Yo Santosa: Putting her Branding Experience to Work in Her Entrepreneurial Endeavors

You know how when you see something new and say, “Gee, I had that same idea. I could have done that.” But you didn’t? Most of us say that, but we never act on it. Meet Yo Santosa. When she puts her mind to doing something or filling a niche that hasn’t been filled, she goes for it.

Santosa, who has called Los Angeles home for 13 years, was born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, before emigrating to the U.S. at age 17. She graduated from Art Center College of Design, just four years later. In 2006, she opened her branding agency Ferroconcrete, where she helped her first client, Pinkberry, grow from one store to a global brand with more than 200 stores worldwide.

She’s taken that branding expertise and created her own start-ups in vastly different categories. In 2013, she launched Commodity, a fragrance company with a mission to make fragrance personal (it has been featured in GQ, Fast Co., Esquire and W Magazine), and in September 2014, she founded and published the first issue of LA Downtowner, a cultural publication for Los Angelinos looking for fun, food, and fashion.

Here Santosa talks about her entrepreneurial drive and the realities of wearing so many hats at once.

What is the meaning behind the name of your agency? 

Ferroconcrete is another term for reinforced concrete, which enabled the building of bridges and multiple-story buildings. It’s a metaphor for building brands into skyscrapers. But that’s the long answer. The short one; simply, I love concrete. Read the rest of the interview here.

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On the Road with Aaron Draplin

Aaron Draplin needs no fancy introduction in this part of the logo hemisphere. He has rocked the design world in the last year, surprising even skeptics, with his bestselling book Pretty Much Everything, which details his work and reveals much about himself–the man behind the big beard.

As a judge for this year’s LogoLounge competition, we wanted to catch up with him and get the highs and lows of his whirlwind book tour last fall, in which he visited 24 cities in seven weeks. And he’s going to do it all over this spring.

Give me a little background on this whirlwind tour … was it all for the book?

For the book…and for SURVIVAL. Well, mainly the book. Do graphic designers go on book tours? They do now. I wanted to take the whole story of the book to the people. I mean, why not? The book wasn’t supposed to happen in the first place, so why not tack on a 34-show, 7-week tour to the whole mess? And we did it, and, pulled it off with flying colors. All in an orange van. So proud of the whole thing.

When did you find time to actually work?

I didn’t have a lot of projects going on the tour. That freed up my nights. But when things popped up, I’d just work late in the hotel room. Or get up early and do a morning shift before we got rolling. Wherever you can find the time, you know? Might be at lunch, with my laptop open in some restaurant, suckin’ off their Wi-Fi to send a file.

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

Debbie Millman: Design Matters & Beyond

Debbie Millman might be the nicest person in the profession. That’s not just my opinion—that’s a fact. I’ve heard that sentiment from many people over the years, and I’ve experienced her generosity firsthand. But don’t let that fool you. She’s no pushover. She’s a vocal proponent of using design and branding to create awareness and action for social causes she believes in. She doesn’t just sit on the sidelines observing the world, Millman gets involved and incites action in others. She’s a leader and a fighter.

Whether she’s teaching branding in the graduate program at School of Visual Arts that she cofounded in 2009 with Steven Heller, or interviewing someone for her popular Design Matters podcast, or fulfilling her dual roles as creative director/editorial director at PRINT magazine, she is immersed in the design community, speaking at events all over the world, and serving as an active board member of several organizations. She has also written six books, with more in the works. Her work clearly fuels her soul.

Millman recently left Sterling Brands, where she served as president of the design division for 20 years, working for some of the world’s largest brands. Here we talk to her about her career in branding, the surprise success of her podcast, and what’s next for this adventurous lady.

As someone who’s been immersed in branding for more than 20 years, how have your perceptions changed over the years about brand expectations and limits?

I find the role of branding now incredibly, incredibly exciting. I think that the ultimate goal of the discipline of branding is to reflect the culture in which the brand or the product or the company participates, which evokes a unique composition of sensory perceptions, which in turn create brand tribes. The extension of any one of these sensory perceptions impacts the way we think and act—and the way we perceive the brand or the product or the company. When these perceptions change, people change. I also think movements such as Black Lives Matter, is one of the most important movements to enter our cultural discourse in a long time. Design has finally become democratized, and these efforts are not about anything commercial. They have not been created for any financial benefit. Read the full interview here.

John Fluevog: Designing Unique Soles for More than Four Decades

John Fluevog has been crafting high quality, funky shoes for more than 46 years, yet he’s not a household name like Jimmy Choo, Jessica Simpson, or Steve Madden. Mainly because his shoes are not sold in department stores, and the designs are bizarrely unconventional. Let’s just say, when you wear a pair of Fluevogs, expect to get noticed. People either love them or they don’t know what to think of them, which is precisely what Mr. Fluevog has intended.

He’s kind of like the Tim Burton of the shoe design world. Like Burton’s films, Fluevog’s designs are colorful, over the top, and decidedly offbeat. He’ll never fit in, but that’s perfectly fine with him. It’s all part of his brand strategy. Fluevog has been creating “unique soles for unique souls” since 1970. The shoes aren’t just showstoppers though, they’re designed to last many, many years, constructed with high quality, eco-friendly materials. He lives his motto, “good soles leave small prints,” by specifying vegetable tanned leathers and water-based glues.

Fluevog’s mission is to bring his customers along for the fun and quirky ride. The Fluevog community, called “Flummunity,” encourages customers to submit shoe designs and create ads that reflect their own sentiments about the brand. There’s even a “Fluemarket” for buying and selling used Fluevogs. This brand strategy of involving his customers has paid off handsomely, as “Fluevogers” are repeat customers and tend to evangelize the brand mission. Every point of contact with the brand has been carefully curated from the online shopping experience, to the delivery of your product in a beautiful blue box, containing a custom shoe horn, Fluevog stickers, and sometimes a personal note from the person who shipped the shoes.

Here we talk to Fluevog about his brand’s unusual heritage, his inspirations, and staying ahead of design trends.

Did you have any training as a shoe designer?

I have been self-taught. I did not even take art in high school. In fact, I’m not sure I ever graduated from high school. I have never taken a shoe making course nor an art or design course, and have never done any post-secondary training. Art was not encouraged in my family. Music yes, art no. Read the interview here.

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Matteo Bologna: Pushing the Limits of Typography

As a young, horny man living in his mother’s house in Milan, Italy, Matteo Bologna taught himself how to design type while on the phone with an annoying girlfriend. While she talked and complained and cried for hours on end, he toyed with the seductive curves and shapes of letterforms on his computer, and eventually broke up with the girl. He found typography to be much sexier. Besides, her pasta would never be as good as his mama’s.

Young Matteo’s love of typography only intensified when he started receiving The Type Director’s Club (TCD) annuals filled with designs by Louise Fili, Paula Scher, Seymour Chwast, and Charles S. Anderson. He copied and cajoled their work, and knew the only chance he had to really break into design was to move to New York City, which he did in 1994. Shortly thereafter, he formed Mucca and he landed a big break, designing the brand for a new French brasserie, Balthazar, which quickly became famous for its delectable breads, pastries, and pommes frites. The design community also took notice of Matteo for his exquisite handling of the restaurant’s identity. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here we talk to Matteo about the power of type in design and the ways in which he pushes it. Read the interview here.

Marty Neumeier on the Transformative Branding Industry

You could call him the boss of brand thinking, with six notable books on the subject and more than 45 years of experience in the design field, or you could just call him Marty—which is what he likely prefers. Branding is under his skin, part of his DNA, and it’s something he constantly thinks about, and rethinks, as consumer habits change.

How did an Art Center drop out become such an enigma in the world of brand positioning and strategy? Well, as you’ll learn here, through hard work, intuition, and failure. Seven years ago he sold his brand design think tank, Neutron to Liquid Agency, where he serves as the Director of Transformation. In this role he helps companies transform themselves through brand strategy.

Neumeier recently updated his bestselling book, The Brand Gap, and retitled it The Brand Flip to account for all the changes that have happened in the past 13 years since the book was released. But he believes the core ideas he communicated in the original still hold true, as he explains below.

How did you become such an expert on Branding?

I’ve been thinking about branding since design school at Art Center. I love the aesthetics part, but surely it’s not important to anybody unless it connects with a business result. It took me a long time to connect the dots and the role for designers to be strategic thinkers.

Back in 1970, a booklet came out called Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, and it was a little orange booklet you could stick in your pocket. I read it, and was like, “Oh wow, this is what we have to do.” It’s better than all that advertising stuff that had come before. This is solid, logical stuff. I started thinking about the designer’s role in creating a position for a company vs. the competition. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to sell that to clients. I’d say, “I know what you’re trying to do, and this is who you want to be. You need to make some changes, and this is how I can help you.” That was the start of my branding career, but it was a long-time coming. Read the rest of the interview here.