Articles & Opinions · Bucharest, November 1, 2006

Cristian "Kit" Paul's interview in Logo Lounge

Logo Lounge, November 2006

Cristian-or Kit-Paul, the 35-year-old founding partner and creative director of Brandient (Romania), leads a firm whose design work transcends language. Even logos that incorporate Romanian words make sense to the English speaker.

That may be so because Kit is very much a word person: Talk to him about a new project, and he begins jotting down lists, not sketching. It seemed best to let him speak for himself in this article.

Kit: I am blessed to be part of a wonderful company, one born out of passion, and much of my inspiration comes from my Brandient partners and colleagues. I think passion and enduring visions inspire and motivate me, people like Wally Olins who I was fortunate enough to spend time with, or Steve Jobs. “Putting a dent in the universe,” you know.

Even though I’m a designer, a visual person, I find my inspiration in words. I find this peculiar, but it is true. Talk to me and I’ll jot down keywords, not shapes.

Some designers are spontaneous and gut-feeling driven. I’m not. I am very logical, and I work with keywords, lists and deductions. Maybe that’s because I studied computers until I dropped out of Polytechnics in order to study design.

What really drives me, in fact, is not only designing logos, but envisioning the way all the components of an identity program are working together-designing viable brand mechanics.

LogoLounge: What does it mean to be a designer today? What responsibilities do you feel you have?

Kit: We are living exciting times, because design is changing. Mainstream business magazines have design sections now. Design-thinking is moving from being a buzzword to being a reality. Corporations and the “suits” finally noticed us, and they are puzzled by the fact that we are thinking different and we are able to find valuable solutions they cannot foresee. They are trained to solve problems quickly, while we are trained to never stop looking.

Identity design-as a profession-is changing as well, shifting from being used as a communication tool toward being seen more like a business problem-solving tool. It’s called branding, and it’s a designer’s passport to sit at the boardroom table: An increasing fraction of the brands are driving businesses nowadays and not the other way around.

Building identities-branding-is an amazing profession, and respecting it is the first and last responsibility: It encapsulates the respect for the client, consumer and fellow designers.

LogoLounge: In a conversation that preceded this interview, you mentioned identity’s “mechanism of gratification.” What do you mean?

Kit: Although I studied design and worked as a graphic designer at the beginning of my career, in 1996 I switched to advertising, working as art director and group creative director with BBDO and D’Arcy, among other agencies. In 2002, I got back to design. The two industries seem very much alike from the outside, but living in both worlds allowed me to discover what sets them apart, at least in my view: the mechanism of gratification.

Working in advertising means speed to market. The campaigns are quick to implement, even the most complex ones. The ideas on your notepad get aired, printed in magazines or posted on billboards within weeks, sometimes even days. Thus the adrenaline rush and the feeling that things are happening, and you are right in the middle of it. However, in a few months the campaign is over and only the brightest concepts continue to remain inside the consumers’ minds and hearts.

Design works differently. A corporate identity program takes months to prepare and years to implement. It’s invisible at the beginning and then it grows and spreads out street by street and city by city. If you’re lucky, it’s here to stay, for years or decades. And if you’re really lucky, it will outlive you, its creator. This gives you the feeling of building something for the future. Everything adds up, project by project until you see your work while walking the streets of every city you visit, opening almost any magazine, interacting with almost every person you know.

It’s a very different gratification. Satisfaction through design is not a shooting star, like in advertising, but a steady feeling that silently comforts you more with every year that passes by. And I love this feeling.

LogoLounge: What are the most exciting trends you see in identity and logo design today?

Kit: Analyzing trends is good-they’re zeitgeist, they are the news, they are design’s Billboard chart. Bill Gardner and LogoLounge are cartographing those morphing trends for the rest of us to see and deconstruct, and my company has the honor to be featured in these trend lists. I am happy and grateful for that.

However, if I could choose somehow between breaking an array of influential new trends by constantly working on the cutting edge of style or walking in the shoes of Paul Rand and design something like the ageless IBM logo, I would choose the latter, in a blink.

Trends are mostly about style, not substance-the brief and the quality of the resolve is known only to the client and the designer. As useful as acknowledging trends is, they should be taken “cum grano salis”-with a grain of salt.” Unfortunately, I’m still too young and inexperienced to subdue my ego, and I allow myself to get seduced by style more often than I like to admit. Even at 35, it’s easy to forget you’re a designer and crave for the spotlights like a rock star, it seems.

I often joke about the fact that maybe identity designers only become respectable after they’re 50. But I realize that I’m only half-joking: Identity is a profession for the wise and the accountable.

LogoLounge: Who do you consider the masters?

Kit: There are names that humble every designer: Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, to mention only three of the greatest.

But I’m afraid that nowadays corporations are such huge powers that only other corporations can deal with their corporate identity issues. This era belongs to Wolff Olins, Lippincot, Landor, Chermayeff & Geismar, to Pentagram and MetaDesign. They are the classics and the heroes we look up to now. The era of the one-man-show designer is over.

LogoLounge: What will logo design be in 50 years?

Kit: I cannot even begin to picture the world so far into the future, but where there are people there will always be a need for identity, for staying apart from the crowd. The logo will evolve and adapt in order to use the latest media channels and technology-no question about that-but it will always be here. What I can promise is that, by then, we’ll get rid of the black-and-white, 1-bit, fax version.

Published on LogoLounge.com

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