have to say from a stakeholder point of view, and then we suggest that we
become a part of a team that can actually go through the process. That may
be a day’s events or maybe a 3-day event that they’re holding with one of
their customers, and we’re sort of a fly on the wall participant, just listening.
We get a first-hand understanding of what they’re attempting to achieve in
those sessions, and then ultimately build a program and design that supports
KJ: And sometimes the way that they’re conducting business with their
customers and observations of consumers happens as a workaround
because the nature of their facility isn’t ideal. They’ve created their own way
of doing stuff just to help them get by with what they’ve got. We try to say,
“If you had anything what would be your ideal way of doing business?” and
then we work backwards to see which of the workarounds were actually golden
nuggets we need to keep and which things we can scrap to make them
more efficient in accomplishing what they’re trying to accomplish.
I&S: What are some common mistakes that you have seen in other
attempts to brand a space?
KC: A lot of people believe their logo is their brand, so you see it used over
and over, or you see the color palette that represents their standards for
communication, those kinds of things. We don’t believe that’s true. It’s what
we call a smashable element of the brand, those things that move within a
brand vocabulary that can be used, but many times it’s the only thing that’s
We’re very fortunate to be able to work closely with our interior design
groups and our architects so when we see that happening we can push
against it and say, “Listen, let’s think about this a little harder. Let’s really try
to integrate everything together in a holistic manner that tells a story.”
I&S: You call it a smashable element?
KC: Yeah, we call them smashable brand elements. So if you think of Coca-Cola for instance, their name word, Coca-Cola, is actually a smashable element.
You can take the swoosh off of the bottom of it and put it somewhere and
still know it’s Coca-Cola. Look at that profile on their bottle. It’s used all over
their merchandising and their advertising and you know it’s Coca-Cola. It’s
a smashable element. It’s not just a logo, it’s not just their name, it’s the fact
that it’s recognized for what it is.
I&S: What are some smashable elements that you were able to pull
apart and apply in interesting ways?
KC: At [a subsidiary of Koch Industries], for instance, there’s a series of
icons that they use in the testing and development of their products that we
brought into their public space to help tell the story of what they’re doing.
Otherwise they may have been held behind the scenes, and no one would
have seen that kind of stuff.
Other times smashable elements sometimes are just sort of attitude and
people and personality: the way they talk about themselves, the type of work
that they do, the mechanics of some of the things that they do.
[The infant and toddler product manufacturer] is really interesting. The
way they design products is a little bit old school. They still use big, thick
design markers and things like that. I mean, they’re industrial designers, you
know? They love to draw! We actually utilized the movement of the marker
across the page, the gestural qualities of the line work, to influence the overall design of the space itself. So you’ll see very fluid lines that create space
and an overlay of those lines to create dimension in those spaces.
When someone’s walking a new designer through and they say, “Wow, I
really like this space. I’d love to work here. What is it about it that makes it so
cool?” And then they can say, “Well, the fact is we designed it to represent
the way we work.” It’s an artistic impression of what that is. Now that’s a
smashable element that has a story.
I&S: Is there a piece of advice that you would give to a designer who
is maybe trying to think more in this way?
KC: For a young designer, I would say don’t let the computer design for you.
You have to know how to build emotion in everything that you do. If you
put a line down on the paper it has to mean something. If you put a color
down on a logo, it has to represent something. If you design a space using
a specific shape or material it has to refer back to something—history, or
the future, or a vision, or whatever—but we don’t just design to design. We
design to tell stories.