In September this year, Najwat from The Desi Design attended the Annual Brand New Conference in New York City. The Conference is a 2-day gathering of the world's leading practiotioners on design and branding. This year's line-up included speakers from Pentagram, Lippincott, Snask, Gretel, Airbnb, Saffron and many, many more.

The vibrant event was attended by upwards of 900 people from around the world and, to our surprise and delight, 4 delegates from Pakistan including us! At the Conference, we also met, quite by a happy accident, a fan of The Desi Design from Saudi Arabia. And this reader is who is going to tell you all about The Brand New Conference 2015 in this guest post. Over to Saman Sohail! – Editor

Travelling all the way from Saudi Arabia for a design conference seems a little over the top, but when you have names like Paula Scher, Johnny Cupcakes and Snask and the venue is New York City, it's pretty much a no-brainer.

Having recently quit my job as a lecturer and venturing into the ‘real world’, I was excited to learn from and network with some big names in the industry (and obviously a holiday in NYC!)

The best aspect of the conference was how well curated the content was and the variety of speakers and depth of topic they delivered.

Day 1:

Jonathan Hoefler / Founder Hoefler & co. / New York, NY


Day one kicked off with type designer Jonathan Hoefler discussing the importance of brand typography. He made comparisons of logo vs type usage when used in context. Giving the example of Google, he pointed out that the logo itself takes up ½% of the page as compared to the rest of the content at 99%.  On the importance of typography, Hoefler mentioned how his type foundry carefully crafts typefaces and explained his research process that involves all or most members of the client's firm in order to understand the various uses of the typeface being created.

Philippe Apeloig / Founder, Apeloig / Paris, New York


Apeloig has big projects to his name, recent ones including designing the numbers on the new Hermés watch and designing the identity and dome of the upcoming Louvré museum in Abu Dhabi.

Philippe explained the importance of simplicity in design and showed processes of elimination that took place in order to arrive at simple and clever solutions. He says “sometimes it's easier to do something complex but not that easy to do something more minimal.”

Andrew Schapiro / Head of Brand Creative, Airbnb / San Francisco, CA


One of my favourites of the day! Even though I have never used its services, Airbnb definitely comes across as a likeable brand and it was a delight to hear all about Airbnb’s recent rebrand from Schapiro himself.

He took us through the journey of the rebrand and its various phases from research and design to creating marketing messages ‘inside out’ (according to what your relationship with the brand is).

Schapiro explained how emotions were captured through colours and how the identity was so versatile that it enabled everyone involved to ‘own it’. Through use experience mapping from various perspectives, they also realized that the identity and website were just a fraction of the Airbnb experience, and most of the actual experience was taking place offline.

Fun Fact: Airbnb offices are designed like some of the actual homes listed on the site!

Tom Geismar, Ivan Chermayeff, Sagi Haviv / Founders and Partners, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv / New York, NY


Tom and Ivan are legends in modern American design. You may have seen their work everywhere without even realizing it. National Geographic, Chase Bank, Harvard University Press, MoMa and Armani Exchange are just some examples of their very successful portfolio of work.

In their sit-down session, they shared anecdotes behind some of their work and client relationships as well as how Sagi Haviv whom they met as he was a student became a partner and a surge of new ideas and concepts in the company.

Paula Scher / Partner, Pentagram / New York, NY


Being somewhat of a modern day design icon, I expected Paul Scher to take us through her portfolio of work from a pure design-based perspective. Instead, she explained “some identities can only be successful in time, not the first day” and took us through 4 of her projects from recent years that had changed their meaning through human interaction or evoked various reactions.

My favourite project of the lot: Paula’s mural design for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and how it became the ‘identity’ of the museum through user engagement and interaction with the visual.

Hilary Greenbaum / Director of Graphic Design, Whitney Museum of American Art / New York, NY


Hilary’s talk (the first of three 15 minute sessions), albeit short and fast paced was delivered with no dull moments.

Hilary spoke about the recent rebrand and re-location of the Whitney Museum of American Art and how design is a big part of how visitors perceive and interact with the museum.

Rodney Abbot / Senior Partner, Lippincott / New York, NY


Lippincott is a firm synonymous with some great brands and brand experiences in recent times. Rodney Abbott gave us a behind the scenes look at the recent rebrand of Southwestern Airlines. Lippincott used their design process to discover and highlight the warm connection that travellers associate with the airline.

Words of branding wisdom: People should think that you have their best interest at heart too, not only business.

Larry Pipitone, Eric Collins, Joey Ellis / Partners and Creative Directors, Grand Army / New York, NY


Three guys right out of university lock themselves up in their apartment through the winter, devise a portfolio of work fit for a well-established design firm and put it out here. Faking their success even before it came.

Rule 1: Fake it till you make it.

Rule 2: Do stuff you care about for stuff you care about.

Rule 3: Don’t have a style.

Christine Taylor / Licensing Creative Account Manager, Hallmark / Kansas City, MO


Christine took us through one hell of a ride through the geeky side of Hallmark, a brand we have often associated with their traditional greeting cards. Over the years, Hallmark has changed the way they interact with people and in turn, changing the way people interact with each other.

Mainly talking about the Star Wars range at Hallmark, Christine (a proud trekkie herself) explained how references from popular culture are incorporated into the Hallmark brand and manage to find their own place in it.

Interesting fact: A whole word of fake-logos have made it into popular culture and have taken a life of their own out of context. Examples include The Dharma Initiative, Los Pollos Hermanos, Cyberdyne Systems and many more.

Fredrik Öst, Magnus Berg / Founder & Creative Director, Founder & Design Director, Snask / Stockholm, Sweden


I am at a loss for words when it comes to Snask. Quirky, cool, unpredictable and awkward are just some words that come to mind.

Apart from a look into their very fun studio life, Fredrik and Magnus took us through the awesome Snask hands-on process where they create illustrations and environments in 3D.


Day 2:

Johnny Earle aka “Cupcakes” / CEO/Founder, Johnny Cupcakes / Boston, MA


Johnny Cupcakes has been on my design conference bucket list for quite some time now and so watching him speak was something I was looking forward to since the day I learnt about BNC. All I have to say is: WORTH IT!

Johnny took us through a biographical journey of his life of being somewhat of a hustler at school with his various mini business ventures to being able to sell t-shirts in a million creative ways for a living.

If you don’t know how it works, Johnny own shops that smell like bakeries, look like bakeries and are decorated like bakeries (you even walk out with packaging that looks like it's from a bakery!), the only minor fact that he forgets to mention outside the store: it’s a t-shirt shop!

4 main lessons I learnt from Johnny Cupcakes:

  • People thrive off off new experiences!
  • No matter what type of job you're in, creative thinking should be applied.
  • Anytime you start a new project, always ask yourself what are the 12+ things that make you unique.
  • Meet new people, you never know who you are sitting next to.

Gabor Schreier / Executive Creative Director, Saffron Brand Consultants / Madrid, Spain


What is disruption and how can we disrupt irrelevant experiences and processes to create new ones?

Schreier explained that “somewhere in the middle of authenticity and relevance is where brand actually happens.” He also showed some great examples of Saffron’s work, notably the identity and strategy for Tuenti, a young Spanish telco.

Julia Hoffmann / Global Creative Director, Etsy / Berlin, Germany

julia hoffmann etsy

Etsy, like Airbnb is another well-loved online brand, simply because of the sense of community it creates through its platform.

“A brand is not living in in a vacuum, it's constantly evolving and developing and growing up” says Julia. This is exactly what we saw in her talk: the exciting evolution of the Etsy brand, not only online but also through offline community experiences.

Important lesson: “Having fun is a great litmus test for the creative.”

Brett Wickens / Partner, Ammunition / San Francisco, CA


“Design is not an event…You are not there to do a little thing, you are there to do THE thing."

Brett took us through the work of Ammunition through projects such as the Obi World phone. He explained that as designers, we are here to create meaningful experiences that matter. He also echoed Paula Scher’s point of design being an empty vessel that fills up with meaning over time through interactive experiences.

Emily Oberman / Partner, Pentagram / New York, NY


When a designer is enthusiastic and passionate about the work that they have done, you can decipher it in the way the will explain the work and its process to you.

Emily is the bursting ball of energy behind the opening title sequences of Saturday Night Live! for 19 years (as well as a new coffee table book).

We got candid anecdotes and an exclusive look behind the scenes of some of her iconic work.

Greg Hahn, Ryan Moore / Founder & Creative Director, Creative Director, Gretel / New York, NY


“Striving for a 'signature behavior' for brands. Not just movement for movement’s sake.”

Gretel is the team behind the iconic visual transitions of the Netflix brand, devising the linear ‘flipping through’ movement of the brand moving images. That aside, their work for Centric, a channel targeted at the modern black woman’ is fresh, unique, dynamic and simply brilliant!

Important lesson: Going back to the basics of the form, colour, texture and shape of the brand’s visual assets is essential to creating unique visual experiences.

David Heasty, Stefanie Weigler, Partners / Triboro / Brooklyn, NY


"Our job as designers is to unearth unexpected possibilities."

Simple put, these guys definitely know how to crack the brief, and crack it in unexpected ways.

Triboro is the creative brains behind the NIKE/NYC mark where they took an iconic identity like Nike and answered the brief in an absolutely ingenious way.

Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich / Principal, De Vicq Design / New York, NY


Ever think about typefaces while sitting in a salon chair? Me neither. After Roberto’s talk though, I felt like my haircut might be contributing to type and design history in ways I would have never thought of.

If you walked in mid-way through this talk, you would be really really confused!

Susan Skarsgard / Automotive Identity at General Motors Design, General Motors / Warren, MI

susan skarsgard

Starting off with some brilliant examples of her hand lettering portfolio, Susan quickly moved on to her work at General Motor, where she has worked for the past 15 years. She took us through the design process of some legendary American automotive emblems such as Buick and Cadillac.

Fun fact: “Car lettering is typically elongated so it remains legible when seen on edge”.

Ty Mattson / CEO/CCO, Mattson Creative / Irvine, CA

ty mattson brand new

A perfect end to two days of design and branding, Ty was an absolute surprise for me. I had seen his work previously in various contexts (Breaking Bad posters, hello!) never knowing they were a product of Mattson Creative.

Ty very profoundly called to the audience to look back into their childhood for inspiration from things you used to enjoy and appreciate, reminding us that "it's easy to lose your sense of childlike wonder. It's easy to question if what we're doing matters."

Ty’s body of work is definitely one that I would recommend to check out purely due to the style, detail and variety of projects (I catch myself saying “I wish I would have done that!” with most of them!

Things I learnt from the very charming Ty Mattson:

  • Go back in time.
  • Take time to do self-initiated projects, you never know where they could take you.
  • "Creativity is more a process of recovery than discovery"
  • And most importantly: Don't let somebody else do your dream project.

Apart from the brilliantly put together event overall, some of my highlights included Armin’s summary of the best, worst, interesting and quirky branding and design work of 2015-14, talking about the design and typography scene in Saudi with some folks from Monotype, the very amazing cookies and brownies, the awesome free stuff (!!) and of course getting to meet and network with some awesome people (including Bruno Maag!)

saman sohail

by Saman Sohail

Saman Sohail is a graphic designer, brand strategist and illustrator living and working in Saudi Arabia.

She Instagrams and Tweets at @craponsale


All photos by UnderConsideration – See more here.