HOW Design Live Speaker Sagi Haviv: Don’t Wait to Be Asked

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Returning HOW Design Live speaker Sagi Haviv has been called “logo prodigy,” “rising star,” “wunderkind.” The descriptors seem apropos given the precocious age at which Haviv joined the legendary Chermayeff & Geismar (right out of The Cooper Union) and his rapid rise to partner after just two years. In 2013 Sagi’s name was added to firm’s masthead, and it became known as Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.

But the accolades are better due to Haviv’s identity design work: incisive, appropriate, stripped to the essence of communication. Among his projects for the firm are the logo designs and identity systems for the Library of Congress, National Parks of New York Harbor, Radio Free Europe, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Conservation International and the fashion brand Armani Exchange.

The Print editorial team was pleased to collaborate with Haviv, Chermayeff and Geismar on the publication of their book, “Identify,” in 2011. In it, the partners draw open the curtain on some of their iconic identities, dissecting the creative and business strategy behind logo design that works. Haviv has also contributed to Print two online series on logo design, including this piece on the effectiveness of abstract logos.

This year Haviv is joining the HOW Leadership Conference in Boston – part of the larger HOW Design Live event – to talk about identity design. We recently asked him about his influences, his work and his teaching at the School of Visual Arts.

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Sagi Haviv Returns to HOW Design Live 2014

Thinking about the span of your career, can you tell us about one event, or one piece of advice, or one mentor that made a significant difference to you?

At my class’s graduation ceremony from Cooper Union, the commencement speech was given by artist Lori Anderson. At the end of her speech she offered a short piece of advice that has guided me throughout my career: “Don’t wait to be asked.”

Who are the other creative people—inside the design world or beyond it—that are really impressing you right now? Whose creative chops do you envy?

I have been so impressed with our students from the School of Visual Arts. Every semester we teach an honors corporate identity class to 12 terrific students—juniors who won one of the prestigious scholarships the school offers. Every semester the students create an identity for a real client and submit work a level that we would be proud to present to a client ourselves. That’s inspiring.

You’ve worked with significant organizations and brands in just over a decade in design. Any one particular project stand out to you?

Every once in a while, we get to develop an identity program for an entrepreneurial venture. Although the visibility of these start-up projects is often limited, the experience of working with someone who is starting their own business from scratch, who has bet everything on their venture, and for whom the graphic identity is a live-or-die proposition can be incredible. Watching them succeed is humbling. (I will share one of these cases in Boston).

What inspired you to choose the topic of your presentation at HOW Design Live? Did it come from a lesson you learned or experience you had?

Identity design is among the most challenging design disciplines, as it requires the solution to be so simple, and yet distinctive and original. Over the decades, this dichotomy has amplified: on the one hand, the simplicity required is even more extreme due to the need for the designs to work well in tiny sizes and pixel formats on digital and mobile devices. On the other hand, the task of achieving an original design has become increasingly challenging, as more and more simple forms have already been created and trademarked.

What advice or information are you most excited to share during your presentation at HOW Design Live?

One of the topics I will be focusing on is the design of visual identities for universities. In past years, we have observed how difficult it is for institutions of higher education with their many, actively engaged constituencies to embrace a visual identity change. I will discuss this particular aspect of our practice, with examples from our firm’s identity work for Brown, Cornell, the University of New Hampshire and others.

HOW Design Live

Get inspired by Haviv’s work in branding and identity design, and hear from other visionaries and influencers including Seth Godin, Maria Popova and Daniel Pink at the HOW Leadership Conference.

Browse the conference program and design your ideal HOW Design Live experience.