Saturday, November 21, 2015

Design Duluth #2 Is Rich With Insights from Local Designers

Thursday evening HTK Marketing hosted the second of six Design Duluth events, with Cody Paulson, Matt Olin, Joe Gunderson and Tommy Kronquist as this edition's guest presenters. It was another stellar turnout with muchos kudos to the Duluth Art Institute staff for conceiving this series of events.

As with the first event held at Cirrus Design, Annie Dugan played the role of MC and moderator, introducing speakers and leading us through the evening's activities, which included a creative team exercise at the end. But to start the evening off Annie read from Barton Sutter's Cold Comfort: Life at the Top of the Map.

Bridges are to Duluth what skyscrapers are to New York. They define the place. We've got the Bong. We've got the Blatnik. We've got trestles and docks and piers. We've even got a road called Seven Bridges. But the queen of them all, without doubt, is called the Aerial Lift Bridge. Neither the longest nor the highest bridge in town, the Lift is merely the oldest and the loveliest.

The four speakers were each assigned fifteen minutes to present, the first being Joe Gunderson, Director of Visual Identity at HTK, one of the older and major ad agencies in the Twin Ports.

Gunderson began by stating that there are three kinds of identity: Corporate Identity, Cultural Identity and Sensory Identity. After showing examples of corporate indentity, he addressed cultural identity which includes the beliefs, customs, arts, history, architecture and geography of a city or region. Sensory identity consists of textures, touch, sound, taste, smell and emotions. He shared, as an example, the feeling one experiences when they drive over Thompson Hill and see the city spread out before them.

Gunderson had us play a game called "Name That City" in which we were to identify various places, except with their identifying icons removed. What is Paris without the Eiffel Tower? This put things in perspective for our own town, for the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge is the most photographed icon in the Northland.  But there are other things that define us including landmarks, heritage, history, people, businesses, events, outdoors and our potential. We were encouraged to take a moment to consider Duluth through a new lens.

Tommy Konquest, founder of The Medium Kontrol, made the second presentation. Konquist presented two videos, the being about how he met his wife Kristi and their move to Duluth from St. Paul. Komquist, a designer and screen printer, showed some of the cool logos he has created. The highlight was a logo he created for his son Holden Kevin and the process he went through to get there.

Annie Dugan then introduced Cody Paulson, Senior Design Director at Swim Creative who had a show at the DAI earlier this year. "I love seeing the way Cody engages with this post-industrial landscape that we have here," she said. The result was his Port City Supply Co. brand.

Paulson's discussion revolved around identity and brand design. He also has a small business called Jambox Shred Gear which he briefly shared. After outlining the five elements of a great brand --
Honest, Compelling, Substantial, Engaging and Authentic -- he presented some thoughts about how to create a brand by sharing what went into the development of the logo for the Park Point Art Fair.

UMD Professor of Graphic Design Matthew Olin made the fourth presentation. In a humorous vein he presented logos from the dozens of local companies that incorporate the aerial lift bridge into their logos.  (See examples here on Instagram.)

Whereas Duluth does have a keen affinity for "Old Lifty" Olin noted that at least one local company that abandoned this local symbol was happy to have done so when their market expanded to national reach.

The evening's theme was "Iconoclast: Breaking the Lift Bridge Icon-Hold" and what a beautiful setting for this event with the lift bridge directly across from us on the 8th floor of the Dewitt-Seitz offices of HTK. We ended the evening by breaking up into groups for four or five in order to design a new logo for our region using toothpicks and marshmallows. Many designs were quite inventive.

The next event will be January 9, with the suitable theme of "How Do We Embrace the Cold?" It all begins at 5:30 p.m., a form of business after hours. The location for this January event will be Bent Paddle Brewery on Michigan Street in West End. Hope to see you there.

Matthew Olin 

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