Our mate, Johan from Brand Brothers fills us in on his discovery of love for Graphic Design, how he started out and his passion for branding (and making it sexy).
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?
I would say quite early but I wasn’t aware of it until my early 20s. I have always loved drawing letters, shapes, building stuff, imagining sceneries but when I was young, I didn’t know that I could make a living out of it. Nobody told me where I grew up (Cergy-Pontoise, 30km of Paris) that I could possibly go to an art school. That’s why I studied geography and urban planning, because it was another point of interest, and I realized quite late that my actual passion was graphic design. I decided when I was 20 to learn it by myself, to read books and to practice after my courses. When I finished my studies, I went to the local administration to create my own activity as a freelance designer, and I started to gain more and more clients, and the projects became slowly more and more interesting. It lasted 4 to 5 years before I decided to start Brand Brothers, the design studio I currently run with my partner Jean-Rémi.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
We are a small and active design studio and we specialize in identity design and branding. We try to maintain a style based on a love of colour mixing and shape twisting, on a deep understanding of our clients issues, and a constant search of straightforwardness in design and human relationships. We also have a strong focus on typography: every logo we craft is based on a custom type design. It takes longer but we absolutely love doing it that way. We also prioritize small and medium-sized clients, and we do not exclude any activity area. We have many clients in the French startup scene (tech, beauty, art and design, food…) but actually, some of our best projects were made for some unlikely fields: the French leader of wood-chipping machines or the biggest courier service company in Paris. We just love helping humans behind business doing things better in their daily job with good, intelligent and simple design.
What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why?
1 book: How to by Michael Bierut. I know it’s not the most original thing, but Pentagram remains an absolute reference in our industry and one of the most capable firm for decades. Michael Bierut impresses me in terms of lucidity, understanding the world around him and bringing accurate and timeless design responses every time.
1 blog: Brand New by Armin Vit. The work done is colossal for years and this platform helps some much corporate identity staying attractive and sexy, especially for students. Armin forms a vital counterweight to other design publications, more focused on edgy and experimental design, which catches so many students these days.
Podcasts: Finding on YouTube all the design conferences and lectures I missed around the world! An endless source of relevant and intelligent thoughts that helps me spend peaceful and productive days at work when I don’t want to listen to some groovy music.
Any passion projects you would like to share?
It may sound a bit consensual but almost every project we work on is a passion project. Seriously, we are now unbeatable about gardening equipment, data management platforms and traditional bronze lighting! Passion emerges when two criteria are reunited: the people must be great, and the project must produce a positive impact. When we feel that our client is craving for radical change and kick-ass design, then we are capable of developing enthusiasm and fascination for many subjects.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Don’t copy, find your visual signature. I mean, don’t find it on Behance. Find it by working, reading, thinking, practicing and enriching confident and independent convictions. Not only around design: open your culture to many fields, like sociology, politics, history, etc. Don’t be elitist and try to help clients and many areas, not only in cultural sector. Don’t do design (only) for that little red heart on Instagram, but focus on producing useful stuff for actual clients in need of good design. And hey, French students and art school, brand identity can be sexy, believe us!
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Professionally: we have to move to a new office in Paris, but we’ll take the time to find a kick-ass place. We’ll also try to open our range of clients to new areas, even if we’re already currently working on outstanding projects that will keep us busy for a few months. I’ll also make a trip to NY in September for a couple of weeks and I’ll try to meet great people there. Finally, we hope to work with fresh and talented designers to help us developing the studio!
Personally: I need a new little Vespa, mine has been stolen for the third time in three years! Can you believe that?