I very rarely use Brand New to publish our own work — specially as a case study as this post will be — but we don’t have anywhere in particular to show the full range of work we did for the 2013 Brand New Conference. Work that we are pretty proud of and feel turned out really good. So you will have to indulge us and, in exchange, we will indulge you by being the target of our own audience’s infamous commentary. To summarize what you are about to see: This is the identity and related materials to our most recent conference designed by me and my partner Bryony for 455 attendees in New York, a few hundred web streamers, and the hundreds of others who have willingly (or not so willingly) followed our process over the last six months. This is an extra long post.
When I did the first draft of the logo I tweeted something along the lines of “the #BNConf identity is going to make people mad”. And it did. I received more than a handful of WTFs by e-mail about it and throughout the comments in the last month as we posted various announcements about the conference people have called it ugly and hideous. And that is perfectly fine. The point of this logo was to be uncomfortable and different (not in a good way). I explained the logo in detail on this page but I will summarize it here through the captions for each image.
Out of spite I used the rich man’s and the connoisseur’s Helvetica: Christian Schwartz’s Neue Haas Grotesk. I hate Helvetica and I hate how it typesets but Christian’s cut is amazing, specially the Display styles. In order to establish some rules, we only used three different sizes throughout all the materials — except for the big posters. For the web we picked an H1 and a P style, and for print we turned the web’s P into an H2 and then introduced a much smaller P.
We wanted to keep it stark and minimal. Black and white. We brought in yellow as an accent color.
After the website which was done back in March, we started working on the program around June. The trick was finding a way to translate the pixel grid unto print. Bryony had the idea of doing a grid die-cut on the cover and sewing the logos on the cover. I looked at her with a “You know you have to do 600 of these?” face but she said she could do it. After a lot of trials and tribulations of getting the cover laser-cut and scored, Bryony, indeed, went on to sew the logo on the cover. Six. Hundred. Times.
The program was printed by Quantum Group in Chicago, IL using Neenah Paper. (Quantum and Neenah were both our presenting sponsors). We used, specifically:
Body: Neenah, CLASSIC CREST®, Avalanche White, Smooth, 80 Text
Jacket: Neenah, ROYAL SUNDANCE®, Eclipse Black, 100 Cover
And here is the result.
I knew trying to replicate the pixel grid on the t-shirt would lead to horrible results so we just went with a huge, thin logo on it and the name of the conference on the sleeve. We did some yellow ones for our volunteers so that they would stand out at the conference. They did. Printed by event sponsor CustomInk on American Apparel tees.
This year we wanted a smaller goodie bag. In the past we’ve done totes and, while cool, feel like a little too much. So we went with a simple paper bag that people would not feel too bad about throwing in the recycling bin and we wouldn’t have spent thousands of dollars in producing. We went with a white paper bag but it was too… white. So after we got the bags printed here in Austin with Industry Printshop we hand-dipped 600 bags in yellow paint to cover the handles. It’s a good thing we have a sizeable backyard for air drying.
In the past three conferences we had used basic, stock lanyards and plastic pouches. Which did their job but were anything but memorable. Inspired by the Brooklyn Beta badges we aimed to do something cooler, even if it meant spending more dollars on it. We purchased some really big sheets of yellow plexiglass and with a local group, MakeATX, that has a laser-cutter we did some tests and ended up with some snazzy badges. The names were printed on labels and adhered to the badge. Black, flat ribbon was put on each badge for the critical job of hanging from a neck.
One way we saw the “value” of the badges was by how many Instagrams of it people took. In the past, no one had taken an Instagram of their badge. So, even if it had a single, one-time use, the badge became, well, a badge of being part of the event.
No offense to the SVA Theatre but they have a fugly, mint green podium that always stands out like a sore thumb. We decided to cover it up this year. I told Bryony we should get wood panels and drill little holes in them to mimic the pixel grid. She said, “let’s just get pegboard”. I said “but the holes will be bigger than pixels and…”. She stopped me and said, “We ARE doing a pegboard.” And it looked great. We painted it yellow and, just like the cover, we “threaded” the logo on it. Bob Gill almost broke the podium but it held together until the last speaker.
This was done close to the last minute and I wish I had both more time to think about it and the software knowledge to play with it. (It requires After Effects to get some animation up there). It was still nice to be able to get some of the animated GIFs for all 23rd street to notice (or ignore in good New York fashion).
This wasn’t the biggest piece of collateral but we liked the end result. In each goodie bag, people got three postcards to sketch, doodle, or quote whatever they enjoyed at the conference. We collected some of them at the end of the conference and posted a selection in this Flickr set.
The SVA Theatre has some nice 3-by-4-foot poster displays in the lobby. We could probably skip the expense of doing these big posters but, hey, it’s big posters, how can you say no?
To leave you with a sweet taste, here is a close-up of custom M&Ms we did in the black, white, and yellow color palette. While this seems like a straightforward piece of collateral we had to do a “reprint” of 20 pounds of M&Ms. We had done a small test of 2 pounds and they looked great so we ordered the full 20 and all the type had gone off center and gotten smushed (which is actually the samples photographed below as we gave out all the good ones) so we called up M&Ms and they were so confused as to what was wrong but they saw our point. We got a fresh and more centered 20-pound-batch from them, and we donated the misaligned 20 pounds to the local Ronald McDonald’s House.
The M&Ms were inscribed with “#bnconf”, “New York 2013”, and “Chicago 2014” to tease next year’s location.
In closing, next year’s conference will be held in beautiful Chicago, IL at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park on September 25 and 26. Pre-sale tickets will be available in January without a speaker listing and early-bird tickets will begin around April or May with speaker listing.