58. Thomas Yve, Art Director

Art Director for Being, Thomas Yve has +5 years experience creating visual identities and packaging designs for brands.

How does your job fit into the branding process? I work mostly on visual identity: creating or refreshing logos, typography, and packaging designs – general and limited edition. Once I learn we’ve won a new client, and BEFORE I’ve received their creative brief, I like to do a search on the brand just to get a general overview of who they are and where they’re coming from. I look at the brand’s website, history, search results, their competitors, etc. I like to do this BEFORE I even receive the official creative brief for three important reasons:

  1. It allows me to view the brand objectively as a casual consumer and not as an art director hired by the brand.
  2. After I’ve received the brief, I can compare my previous findings with the brand’s objectives.
  3. With the general search out of the way, I can narrow my search and focus on idea generation.

During the initial idea generation phase, I sketch out as many designs and ideas on paper as I can before moving to Photoshop or Illustrator because:

  1. Ideas can come to you from out of nowhere and in the most random moments and places, and it’s easier to find a pen and paper than it is to find Photoshop.
  2. I’ve found that ideas flow more easily and freely when you free-sketch than with computers because you’re limited to Photoshop and Illustrator’s user interface to flesh out your idea. This has certain limitations. With pen and paper you have no limitations.

If you’re creative, you should have a sketch notebook and a pencil with you at all times.

Once I’ve narrowed down my ideas I’m in back-and-forth meetings with the creative director, commercial team and strategic planners to further refine the idea until it is ready to be pitched to the client.

From receiving the creative brief to pitching our solutions to the brand can take from one week to one month. Obviously the more time I have to generate ideas, the better my ideas will be. At the pitch we narrow all the ideas down to three maximum.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A pitch usually consists of a maximum of three ideas:

  1. An idea that is ‘on brief’ and exactly what the client is expecting.
  2. An idea that is ‘on brief’ and slightly more edgy than the client might feel comfortable with.
  3. An idea that is ‘on brief’ yet so wild that you’re sure the client will never take but makes them dream and consider the possibilities.

For more information about the pitching process and what constitutes ‘on brief,’ refer to my interviews with Gregory Ferembach, Art Director for Y&R and Olivier Hubinous, Account Manager for Pixelis.]

New and refreshed logos and product designs should be accompanied by advertising and public relations campaigns to get the word out.

What’s a campaign you’ve recently worked on? I’m never fully happy with my work when I turn it in, however here is one of my favorite from my portfolio:

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Every creative I interview says they’re unhappy with their final work. Why is that? It’s normal because nothing is ever truly finished; everything can be improved upon. Finding improvements means finding weak points that can be corrected. As a creative and an entrepreneur you should always strive to take your idea one step further. The day you can no longer find any fault in what you’ve created, you should be worried.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In his book Hegarty on Creativity by Sir John Hegaty of BBH says that “It can be easy to settle on something that feels right. Something that seems to make sense of all the confusion. You’ll feel relief when you get to this point. You’ll think you’ve cracked it. You’ll feel good. But then you have to take a step back from what feels really good and ask: But is it great?”]

But that doesn’t give you permission to hold off launching your creation until it is ‘perfect.’ You must and should have time and budget constraints.

How often should brands refresh their logo, typography and designs? Brands should be refreshed around every 5 years. That being said, if you have a timeless logo and typography, NEVER change it! Nike, for example, has had the same logo “The Swoosh” since 1971. If it works, don’t change it.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Steven Dupuis notes in his book Package Design Workbook that humans see in the following order:

  1. Color,
  2. Shape,
  3. Photography, and lastly
  4. Words]

What tips can you offer on designing your visual identity? For a visual identity, I start with the logo. I spend a lot of time on the design of the typography and sign if there is one. It must be intelligent and encapsulate the brand personality. Everything must be simple; the more simple the better. For example, the logo and sign are the first thing you notice on a business card.

Then we put the colors and graphic shapes which accentuate the personality of the brand. Also, it’s very important to choose a good font (or fonts) from a reputable foundry. Typography is a very important graphic element that should not be taken lightly. A serif, sans-serif, or condensed version of the same typography can alter the entire identity of your brand.

After you’ve chosen your typography choose your color scheme. Your competitors will have already claimed a certain color scheme, so you want to choose colors that accentuate your brand identity without coming across as a copycat.

After you’ve chosen your color scheme choose the shape of your packaging design.

What tips can you offer on packaging design? Two things:

  1. Your product and packaging design is your brand’s story in the flesh.
  2. You cannot create your packaging design until you’ve created your typography, color schema and logo.

Then you must distinguish between designing packaging for a one-time limited edition package and designing for a product line. The point of a limited edition is that it stands out from your brand’s normal identity. But when you’re designing a product line you have to factor in congruency among the different packages. Packages must be different enough so consumers can distinguish among your different products yet close enough that they can clearly recognize your brand.

If you’re a startup launching your first product, you can’t expect to turn a one-time or limited edition design into a product line identity; you must plan far enough down the line to know whether you will offer extensions.

When creating your product line packaging:

  1. Consider the packaging material you’ll be using. Plastic? Paper? Metal? Will it be coated with a shiny or glittery substance?
  2. Keep the overall form, typography, layout and primary color of the packaging the same and then change the secondary color.

What are a few examples of brand identity designs you like?

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What are a few websites you go to for inspiration?

What are a few of your favorite campaigns?

I have a small budget, any advice?

  1. A remarkable idea is the most important! If you’re creative and invest your time you can come up with a remarkable idea for free, then you can invest all of your money paying for placing your idea in front of consumers. But coming up with remarkable ideas isn’t easy.
  2. If you aren’t very creative then you’ll need to invest money in hiring somebody to create an idea for you. But if the person you hire gives you an idea that doesn’t turn out to be remarkable, then you’ve lost your money on a mediocre idea and the money you do invest in placing your advertising will be wasted because consumer’s won’t notice it.
  3. You need a strong logo before you need a strong packaging design and advertising presence. Consider Heinz ketchup. It’s likely that you know what their typography, color scheme and logo look like, but can you recall any of their advertising campaigns?
  4. You do need a strong packaging design and a strong advertising presence. But must you divide your budget between the two? What if you invested your entire budget in creating a product and packaging design so remarkable and strong that it could be the focus of your advertising campaign? Look at Apple’s advertising campaigns for thir iPhones; their product is so beautiful that their advertising campaigns are merely photos of the product.
  5. Product and packaging design influences price. Your product might sell for $10 today. Now imagine investing in a design so beautiful and remarkable that you could charge $15 or even $30 for the same product. That profit goes directly to your bottom line. That is the power of visual identity.

So to summarize, your typography, color scheme and logo opens or closes the creative possibilities you have at your disposal. Choose them wisely and everything else will come more easily.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Marine Soyez, Art Director explains in greater detail how to create a strong logo, and Timoni West, Freelance Product Designer offers a contrarian perspective on your logo’s importance when it comes to online startups.]