100 Designers Everyone Should Know: CW&T
Learn the five most important infographic design principles with fun, bite-sized lessons.
CW&T is the Brooklyn-based art and design practice of Tokyo-born Che-Wei Wang, 38, and Taylor Levy, 33, who originally hails from Montreal. They met at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, got married, went to MIT’s Media Lab, had a couple of kids along the way (Pau, 3, and his brother, Tree, 1) and now collaborate on the concept, design, and manufacture of the things that they want to see in the world. Their products are funded through Kickstarter campaigns, later made available on their website, and are thoughtfully made, carefully considered, and overly engineered to do what they do and do it well—often for multiple generations.
Of special interest to graphic designers is their unique product labeling system which also functions as their brand identity. The pair knew that they didn’t want a logo (they tried to have one, once, and hated it). Feeling unable to define their studio identity on their own—a common dilemma for designers—they turned to Brooklyn studio Hawraf for help. We wanted to hear more about the process.
How did you come up with the idea of a universal labeling system?
T: We didn’t! This was the first time we ever hired somebody to do creative work for us, because we needed an outside perspective. We asked Hawraf to create an identity without a logo.
CW: What kind of brand do we want to be, what are the core values we want to communicate? How do we make the projects we want to make? They created a universal labeling system that goes everywhere: on our packaging, our website, and becomes our brand. It was the only idea they presented: This is it, this is you. And they were correct.
T: The designers were really good about workshopping with us and talking it through: who we are, what we needed. We make stuff constantly and this whole system is a way of putting it out there as we’re making it and giving it categorization. Making it part of our system of making. If we want to make a teapot, for example, we would sketch it, immediately take a picture of the sketch and this first artifact of it becomes the seed for its identity. Then we generate the label and start tagging it: is it hard, soft, or both? Size? Material? Level of precision? Where does it live? Is it digital? What do you do with it? How many do we think we’ll make in our lifetime? From inception to execution, every idea is assigned a label to track and share its development over time.
CW: We generate ideas not knowing if they will ever become real things, but that label gets created and goes out into the world regardless.
So the labels altogether are like a really nice, precise sketchbook or archive where you can always find that idea from years ago, or the one you thought of yesterday.
T: Yes! It’s a permanent filing system for ideas. The labels become the hang tags for clothing, or a sticker that closes the pouch that a product comes in. It’s consistent everywhere you see it. We want people to feel that they truly own the stuff we make and to feel that way, you have to understand it. Part of our practice is showing the process. How it was made, where it comes from, and all of the ideas behind it. Inviting people into the process helps them own it even more.
Their latest Kickstarter project (as of 5/28, it was 180% funded) is Time Since Launch, a single-use, long-scale launch clock: Pull the pin and it begins marking time for the next 2,738 years. You can only do this once.