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Design Matters: Tosh Hall

Print has been acquired by an independent group of collaborators—Deb Aldrich, Laura Des Enfants, Jessica Deseo, Andrew Gibbs, Steven Heller and Debbie Millman—and soon enough, we’ll be back in full force with an all-new look, all-new content and a fresh outlook for the future. As a sneak peek at our new lineup: Expect Design Matters, and an exclusive piece to accompany it, right here, every Monday. 


If there’s something that seems so refreshing in Tosh Hall’s design work, it’s probably because, well, he never intended to become a designer.


Rather, Hall’s educational foundation was in economics and journalism, which he studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


As he told The Dieline, “Journalism was great because I had to learn how to tell a story, and that thinking is the way I approach design and approach a problem. Economics helped because we are a business and we must work with businesses. As much as I’d like us to be in the arts space, we’re in the business space.”


At UNC, he worked in the full-scale offset print shop that produced the school’s communications—and there, through trial, error and the cruel tutelage of the old-school press gurus, he began his own design education.


After graduating, he got a job as a designer at Revlon, spent seven years at Landor, and then became creative director at Jones Knowles Ritchie—and eventually global executive creative director and global chief creative officer.


Not bad for a journalism and economics major.


Here, as a complement to the new episode of Design Matters, we present 15 of Hall’s wisdoms on branding and design—showcasing the mind at play behind brilliant work he has produced for everyone from Stella Artois to Kashi to the nonprofit Fonderie 47, which makes luxury jewelry from assault rifles reclaimed from war zones.

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“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.” (source)


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“It’s best for the brand to go in a long-term direction of health and growth instead of zigging, zagging back and forth between whatever the marketing plan du jour is, and a hope for short-term success.” (source)


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“People are obsessed with the next. Be present and do the best work possible in that moment. It’s easy to say in retrospect, but the rest of it will take care of itself.” (source)


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“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.” (source)


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“The answer isn’t always packaging.” (source)


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“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.” (source)


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“We wear black because it’s simple and everything else should be the color—your ideas should be the color.” (source)


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“Craft is almost table stakes. We have to have work that is representative of the best quality of craft in brand communications design, but what will differentiate the great from the good is what power design and communications can wield in the world. Going beyond being well-executed and well-crafted, ideas can not only drive strategic business objectives but push the industry forward and create cultural impact.” (source)


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“All you really need for a good idea is a pen and a piece of paper, and a brain. The more we can tap into that in this technological world where you’re always on, the better we’ll be.” (source)


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“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.” (source)


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“We redesigned Budweiser because it deserved to be redesigned. It is an artifact of our culture—it deserves to be great.” (source)


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“The challenge was, how do we change everything and change nothing?” (source)


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“To me, nothing is worse than being right, but five years ahead.” (source)


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“It doesn’t matter what direction you’re moving in as long as you’re moving.” (source)


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“Spending time just crafting is a rare luxury. So enjoy it.” (source)


#design #DesignMatters #toshhall #DebbieMillman #branding

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