Q: what mistakes or ‘traps’ should a young designer avoid when working on an identity system?
MB: well, to use the same analogy, a lot of people like to design rocket ships. it’s just more fun and glamorous! a launch pad is boring by comparison. the biggest challenge is to really slow down and think through the problem. why is this identity system necessary? what is it supposed to accomplish? who is going to implement it? who is the audience, and what are they supposed to get from it?
when I was starting out, I used to think that I was the audience, and the goal was to please myself. then I got some experience and realized that the client was the audience, and the goal was to please them. of course, both of these things are sort of true, but basically wrong. I finally realized that the real audience were the people out there in the real world who were going to be stuck with whatever it was I was designing. a lot of time there is no one to speak for those people during the design process. the more you can be their advocate, the better the design will be. that’s not just the goal of identity design, but design period.
the biggest trap is to believe the brief you’re given is the whole story. it never is, and I repeat, never the whole story. moreover, the part that no one has thought to tell you up front is often the most important thing you need to know. don’t worry, it will come out eventually, usually when your first idea is being rejected. it’s important to keep an open mind when you’re presenting design work. don’t assume you know it all, just shut up and listen.