Nashville: Brand New Design & Branding Conference

October 22, 2016

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.

As I scoured through 15 pages of notes from the BN Conference, I realized that each page and each speaker provided me with at least one aha takeaway. Takeaways that I believe are currently transforming Honey Agency. One of my favorite speakers was Charles Anderson from CSA Design. I felt like his entire talk he was sitting with me at a dining room table and mentoring me. He reminded me that we must LOVE the products or services our clients provide, if we don’t it’s not going to be a fruitful relationship. He also shared how the best clients are not found, but made. There must be trust and a beautiful long dance (my words).  


Ben Hulse and Greg DurrellPartners HULSE & DURRELL 

Although there were many amazing speakers that deeply resonated with me, it was Ben and Greg that most impressed me. The two were tasked with creating brand standards for all past Olympic Games. It was a monumental undertaking with more than a century of games to assess. It must have been amazing and deeply humbling to dig through the Olympic Committee’s vast collection of memorabilia and merchandise. They worked with collectors and enthusiasts to gather multiple copies of every item so that they could thoughtfully compare every detail from color (many had changed with age), to authenticity (with some items being poorly recreated in later years).
Why I was so impressed was their commitment to integrity. They could have half-assed it. They could have picked a color that was close (but not exact), or used someone else’s rendering of the logo (they went back and vectorized every one themselves). They could have taken a shorter path probably for the same amount of money, but they didn’t. It may have been for the client, or to pacify their own OCD tendencies, but maybe it was for the pureness of graphic design. That’s what I want to believe. Their diligent process pays tribute to the works of so many past Olympic Games designers, and I can respect that. Read more about the project here.


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!

I found myself really connecting to much of what Min Lew shared in her talk. Min, creative director at Base Design shared a lot of helpful tips + tricks in her years of experience. She spoke about how we shouldn’t let our job descriptions hold us back – which for me has been an ongoing challenge. Personally, I have always been on the marketing and project management side of the process, but have strong feelings about design and creative. I’m still learning to find that confidence and know that there is a space for my perspective. She called it The Inclusion Method and it really resonated with me. Everyone should feel like they can be involved and feel confident that their point of view is important.
She also shared her approach to meetings which I totally loved and I am inspired to adopt a variation of this. She kicks off her meetings by asking her attendees to answer or think about the following questions:
1. What is my energy today?
2. What are my expectations for this meeting?
3. What will I contribute to this meeting?
Its her belief that meetings should be 20% talking and 80% listening to your client and their needs. And the objective of the kick off meeting? Crystalize the mission!


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!