Corporate Identity and Design to Define a Brand with Michael Bierut, Pentagram

The Strategy Sphere podcast — brought to you by Intapp — features interviews with leading experts in academia, innovation, and business. Our hosts are Lavinia Calvert, who leads the global marketing and business development solutions business at Intapp, and Deborah Farone, a marketing strategy consultant and author. In each episode, Calvert and Farone explore today’s world of professional services marketing, leadership, innovation, and education.

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In this episode,Calvert and Farone spoke with Michael Bierut, who has designed a variety of recognizable logos for Saks Fifth Avenue, The New York Times, presidential campaigns, and more.

As a partner at Pentagram, and an award-winning graphic designer and design critic, Bierut often describes corporate identity as “a suit of sorts” that expresses the true character of the “wearer” or company. Some companies need a “uniform” — a safe, professional look — and others want to stand out with a more distinctive style of brand representation.

As Bierut pointed out, a strong brand aesthetic isn’t enough. “The best visual presentation of a brand in the world can’t save an unsalvageable organization, company, or institution,” he said. “Conversely, if an organization brings value to the marketplace that its audiences love and embrace, consumers will accept even a crummy and disorganized visual presentation and feel some affection for it.”

Bierut went on to describe how he and other designers build trust, and spoke about how to work within a professional services firm to build excitement around design concepts. He suggests positioning each idea from a unique point of view, and collecting creative ideas from firm representatives. Bierut also shed light his own creative process and the books and artists that have inspired him along the way.

Bierut provided a number of great takeaways during the discussion, including:

  • A good visual system takes into consideration not only great art and clear design, but also how the system will be applied at various touchpoints. The Saks logo, for example, can be used on awnings, credit cards, shopping bags, and countless other applications.
  • Just about any object can inspire creativity; it’s just a matter of keeping an open mind and welcoming new ideas.
  • Instead of telling people that design needs to be consistent, show them an example of something that truly reflects their personality and excites them. The consistency discussion can follow later on.

Featured Guest

Michael Bierut

Partner and Senior Critic in Graphic Design

Pentagram Design and Yale School of Art

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