Oct 27 2013
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Youth and The Long Road: Discipline, Part 2

Thank you for all the emails about my “Let’s Talk Dirty” post.

The topic of discipline hit a nerve and there was much fretting. All I can say is; don’t worry. In writing about Ian Brignell I am discussing a mature man at the top of his game. You guys are focussing on the mountain’s peak but it’s the hike to the top that tells the true story. Some perspective, then.

In the late 1980’s, Ian Brignell arrived back in Canada after three-and-a-half years living and working in London, England. He returned to Toronto determined to make a living as a lettering and logo design specialist (as opposed to a graphic designer). It was a bold move at the right time. Ian was young, expenses were minimal and he had a city full of connections from his time as a student at Sheridan College. Luckily, the majority of his friends did not like or simply were not good at hand lettering but many jobs, from editorial to packaging, were enhanced by it. They knew from school that Ian’s lettering work excelled. His prices were fair so everyone was happy.

In those days, a lot of Ian’s work was calligraphy because companies were really into award certificates back then. Ian’s office was a drafting table that took up almost half of his bedroom. Cartons of blank certificates crowded but Ian never complained. He called this work “the meat and potatoes” because it paid the rent and bought the groceries. The logo jobs were the “gravy”.

Ian Brignell liked to party and so did most of his friends. Four o’clock beers mid-week after work would become a basket of wings or a hamburger then off to a club to meet up with laggards – you know how it goes. Sometimes it was so late that people had to walk home because the streetcars had stopped running. Ian’s roommates would pile into the house and then clamour upstairs to hit the sack.

Frequently, as other people were settling down to sleep, Ian was settling in at his desk. A cup of tea, the spotlight from an articulated desk lamp, pens and nibs and ink.

Ian liked to party but he never missed a deadline. Fun, ambition, discipline. There’s an equation in there somewhere…

Here’s a photo of Ian from 2008 in NYC.

Ian@Bigelow's, NYC 2008


Oct 21 2013
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We Blush. A little something from Overheadcompartment.org

The Toronto-based designer whose lettering has become as American as apple pie

Maybe you’ve never heard of Ian Brignell, a Toronto-based logotype designer, but chances are you’ve seen his work. In fact, unless you’re hiding in an abandoned missile silo in the remote Siberian tundra (as we are), or in some post-capitalist haven (Toronto), it’s likely that his logotypes have colonized the majority of your day-to-day visual field. Brignell’s incredible talent for distilling the essence of America’s consumer identity has landed him design work with the most ubiquitous, high profile brands—everything from Burger King’s heavyset, corpulent lettering to the elegant scripts and serifed typefaces of top shelf potations like Coors Light and Miller High Life. Brignell’s instantly recognizable logos are the saccarine icing on an incredibly dry cake of globalized mass culture.

Thank you, Overheadcompartment. Check out their blog here.

Oct 15 2013
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Let’s Talk Dirty: Discipline

Ian fields a lot of queries about his creative process. All successful designers do. It is one of the most difficult questions to answer because the interested parties, often at the beginning or early-middle of their design careers, are hoping for fairy dust. People want to believe that artistry alone will their futures make. But this is not true. Along with talent, passion and some luck, to have a successful and long creative career you require discipline.

I can hear you groaning. What picture in the mind does the word conjure? Whips? Chains? Gloomy-gray windowless rooms? Ian Brignell’s life and career suggest otherwise.

Ian works out five mornings a week; has done since he was sixteen years old. Is he an exercise freak show? Nope. It’s just that this morning ritual is the cornerstone of his creative process.  During Ian’s routine his mind clears, his goals for the day come into focus and he leaves the gym creatively open and grounded.

Then he goes to work. Ian does not have unproductive days.

Here’s a new picture: Creativity as a bright river running beside and over and around your personal landscape. But the river is no good to you unless you decide to get wet. Ian’s daily routine, this discipline, re-plants his feet in the creative flow every single day.

Want a successful creative career? Figure out what gets your feet in the river and do it. Every single day.

This was the first instalment in The Story series.


Oct 07 2013
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What the hell am I doing here, really?

Well, I’m not going to be a cheerleader. The micro-blogging/fb/instagram universe is full of cheerleaders and it feels a lot like high school and does not interest me at all. Also, Ian Brignell needs no cheerleading. His work speaks for itself. Thousands of people visit his portfolio site every week because he creates intelligent, elegant design solutions that meet the needs of his clientele and satisfy the eye. And he does it every day, no audience required.

So what the hell is my job? To tell his story, I think.

How does Ian do it every day? Why does he still love to do it every day? Whence his creative energy and flow? Now that’s the stuff I want to write about.

I will still post his new work, the attendant marketing campaigns, awards, etc. And, of course, Cocktail Hour interviews so you can hear Ian Brignell in his own words. To all of that I now add THE STORY. Ian Brignell’s story. Personal and passionate, it will exceed 140 characters.

Whew. Feels like relief…



Apr 07 2013
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Cocktail Hour


Welcome to Cocktail Hour, my inaugural interview with Ian Brignell. The primary topic under discussion is the custom font Ian designed for use on this website: Brignell Slab.


Launch, April 8:13. #2

Apr 05 2013
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Tick-Tock. POOF! Yum. CRUNCH!

Ian was asked to create brash, casual lettering for words that would be inserted into a number of television spots for a new product, Special K Cracker Chips. He did and the ad works.

Apr 02 2013
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Breyers Before and After

When Ian got the job to re-design the Breyers logo, his two sons were thrilled and they told all of their friends. Ice cream. Finally, their dad had schoolyard caché.

This image is courtesy of The Dieline. The old packaging and logo are on the left, the new package, with Ian’s logo, is on the right. You can see other side-by-side examples here.

Do you follow The Dieline? It’s a great site. It’s founder and editor, Andrew Gibb, is all about profiling and discussing excellence in packaging design.

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Aussie Coke Campaign – analysis



I found the Australian Coke campaign fascinating and it was very successful. As you know, Ian created a custom font for Coke which they used to create 150 “name-labels” for a summer-time promotion.

Here is a “post-analysis”, a kind of case study, of the campaign by Marketing Magazine.

Mar 04 2013
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Miller High Life redesign

Beth Blinebury hearts great design. Here’s her post:

A lot of people who know us may be surprised that we would open this little beer design survey with a corporate giant such as Miller (or should I say MillerCoors… Ugh), but people who know me very well (and who may have taken part in all-night Champagne-of-Beers benders) know that I hold a special love in my heart for “The Champagne of Beers.” Beth may not savor the flavor as much as I, but we agree that High Life is a beer that has maintained excellent branding throughout its almost 110 years. And we’re all lucky right now to be in the middle of their Heritage Bottles campaign, highlighting how the branding has changed over the years but not so much so that it ever lost its unique identity or surrendered to the awful fate of “makin’ it FLASHY!”

By far, my favorite overhaul of the image took place in 2010, when Landor, along with illustrator Chris Mitchell and typographer Ian Brignell, brought the “classy” factor up another magnitude. Truly a wondrous can and/or bottle to behold whilst kicking back with a cold one.

THANKS BETH! http://blog.bethblineburydesign.com