[Podcast] How to Rebrand Strategically with Armin Vit

[Podcast] How to Rebrand Strategically with Armin Vit

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

When should a brand, rebrand? What makes a good rebrand?

How can you use strategy to ensure your brand’s rebrand is a success?

sponsored message

Adobe Creative Cloud Discount

Armin Vit answers these questions and more in this episode focused on Rebranding Strategy. Armin also reveals his design process, critiquing methodology, how he built a successful branding conference and shares some classic rebranding failures. Want to learn more about rebranding? Then this episode is for you.

Listen Here

Love the show? Please review us on Apple or Stitcher.


Play Now


Watch on Youtube

sponsored message

Show Notes


Learn Brand Strategy

Best Brand Strategy Course Online

Brand Master Secrets helps you become a brand strategist and earn specialist fees. And in my opinion, this is the most comprehensive brand strategy course on the market.

The course gave me all the techniques and processes and more importantly… all the systems and tools I needed to build brand strategies for my clients.

This is the consolidated “fast-track” version to becoming a brand strategist.

sponsored message

I wholeheartedly endorse this course for any designer who wants to become a brand strategist and earn specialist fees.

Check out the 15-minute video about the course, which lays out exactly what you get in the Brand Master Secrets.

Transcript (Auto Generated)

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding, the only podcast dedicated to helping designers and entrepreneurs grow brands. Here are your hosts, Jacob Cass and Matt Davies.

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding. Today we have Armin Vit with us. Armin Vit is a graphic designer and co-founder of Under Consideration, which is a design firm based out of Indiana.

Most people know of Armin through his writings on Brand New, which is a popular branding blog where people share their opinions on brand identity work with a vast majority being on rebrands. Armin and his wife, Byronnie, have also authored several books and run the annual Brand New Conference, which I’ve been fortunate enough to attend. Armin previously worked at Pentagram, he’s a regular speaker and juror, and has probably seen the most rebrands in the world.

We’ve been following Armin and Brand New since the mid-2000s. So we’re incredibly excited to chat to Armin today to pick his brain about rebranding strategy. So Armin, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

So we often start off with definitions, like what does branding mean? What is it, how do you define a brand? And what does a rebranding actually mean to you?

To me, a brand is all the manifestations of a company product or service, from the logo to the typography to the colors to the uniforms to how someone answers the phone when you call customer service, all of those things, everything that amounts to an experience and an association to emotions, feelings, anything that makes you, anything when you interact with a company, all those things to me make up the brand. And then a rebrand is whenever you change either most of those things or one of those, usually the most prominent one being the logo. Like whenever people say, oh, we rebranded, like, no, you just changed the logo.

But the sentiment is understandable. Some people take the logo redesign as being kind of like a signifier for many changes behind the scenes that are not always easy to translate into new colors or new type or new photography. But yeah, so that’s more or less where I see rebranding and branding.

Yeah, I’m always fascinated how many logos have been redesigned and how many people just think it is, I guess, a rebranding when you just update the logo. But when you get so many submissions to your site brand new, like all people submitting redesigns or rebrands, like how do you actually, I guess, go deeper behind the scenes or understand the strategy behind the rebrand versus just like someone submitting like a logo redesign?

Well, maybe it’s a secret that I shouldn’t reveal, but I don’t. I mean, there’s no…

Now’s the time.

Yeah, the cat’s out of the bag. I don’t do that much research because it’s not easy to do. It’s not when you think about how do you learn about the strategy behind the redesign, you just don’t.

It’s not something that is put out to the public. And one thing that I’m pretty adamant about when I receive submissions is that… I’ll receive a submission and they’ll say, oh, if you want to talk to the PR person or the design director or whoever led the redesign, I’m like, no, I really don’t want to talk to anyone.

I just want to base my opinion based on what you make available to the public because that’s the extent of what everyone will also see. So a lot of what I do is just based off of my own experiences. So I may not know a bank, a specific bank in Australia, but I’ve been to plenty banks, I’ve done business with plenty banks that I sort of understand and not because I’m that smart, I just have that experience that I’m able to draw as a consumer and then tie that back to the design solution.

And I think at this point, you know, 14 years after publishing brand new, and you know, being in the industry myself, having worked at Pentagram, having seen how big clients work, how sort of consumer brands work as well, I sort of have an understanding of how these things go. And also from hosting the brand new conference where I basically get to, I have heard all, however many speakers we’ve had, I think it’s something like 120, that they all share their stories, they share some of the strategies. So all of that gets compounded into having a little bit of background that informs me how to make those reviews.

So kind of like a really long answer to say that I don’t do a lot of research other than just trying to understand whatever the company is, if I haven’t heard of it, and then just trying to reconciliate that with the design that I’m looking at.

Okay, so do you actually have a process or a methodology that you use for each rebranding? And is this something that someone could apply to, I guess, their own opinions, like having a structure or?

Yeah, I think there’s the objective functional aspect of it, which is I’ll get a submission, whether it’s from the client, whether it’s a tip, or whether it’s from the design firm. And what I’ll do is I’ll just look at it and kind of like let it simmer in my head for a day or two. And then what happens is that on a normal day, I’ll start at the end of the day prior.

sponsored message

So on the night before I write a review, I’ll prepare all of the images. So this literally is happening at like 8.30 to 9:00 p.m. like after dinner, after I hang out with my kids for a little bit, I’ll go back and I’ll prepare the images.

And then just by absorbing that in my head all night, it’s not that I’m thinking about it, it’s not that I’m dreaming about it, but then I literally wake up and like I put my feet on the ground and I’m thinking, okay, what do I have to write about now or today? And I wake, I usually, I always wake up at 5 a.m. So by 5.20 after coffee kicks in and all that, like I’m already writing.

So everything, everything is written fresh the day off. So I think there’s something really interesting about letting it simmer overnight and then just waking up with nothing else on the plate. Like I haven’t checked emails.

I haven’t done anything else. So I just wake up and write about whatever I prepared the night before. And then in terms of when I’m writing, I mean, I just try to break it down by, by sort of one of the, you know, I try to first try to explain what the company, product or service is so that anyone that is not familiar with it and myself as well, get to understand what we’re talking about.

So whether we’re talking about a bank, a sports team, packaging for milk, whatever it is. Then I break down the before logo. If there is one, then the new logo, then the ingredients of the identity, whether that’s the color palette, the typography, photography, and then just try to talk about the applications and then summarize, how does this…

I tried to tie the last paragraph with the first one. So at the end, I’ll say something like, overall, I think this, blah, blah, blah. And does it tie in to the description of the company?

So I think that’s where the magic, quote unquote, happens in that I don’t know exactly how I make those, how or why I write what I write. I mean, I’ve been writing for 14 years, so in a way, it’s almost like muscle memory, where it just kicks in and I know what to write. And it’s just a little bit of approaching it from an objective, as objective a point of view as I can.

So there’s not purely subjective, which there’s a lot of that to it, but I try to make it so that other people can learn from it. And it’s not just me ranting about things that I like or don’t like, but things that are right or wrong. So yeah, I don’t think I quite answered the question other than saying that it’s a complicated process, objectively and subjectively.

Must be quite tricky.

Yeah, so I was just gonna summarize a little bit of what you said. So you have the description of the company and then you analyze the aesthetics, so the type color, and then tie it back in with a summary based on all the aesthetics and coming from an objective point of view. So just to summarize for people listening, I think that’s a great way to do it because you don’t always have that strategy behind it and you have to analyze these things.

But the difference is that you have this design background, you have all this experience and you’ve been doing it for so long, that’s the difference. So not everyone has that I’ll experience as well.

sponsored message

I was gonna say it must be really tricky because for me, when we look at rebranding and we look at it just from the perspective of the aesthetics, I only think we’re seeing part of what’s gone on, right? I’m gonna say this right, Armin, because I’m a strategist. So this is where I’m coming at it, right?

I used to be a designer, but now having I’ve been working in strategy for nearly 10 years, there’s such a body of work that goes behind it, audience testing, knowing and defining who the audience is, repositioning the whole brand, reorientating the business and the culture of the business towards that. That side of things is often unspoken about completely. And you’re right, it doesn’t come out.

So it’s interesting to me, because obviously you’ll be approaching it from a particular point of view, but have you ever thought about going a little bit into that other side and maybe looking at that as an opportunity for the project?

Yeah, and I think we’re starting to explore that in the podcast that we started a few months ago, where we talk a little bit more behind the scenes. But what happens is that all that strategy stuff does not make for good blog content. You know, people don’t want to wake up every day to read about strategy.

And you know, it’s both a shame and understandable that it’s a shame in the sense that it’s so rich. And usually it’s only when strategy is done right that the design can excel. But you know, it’s understandable that it’s just really not something that you’re gonna, you know, grab a cup of coffee and be like, I’m gonna scroll through some strategy decks right now.

That’s gonna be an exciting morning or lunch. For some people it might be, for you it might be.

But maybe I’m just weird, I wouldn’t say that.

No, and I think there’s, you know, the more that I’m in talking to other designers and also, again, through the podcast, listening to clients is how important that strategy aspect is. And I think there might be room for another blog. I mean, maybe it’s from us, maybe it’s from someone else.

But some, like if you can make strategy exciting and consumable on a day-to-day basis, I think there’s a great potential for a really solid blog there that helps designers understand or understand the design and then compliment what I’m doing, which is really talking about aesthetics for the most part. But I always try to tie it back. Does this make sense to the client at hand?

Like even if I don’t have a sense of the strategy, I sort of have a sense of what they’re trying to do or how or the realm they’re trying to operate in. So I’m always trying to tie it back to that, not just talking merely about aesthetics.

And maybe we need to start a blog called JUST Branding or something.

Just strategy. Okay, so rebranding. So what are some signs that a company needs to rebrand if someone’s considering themself or looking at some other company?

I mean, there are a few common things, whether it’s a merger, whether it’s a change of leadership, whether someone is going public, which might not be the case for every entrepreneur out there. But those are sort of the key moments where major companies redesign. But I think at the smaller scale, I think anytime you’re ready to take your business to the next level, I think that’s a good moment to redesign, whether you’re implementing new features, if you have software, or if you’re launching a new range of flavors, if you sell consumer goods.

Whenever you’re taking that next step, I think that’s a good moment to redesign. Or it can be as simple as I run out of business cards, I need to print new business cards, should they have a new logo. It can be as simple as that, and it’s as valid as something major like having a public offering, whatever, or something big like that.

And even if you’re… Why do you get a haircut? Or why do you buy new clothes?

Just because you want them, because you want to feel different, you want to change, you want something that will take you out of a rut. So I think there’s a number of valid reasons that not all have to be either business-led or strategy-led, but sometimes just because I feel like it. But I think the most effective redesigns or rebrands for major companies come at a point where they are doing something significant behind the scenes.

So I think one of the examples that I use a lot is Airbnb.

Not everybody, but a lot of clients, a lot of designers reference the Airbnb logo redesign as being great. And yes, it was a solid logo, it was a solid icon, but it came at a moment where Airbnb was ready to grow. So a lot of people associate that change with it being good for business.

And yes, maybe there is a correlation there, but I think the pairing of that moment with the redesign, I think that’s what makes something take off. You know, it’s got a little bit of with Google when they shifted from the serif to sans serif. I think it just also coincided with Google slowly taking over the world a little bit more.

And you know, that was five years ago. And even then, they were already taking over the world. But when you look at it now, it’s just like, you know, Google is so omnipresent that having a logo like that sort of signaled that change as well.

Or if not that change, that evolution into something more.

Yeah, I agree with that as well. What do you think, Jacob?

Well, I was going to ask you, you mentioned some successful rebrands. I was wondering if there’s something on the other side of it. Like what comes to mind when you think of unsuccessful?

Like there must be hundreds.

Yeah, I think the classic example is Gap. You know, Gap in the, what was it, like 2010? Maybe I don’t even remember when it was.

But, you know, one day, I think like a Tuesday too, like people just woke up and there was a new logo on the Gap website, no explanation, no reason for the change. And, you know, it was a bad logo. There was no reasoning.

There was no communication with the audience. And, you know, it’s a really large audience. So I think then the fact that then they backtracked and then they were like, oh, no, we’re gonna make it into competition.

There was clearly no strategy. There was no business reason to redesign. So I think whenever you have something that is just, you know, I mentioned that you can change for the sake of changing, but if you’re gonna do that, at least communicate with your audience to make sure that they’re aware, that they know that was gonna happen.

So, you know, even if you don’t have the right reasons to redesign or they’re, you know, they’re not super clear, as long as you communicate with your audience and with your clients and, you know, with the media, I think that that makes things a little bit better. But yeah, I think there’s a number of things, a number of logos out there that are just not, you know, that I wouldn’t consider good or interesting or engaging. So, but that doesn’t mean there’s a bad redesign.

It just means that it was poorly executed. And yeah, there’s a bunch of those.

Tropicana is another one that comes to mind, she could speak about.

Yeah. And I think what’s funny, because that one came right after GAP. So it was kind of like a bad year for major changes.

And, you know, what’s funny about that is that a lot of people complain, kind of like the main complaint was like, I cannot find Tropicana in the grocery store after the change. And, you know, I had read this, I had done the review, and I used to drink Tropicana. And I went to the grocery store, and I was like, where is the Tropicana juice?

And I had this in my mind, but even then, even with that, I couldn’t find it. It was literally, it just sort of disappeared because your brain became so associated to looking for that orange with the straw that when it was gone, it was really almost like a short circuit. And your consumer behavior that just went away, so it’s not here, but it was right there in front of you.

It was just different. So yeah, sometimes, again, drastic change benefits from good communication and advanced notice. Even if you don’t reveal what you’re changing to, just say like, hey, heads up, things are going to look different a month from now, a week from now, tomorrow.

So don’t freak out. People are still going to freak out, but yeah, there’s so much you can do.

Matt, I’m not sure if you had a question there, but I have a few others to go through, all around re-branding, but this one’s a little bit more personable. So if you could redesign a company or a brand, what would you go for?

Oh, that’s a good question. I would love to do an airline. I don’t know why, I think that’s a…


I don’t have a particular one in mind because a lot of them are pretty good right now, but I think there’s something about your logo being on the belly of an airplane, on the seats, and there’s so many touch points, and I think that would be a pretty exciting job.

Yeah, I would. I also have a dream of doing that as well. What about you, Matt?

Oh, do you know what? Like, there’s so much I’d love to work on. I’d love to brand a country, right?

How would you do that? Like, could you… You know, there are logos like the Maldives and, you know, Rio de Janeiro or, you know, there’s a city, but, you know, you’ve done a city, haven’t you, Jacob?

Like, I’d love to rebrand a whole country. Like, that would be epic. Like, how the heck you do that, I think, would stretch you quite a lot to capture a country and to work on that from a strategic perspective and then roll that through creatively.

But yeah, that’s on my hit list at some stage.

Can you also imagine the nightmare of having to do this in a whole country and all the stakeholders and all the approval process? Yeah, that would be insane.

I think you’re answering that.

I am pretty nuts.

So what I love about Brand New is the, not only your opinions, but the comments section. And I’ve been a lurker in the comments because there’s always someone posting some funny meme or some other reference to something that’s been made before. How do you deal with these comments and how do you give them the voice?

What’s your opinion about them?

I mean, other than anyone being offensive towards someone else or there’s unnecessary bickering in the comments and it starts to get personal, that’s the only time that I’ll interfere. But other than that, I just let people run loose. And I think it’s both good and bad in the sense that you allow people to express themselves in the same way that I am expressing myself.

So I’m saying whatever I want, so why wouldn’t I let others do the same? And sometimes that leads to comments that are not very constructive, like this is crap or even if someone comes in and says, oh, this is great, love it. What value does that add?

But I think that’s how it’s a reflection of how we react as designers. Like if you go to have a beer with a designer friend, you’re like, hey, do you see what Pentagram, that last Pentagram project, you’re not going to go into a 500 word essay like what I write. You’re going to be like, yeah, that was great or yeah, that sucked.

That’s how designers talk. So I think it’s important. I don’t know if it’s important, but I like that it reflects how we talk.

So I enjoy the memes, I enjoy the catty comments, I enjoy the constructive comments. And especially there’s been instances where I’ll say something in my review and then someone will have a good counterpoint to it. And it is the kind of stuff that allows me to make better reviews as time goes on because it gives me a different point of view that I hadn’t considered.

So I think it’s good and bad things.

Yeah, absolutely. And the polls also made it a little bit, you could read the stats behind it, just like a very quick response versus just like love it or hate it in the comments. I think that’s a good addition.

Yeah, and I think that sort of took away, when we first put that in, I think that took away some of the it’s crap or it’s great comments in the sense that anyone that just wanted to react, that wanted to have that feeling of like, I have expressed my opinion in some way. You know, the poll was an easy way of like saying, yes, great, fine or bad. And kind of like, then if they wanted to expand on that, then they could go in the comments.

And it’s a good way of getting a kind of like a quick gauge of how people are reacting to something.

Absolutely. Well, I just want to take a little bit of a sidestep here and talk about Brand New, which is an amazing conference that focused on branding. So how long have you been doing this and why did you start a conference?

We started in 2010. And the reason why we started it is not very glamorous or entrepreneurial. It was coincided with, well, it was after the 2008 and 2009 recession where, you know, it happened that we had finished a lot of client work.

At that time, we were doing a lot of client work, design work for clients and, you know, that sort of went away. Brand New had gotten, the blog had gotten to a fairly sizable place where we thought what if there was a conference or like, well, we started to think about, you know, how can we monetize Brand New, you know, in a name beyond because advertising dried up as well during the recession. So we’re like, hey, what can we do with this audience that could make us some money and not in a greedy way, but in a survival way?

Like we needed to generate income somehow. So we started thinking, well, what makes Brand New successful is its focus. So it’s always, it’s only about logo identity and branding.

We don’t talk about music, like posters or editorial design or anything like that. It’s just logo identity and branding. So what if we had a conference that is just logo identity and branding?

Could that same audience of Brand New be interested in a design conference? So we had never done an event of that size. We had done a few smaller events here and there, but, you know, 20 people, maybe a hundred people.

So we just thought, that sounds like something we could do. And then we thought, well, if we do it in New York, you know, you have a, there’s a built-in audience there because all of the amount of brand and identity designers in New York is insane. So we thought, you know, we can at least get 300 people to wake up one day and even by accident roll in into a design, into a branding conference.

So yeah, so we just, you know, set up a one-day conference with, you know, speakers that we as designers would like to hear. And then next thing you know, we sold out a, I think the auditorium fit 415 people. The sponsors loved it, speakers loved it, the attendees loved it.

We enjoyed it and we made money and we’re like, oh, cool. You know, this is fun. And then, yeah, so we just stuck with the one-day format for a couple more years while we figured out how to run events and how to do them consistently.

And then we switched to a two-day conference in 2014. That did really well and then eventually a couple years after that, we reached a thousand people of attendees. And, you know, from there, since 2016, we’ve just been rolling with it quite, not comfortably, because it’s a lot of hard work.

But we sort of hit a really nice spot of having a good amount of people and being able to manage it, just me and my partner and wife, Bryony. We do everything, we hire the speaker. I mean, we choose the speakers, we hire the venues, we contract all the travel, lodging, then we’re the hosts during the conference, where I’m the tech guy, she’s the front of the house person.

So, you know, it’s something that we can manage and that where it feels like it was a really good challenge.

Matt wants to start a conference up. Well, he was in the process of one.

Yeah, I was gonna start a conference on brand strategy this year. It turned out not to be the best. Well, I say this year, I think this will be released 2021.

So let me just rephrase that. So, yeah, last year, I was about to do a conference and turned out not to be the best year to run a conference. And in fact, it got postponed now twice.

And I think hopefully the back end of this year 2021 we’ll be doing that. It’s just a regional one here in the UK. And I noticed your conference is at the back end of this year as well in 2021, Armin.

Did you have to postpone it to October?

Well, we had it, we were gonna do it October, 2020. And then we postponed it to October, 2021. And we’re currently looking at whether we’re gonna have it or not, because I think even with the, you know, there’s the great news of the vaccine and all that, but I think, you know, first it’s gonna be until the summer where everyone has, where enough people have vaccine that you feel comfortable going into it.

And then there’s the other aspect of we need the economy to rebound. Like there’s still, I think, you know, going to a conference is a luxury that not a lot of people can afford. I think next year, people are gonna be dying to go to an in-person event just because, you know, we miss, I miss doing it.

I miss being invited to conferences and hanging out with other designers. So I think there’s gonna be an influx of people going to conferences, but I think it’s gonna be until 22 that we’ll really see both the economy and hopefully the health of the population at large to be at a point where a conference can be sustainable to have it in person and be able to, you know, make money, not make money, but at least make it…

Viable, right?

Yeah, viable. Because I think even in October, restrictions might be in place about how many people you can have, you know, what percentage of the capacity can you have in a place? Unless we’re selling 75 to 100% of the seats, then it’s a losing proposition.

So yeah, so that’s getting too nerdy in detail about event logistics, but yeah, so we’re hoping, our goal is to resume full force in 2022.

All right. I actually missed a very important question that was gonna follow on from your favorite, well, your recommend, your preferred rebranding. So like, if you were going to redesign an airline, for example, like what’s the process you would go through to rebrand something like that?

Well, I think the correct answer is you engage in research, you do a strategy phase, and then you decide. But my answer would be like, I’ll just get to designing. Like, I know what this thing needs to look like.

But no, I think there’s always, even at our scale, because we’re small, when we did the client work, it’s just always been me and my wife. So we’ve never had a team. We’ve never had a research phase or a strategy phase.

We go in and talk to the people in charge. Usually, that’s one person. Sometimes it can be 10 people.

And then, we don’t do strategy. We just think about it. We write down things that stood out, which I guess is strategy in a way.

Like you think about what are the relevant aspects of what people told you that you can apply visually, visually, verbally, stuff like that. And then, yeah, then we just get to work. So for us, it’s been, or for me, it’s been a little bit like the reviews where I just go by God feeling a lot, which, you know, and I’m not the best designer.

I’m not the best writer, but you know, I think I have a good sense of how things work. And that has gotten me this far, so far. So that’s my approach.

And I know it’s not the right approach. I think there’s better ways and there, you know, whenever I see people talk at the brand new conference, like, oh, that’s how you do it. Like, that’s how the real pros do it.

And, you know, it involves various faces, involves team members. The other thing is like, we don’t like to collaborate with people. Like I like to do everything by myself because I have trust issues.

So, you know, I have a lot of things going in, not in my favor, that prohibit me from taking on an airline client.

Armin, this is awesome. You’re so open and honest. I’m slightly staggered by how open and honest you are.

Like, you know, it’s true. And I think what you, it’s interesting because I also have a background in graphic design as listeners will know. And I also felt some of the things that you’ve just said.

And also I think that it’s interesting because as a designer, I think you do feel a little bit of imposter syndrome. Sometimes you feel a little bit inadequate, but the truth is, is that, you know, you’re clearly doing amazing work. And, you know, I, for one, and I know Jacob is huge fans of the curation of work that you’ve put in over the years.

So I think you’re being a little bit modest as well there. I think there’s a little, you are a brilliant designer. So don’t let anyone tell you anything otherwise.

But yeah, interesting about the strategy side, because, you know, I don’t think, how, what do you think about this statement, Armin? Would you agree that you can’t really do a good job unless some strategic thought has gone into the project? If not by you, but by the client, would you agree with that?

And you said can or cannot?

You can’t do a great job as a designer unless some strategic thought has gone into the project. You know, as I say, that might not have been done by you because you might have come to the project and been briefed on that strategic work, but nonetheless, it’s there. Would you agree with that?

Or do you think you can just kind of rock up and just throw some stuff together and hope at it kind of stick?

No, I think, you know, I think if not 100%, 99% in that yes, you need something to ground, to ground your work, not to ground it, but just to set you in the right direction because you can go in any direction that you want. But unless you have a basic understanding of what the business needs or what it wants or what the context around it is, you’re really just, you know, making art. So I think when you apply, you know, those, the practice of choosing colors and typefaces and layouts and all that, when you apply it through a lens of strategy as comprehensive or as little as it may be, I think that’s what makes it into graphic design where you’re doing something on behalf of someone else for the benefit of communicating something.

So I think, yeah, I think without strategy, you’re just, you know, choosing types and colors because you enjoy it. And I think that’s fine, but you know, you have to, if you want to do it right, it has to come from somewhere meaningful and that’s what strategy does.

So what type of questions do you ask your clients? You mentioned you go and ask some things before you start designing. Like what are you uncovering during that, I guess, discovery phase?

In a way, I feel like they’re very basic questions about, you know, why do you do what you do? Like what makes you get up in the morning and do, you know, if you’re the owner of the business, why do you do it? Why did you start it?

What are your ambitions? What do you want to do next? How do you want people to perceive you?

Do you want them to, you know, it’s as simple like, do you want people to think that you’re friendly? And some clients are like, no, you know, I want them to feel, if not oppressed, I want them to feel like we’re an authority of some sort. So, you know, questions that may seem basic about personality, about how they want to be perceived.

I think those are, those uncover a lot of things. Every now and then, if the client is right, I’ll ask them a silly question like, you know, if you were a character of a movie, who would you be? You know, and someone would be like, you know, whoever, whatever, Harry Potter.

And that tells me a lot. You can derive a lot of things from an answer like that. And I don’t think Lando or Wolf All Inns or Pentagram asks that question.

But for me, you know, that’s the tool that I have. And, you know, it’s something that, because I think what that question does is that it creates a common understanding in that we may not understand each other’s business, but we both know who Harry Potter is and what he represents or what, you know, what are his attributes. And I don’t know why I picked Harry Potter for characters, but I guess I have kids and that’s, I don’t know.

But yeah, I think it’s just about trying to uncover clients’ motivations, aspirations, and, you know, just how, what makes them, what makes them taken away? And like, why do they, why should I care about why they care? Which in turn will help other people care about them.

I often think if Jacob Cass was, you know, a famous person, like, you know, what brand, what famous person would his brand be? And I kind of like have sold on James Bond. What do you think, Armin?

Like, I think that’s kind of a, it’s a bit English, but, you know, I definitely think he sort of plays to that character.

Prince Harry and Andy Ruddick.

So somewhere in between Prince Harry and James Bond, got it.

It’s Jacob Cass. How about me, Jacob? What do you think my famous celebrity would be?

Gandalf the Grey. I’m getting there, I’m getting there. I guess the stress have been on this podcast most weeks with you, Jacob.

But yeah, no, I’ll take Gandalf. That’s pretty good. I love that.

I don’t think it can be underestimated that sense of alignment that you’ve just talked about there, Armin, around the designer and the client, and having some common ground to meet somebody on in a relatable way, because as a designer, your job is to express what the client needs to, as you said, communicate to an audience. That’s what we need to do. So without any tools, even just the basic ones, like you’ve just mentioned, without any of that, there’s no way you can do a great job.

And that’s what JUST Branding is all about, and why we’re having these conversations, because even just, you’ve probably just said it and thought, oh, it’s just a basic tool that I use. That’s super helpful to a lot of people out there. So thank you for sharing that.

Is there any other sort of questions that you like to sort of ask, just to kind of get a sense of where the client’s at?

You know, I’ll ask them about what they think about their competition, you know, and it’s not so much for them to, it’s not to set them up like, oh, we’re better than them, or we’ll do this better than them. But like, what are the, you know, in contrast to within a certain category, in contrast to A, B or C, you know, where do we stand? What makes us unique?

And I think that’s important so that you can find the one, because it’s usually just one element that differentiates one client from another within an industry. So can you find that nugget somewhere? And it might be, you know, it might be that they’re friendly.

It might be that they answer the phone within, you know, five seconds of ringing. It might, I don’t know why I keep talking about phones. Nobody calls anyone anymore.

But, you know, is the, you know, the interaction on a website with customer service, is it a chat bot or is it an actual human being that answers first? So all of those things kind of like make, allow you to find what’s unique about someone and then try to maybe magically manifest that into a visual solution, whether it’s in the logo or in the identity somewhere.

The more we uncover, well, the more we ask questions about it, like you are going through a pretty big discovery phase. You’re asking big questions like why, and you’re looking at their positioning in terms of like, what makes them different? What’s their voice and their personality?

So like, you are doing a pretty good, like casual job of uncovering this information. So I think this is all your years of experience that you’ve just been able to get to the nitty gritty of it very quickly because of that prior experience. So you’re definitely doing parts of strategy very well.

And the design work is amazing. So it’s working, it’s definitely working. All right, so I guess we’re getting to the end of this.

I don’t really have any other questions. I went through all my lists. So did you have anything else, Matt?

Well, yeah, I mean, you’ve seen hundreds of rebrands over the years, Armin. And I’m just wondering if you have picked up on any kind of current trends or any sort of trends that you think that you expect to see in the near future come around again. Have you got any sort of thoughts on that in terms of rebrands and themes that you’d love to share?

Because we’d love to hear them.

Yeah, I think in the past year or two, there’s been this trend of blending with an L in the sense that it’s not just about design that is lame or boring or whatever, but it’s really about how clients and designers have really embraced the lowest common denominator of graphic design that is actually proven effective for clients and for… Because it’s easy to implement, and I’m talking about like geometric sensorives, basic color palette of pastels, very simple trendy illustrations that everybody’s using. So a lot of the…

And a lot of minimalism too. And it looks good, it works well, it’s easy to implement, it’s easy to get a client to approve it. And because it’s been so successful for many clients, from Google to Airbnb, that they all embrace that simplicity after years of…

When you think about Google and all the gradients that they had and the serifs and the bevels that eventually they went to this simple approach. Same thing with Airbnb, they had their script word mark when they started and they had strokes and gradients and whatever. There was a shift to minimalism that became synonymous with business success.

That became replicated and now it’s to the point where everybody looks the same, but no one minds because it does well, it performs well. I think what we’re starting to see is certain companies, certain designer, certain design firms really push the envelope and do work that’s really different and daring. And I think a great example is Collins in New York and San Francisco.

They’re doing some amazing work. Coto in London and Berlin and LA. Like they’re doing quirky work that it could easily be dismissed as, oh, it’s just cool and fun and trendy, but no, it’s actually on point.

Like it serves the message, it serves the client. I think that’s where I think the next two, three years, we’re going to be seeing a lot more diversity in design. Like, and I mean that in visual diversity, that I think we’re finally going to grow out of that generic sameness that we’ve been seeing, which is, you know, when you look at logos from the 1980s, you put the logos of Apple, Lenovo, Samsung, all these different brands, computer brands, technology brands, they’re all weird and funky and different from each other.

You put them all together now and they’re all the same. So I think hopefully we’re going back to an actual place where you can tell brands apart from their logo, not just their identity, which, you know, at some point, you could have similarities in logos, but as long as the identity was somehow different, but even that has become a lot of the same. So I think hopefully we’ll see a return to more illustrative, more daring, more evocative logos than before.

Hopefully we’ll see a return of icons. I think the art of making a solid icon, like the Chase icon or, you know, Pan Am, or, you know, thinking back to the 60s, like, and I guess part of it is that we’ve done so many of them that it’s hard to be original anymore, but I hope that we can go back to the strength of an icon that can represent a company just on its own. So, yeah, so hopefully…

Yeah, what you’re talking about is being really distinctive. And I think you’re right. I think we started to lose that.

Everyone’s copying Apple, you know, and, you know, and it’s difficult to stand out. I think I maybe mentioned it to you before, Jacob, but I did a competitor set analysis for one of my clients in a particular sector. And no kidding, I reviewed like 12 of their top competitors.

Every single competitor used a color blue, right? Literally everyone. And it was pretty much the same blue.

It wasn’t even like a vibrant sky blue next to like a purpley blue. It was the same blue. And I was like, well, gee, this is not going to be hard, is it, to stand out.

In this audience, we just changed the color, job done. You know, but the truth is, you’re right, it’s a challenge. So I’m glad to hear that hopefully the distinctive brand identity is on the rise.

I hope you’re right.

Fingers crossed, yeah.

And we had Bill Gardner on last week, and he’s into logo trends and logos as well, as you may know. And how he puts it is like, it’s a pendulum, right? It goes extreme one way, so blanding, and then it’ll tip back the other way to hopefully soon enough to have a little bit more distinctiveness to it.

And some more substance would be nice as well. So I think that was a great question to end on Matt, I guess the future of branding. So Armin, thank you so much for your time and for all your efforts over these years.

We really appreciate it, truly. And could you please let us know where people can find you?

The main place where you can find me every single day is at brandnew, so underconsideration.com/brandnew. As I mentioned, every post is sort of fresh, like bread from the oven early in the morning. If you get there at 5 a.m.

Eastern time, well, if you get there at 6:30 a.m. Eastern time, it will be as, it will even smell as good as bread whenever you, whenever it hit publish. And then, you know, we’re on Instagram and Twitter, but we’re not that engaged on social media just because it takes a lot of time.

But email as well, just Armin at under consideration, I go to inbox zero every single night, and I don’t leave emails unanswered, except for brand new submissions. Those I have to, I have an auto reply. But yeah, online, brand new, every day, all day.

Thank you, Armin. But you also had a podcast release recently. What’s the name of that?

It’s called Follow Up, and it’s part of brand new. So if you’re subscribed to brand new, which, you know, it’s another thing that has happened recently. But if you’re a subscriber to brand new, the follow up podcast is included, and we’ve done 15 episodes so far.

Yes, I’m here. Thank you for having me.

Share This Post: