Nashville: Brand New Design & Branding Conference
Last month we took some of the team on an inspirational trip to Nashville, Tennessee. After years of hard work we decided it was time to lift up our heads and get some fresh perspectives from fellow creatives. When we heard Brand New was hosting their 7th annual conference in a city I’ve been dying to visit, it was a done deal.
Can I just say that we loooooovvvved so much about this city that we’re going to have to write a whole other post about it. The conference itself was flawless down to the last detail, but what else would we expect from the husband-wife design team Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit co-founders of UnderConsideration?
The Brand New Conference is a two-day event organized by UnderConsideration, focusing on the practice of corporate and brand identity — a direct extension of the popular blog, Brand New. The conference consists of eight sessions each day offering a broad range of points of view with speakers from around the world practicing in different environments, from global consultancies, to in-house groups, to small firms. This will be the conference’s seventh year.
Located at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in the heart of steamy, downtown Nashville, we were greeted with coffee and pastries before heading into the show (and A/C). The conference is known for the hand-crafted design details, and this year’s did not disappoint. The show’s opening act reminded us we were in Music City, USA with a few high-energy tunes from local Slick Joe Fick on bass and sidekick Lain Christian on guitar.
The intro from by Armin and Bryony included all the juicy details on developing the conference brand identity and how they made our name tags (they know their audience). The identity was inspired by the epic rhinestone suits worn by country singers. The elaborate floral and botanical patterns were woven through every part of the conference from the programs (complete with hand-applied rhinestones) to our name tags. Each tag was painstakingly screened, hand-scored and cut from vintage records. The stage decor was handmade and painted in their kitchen and they have video to prove it all. Its obvious they put their whole selves into what they do and are invested in the outcome for the conference goers.
For all you design nerds out there, watch their entire intro here. Their branding process starts at 19:00. Don’t miss their insane ‘trust game’ while they drill and cut the records at 26:25.
It was two long days of inspiring talks from 16 speakers (from local freelancers to the Creative Director of Sesame Workshop) that we can’t possibly detail here. There was so much to love from many of the speakers, but each of us wrote our favorite take away from one speaker.
Luke Stockdale, Founder & Creative Director Sideshow Sign Co.
As the daughter of a sign maker I can attest to the need for high quality signs (my dad worked design and fabrication of electric signs for 30 years from the Carpeteria man to Shell gas stations). I’ve been following Sideshow on Instagram for years–their signs are breathtaking and give modern sensibility to a classic (and sadly lost) artform. The various neighborhoods of the city, not just the honkey tonks on Broadway, are filled with unique and attractive exterior branding. Whether they’re murals, neon, or electric lettering, Nashville is investing in preserving its creative heritage.
Many of the most-instagrammed businesses you see in Nashville (Exhibits: A, B, C, D) are bedecked with one of Sideshow’s original masterpieces. He’s setting out to “make our streetscapes beautiful again” and is starting C.O.S.T. (Church of Sign-tology) to help designer professionals learn how to convert their brand work into effective signage. When building identities, he urges designers to include versioning for screen, paper and also signage. They should share the same DNA, but add necessary adjustments to fit the final application. For example in a neon sign, your complicated, hand-drawn mark isn’t going to translate. You need a simplified version that will work as a mono-line. If you’re lucky enough to have your logo be fabricated into a sign, it could easily be the largest and most expensive application your client will invest in. Make sure a fabricator isn’t going to cut any corners for you!
I found his Aussie no-bullshit commitment to craft and design so inspiring, especially in an industry that is quickly declining. Watch for future collaboration with Lost Type, they are working on a line of sign-ready fonts.
Charles Anderson, Founder and CCO CSA Design
Nashville, oh how you inspired with your soulful food, music and embracing of the arts.
Ben Hulse and Greg Durrell, Partners HULSE & DURRELL
Min Lew, Partner & Creative Director Base Design
I was going to write about Manuel but I actually did not have any notes on him except “Rhinestones galore, I don’t care!” Ha!
Bryce McCloud, Founder Isle of Printing
One of my favorite speakers at BNCONF was Bryce McCloud, founder of Isle of Printing – a Nashville studio that “specialize in making the unusual happen and thrive on giving novelty a place at or above the mundane.” Whether it’s naming a neighborhood before developers do [Pietown: a little crusty on the outside, sweet in the middle] or creating a city-wide conversation through public art, Bryce and his team are making an impact in their community through art + design.
We were lucky enough to get to see some of Isle of Printing’s work in the wild while we were in Nashville. The Pinewood Social Can Wall consists of letterpressed cans that act like pixels in a grand, ever changing mural. I love how the art feels alive, interacts with the patrons of the bar, and acts as a social experiment.
Hand painted signs, giant letterpress murals, laser cut and hand riveted menus, wall art, floor art, door art, + art signs = the most beautiful coffee shop and my favorite place we visited in Nashville, Barista Parlor. Talk about attention to detail! Barista Parlor is a perfect example of the marriage of art + design + commerce. Everything about the shop had intention, from the mural on the wall, to the hand-printed table markers, to the signage out front.
One last thing – Bryce + his team wear matching jumpsuits and it’s pretty much amazing. We need to get jumpsuits.
At the end of it all we were hosted at the Tin Roof around the corner on Music Row. We might have had a little too much fun, but got to meet all of the speakers and our fellow conference goers. We even found the only other two Sacramentans who we now consider friends.
Thank you Nashville and UnderConsideration, you are seriously the best! The only thing that would have made it better would be having our entire team with us (huge thank yous to them for holding down the hive). Maybe next year in NYC?!
Stay tuned for a post on the favorite spots we visited around town!