Design & Branding: Homework

This Sunday night, the Essay Club will take on the topics of design, branding, and visual identity. (And, since it’s Cinco de Mayo, we’ll also be drinking margaritas.) Our moderator will be Rob Giampietro, principal at Project Projects, a New York-based design studio that is known for its innovative work with clients in art and architecture. Rob has also been a thesis advisor for MFA Graphic Design at RISD since 2006 and taught the first-ever masters in branding program at SVA in 2011. Here's the (very worth reading) syllabus.

Rob has put together a collection of essays that gives an overview of the topic (plus video lectures for extra credit!). He's also suggested some questions to keep in mind as you are going through them. Happy reading!


Adam Arvidsson, The Logic of the Brand

While it might be a little dry in places, it's worth the effort: Arvidsson's is as compact a summary as there is about the over-arching critical and historical debates that have shaped the field.

Michael Bierut, Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport

Bierut's article picks up where Arvidsson's leaves off. We can talk about the role of branding, but what about that of a brand’s audience? This article lays out one designer's path through that debate.


Wally Olins, The Nation and the Brand and the Nation as a Brand

A four-part lecture from one of the major brand makers of our time. If you want to understand the fundamentals, Olins breaks them down like no one else.

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

Questions for discussion

How would you define "branding?”

Did branding exist more than 100 years ago? Why or why not?

How do economic shifts shape brand messages?

How do market sectors like fast-moving consumer goods, durable goods, and services shape brand messages?

What kind of disciplines and services factor into the practice of branding?

A big aspect of visual identities is the production of marks or logos — do these all work the same way? What are the differences?

Is identity fixed, fluid, or both? How does this manifest itself in the production of visual identities?

What is the value of a brand? How might we compare it to a more tangible asset?

If branding is part of group formation, can we consider its objectives and outcomes fundamentally political, participatory, or both? How so?

Learn more about the Essay Club and how it came about here.