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How has your upbringing in Iowa affected your outlook of the world and how you design? My dad always encouraged me to do art projects, like making plaster sandcastle molds or my own Christmas tree ornaments, instilling a love of art and crafts in me from a very early age. I was interested in all things handmade and artistic, from drawing to ceramics to watercolor. Ballet was also a big part of my life. I spent hundreds of hours practicing and performing. From that came photography. Interested in combining the things I was doing, I photographed the ballerinas in my studio and made silkscreen prints from the photographs. One of my earliest graphic design projects was the cover for one of our yearly dance programs.

When I graduated from high school, my dream was to continue studying to become a ballerina. But, that is like one in a million. So, I went from dreaming of being a ballerina to wanting to be a set designer to wanting to be a painter to exploring typography at the Kansas City Art Institute. My love of art and the hours of ballet helped instill a strong sense of discipline in me and a belief that I can merge the things I love into a career.

You’ve worked on some of the world’s most iconic logos, like the Starbucks logo. What role does the logo play today? Logos are extremely important. A logo provides a shorthand window into the personality and nature of a company, helping today’s consumers efficiently navigate the marketplace of dizzying choices. Names are also important. For example, at Lippincott, we look at how words make our mouths feel, which cues our brains to visualize certain shapes. A name and a logo have to work together to express what a company stands for in a single impression.

But, as the entity of a brand undergoes a paradigm shift, it’s no longer just a mark. It’s not even just a voice. It’s an intelligent entity, a personality, an algorithm capable of learning. Today, brands can be purely artificial intelligence. What we are trying to figure out now is how to create logos and intelligent design that match today’s brand entities.

As the entity of a brand undergoes a paradigm shift, it’s no longer just a mark. It’s not even just a voice. It’s an intelligent entity, a personality, an algorithm capable of learning.”
 
How are brands adapting to the customer of the future? Last year, Lippincott analyzed a database of pioneering businesses that are already predicting how we’ll live our future lives, like Etsy, Lyft and Roam. We also surveyed thousands of “leading-edge” American consumers. We found that 80 percent of these consumers are excited about changes in technology, and 64 percent expect that in ten years, the world will be better than it is today. We named the manifestation of this research Dawn, our customer of the future.

We started to think about what Dawn is like and how we are going to communicate with people like Dawn. I have a nephew, and I like to think about him in the role of Dawn because he isn’t afraid of putting his data out there and being connected. He isn’t afraid of thinking about transparency in a way that might be less comfortable for older people.

The reality is that many smart technologies today, like Alexa and the Echo, are the interface between you and the data collective. These technologies are becoming brands. Customers of the future also believe in companies that are doing good—they want purpose rather than just the products themselves.

What emergent technology or platform should designers start taking advantage of? We are hearing a lot about voice technology and how brands can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) for voice activations and brand campaigns. Lippincott’s parent company Oliver Wyman’s newly launched innovation lab has done a phenomenal job helping our team and clients take advantage of voice technology. For example, we’ve been working jointly with Oliver Wyman to design a completely digital bank for a well-known UK brand. Personal finances are often a stressful, challenging aspect of people’s lives, so as a part of this new experience, we’ve created a personal digital assistant that can help empower customers to feel good about their money.

Voice is a huge opportunity, but it’s also a nuanced challenge. It brings up questions like: How much “personality” should the voice have? How can it be advisory but discreet when necessary? And, of course, how can we optimize the technology across platforms? These are all points we’re constantly testing and honing through our iterative sprints.

What does a designer need in her toolkit today? An understanding of the marriage of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). Historically, one went to school and got a degree to become a graphic designer. Now, the focus is on understanding what new types of experiences designers can develop, and marrying that with the visuals they can create. A good example of this is fusing the sound of the brand’s voice with the visuals.

What recent news stories have caught your eye as a designer? A few months ago, I was a judge at Cannes Lions. The work that stood out was rooted in cause and purpose. An example that comes to mind is Nike’s EQUALITY campaign to vote “yes” on marriage equality. We also saw a ton of work educating people on the complexities of gun violence. Brands today are taking a stance, and this era of branding is the next step in making our world a better place.

What’s one piece of advice you give to new hires at Lippincott? People in this industry are no different than those in any other industry; like writer Malcolm Gladwell says, it takes at least 10,000 hours to become great at something. Get ready to put in the hours.

Connie Birdsall leads the design practice at Lippincott and is a member of the Lippincott management team. Her experience encompasses more than 20 years of directing and designing global corporate and brand identities, marketing communications, information design, and launch and implementation programs, as well as developing the tools and processes for successful brand management. Birdsall has directed programs for AT&T, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, eBay and many more. She has held positions on the national board of AIGA, and she served on the AIGA NY board of directors as secretary/treasurer. She is also a member of the Design Management Institute. AIGA, Communication Arts and Graphis have all cited her work for excellence. The program she worked on for Continental Airlines was featured by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in its exhibition Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture, and she also won international design awards for her work with IBM. She holds a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art.

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