Lessons From The Capstone

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It’s the end of February, and we’re about at the half-way point through the spring semester. I’ve been teaching the Senior Capstone course at DAAP. The primary purpose of Capstone is for the students to exhibit the skills they’ve acquired during the last four years at DAAP. In that way, “teacher” isn’t quite the right description for my role because the end goal isn’t to learn from me. My job is to help the students express their knowledge and to encourage them through the most extended project they’ve worked on to date. It’s a lot more like the role of a coach. 

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Featured Work

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Trischler Design Co. designed the Brand Identity for a restaurant and basement bar located within a beautiful Art Deco style building that once served as a community bank for Cincinnati’s East Walnut Hills neighborhood.

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Why Do Logos Steal The Spotlight?

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Are trademarks (aka logos, symbols, monograms, emblems, etc.) really that important? That’s the question that's crossed my mind recently while designing one for an interior design studio based in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was researching other design studios across the web when I realized that what I’m most interested in is not the trademark, but the Big Idea behind a company. It's ethos and purpose. I’m about 12 hours into the project, and I haven’t designed anything (aside from a presentation of my research), but what I have done is collect a bunch of words into sentences and phrases that represent my client's Big Idea. Reading these words is much more exciting than looking at the trademarks I've found.

Trademarks are limited in their ability to communicate Big Ideas. They’re an expression of a Big Idea, but they’re not a Big Idea. At best they identify and/or a signify a company or organization.

That doesn’t mean one should neglect the design of their trademark. It should still be good, following age-old design principles, ultimately with the aim to be as timeless as needed/possible, and it should also represent the organization's personality and culture (i.e., don’t put lipstick on a pig). But beyond these “shoulds," a trademark doesn’t have much more responsibility. Instead of stealing the spotlight, they’re better among a cast of characters that make up a brand identity system of an organization.

Considering a new trademark? Perhaps it’s best to uncover your Big Idea first? It may take longer, but if you begin to live out your purpose and ambitions, the logo will follow, increasing the affinity your audience has toward the shapes, typefaces, and colors that represent your company or organization. Already living out your Big Idea, but your trademark is still lagging behind? Then maybe it’s time to consider a refresh. Either way, this is a conversation that I love to have with people, and I’d like to have with you whether your a fellow designer or current/potential client.

 

Extra

I’ve benefited from the following thoughts and matter this month and I think you will too:

The Onelook Reverse Dictionary and Thesaurus is possibly the best tool I’ve found in recent history. It’s now pretty much always open on my browser when I’m writing.

The folks at BS LLC introduced me to the “Jobs To Be Done” theory. In short, people hire products/services to do specific jobs. It’s changed my approach to user research.

I’ve been perusing a lot of books on branding lately, and my favorite is Branding: In Five and a Half Steps by Michael Johnson. It offers an approachable, no-nonsense, approach to an often ambiguous topic.

I’m in the middle of Dare to Lead by Brené Brown and highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in positions where you have to put yourself out there. The book is useful. I’m already starting to practice the principles both at home and at work.

Meg and I have watched several good movies this month including Swiss Army Man (think Castaway, but funnier and with a beautiful soundtrack), Paddleton (a heartfelt, at times comedic, depiction of the love of two friends, one who's facing death), and Coco (stunning visuals, lovely story).