The primary purpose of this work was to define the ideology and image of Design Made within the context of the design profession and communications practice. This was a self-promotion initiative to present select work of the company (Design Made) for both marketing purposes and to introduce the practice and ideology to a general audience interested in design. The requirement was for a physical printed matter that would showcase select work, introduce the practice, and define their unique perspective. The product had a limited budget of $10,000. The brief specifically stated not to assume the monograph format. This was to be the first publication of the work of the office available to the public.
Solution & Cultural Context:
The most challenging of design exercises is that of one’s own work. One is challenged to be objective toward products that are very personal and often complex from the perspective of the author. Our team decided to approach the project through parallel research efforts—one was focused internally and asked the questions about who the organization was beyond the specificity of the projects; and the second was to engage outside partners in a dialogue on how they perceived the organization—people who had worked with the organization on projects but who did not reside within our offices on a regular basis. We also made the effort to the treat this publication as a unique project unto itself and not consider it as a portfolio of the practice.
The information gathered from the internal-external research revealed that the practice, now in its seventh year, was still very much in the process of forming its identity. The office has a strict visual formalism but individual projects and solutions cover a broad array of activities and products—from service choreography blueprints that defined new service relationships, to visual identity communication solutions, to buildings. We decided to focus on communicating the affect of the office and provide a range of insights into how we think and work; paying special attention to the artistic dimension of the process.
Drawing influence from high quality lifestyle publications, we developed the concept of an annual bookzine—a hybrid art book and magazine. The format takes a curatorial perspective on the work from the perspective and narration of Brock Danner, the founder and Chief Designer of Design Made. Each issue begins with an introduction by Brock in the manner of magazine editors. Brock’s narration provides a consistent voice across the range of work offering personal reflection and insight into the process from idea to final product.
From its origins, Design Made, approached design with a strict minimalist approach and a heavy influence from luxury design, but the variety of commissioned projects offered a broader array of styles and design sensibilities. The office maintained their discipline, but as a young practice being offered opportunities on projects for large organizations they were not always able to maintain their influence through to the final product. They had tried to focus their marketing on the process and preliminary, or prototype designs, but found it limited their experience to the conceptual phases. They wanted to speak to their ability to manage projects through to realization, often with a high attention to detail and manufacturing processes, even if designs had undergone adjustment beyond their control.
The design solution for the Design Made book approaches their body of work, and each project, with a strong editorial that simplifies often complex projects into a series of key visualizations. We acted as cinematographers, building a story through sequences of images and heavy framing; in cinematic terms we used wide shots, close-ups, and isolated shots.
We also knew that readers of the book were less inclined to actually read, so the text often does not support adjacent visuals, rather it narrates a dimension not easily grasped through the images. Again taking influence from cinema and the director commentaries that used to be common on DVDs, the text offers behind-the-scenes commentary that overlays the visual sequences.