuanced synopsis about the target market and they are specific about where the design cannot go.
A good brief is Ian’s springboard, creatively speaking. When goals are clearly understood and communicated, art and design flourish.
A good brief has traveled a long road. It begins at the corporate level, moves through brand management, is entrusted to a design/branding agency where it is adopted by the creative director.
When each link in this chain is strong, magic happens.