Mar 12 2012

Interview, The Southern Weekly

Ian Brignell’s interview with journalist Lillian Lee from The Southern Weekly, China

Ian Brignell: Type is the foundation of good graphic design. Sensitive choices regarding type styles, weights and sizes can amplify visual message and meaning. Art directors who want to go beyond available type solutions come to me. I am a lettering designer.

Southern Weekly: You designed a lot of brand logos that are very famous in China like Burger King, Estée Lauder, Pantene, Dove, etc. I’m very curious to know: how many logos have you designed?

IB: I have probably designed about 900 logos in my career so far.

SW: Could you give me some examples about how your inspiration came about for some big brands?

IB: My inspiration always comes from the brief. My client tells me the particular qualities of the product or service, how they want a logo to feel and who their customers are.

For example, Pleasures was a new product for Estée Lauder, who normally created products aimed at women in their forties and older. Estée Lauder Pleasures was their first foray into a younger market, by which I mean women aged eighteen to thirty five. They wanted it to have a certain freshness, playfulness and personal appeal while still conveying the quality that Estee Lauder is known for. That’s why I decided on a script that was all lower case and not too perfectly uniform, but still carefully crafted. I guess the angle was right, because for several years after its introduction, Pleasures was the best selling perfume in the world.

SW: Please compare the logos for Pantene and Dove. Both of them belong to commodities, nature also similar, so how do you choose different fonts to reflect two similar products?

IB: The Dove logo was an evolution, which means that it had to be recognizable as Dove, while being more contemporary than the logo it replaced. The idea was to create a cleaner and slightly simpler logo, since Dove was expanding its product line beyond soaps. It was going to produce hair and skin care products, and they felt that a simple, more neutral look would be easier to apply across the product line. This also made sense because many of the products bordered on the health care category.

The Pantene logo was more aspirational, in that the client wanted some drama in the lettering to reflect a positive experience and a positive result. It also had to appear very confident and professional. Pantene spans the continuum between cosmetic and therapeutic products and their motto is “Shine Through”. This motto refers to qualities of hair as well as the personality of the woman using the product

SW: When did you get interested in lettering and logo design? And why?

IB: I love drawing letters. I think it started in grade 4 when I used to copy the 16-point type from my reading books size-as, just for the thrill of it. I don’t know why. As I got older, I found the expressive power within letters to be intoxicating and I wanted to do it. I wanted to interpret letters; their moods, their geometry.

SW: You learned font in the ninth grade, how did you learn? In your country, when did font design become a major at universities? And what did you learn?

IB: I graduated from Sheridan College’s Graphic Design Program in 1982. Lettering was, and remains, a minor part of any graphic design curriculum. During my first year at Sheridan, I was browsing through a design annual and saw for the first time these elaborate scripts – all hand-lettered. I thought they were beautiful. I bought a book by David Gates called Lettering for Reproduction (1969). It gave a short history of lettering but was also a manual about how to do finished lettering. I worked through every page this book. I found books whose references directed me to other books. I was building not just a library, but an education.

Font design, lettering and logo design is not a major course of study in North America. Self-study is the only way to achieve specialization in this field.

I should also mention that I was always interested in drawing, and that drawing is probably the most important skill I have.

SW: In Canada, is font design a popular career? In your past 26 career years, can you recall some historical event when font design became more and more important and popular?

IB: Lettering and logo design is quite popular in Canada, especially since the internet made it easy to view many logos from many sources but it is not a popular career choice.

SW: With regard to your font design in the past 26 years, have you ever met some tort events (any illegal downloads or use your font?) Can you give me some examples? And how did you resolve it?

IB: No.

SW: In Canada, are there any font copyright protection related laws? Could you give me some details of them?

IB: Creator copyright protection is secure in Canada, the United States and many other markets. I would like to point out that, the law aside, I could not have achieved the success I enjoy today without trust in the marketplace. I am lucky to work in and for communities of design that respect Creator rights.

SW: In addition to related laws, does the government or private organizations protect the copyrights of fonts?

IB: Yes.

SW: Is font design a well-paid and highly honored career for you?

IB: My work is well respected and I love what I do. Thank you for asking.