Mrs&Mr Brew Up a Delicious Refresh for La Colombe

La Colombe, renowned for its specialty blends and coffee craftsmanship, is debuting a refreshed visual identity and an enticing addition to its beverage lineup: the ready-to-drink Draft Latte. As the latest member of the Chobani family, acquired in December 2023, La Colombe is revamping its appearance and introducing a delectable, frothy concoction that promises to redefine the on-the-go coffee experience.

Collaborating closely with the creative minds at Mrs&Mr La Colombe’s new visual identity pays tribute to the coffee roaster’s rich graphic tradition while infusing it with a contemporary twist. Highlights of the redesign include a revamped wordmark, meticulously hand-drawn to evoke a vintage charm and a renewed sense of pride and authenticity. The iconic dove emblem, symbolic of La Colombe’s pioneering spirit, has been reinvented to exude uplift and forward momentum, reflecting the brand’s commitment to innovation. Accentuating La Colombe’s core values, this rebrand resonates throughout every aspect of its identity – from the logo and packaging to the café ambiance and retail presence.

“We created a refreshed brand look to honor La Colombe’s powerful heritage and simplicity, seamlessly tying together the brand experience in products and cafes,” said Chobani Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Hamdi Ulukaya. “The result is a beautiful reflection of our premium offering, thanks to our deep, creative collaboration with Kate and Daniel of Mrs&Mr over many months to get it just right.”

To complement the brand’s evolution, Mrs&Mr introduced a bespoke typeface. Inspired by industrial fonts, Draft Latte Sans is infused with a human touch, mirroring the artisanal craftsmanship that defines La Colombe’s products. The refreshed color palette, featuring warm tones and creamy hues, invites consumers to indulge in a sensory experience.

The refreshed identity comes together in the Draft Latte packaging, where every detail conveys a sense of authenticity and quality. The can’s base color, now a luscious cream tone, echoes the freshness of farm-fresh milk, while the enlarged logo and subtle drop shadow ensure maximum shelf presence. The curvature of the Draft Latte logo mimics an overflow of froth, while the addition of ‘ESTD 1994’ proudly showcases La Colombe’s 30-year legacy in the coffee industry.

“All of this culminates in a design system that reflects the heritage, craft, and quality that La Colombe puts into every aspect of their coffee experience,” said Kate Wadia, Founder and Creative Director of Mrs&Mr.

The collaboration between the Mrs&Mr team, Chobani’s leadership, and La Colombe’s CMO, Kathryn O’Connor, has created a visual identity that honors the brand’s legacy and paves the way for a new era of coffee experiences.

As people interact with La Colombe, they can expect flavors and experiences crafted with passion and dedication. With the launch of the Draft Latte line and the unveiling of its refreshed look, La Colombe invites coffee enthusiasts to savor every sip and embrace the artistry behind each can.

StreetEasy’s Renaissance Campaign Spotlights NYC Real Estate Odyssey

On my daily subway commute, my gaze often wanders up to the ads, mainly to avoid uncomfortable eye contact with strangers and smirk at the latest pitches from injury lawyers and Botox specialists. However, I was pleasantly snapped from my usual unfocused haze last week by an unexpected sight: a captivating gallery of Renaissance artwork adorning the subway walls.

In a bold move to capture the essence of the New York City home-buying experience, StreetEasy has partnered with Mother New York to decorate the city streets with Renaissance-style paintings. These visually striking artworks vividly portray the odyssey-like challenge of purchasing a home in the Big Apple.

These ads have become impossible to ignore, as seen on bustling subway cars, iconic yellow taxi toppers, and even a complete takeover of the Broadway-Lafayette station. The campaign has now reached new heights with two hand-painted murals by Colossal Media gracing Wythe & N. 14th St. in Williamsburg and Spring & Lafayette St. in Nolita.

Navigating the real estate market in New York City has always been an adventure, but today, it can feel as elusive as acquiring a masterpiece. Despite the city’s reputation as a haven for renters, StreetEasy’s data reveals a surprising statistic: 1 in 5 New Yorkers are actively browsing homes for sale alongside those searching for rental properties.

As the campaign coincides with the spring home shopping peak, the Renaissance-inspired art style perfectly captures the complex and often dramatic emotions accompanying the search for a place to call home in the city that never sleeps.

“Let The Journey Begin” dramatizes key milestones of the home buyer’s journey in the style of Renaissance art: from deciding whether to renew a lease, searching the five boroughs with an agent at the helm, right up to the moment of getting the keys and becoming your own landlord.

Advertising to New Yorkers is an interesting creative challenge. On one hand, you have a population capable of tuning out almost anything. On the other hand, you have a savvy audience who can appreciate a clever ad that speaks to their experiences, which StreetEasy certainly has a track record of doing. ‘Let The Journey Begin’ touches on a uniquely New York problem and does it in a style that will stand out in the city’s sea of distractions.”

Nedal Ahmed, Executive Creative Director at Mother New York

These murals serve as more than just a visual spectacle; they encapsulate the aspirations, struggles, and triumphs of individuals embarking on the quest for homeownership in one of the world’s most dynamic metropolises. Through their artistry, StreetEasy and Mother New York have not only adorned the streets but have also painted a poignant portrait of the enduring allure and challenges of New York City’s real estate landscape.


Images courtesy of Colossal Media, banner image courtesy of StreetEasy.

The Daily Heller: Colorful Swatches (Not Watches!)

Noir is my favorite color—but I could easily learn to love more after spending time reading Color Charts: A History by Anne Varichon, an anthropologist specializing in the implications of color and its cultural impact.

The moment I saw this gorgeous volume sitting on a pile in a bookstore, I turned all shades of green with envy. It is one of the most richly illustrated, beautifully designed and intelligently researched books of 2024 (a year that has already had its share of extraordinary art and design offerings).

Color Charts offers a full spectrum of inspiration as it reveals through text and image the various methods used to create an incredible number of colors and hues. It contains an awe-inspiring array of original writing and vintage texts on color creation and promotion through such artifacts as swatches, fabrics, charts and dyes. Sample books and notebooks are qualitatively reproduced, and the cover (designed by Katie Osborne) is a gem as object and document.

As Varichon writes, “For centuries, people have preserved documents containing color samples, creating a treasure trove for future generations of researchers.” This is among the most generous collections of those materials I have ever seen.

I asked Varichon to detail, anthropologically and viscerally speaking, her color theories, what color means, and how these cards, posters, guides and samples fit into human perception and behavior. This interview (and the book) was translated from the French by Kate Deimling.

Astrolin Color Card, Établissement Georget Fils Peintures Laquées et Vernis, Chantenay-Lès-Nantes, c. 1906. Bibliothèque Forney, Paris.

What inspired your collection and scholarship in this unique realm of color?
In the 1980s, I curated exhibitions for various museums, including the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Louvre, and others. Color came up all the time, but there were no books discussing the people who produced color or describing how and why, with what materials, and for whom color was manufactured. So I started doing research to explain the purpose of this strange thing, which is so hard to define, often requires great efforts to produce, and has little practical use, but still exists everywhere, and has existed since the dawn of humanity. In 1998, I published Couleurs, pigments et teintures dans les mains des peuples, an anthropological overview of the producers, materials, processes and uses of color, starting in ancient times and covering various cultural areas. This book is still in print and has been translated into several languages. The English edition is Colors: What They Mean and How to Make Them. I continued to do research in this area and gradually I had an intuition that in the Western world, color samples had catalyzed developments in science, technology and aesthetics over the centuries, while also causing crucial transformations in the way society thought about color. But I still needed to prove this hypothesis!

I’m impressed by how deeply you delved and how far back these go.
I started working on color samples in 2007, kind of feeling my way around, as often happens when you tackle an area that hasn’t really been explored. I was immediately charmed by these documents and their enchanting power, which was exactly the thing I wanted to try to decipher. And right away I was also so amazed by the variety, beauty and poetry of color charts that I wanted to share these documents (the vast majority of which had never been published and were inaccessible) with as many people as possible. That also meant giving readers ways of understanding these color charts, and a sense of how each one was part of the construction of a constantly changing relationship to color. This research took 16 years. Finally, the images of the color charts had to be perfect. Philippe Durand Gerzaguet, who took all the photos, managed to pull this off.

Color chart of silk velvet ribbons, G.G. & Cie, France, leporello, 24 x 13 cm, 31 panels, late 19th century. Bibliothèque Forney, Paris.

You have a section on naturalists using samples. How universal was this for scientists in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries?
Scientific disciplines, in the modern sense of the term, were for centuries essentially European. When color references were used outside Europe, it’s because they traveled with Western researchers. For instance, when Darwin traveled to the Madeira Islands, he took with him a copy of Werner’s 1821 nomenclature of colors that was completed by Syme. This allowed him to record the colors of the plant and animal species he sampled in his explorations. But many cultures never needed samples to observe and understand their environment and were able to use other methods to develop bodies of knowledge whose depth more than competes with modern science.

Was there a mystical as well as scientific interpretation of color for which color samples were used?
There have certainly been mystical interpretations, but I’ll just respond here to their scientific use: Yes, color samples were part of the rise of science in the West. In the hands of practitioners, such as dyers or painters, they were helpful tools well before the Enlightenment. They facilitated the memorizing of experiments and contributed to more precise communication of discoveries. So these color samples were crucial links, because they already implemented a logic that would ultimately be taken up and developed in scientific protocols. 

The Chemistry of Dyers, New Theoretical and Practical Treatise on the Art of Dyeing and Printing Fabrics, Oscar Piéquet, 402 pages, Paris, 1892. Bernard Guineau collection, Ôkhra-Ecomuseum of Ocher, Roussillon.

You discuss nomenclature. How did colors get their names?
The lexicon of color charts depends on when the document was designed, by whom, for whom, and for what purpose. The first color charts made by naturalists often indicated colors by the names of the pigments that produced them (for instance, Minium in Waller’s work for a red obtained from lead). It was the same for manuals of artistic practices (Geele Orperement for a yellow obtained from orpiment in Boogert’s manuscript, for example). Dyers, who excelled at creating a wide array of shades, had to be more inventive from the start. Their color names constantly evoked references that embodied a certain color (Cabbage Green, Mouse Gray, and even Goose Shit). For instance, Antoine Janot’s brown shade called Cinnamon has no connection to the spice, but is the result of combining yellow, red and gray from weld, madder and oak gall. The terms would remain image-based, or even poetic, in textile color charts (with names like Dawn, Geisha or Zenith appearing in ribbon color charts during the interwar period). But chemists’ color charts would adopt intimidating yet very specific names from molecules (such as Rhodamine 6 J Extra in a color chart of dyes for Galalith from the 1920s). Only the color charts for decorative paints and artists’ paints would construct a descriptive and somewhat stable lexicon (Medium Turquoise Blue, Wood Tone, Train Car Green, etc.). Other names were inherited from ancestral pigments (Red Ocher, Ivory Black), even once they became exclusively synthetic. For instance, a gouache shade was still called Indian Yellow in the 1950s, when this pigment, suspected of being obtained from dehydrating cows, had already been replaced by a substitute a long time before.

Can you discuss the upheaval with synthetic colors?
To summarize in a few words: The discovery of synthetic dyes and pigments starting in the mid-19th century, combined with the growth of industrial processes, made affordable color available to everyone. Finally, color was not restricted to the elite. This is what I call the color revolution. The flipside of this is that the arrival of synthetic color wiped out the immense knowledge of colors from nature, first in Europe and then around the world, ultimately leading to a profound transformation of humanity’s relationship to color.

Linoleum Collection 1966-1967, Sarlino, Reims, France, 1966. Binder, 36 × 30 cm, 14 pages, Bibliothèque Forney, Paris.

Were color charts frequently revised?
Color charts could be reproduced identically for decades (such as color charts for Ripolin paint from the early 20th century). Textile color charts had to follow the rhythm of fashion, which was always changing. For instance, the ribbon color charts made by the Silk Federation changed every six months. Since the 1950s, color charts have been subject to the increasing speed that has affected all human activities. Today, they often last no longer than a butterfly.

Was there a universal language of color?
I don’t think there is a universal language of color. Its use is universal, yes, because color is a signal that is immediately perceptible, even from afar. So it is used everywhere to make visible—especially through clothing—categories of individuals (a wealthy person, a widower, a foreigner). But the way in which a community takes hold of color to express meaning depends on its particular culture at that time. Color is thus a parallel language for all societies, but specific to each one and constantly evolving.

Acid Dyes for Felt Pile, Base Colors, Société Anonyme des Matières Colorantes et Produits Chimiques de Saint-Denis, Saint-Denis, November 1930, leporella, Albi Couleurs, Association Mémoire, des Industries de la Couleur, Albi.
Credit: Anne Varichon collection, Sète.

How much of the colors used in textiles, paints, etc., came from flowers?
Dyes were produced from plants for a long time—not only flowers, but roots, leaves, bark, wood, and also berries. Insects and shells were additional resources for color. Minerals provided pigments, but even in prehistoric times, they were also formulated from the products of combustion, fusion or oxidization (charcoal, smalt, lead white, etc.). Cultures were very inventive, determined and brave in the ways they produced color from the resources found in their environment.

These charts from the past are such beautiful artifacts. Were they seen as art or purely functional ephemera?
For a long time, color sampling was private, remaining in the personal world of correspondence between scholars or inside workshops and factories. And even when the commercial world took hold of them in the late 19th century, color charts were distributed sparingly because producing them with samples of fabrics or feathers, or applications of paint or pastel, was expensive and labor-intensive. These rare, beautiful documents were preserved in workshops, stores and families. They inspired new productions and, over time, taught both the names of colors and ways of classifying them. So color charts developed as tools, lexicons, textbooks … and sources of dreams. Starting in the 1950s, when color printing replaced physical samples, color charts were distributed much more widely. Today, they are found everywhere, even on ordinary leaflets. Of mediocre quality and often ugly, these color charts have lost their poetry and sometimes they can’t even claim the noble function of tools.

Am I correct that during the world wars, color was muted, and after, color exploded?
Yes and no! Of course, restrictions on pigments and dyes due to wartime limited access to color, and during times of crisis, dark fabrics that could hide stains and signs of wear were emphasized. But the desire for color is also linked to customs, which evolve slowly. Right after World War I, everyone wore black because every family had to mourn someone who was killed in the trenches or struck down by the Spanish Flu. The postwar period of the 1950s was different: The rules about mourning were more flexible, and Western society was stimulated by the optimism of the period known as “les Trente Glorieuses” in France. Movies and magazines began to overflow with colorful images, the rise of ready-to-wear encouraged variations in clothing styles, and, finally, the petrochemical industry provided many innovative materials, pigments and dyes. Society could joyfully shift into color.

Of all the information that you researched, what was the most exciting surprise?
Great question. I think I was surprised every day during all my years of research as I discovered unknown color charts that had been forgotten in dark warehouses or had sat inert for decades on library shelves. Even the most insignificant ones had something to say about some aspect of the history of color. Of course, there were some I found especially fascinating: the color chart of silk velvet ribbons by G.G. & Cie, the color charts for artificial flowers, or those made by chemists during the interwar period, which are very humorous and aspired to add color to everything, from bicycle tires to soap. The major discovery of my research, however, was to realize that these innocent fragments of color had been the economic instrument, and then the political instrument, of hegemonic industrial development. By distributing color charts, industrial society not only crushed ancestral know-how everywhere, but it also globalized methods for classifying color that came from a way of thinking focused on quantitative analysis and productivity. Other concepts of color, which could be based on the depth and delicacy of shades or its relevance for a particular use, did not survive. The replacement of the product sample by printed color was their death knell, as color was now dissociated from its medium. The sensory experience was forgotten, and all the factors were in place for color to gradually be reduced to a bare reference number. I think that is where we are today. We have managed to “distribute the whole world with a single code,” as Georges Perec wrote in his essay collection Penser/Classer. Fortunately, the absolute necessity to escape from harmful overconsumption is beginning to make the pendulum swing back in the other direction. The future will certainly be full of surprises!

A Colossal Brand Refresh for the Boston Symphony Orchestra

The historic Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has unveiled its fresh brand identity, a harmonious fusion of tradition and modernity courtesy of the creative minds at Colossus. The renowned Boston advertising agency redefined the visual language of BSO and its affiliated brands: The Boston Pops, Tanglewood, and Symphony Hall.

Founded in 1881 and revered as one of the world’s preeminent orchestras, the BSO has long graced the stages of Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, captivating audiences with masterful compositions by legendary conductors. The Boston Pops has become synonymous with musical excellence, with an illustrious history boasting luminaries like Arthur Fiedler and John Williams, enchanting listeners with iconic performances and annual spectacles. Tanglewood has long been hallowed ground for music aficionados, hosting an array of celebrated artists against an idyllic backdrop in Lenox, Massachusetts.

However, as the BSO sought to bridge the gap between its storied past and a vibrant future, it recognized the need for a contemporary reimagining of its brand identity. Colossus rose to the occasion, infusing the institution’s legacy with modernity while preserving its rich heritage.

The new brand, characterized by warmth and approachability, departs from previous iterations, unifying the BSO’s diverse offerings under a cohesive visual identity. The brand features a color-coded system and two complementary typefaces, blending old-world sophistication with contemporary flair. This rebrand is significant because it focuses on fostering broader audience engagement and accessibility, reflecting the BSO’s commitment to innovation while preserving its legacy and ensuring that classical music remains accessible to all.

Eager to learn more about the strategy and process behind this colossal undertaking, Travis Robertson, Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director of Colossus, and Jesse Needleman, Vice President, Marketing, Sales, & Communications of BSO, happily obliged with an exclusive.

(Conversation edited for length and clarity).

Given the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s history and cultural significance, what were the key challenges and considerations in modernizing its brand identity?

Travis Robertson: This project was equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. Walking in the shadows of giants, our team felt a tremendous sense of pride and the weight of responsibility to get it right. For an institution so steeped in tradition and heritage, changing the course required tremendous strategic alignment, research, and due diligence. We involved key stakeholders, customers, and musicians before putting pen to paper. We ensured that the classical purists and institutional guardians felt heard and represented while also moving forward with something that resonated with the next generation.

We kept harkening back to a quote from Henry Lee Higginson, the American businessman and Civil War veteran who founded the BSO in 1881. He wrote that the institution aimed “to make fair prices for the tickets and then open wide the doors.” With that in mind, we did our best to create an inviting, unpretentious brand identity that also underscored the magnitude and credibility of the music.

On the use of architectural elements as design influences for the new brand identity: Could you elaborate on the significance of this approach and how it reflects the essence of the Boston Symphony Orchestra?

Travis Robertson:

Four disparate pieces of the puzzle had to be solved and, ultimately, unified through the development of the new identity system. Tanglewood: an outdoor music venue nestled in the hills of The Berkshires. Symphony Hall: the iconic building known as an acoustic jewel and home to the BSO. The Boston Pops: the celebratory, popular expression of the symphony known as “America’s Orchestra.” And, of course, the flagship Boston Symphony Orchestra. While musicians come and go, the stage itself has served as the bedrock of consistency throughout the history of the BSO.  You can feel it in the walls of Symphony Hall and the grass of Tanglewood’s infamous Music Shed.

To define the look and feel of the new brand identity, we looked to architecture and the unique sense of space created by each setting to help guide us. After touring each structure, we gravitated toward certain characteristics, shapes, and geometric patterns. We further solidified this idea after viewing the original Symphony Hall blueprints from the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White (1900). We saw that the windows, soffits, and side entry were all built in the same arch shape. We assigned this shape to the BSO and then worked to uncover further geometric signifiers for Pops, Tanglewood, and Symphony Hall. In the end, we arrived at a consistent system rooted in a place of history and authenticity.

To broaden the appeal of classical music to a younger and more diverse audience, how did Colossus approach the task of making the orchestra’s brand more accessible while still maintaining its sense of sophistication and tradition?

Travis Robertson: Great question. Our design team on this project was both young and diverse, ensuring that we weren’t telegraphing uninformed perspectives or misrepresenting things. We also took the time to speak with each audience segmentation- from Classical Purists to Experiential Engagers to Mainstreamers- making sure our approach resonated along the way.

Ultimately, it won’t be the color palette, clever iconography, or playful shape choices that make the orchestra more accessible. We can only pique the interest and pave the path for new audiences. Our work is the outward signal of this institutional evolution. However, the BSO’s programming, innovations, collaborations, and meaningful community partnerships will create a truly impactful and well-rounded step forward. And they’ve made some incredible strides to do just that. It’s been heartening to see the next chapter of this storied institution begin to take shape.

Could you delve deeper into how the selection of specific colors for each sub-brand reflects the unique identity and essence of the disparate entities?

We derived the color palette from the historical lineage of the brand, alongside modern influences and the need to differentiate the four factions of the BSO. Blue for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a foundational colorway for decades. Red for the Boston Pops, with nods to Americana and holiday festivities. Green for Tanglewood is an homage to the lush foliage and natural setting in Lenox, MA. And gold for Symphony Hall, based on the iconic building’s gilded brass and brick textures.

Given the aim of making classical music more approachable and inclusive through the new brand identity, what specific strategies or initiatives does the Boston Symphony Orchestra plan to implement to ensure that this message resonates with diverse audiences? How do you envision these efforts contributing to breaking down barriers and expanding the orchestra’s reach?

Jesse Needleman: What’s critical in getting the brand identity to resonate is backing it up with programming that resonates, too; the product we offer and its packaging absolutely need to match.

We always look at our programming through a lens of engagement. So to that end, we’ve been working hard to bring exciting young talent to our stages (like South Korean pianist Yunchan Lim, who studies at NEC, won the Van Cliburn piano competition, and recently sold out four concerts at Symphony Hall), to commission and premiere new works (from the likes of Tania Leon and our newly announced Composer Chair Carlos Simon), to offer more culturally relevant programming (like a Pride Night concert featuring Thorgy Thor, and Dia de Muertos concerts, both with the Boston Pops), and to bring added context to the music we perform by including companion humanities programming in thematic festivals that anchor our seasons (like “Shostakovich Decoded” and “Beethoven & Romanticism” that will be part of the recently announced 2024-2025 BSO season).

The brand identities signal that it’s a new day at the BSO, both in the sense that we are continuing our deep and rich history of innovation in orchestral music and that we are taking a hard look at how we want to innovate the future so that we can contribute as much as we can to the amazing communities that we are part of in Boston and in the Berkshires; we are excited there will be much more to come on exactly what that means.

With the evolving landscape of music consumption and entertainment preferences, how does the BSO envision itself in the digital realm, and how will the new brand identity support its efforts to connect with audiences through online channels and multimedia experiences?

Jesse Needleman: The pandemic taught us a lot about creating digital experiences (particularly concerts via streaming video) and led us to approach this project with a strong “digital first” mentality. While interest in streaming concerts has waned since the public began returning to concert halls for in-person performances, we also know that we live in an increasingly digital world, and media that were once thought of as “traditional” (like outdoor) are themselves becoming digital, and require a different approach to brand identity. So, as part of developing the new identities, we not only created static versions of our logos but also developed animated versions, and we are also developing an audio component for them. Sight, sound, and motion are critical to capturing attention in the digital world that we live in, and so our brand identities need to take advantage of that.


In a world where cultural institutions must evolve to meet the demands of a rapidly changing landscape, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is a shining example of tradition reimagined. With its bold new identity, the BSO will captivate hearts and minds for generations to come, inviting audiences to experience the transformative power of music in all its splendor.

Unlocking Creative Potential: Inside Dropbox’s ‘Blank Space’ Design Summit

Staring at a blank page can be daunting. The prospect of populating that empty space prompts many of us to retreat into our heads, a challenge that can stamp out innovation and limit the potential for groundbreaking ideas.

A design-first organization, Dropbox gathers its creatives for an annual design summit. This year, the company chose the theme “Blank Space” with a clear mission—to craft an experience that helps creatives conquer their fear of the blank page, embrace new things, and reconnect with their creative mojo.

Charmie Shah, the summit’s creative director and designer, conceptualized an event alongside the VP of Design at Dropbox Alastair Simpson and Sally Croom, Design Operations, to inspire and invigorate participants, encouraging them to embrace the unknown and venture beyond their comfort zones. The event’s core ethos of “Boundless Exploration” permeated every facet of the summit, from its logo to the physical space.

As someone who struggles with a fear of the blank page, I spoke to Shah to learn more about Dropbox’s strategies for tackling entrenched creative inhibition. We also explored how the summit’s spirit of boundless exploration manifested in its design and atmosphere.

Our conversation, below, has been edited for length and clarity.

Creatives often struggle with the blank canvas. How did you approach creating an experience that acknowledges this fear and actively empowers them to embrace experimentation and rediscover their creative agency?

Many things went into this event because it wasn’t just a branding project; it was also a physical space where we ensured that each element, every installation, and everything the creatives would experience would empower them to create. We didn’t want a sense of creation on demand; we didn’t want to force them onto a canvas and ask them to paint or draw; we just wanted them to feel empowered that they could create.

When we started this project, one of Dropbox’s main problems was that the company noticed the creatives were afraid of creating freely. Dropbox has a lot of product designers, and many of them would get mechanical and into the execution mindset rather than appreciating craft or playing and innovating. Dropbox felt the creators needed a sense of creative exploration, and that’s where this idea came from.

I started researching to understand this feeling of creative exploration and how we could bring it to life through various touchpoints rather than just a brand identity and ending it there.

The first element was the invitation; we wanted to send it out immediately to excite everyone about the idea. The event’s location was Palm Springs, which is really beautiful, so when choosing materials, I wanted to make sure that they would reflect the environment and the environment would reflect in the material. Dropbox wanted creatives to feel a sense of boundlessness—an open, free, and ethereal feeling— without actually having to meditate, so it was essential to create unobtrusive installations.

In my conversations with the leadership team, a sense of boundlessness kept coming up, ultimately informing the choice of materials. It all started with that desire to create an open space.

How did the abstract concept of “boundless exploration” translate into tangible design elements, such as the logo and the materials?

For the logo, I wanted to ensure fluidity and low contrast when it existed in graphic spaces or on all the branded elements, so it was pretty simple. The fun part was how the logo broke open and interacted across the edges of spaces; it would move around, spread open on the edges, and act as if it were exploring the borders.

We also used the exploration idea in other aspects of the branding; for example, different keynote slides with animated type that broke open and animated around the edges. When the logo opened up, it created this space in the center — evoking creative space.

I worked on a fun initial animation in which the logo would show up, hesitate a little bit, and then come back in place before fully opening and moving—synonymous with how we hoped the creatives would behave on this journey in Palm Springs.

The decision to have all the materials be reflective and unobtrusive came from the desire to encourage creatives to immerse themselves in the creative act. That’s where the idea of using metallic surfaces on the name badges came in. 

We had planned one final surprise event for the Dropbox attendees: a fun dinner at The Invisible House at Joshua Tree. Nobody knew the location. It’s such a beautiful, mirrored venue, reflecting the environment around it and blending in. The creatives didn’t know it would be their last stop, but we wanted the reflective event materials to give them hints.

I loved the thought that went into this event. We could have made generic name badges, but the material choice made them much more fun, and the creatives wore them with pride. The badges were so reflective that you could see the palm trees and the sky. Rather than featuring the attendees’ titles—the event included designers, producers, project managers, product designers, art directors, and brand designers—we used their Adobe Creator Types test results, which Dropbox had their staff take internally. We designated a color for each of the eight types represented on the metallic badge. When everyone walked in, they weren’t just a product manager, producer, or designer; they were all creatives identifying with other creative types.

For the badge installation, we created a wooden, umbrella-like structure. Because of the badges’ reflective nature, when the sun hit them, they reflected splotches of color around the space. There was even a custom cut-out of the Dropbox logo in the structure—designed to be unnoticeable until the sun hit the right angle, subtly reflecting the logo. We wanted it to feel like a Dropbox event without it being overly branded.

We created a badge installation where the creatives would walk in and they would see the badges displayed a certain way. The idea was to have an umbrella-like structure set up and because the badges were so beautiful and reflective, the Sun would just hit the badges and the metallic surfaces would reflect and you could see the splotches of color being reflected all around.

The wooden badge structure itself had a custom cut out of the Dropbox logo in it so nobody would really notice it but when the Sun hit the right angle, the shadow would reflect the Dropbox logo which was a fun hint of making it feel like it’s a Dropbox event without it being overly branded.

“Blank Space” suggests embracing openness and possibility. How did you balance this theme with the need for structure and flow in the event’s programming?

We worked with the event production agency OTHR to bring the event to life. The installations we created were critical because it was a design event, so all the little pieces — for example, an outside area for the creatives to sit with their notebooks and complete exercises — had to feel warm and welcoming but also sleek and on-theme.

We purposely limited the number of speakers because last year, we noticed that having too many panels every day exhausted the attendees and left little time for them to reflect and work on assignments. We didn’t want this to feel like a work event, rather, it had to feel like a space for them to be creative and feel free to explore.

We had Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, who spoke about finding inspiration in various sources and transforming those ideas into our own, even if they may not be entirely original. He led a creative exercise called Blackout Poetry, where participants blackout portions of text to create new poems. Afterward, the creatives got time to complete an assignment rather than jump into another thing. The spacious flow of the event produced an atmosphere of calm and a sense of peace. It’s really fun to play around with the design of the materials and the event space, but it’s also fun to design attendee moments like this — to engineer time to create, be free, and not rush from one thing to the next.

What other insights or advice do you have to encourage creatives to embrace the blank space?

One concept I came across during my research, which I still remember and thought was beautiful, was that ideas have states of matter.

When you think about an idea, that state of matter is vapor (a gas), so it cannot be held or easily seen. When you start speaking about your idea, it turns into a liquid state, visible but not easily held. When you write your idea down on a physical piece of paper, it becomes solid and tangible.

So many of us get stuck in the vapor stage. I also go through that. I have so many ideas, and I don’t progress because it can be overwhelming. But once you start talking about an idea and writing it down, your idea evolves and becomes more tangible. You’ve progressed out of the vapor stage! 

This idea of the three states of matter, from vapor to liquid to solid, helped me visualize the progress from ideation to fruition. I hope it makes embracing the blank space a little less daunting for other creatives, too.

Tucker Nichols Explores the Language of Empathy in “Flowers for Things I Don’t Know How to Say”

Have you ever been in a moment when you wanted to share an offering of sympathy, support, solidarity, or utter joy with someone but couldn’t find the right words? Unfortunately, Hallmark can’t make a card for every situation humans find themselves in. Artist Tucker Nichols helps us fill that gap with a unique and heartfelt approach to expressing what we don’t know how to say.

Nichols’ latest book, Flowers for Things I Don’t Know How to Say, is a poignant exploration of human connection and empathy in times of struggle. Drawing from personal experiences and a desire to offer solace to those facing hardship, Nichols embarked on a heartfelt journey culminating in a collection of flower paintings paired with words for the often small, sometimes overlooked moments that accompany hardship and grief. Things like the nurses who so graciously tell us what’s happening as a loved one lay on a hospital bed (one of our favorites).

Tucker shared that “putting work out into the world is never straightforward. To go from making something for myself to sharing it with the public (via the postal service, on Instagram, or in a book) can be tricky, but it’s also deeply satisfying in its own way. At the end of the day, I make things for myself and then try to find how they might land for someone else. The images with captions work when they resonate with someone else’s reality. I fundamentally believe that our sense of separateness is a myth, that we all have fears and hopes and frustrations and joys that overlap more than they don’t.”

In this book, an underlying idea is that even when life reveals what feels like an isolating experience almost beyond words, we might find some comfort in knowing that others have been here before.

Tucker Nichols

I make things for myself and then try to find how they might land for someone else. The images with captions work when they resonate with someone else’s reality.

Tucker Nichols

The inspiration for the project stemmed from Nichols’ own battle with illness and the realization that sometimes, despite our best intentions, words fail to convey the depth of our emotions. Reflecting on his journey to remission, Nichols found solace in the support of a close-knit group of loved ones, underscoring the importance of genuine connection during times of adversity.

Initially starting as a small gesture of kindness, Nichols began sending flower paintings to sick individuals on behalf of their loved ones. The project gained momentum when it was featured on national television, prompting requests from people around the world grappling with various challenges, from illness to grief to everyday struggles.

“I make flower paintings throughout the day—over breakfast, at my studio, at the dentist’s office. Drawing and painting regularly—some might say constantly—is how I stay sane, and I can get grumpy if I don’t make some art every day. I usually make the flower paintings without an idea of what text might accompany them unless there’s a news event that I want to speak to, like someone dying or another mass shooting. They find their way into piles in my studio, and when it’s time to make captions, I spread out a few and see what comes to mind.”

—Tucker Nichols

In Flowers for Things I Don’t Know How to Say, Nichols invites readers to contemplate the shared experiences that bind us together as human beings. Through his art, he reminds us that despite the complexities of life, we are never truly alone in our struggles. Each painting and accompanying caption serve as a reminder of humanity’s interconnectedness and the power of empathy to bridge the gaps between us.

Conran Design Group Unveils a Fresh, Progress-Minded Identity

In an era where design intertwines ever more intricately with progress, Conran Design Group ushers in a transformative phase by launching its new identity.

Conran Design Group (CDG), a prominent brand and design consultancy under Havas — one of the world’s largest global communications groups — has unveiled a distinctive new brand identity. Positioned as Havas’ flagship brand and design network, CDG introduces an exciting purpose: design to inspire progress.

This purpose is not just a tagline but a guiding philosophy shaping every aspect of Conran Design Group’s identity. The brand adopts a striking typographic approach spearheaded by Jean François Porchez, a French type designer recognized for his work with Le Monde and the type for the French Olympic team. The new logo emphasizes that design is central to business and everyday life. Meanwhile, bold iconography captures the essence of its diverse locations, showcasing the brand’s global presence.

The rebranding effort extends beyond aesthetics, reflecting an evolved proposition that integrates sustainability across its offerings. With a renewed focus on brand strategy, design, experience design, and communications, CDG aims to deliver meaningful progress for businesses, individuals, and society.

“Fundamentally, the new brand places design at the heart of the offer; it’s central to our name, history, and future and reflects an unwavering belief that progress needs to be designed. The new marque, with the D at the centre of the C, is at the core of the identity and a shorthand for our positioning. It feels confident, full of personality, and culturally relevant,” says Lee Hoddy, Executive Creative Director.

The launch of Conran Design Group’s new brand identity aligns with the introduction of Citizen Brands, a study and accompanying framework designed to help brand leaders achieve balanced growth in an unbalanced world. The study offers a comprehensive brand and design strategy to guide leaders in creating brand experiences catering to both individual preferences and societal good.

CDG’s reinvigorated identity reaffirms its legacy and propels it into a new era of creativity and impact. With its unwavering belief in the power of design to drive positive change, Conran Design Group seeks to continue shaping the future of brands.

The Future of Sound: Tauron Lab’s Art-Tech Fusion

When asked to imagine what sound looks like, what do you see? A new audiovisual lab in Poland sought to bring some answers to life.

Located within the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Poland, Tauron Lab stands out as a state-of-the-art new media laboratory in Europe. Offering groundbreaking audiovisual technologies, Tauron Lab provides a unique platform for artists and scientists alike to explore creativity in an immersive environment.

Operated by the Soundscape Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the urban sound environment through research and education, Tauron Lab serves as a nexus where culture, art, and technology intersect. Creative agency Meteora, located in Kraków, was tasked with developing the brand identity for this experimental audiovisual lab — no small feat bringing sound experimentation to visual representation.

Since its official opening in September 2023, Tauron Lab has been a hub of creative activity. The multidimensional space hosts a diverse array of initiatives tailored to cater to various audiences. At the heart of its offerings is Tonarium, a futuristic sound tool that facilitates experimentation with audio. 

The lab also showcases various audiovisual technologies, events showcasing cutting-edge technologies, artistic residencies focusing on innovation, workshops for both kids and adults, and installations highlighting experimental prototypes.

One of Tauron Lab’s key features is its artistic residencies, which provide opportunities for artists to delve into cutting-edge technologies such as three-dimensional sound systems and spatialization methods. These residencies aim to foster experimentation and innovation in artistic expression.

To visually communicate these initiatives, the Soundscape team collaborated with Meteora on crafting a comprehensive identity system incorporating typography, geometric shapes, and dynamic animations, each tailored to reflect the nature of the lab’s diverse events. The goal was to create a transparent identity that enhances, rather than overshadows, the content of each event.

Tauron Lab aims to be more than just a laboratory; rather, it is a dynamic space where creativity knows no bounds and the fusion of art and technology opens new realms of possibility.

Mural, Mural on the Wall, Which is the Largest and Most Inventive of All?

In 2015, designers Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker were shown a 35,000-square-foot, dirty gray concrete wall that would be the view from one-third of the more than 1000 apartments in “The Max,” a complex being built on 57th Street near the West Side Highway. The site was a former parking garage adjacent to the New York City Department of Sanitation’s truck depot.

The real estate developers Tom and Fred Elghanayan of TF Cornerstone Inc. knew they had to beautify the view to command luxury rents. They turned to Karlssonwilker for this deceptively simple, yet incredibly complex challenge.

Over the next five years, the designers—whose client list includes an international roster of museums and other design-forward organizations—figured out how to transform the wall into a dreamy cloudscape with winged creatures flying above, a little tsunami and the city skyline below, and poetry throughout. Now, each apartment that faces the wall has a remarkable and unique view. If a unit faces the street or the Hudson River, the tenants can enjoy the mural from the building’s courtyard garden, gym, or hotel-like gathering spaces. Nonresidents can view it from across the street, where this formerly desolate part of town—home to auto showrooms and repair shops as well as the Department of Sanitation—has transformed itself to serve residents with upscale coffee shops, a Pilates studio, a preschool, even a pet daycare center.

Apartment windows frame the art and the garden (photographed in March 2024,
before the leafing out and first blooms)
Creatures fly over poetry.

All this took time to come about. Karlssonwilker submitted design proposals that featured fields of grass, meadows of flowers, and verdant forests. There was a lengthy exploration of robots that would scale the walls, shoot paint, and change the vista with every 100-foot climb and descent. At first, the developers felt the $2 per square foot cost to get the robots in motion was reasonable. Still, complications ranged from potential insurance liability to the need for approvals from the Public Design Commission, the Community Board, and the Department of Sanitation, whose wall it technically is. “Ideas are not always bought by the client,” explained Karlsson, “but we keep working until an idea we love is loved by the client, too.”

A page from TF Cornerstone’s approval documents.
The site under construction.

The designer-client discussion soon turned to this: What would be there if the wall didn’t exist? Well, there would be sky, clouds, water … and the NYC skyline—a view one would never tire of. And the color scheme? It needed to be soothing, offensive to no one, pleasurable to all.

View from the street through the building to the south wall. What would it look like if the wall wasn’t there?
This photo contains the answer.
Heavenly finger? To some, this section is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling.
A skyline circles the foot of the mural. Buildings owned by TF Cornerstone are highlighted with texture.

I recently had the pleasure of joining Karlssonwilker partners Hjalti Karlsson and Vera Yuan at the property and taking a tour led by TF Cornerstone senior vice president Zoe Elghanayan. Every client meeting should be like theirs: a relaxed discussion, a look at the past and the future, and an analysis, in this case, taking in views of the mural from apartments on different floors and discussing such issues as where to extend the mural and in what year the paint might need a touchup.

Left: Client meeting in an apartment kitchen. L-R: Hjalti Karlsson, Zoe Elghanayan, Vera Yuan. Right: The meeting continues in the garden space between the building and the wall.

View from the garden.

When the four of us sat down to chat, my first question was, “How did you meet?” Elghanayan’s response: “Through a referral.” It’s a truism that the most exciting projects come to designers not by waiting for the right clients to discover them, not by cold-calling, and not by falling for email pitches promising lists of fabulous prospects, but by referral.

As it happened, Anne Pasternak, the director of the Brooklyn Museum and a colleague of the Elghanayans, had commissioned Karlssonwilker to design an anniversary book for the organization she previously led, Creative Time. The designers invented what they called the Real-Time Recording Machine, which, driven around Manhattan on a glass-walled truck, captured snapshots of sounds, colors, and people’s comments that were applied to individual covers so that each book, like the works of the artists Creative Time champions, was a unique work of art in itself.

TF Cornerstone realized that if Karlssonwilker could come up with that, they could devise something equally original and valuable for them. They were the only design firm consulted.

“Karlssonwilker has been a pleasure to work with, and I don’t feel that way about everyone,” Elghanayan said with a smile. She is especially keen on the poetry. Tucked into the mural’s composition are 16 poems, six in the public domain, including works by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Walt Whitman, and ten written especially for the project by mambers of the Poetry Society of New York. “We collaborated with the Poetry Society to choose local poets to write up to 200 words that celebrate New York neighborhoods and their history and architecture,” Karlsson explained.

“I’m a big fan of image and text combinations in art,” Elghanayan pointed out. At TFC, we’re so inspired by the city, and the poetry adds an important dimension. It’s a story wall. I was so proud to bring the local poets here for a tour,” she added, pointing out how the art program throughout the interior of the building continues the theme of image and text. “In many ways, the mural enhances and supports the art program,” she said. “It also enhances TFC’s reputation for going the extra mile to enhance the quality of life for residents.”

“Storytelling has been an ongoing motif in Karlssonwilker’s” work, Yuan noted. “Without the poems, it wouldn’t be the same wall.”

View with poem.

“Hand-painting the Trade Gothic typeface was challenging,” Karlsson recalled, but we worked through it on-site with the painters.”

If the design process was lengthy, the painting process was speedy. A rigging was set up. The outlines of the mural were printed in vertical strips. Holes were popped through the outline and transferred to the wall with charcoal. A team of painters from Artfx Murals, responsible for some of the most spectacular outdoor murals around New York City, worked on it at full tilt for four weeks straight.

Mural time-lapse, TFC Cornerstone.

Every major design project begs answers to questions like: What has it accomplished for the client’s business? Has it helped raise the company’s profile or revenues and made it easier to accomplish its goals? Has it inspired others to pull off a similar sleight of hand?

“The mural has helped reduce the amount of turnover in units that would have been facing a blank wall,” Elghanayan said. “Feedback during apartment tours has been positive. In fact, bad weather appears to increase how well the mural is received, which speaks to its success as an extension of reality. Karlssonwilker accomplished a phenomenal design feat that can’t be easily copied,” she emphasized, “and if someone tried, I imagine it wouldn’t be as successful. Also, given the grand scale of the wall, I don’t think too many others would take on the beautification challenge that we did.”

If you’d like to see more of “The Mural at the Max,” visit karlssonwilker.com or drop by 606 West 57th Street and take a look for yourself. (And, on a hot summer day, swing by Karlssonwilker’s studio in Ridgewood, Queens, and get some very special ice cream.)