Responses by Philippe Dionne Bussières, graphic designer
Background: From the Catskill Mountains in the state of New York, Den is a brand born from a DIY spirit, offering architectural plans and ready-to-assemble cabin kits meant to ease the path towards building an affordable and beautiful cabin. With little to zero experience required, it is essentially geared towards anyone wanting to engage in the creation of their own dens in nature.
Reasoning: The goal, from the naming to designing the brand identity, was to simply reflect the distinctive essence of the product and the vision of the founders. Together with a down-to-earth approach, we built a brand that speaks with bold self-assurance, thoughtfully considered space and spirited visuals.
Challenges: Working with a start-up brings interesting challenges. What you put out into the world probably won’t be perfectly solved and complete at first, as opposed to fully-fledged systems typically designed for bigger companies. While it may be difficult to keep a constant eye on the bigger picture as it evolves, it’s also very exciting to know the identity is not finished; it is simply in progress. It is still being built and made better with every new iteration and direct feedback from the customers.
Favorite details: I pride myself on the decision to collaborate with Florence Rivest for the illustrations, even though—let’s admit it—the end result is mostly her own magic. The endearing and simple ideas she had all brought warmth and depth to the brand vocabulary. I’m also quite happy with how I documented the project with photography—with some photos taken by Brandon Schulman. I seized the opportunity brought by a sunny fall afternoon in Berlin, and ended up strolling through the park, snapping photos of the different pieces, almost as if I was bird watching. It felt really satisfying and appropriate, considering the core purpose of the brand, which is to get closer to nature.
Visual influences: True story: the main inspiration behind the whole design system is my dad’s home repair manual from the ’70s, Manuel complet du bricolage de Sélection du Reader's Digest, which came out in 1975. It is modest, but confident and full of character, with its pragmatic layouts, rich colors and an overall sense of clarity. Sculpted from a quintessentially architectural, modernist typeface, Futura, extra bold, the sturdy wordmark plays into well-established codes while also showing distinct gestures representing the DIY brand ethos. As Armin Vit from Brand New best put it, “it’s as if The Flintstones and Dwell magazine had a baby.”
Specific demands: Mike Romanowicz, one of the co-founders, initially came with this interesting packaging idea: a kit of A-frame cabin plans, packaged into an A-frame shaped, triangular box. Quite literal, but rather striking and playful, the packaging was a charming miniature version of the end result. It was interesting to work with this unusual volume and find the right balance between functionality and shelf appeal.