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Please tell us about your background and brand.new. How did you get started in design and interactive design, and how did you learn the skills necessary for your practice? I studied painting and photography at the Athens School of Fine Arts with a preference for conceptual art. My thesis in 2001 involved computer graphics and traditional media, its subject being the relationship between virtual and real worlds. When I was very young, I was introduced to graphic design through my family’s design business. Its position between applied and fine arts was fundamental to what followed for me.

Mostly everything in the digital world fascinated me. I’ve been exploring, learning and utilizing software and techniques used in many disciplines forever. My skills in this are what remain after this endless journey, so there are a few things I can now say I know. I define myself as a designer in a broader role, and in that role, working in teams was my next challenge while I kept all my senses on what is now happening in design. That led me to establish my design firm brand.new in 2013.

brand.new is a space for brand development and visual communication, moving between disciplines and keeping a conceptual approach to every project of any origin. We have no particular expertise besides metabolizing information and strategy into visual communication. The possibilities and capabilities for this are huge, and diversity constantly expands along with experience and projects. Through our nine years, we’ve worked for companies of every range and have won multiple awards.

What inspired the creation of the Collaborative Intelligence for Design (CID), and what would you like to achieve with it? The CID is an initiative for the utilization of AI in design. In January 2021, I noticed the results from DALL-E, an initiative by OpenAI that uses AI to generate realistic images. What I saw blew my mind, and I started questioning our role as designers in this emerging situation. What I started processing was not only how AI may affect design but also if and how designers can work with AI to create a new form of collaboration. The conceptual extent of this approach immediately triggered our agency’s core value. Now, we can design with our words and directly infuse our ideas into AI. Now, we are closer to our true potential.

How does Collaborative Intelligence work? Collaborative Intelligence is the common ground where the interaction between human and artificial intelligence takes place. As most of the approaches focus on what AI may produce, we thought to move a step further. We don’t necessarily take AI results as a final image but instead use it as a medium or even a source of inspiration that can be incorporated into our workflows. We began experimenting with various AI software. The initial results from this guided us to create a first map of possible uses for specific fields, which could be illustration, printing, type design, 3-D design and animation.

Samples of the work Collaborative Intelligence can produce.

These images above were created by a style-transferring process using a single-input image. Variations resulted from changing the prompt. This software is currently available via paid online applications or publicly available code on GitHub. Switching between various software programs of the same discipline is a basic procedure we follow at brand.new. Soon, there will be more to come about CID from our team, covering different aspects of applied arts and visual communications.

What uncharted areas of design are brand.new exploring with the CID and its image production? The main uncharted area that our agency explores is how we can control AI to utilize it in day-to-day workflows. Having AI is not just having another tool; it is a different approach that shifts our understanding of creativity and life. For brand.new, the text prompt creation method is a conceptual, practical and also ethical challenge: There is a lot to be done by designers and artists, not only at forums and conferences but within working environments. Not to mention the regulating framework democracies and economies have to process. There is an impending emergency here, as AI evolves way faster than our understanding of it does.

Having AI is not just having another tool; it is a different approach that shifts our understanding of creativity and life.”

What was the process like to create the typeface Meen? Meen is CID’s first product. It is a typeface designed as an intermediary between two iconic yet vastly different fonts, Helvetica and Comic Sans. AI has been utilized through a style-transferring algorithm process, mostly developed for art style transferring. The outcomes from AI, although far from being a typographic reference, enriched the pool of ideas significantly, giving a plethora of design options for the main design phase. Beginning as a conceptual challenge, we managed to create a typeface system that supports 52 languages and comes in five weights. The unprecedented process and workflow—one of the world’s first typefaces powered by AI—is something we are proud of, besides the fact that we came up with a typeface that looks cool both for titles and text.

What excites you about interactive and digital design right now? What I find fascinating in interactive design is that the user becomes a participant in the storytelling, and the navigation becomes a way toward engagement. Interaction is not whistles and bells; it is a better and more efficient way to understand things. When you knock on a piece of wood and hear the sound, you understand so many things. These milliseconds of enlightenment are interaction.

How do you see AI and machine learning existing within a designer’s toolset in the future? What sorts of opportunities could these provide? In the near future, I believe we will see AI assistants in every piece of software we use. Voice and text commands will be incorporated everywhere. Adobe will probably incorporate an AI assistant in its suite, adding a “fast lane” for operations via text or voice prompts. The opportunities are endless as the distance between the idea, and the final result will be insanely reduced. In that situation, the concept will play a more significant role. Creativity as a whole will never be the same again.

Other than Collaborative Intelligence, what have been some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on? What did you like about them? I particularly like the multiple-awarded Tinos Project, which is about fusing industrial and graphic design. It is a very important project whose process I really enjoyed and qualities I still like.

What is the most exciting work in interactive design that you’ve seen recently? I enjoyed the last update of Switzerland-based type foundry Lineto’s website. There is a sweet spot between aesthetics and information distribution there, and I love the navigation system.

What advice do you have for designers starting out today? Every designer has a story to tell—no advice other than that. My personal preference, though, would be the ones who want to change things, questioning establishments of every kind—being alive, honest and bold. Peace on Earth. ca

Kostas Mentzos is a designer who founded design agency brand.new in 2013. From 1996 to 2001, he attended the Athens School of Fine Arts, where his primary subjects were painting and conceptual art. He has also studied photography, graphic arts and engraving. As an artist, he has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions, including the Greek-American Union’s Glosalgia (“the language matter” in English) exhibition in 2001. With brand.new, he has exhibited at Good Design Greece 2018 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, and has won numerous awards, including Art Director’s Club of Europe, Awwwards, EBGE, European Design Awards, Mindsparkle magazine and the Pentawards. Interviews have been published in IdN and Communication Arts.


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