Paula Scher on living, breathing identities
Pentagram’s Paula Scher took to the stage on Day 2 to deliver a one-hour in-depth talk to a packed auditorium, focusing on her branding work over the past two decades and ranging across projects for massive corporates such as Citi Group and smaller ones for cultural institutions like New York’s Public Theater. She was at pains to debunk the myth that a rebrand is all about that moment when it’s first revealed to the public, instead arguing that brands and logos are empty vessels that take time to fill with meaning. “The goal of a logo is not about the moment of introduction,” she said. “It’s about how it accrues value over time. Brands are like babies or plants – you have to nurture them to make sure they grow up right.”
Having said that, Paula also admitted to a sense of frustration at the fact that, as a designer, you effectively hand your baby over to an in-house team to look after – and sometimes they don’t nurture it the way you would. “If you give someone a whole kit of tools, they’ll use three and ignore the rest,” she joked. However, a really good in-house team will do amazing things with your work, too, she pointed out. “Great in-house design teams can grow the brand and brands aren’t supposed to be boxed into a corner,” she said. That’s why, Paula concluded, she feels that “standards manuals are BS”.
Finally, in another moment of gentle (but honest) mockery, she chided graphic designers for being overly critical of the people they work with and for. “We complain about clients and say they don’t understand typography,” she said. “But we’re the ones who aren’t normal! Think about it. Who goes around talking about typography?”