Design guru talks to students, faculty about future of logos

Thursday at the Otto M. Budig Theater, faculty and students, mostly design majors, gathered to listen to renowned designer Andy Keene speak about logo and design, his true expertise.

Andy Keene is a known leader in the branding and design world. He’s worked for major companies and designed for major corporate brands such as Coca-Cola. He has worked both locally and internationally serving as the creative director for the Hong Kong offices of Landor Associates, one of the world’s most highly respected branding consultancies.

“[He brings] a worldly view on design and advertising,” said Makayla Schultz, co-president of the Design Guild and one of the organizers of the event.

Keene brought that international expertise and worldly view to his intriguing speech, Is Logo Dead?

“Logos are an ever changing things,” Keene said, “We [designers] are craftsman, but at the same time thinkers.”

Identity, Keene explained, is what logo is about. With changing times, the ideas of logo and branding change. More than anything the ideas that a designer comes up with for identity logo’s and branding projects comes from experience.

“Everything shapes us, which in turn shapes our design perspectives,” Keene said.

What shaped Keene were his travels. He grew up in Illinois, then went on to live in Chicago, San Francisco, and Hong Kong. Each place gave him new inspiration and showed him new ideas to design, so that while technology was changing the way logo and branding worked, he could keep up with it.

Bombarded with branding is what Keene says today’s world is like. He compared what we all see every day on billboards and internet ads as looking at “a pile of magazines” all jumbled together. Not only are we bombarded with well-known symbols like, the Coca-Cola logo, but with abstract symbols that can be manipulated, like the USA Today circle that is changed page to page.

On the topic of his own work Keene spoke a lot about the Obama campaign logo which he and a partner created. Keene was commissioned to create the logo as a side project while he was working for Landor Associates.

“Obama was unexpected, so his logo should be unexpected as well,” Keene said.

Election year after election year candidates logo’s looked similar, squared like an American flag, red, white and blue colored, and similar types in the logo’s script. So, Keene and his partner created the now recognizable circular symbol. The circle was something new, something different; it took on a life of its own.

A life of its own, meaning other people recreated and changed the logo. Keene says this is something that no designer should take offense to. When you’re image becomes iconic enough that others wish to re-do it you should feel honored to know a simple logo has made such an impact.

Keene went on to explain that a logo should have a visual language, because essentially image and logo transcend conventional ideas of language; you don’t need to speak the same language to understand an iconic image.

Keene’s great experiences and knowledge was clear throughout the entirety of his speech, which closed on some wised advice for the design students in the room. Design is all about context, and you must learn and unlearn or in more simple terms challenge yourself and don’t redo the same things over and over.

“Let it happen naturally,” Keene said in close, giving some simple and wise advice to the designers of the future.