San Antonio Ranger

From my presentation in San Antonio a the end of last month, the following appeared in the San Antonio Ranger

Comfort in brands

By: Adriana F. De Leon

Posted: 11/9/07

Brands affect trillions of choices made by billions of consumers each day worldwide based on how a company presents a brand to the public.

Professor Alex Bitterman of the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology lectured about the roles of artists and designers in a branded world to a crowded room of students Oct. 25 in the visual arts center.

“When we think of branding, or brand, we think of consumer products. We see brands that are definitely on our clothing.

‘We see brands on the food we eat. We see brands on the products we choose to buy,” he said.

Brands are in plain view everywhere and have become a part of our lives.

“Over the last 30 years, we developed an emotional attachment with brands much in the same way that we are attached to our friends and to our family,” he said.

For example, Nike is hip, cool and our athletic friend, he said.

Another popular brand is Starbucks; people can locate them easily because the

company has multiple locations.

People can have a popular brand, but people also can dislike brands.

“We’re jealous of them (brands). We’re angry at them because we can’t afford them,” he said.

“So, what makes a brand?” he said.

As an artist, the thinking process is visual, but it is now becoming perceptual because brands can express different meanings to different people. Brands speak to the public without saying a word.

“You can look up at me and know ‘wow, he’s a Mac user, so he thinks more like me than if you were a PC or a Dell user.’ You can read societal cues from me, read social cues from me, without ever having to speak with me,” he said.

It is important for designers and artists to understand how their work fits in with a group of marketers, advertisers and other professionals who produce brands.

The artist has a responsibility to communicate with people and provide accurate information, he said.

“There is also a market emotional connection to the brand.”

When dealing with a healthcare company, an artist must envision how to advertise a specific medication that will provide the medical needs for the patient.

The traditional concept of brands such as bright colors on logos becomes secondary and information design becomes primary because a human being’s health is on the line. “It is our key responsibility to communicate clearly and effectively,” he said.

If Crest brand were to discontinue their product, the world would not end; however, if someone consumes the wrong medicine this could result in a significant problem, he said.

The artist needs to stop and think about the design process when working with a company producing life and death products.

“As you’re working to design brands, think about what they mean, but also what they will provide to the people that are using them,” he said.

Part of the job includes talking to the public and researching information related to the project, he said.

“Find out: Are there logos that look like this logo? Are there identities that look like this brand?” he said.

The best way for a designer to learn is to write the idea on paper and display it for others to see and ask for feedback by the public.

“Ask a thousand people that you know. Find out without saying anything, what does this say to you? What does this communicate to you?”

The feedback will cause the designer to return to the drawing board more than once to produce a more valuable design.

Graphic design sophomore James Jenkings said this opened his eyes because he never thought about how a brand could affect a person.

Professor Marleen Hoover said the presentation was “excellent.”

Bitterman presented challenging thoughts and focused on the responsibilities of a designer, she said.

As brands are changing, the roles of artists and designers must change, but the most important thing to remember is to be ethical, responsible and listen to the public.

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