Print’s latest Designer of the Week Rodney Abbot, judge of this year’s Logo Design Awards (which this year features a new identity applications category), is senior design partner at Lippincott, where he’s gained 20 years experience creating effective visual identity programs that translate brand strategy into expression and experience. His clients have included Dell, IBM, Infiniti, Nissan and Sprint, and and he’s received numerous awards.
Below, you’ll learn more about his story-driven work, redoing work, and the key to successfully launching a new identity within a large global organization. Plus: take a look at his work below for brilliant brand identity examples for the likes of Avianca, Southwest and a collaboration with Monotype called Pencil to Pixel.
Name: Rodney Abbot
Name of Firm: Lippincott
Location: New York City
Design school attended: BFA University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand; MFA Yale University, New Haven, CT
How would you describe your work?
My work is story-driven. I need to get to a simple, kernel of an idea that I can build the work around—one idea that succinctly expresses the brand promise. My role is not just helping shape the solution, but about guiding that solution from idea to reality. If you want to successfully launch a new identity within very large global organizations, you need a lot of people on your side. They need to know the story, tell it, believe in it, and champion the work with you.
Where do you find inspiration?
In everything around me—from my colleagues and their work to my family. Most often though, I’m inspired in those moments when I’ve switched off and I’m not consciously focused on a problem. I find that taking a step back and making space away from the work makes me more open to the possibilities of a solution.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
I like the classics, designers like Paul Rand and Dieter Rams. The purity of their ideas and rigor of their work stands out and stands the test of time.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
The design we did for Southwest Airlines is definitely a favorite. The team I worked with was inspiring because they all truly believed in what they were doing, and were committed to doing the right thing.
To do work you believe in, with people you care about, is the perfect combination.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
I have a couple, and they’re both airline identities. Avianca was a challenge because we had just recently completed the TACA identity when TACA merged with Avianca. I had to develop a new identity to replace one we had already created, and was very proud of. Redoing work you’ve already done is never easy.
The second is Southwest Airlines. Anytime you work with such a loved brand, the work will always be more closely scrutinized and commented on. On top of that, Southwest is a company with a clear sense of purpose, but it was unclear on how that purpose should be expressed. Keeping everyone’s focus on the integrity of the brand idea, not straying, or diluting that idea, that was a challenge and took some fight.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I want to continue to work with clients who are excited to see what’s possible. I enjoy knowing that I will continue to learn new things every day working with smart and creative teams.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
You can do great work anywhere, but it requires courage and belief from your clients. Earning that takes hard work that needs to be consistently delivered.
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