PRINT is proud to introduce our latest Designer of the Week, Tosh Hall. He’s the creative director of Jones Knowles Ritchie, an independent design agency with studios in London, New York, Singapore and Shanghai, where they believe that designers must help brands abandon the generic in order to grow. Hall’s unique path to design, eye for what makes a brand unique and constant attention to brand equity has helped him and his team to both build unique branding around the world and turn around some of America’s most iconic brands.
Name: Tosh Hall
Name of Firm: Jones Knowles Ritchie
Location: New York City
Design school attended:
I didn’t go to a traditional design school. I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and studied economics and journalism. My design education really started working at UNC Printing, the University’s full-scale offset printer where we designed much of the school’s communication. Only later in my career did I realize how valuable my economics and journalism education was in helping businesses and brands effectively tell their stories.
How would you describe your work?
The way I describe our work to clients is by explaining that we are part doctors and part Boy Scouts. Boy Scouts leave campsites better than they found them, and doctors must diagnose before they prescribe treatment and first promise to do no harm. Our job is to understand the business problems that design can solve, provide the right solutions and ultimately leave brands better than when we found them. We work with businesses that have great histories and endeavor to contribute to that legacy, elevate what makes each brand unique and create relevance in today’s culture. People have described our work as iconic, crafted, bold and single-minded. I hope that our work makes an impression, reaches a wide audience and ultimately stands the test of time.
Where do you find inspiration?
Like many designers I find inspiration in the past. Some of my favorite typography and identities were created long ago. For hundreds of years our industry was a craft made by the hands of artisans. While I find a lot of inspiration in the past, I get very excited by work that uses timeless design to communicate to audiences in new and modern ways. Often what I find most inspirational are simple ideas that I wish I would have thought of first.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
Many of the designers I respect are the greats from the past like Walter Landor, who created branding more than 75 years ago, Raymond Lowey, who merged industrial design and advertising, and of course the work of Paul Rand and Saul Bass. My favorite artists comment on culture, commercialism and design: I love the intensity of Robert Longo, the combination of message and medium from Ed Ruscha, the scale of photographer Andreas Gursky, the geometry of Frank Stella and pattern of Bridgett Riley. I find a lot of inspiration in film. Some of my favorite directors got their start in advertising, like David Fincher or Errol Morris, who began in documentaries but later made amazing ads for Miller High Life. I also love the of films of Danny Boyle and Darren Aronofsky.
[Are you, too, a fan of Saul Bass? Must-see: Michael Dooley reveals a collection of previously unseen work by Saul Bass.]
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
At Landor we worked on lots of big clients. But one of my favorites was a small project we did for an ice-cream brand from Mexico City. The client came to us with a great product and a desire to launch in the U.S. So we developed the new-to-world brand Bardot. We worked with them to create the strategy, name, identity, visual identity system, packaging and store design. We were able to influence all aspects of the brand and create a very simple and extendable brand. Bardot was all based on a clever idea and simple mark that started as a quick sketch and ended with a solution that was both bold and crafted, yet flexible enough to create an interesting system.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
I have worked on many alcohol brands in my career. From Don Julio to Smirnoff. From Miller to Coors. But by far the most challenging has been the recent global rebranding effort we created for Budweiser at JKR.
Budweiser has made some of the most recognizable marketing in the last century, built the industry’s most identifiable iconography and has become one of the world’s most iconic brands. The challenge was, how do we change everything and change nothing? We selected the greatest elements from the brand’s past and recreated them with a modern voice, paying homage to the brand’s legacy and creating an identity, packaging and communications that are unquestionably Budweiser. We endeavored to make 140 years of heritage relevant to people today, not only in U.S. but in many different cultures across the world. We developed bespoke typography in almost every language to seamlessly tell Budweiser’s story, and we created designs to start conversations with beer drinkers everywhere.
Our rebranding effort was a labor of love that involved the talents of the best illustrators, typographers, photographers, writers and designers I have had the pleasure to collaborate with in my career. We created everything by hand, fussed over every last detail and applied the same level of attention to the brand that the brewmasters apply to the beer. When you work on a brand of this size it is important that every detail is right, it takes a long time and makes you incredibly thirsty. The outcome was very satisfying and of course it is great that you get to drink it when you are done. I hope you all enjoy. This Bud’s For You.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Make design the weapon of choice for brands. I believe everyone deserves great design. Whether you are holding a can of beer, eating a fancy ice cream bar or flying first on a great airline, brands can no longer get away with mediocrity. Ugly costs brands money. Great design adds profit much faster than it adds cost. We seek to influence what consumers hold in their hands and experience in the world, and we aspire to create the ideas that persist in people’s minds. In the future I hope to blur traditional lines by increasing the impact of design. Impact for business. Impact for culture. Impact for people. Design will influence every physical and digital manifestation we encounter.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
My advice to designers comes from one of my favorite motorcycle racing formulas for winning. Success is only 20% talent, 30% being at the right place at the right time and 50% tenacity. Plenty of designers are more talented and many will have better connections—the trick is to identify the right opportunities, doggedly pursue your goals and work fucking hard.
Have some unique branding projects under your belt?
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