CURRENT Artspace + Studio, Powered by Carolina Performing Arts by Kevin Landwehr

Opening in 2018 at Carolina Square in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, CURRENT ARTSPACE+STUDIO is Carolina Performing Arts new, unrestricted, Arts lab.

Working with the talented team at Rivers Agency, I had the great pleasure of developing names, branding, design thinking, wireframes, copywriting, and direction for this video for the wonderful people at CPA and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This is my first project with Rivers Agency and my first since moving to North Carolina. Rivers is loaded with a great array of talent and can produce just about anything in short order, which is a lot of fun.

Domicile Properties Rebrand by Kevin Landwehr

I’m just wrapping up my rebrand of Domicile Properties. I think it’s smart, fresh, and free of the dry, overblown elegance that plagues the graphic design in this industry — most of it stinks of a previous generation. The redesign of the website was well-served by the owners; who had faith I could create something appropriate to the category of real estate without rehashing the same tired approaches.

This was so much fun. It was so satisfying, in fact, that I’m tempted to call every realtor from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Aspen to New York to Miami and pitching them a vision for a better tomorrow.

The Domicile Properties website is slated to launch very soon, I’ll update this entry when it’s posted.

domicile properties rebrand and digital

Domicile properties, in partnership with Compass.

Stunning New Naturalist Invitation Designs by Melissa Constandsé by Kevin Landwehr

A mix of romance and innovation is on glorious display in this just-launched invitation suite, the Open Sea Collection. Graphic design can be so caught up in its category these days, but these designs powerfully redefine the expectation of what a wedding invitation can be.

Possessed of dazzling color palettes, crisp typography, and an elegant naturalism, these floral-inspired suites are classic masterpieces. 

Here’s Your Stupid Incredible Five-Step Secret Guaranteed Recipe for Everlasting Creative Cool. Totally Works! by Kevin Landwehr

Need to revitalize your creativity? Try pushing the limits of your talent, you lazy ass.


A five-minute read about staying sharp and proving something until the day you die.

keep-pushing-till-you-die

I’m an idea maker at Nothing Something. Some designers wear many hats; mine say creative director, branding specialist, and experience designer. Anyway, it isn’t important what we’re called, it’s what we create that matters: a look, feel, intellect & spirit for somebody else’s dream. The best of us wearing “creator” hats in the modern marketing world know that the history books won’t waste time remembering our names. In the end, you may judge your career only by whether you’ve enjoyed your work and made the world a more beautiful place.

For 15 years I’ve been designing and leading unbelievable talent. We’ve conquered a broad range of commercial projects, and I recognize each for their unique, relatable stories. I cherish knowing that we’ve helped companies tell their story with maximum impact across social, digital, and print outlets. 

Why, though? If 10,000 work hours makes an expert, how, after 30,000 hours, could anyone still care?

Warning: Here comes the advice.

Constantly expand the reach of your talent.

I think if you’re a designer — truly — a pure designer — you should be able to confidently design anything, in any medium and on scalable platforms. If your platform is big, try going small and battling limited reach, or working pro-bono for a charity or a friend. If you primarily serve independent clients, seek out some corporate work and discover your flexible side.

Design as a cultural anthropologist.

If you’re a marketing professional, you’re empirically rigorous and theoretically sophisticated. You’re excited by changing linguistics. You’re fascinated by food culture. You follow economics, cultural analyses of value, debt, capitalism, and globalization. You’re a social animal, and you love to study folks in their natural environment. Make sure to get beyond your tribe though — can you design for moms as well as millennials?

Design as an ambassador bridging the human/digital experience.

If you’re in marketing, you’d better be keeping your client relevant. That means you’re digital first. More importantly though, it means you have to innovate. You have to take cold technology and and communicate soulful charms that warm the soul.

Design as a writer, a painter, a calligrapher, an actor, a bartender (same thing?)

You get the idea; bending your talent into adjacent or closely related derivatives feeds your talent. Beyond that, try working within the constraints of various creative fields. How would a painter design a poster? How would a bartender improve a coaster? How would a dancer have done your commercial? If you gave a writer from the 1930's a flux capacitor, how would they design a website? 

Master a complex skill that compliments your discipline.

This is where, by a power of ten, you will really sharpen up. As a creative director working in digital environs, it was an absolute revelation to take it further and design branded spaces. Observing people interacting inside my design enhanced my understanding of how we connect customers to a brand, a product, a website, SaaS and more. 

So how does it apply to you? Only you can answer that, but it usually presents itself as something your clients ask you for that’s just out of your skill set. Like if you’ve been directing commercials for ten years and you’re overly reliant on your writers, enhance your wit with a year of improv classes. Awww, c’mon. You can do it! I mean, the entire point here is that you kind of already have what it takes, #amirite?

Wondering how marketing & graphic design professionals segue into environmental concepts? Simple: We told our client we could do it better. Our pitch? If you want a fresh message, pull creatives from beyond the echo chamber.

 

Our clients wanted to see just how attached to their brand customers could become. We were happy to do whatever it took to create lasting moments with brands. Now, you may know that part of the XD discipline improves the online experience; but the other side of the concept revolves around designing brand-supportive moments which integrate naturally into the ways we experience the world. And so, without much fuss, we just did what we do: we took it further. Well, okay. A lot further. Did it work? Sure it did. Let’s look at some social data.

I guide brands through difficult problems using a combination of empathy & first principles. What’s really there? Not the paradigm, not the perception; what’s actually happening? What are we trying to accomplish? Are we addressing real problems? Identify not just what works visually, but what caused the problem in the first place. Once you’ve nailed that down, the rest is execution. The magic will flow.

Which brings us to my recipe, one I’ve cultivated over the years:

Does the work have texture? 

Does it engage the human experience? 

Is the storytelling alive? 

Does it give the brand soul? 

Marketing seeds with cold analytics and consumer insights, and succeeds by connecting us to the beauty of our shared humanity. It’s what makes it all so much fun; we’re just working hard, everyday, to be more human... and I promise — being human, feeling alive? It never gets old.

Trust me.

-KL

Brand Launch: La Milpa de Rosa Disrupts by Kevin Landwehr

With 500% growth over 5 months, it’s clear something’s working. La Milpa de Rosa became New York’s top supplier nearly overnight. How? The concept was simple:

They’re doing it wrong, we’re doing it right. 

In addition to the delightful growth, it’s been bizarrely fun working on the branding, mobile / web, and packaging for Tortilleria La Milpa de Rosa. It's a great example of the benefits that come with branding from the bottom up: Everything's in sync, from the name to the frame. Here's a look at the new website.

Don’t Sweat the Tech, Sweat the Technique by Kevin Landwehr

XD: A practice any good designer should innately understand; consider everything, and design based on an understanding of the ways we experience our world.

It’s a crowded moment, isn’t it? What adds up to the everything we’re supposed to consider? The artist Mos Def sums it up well in his song, Life in Marvelous Times:

The D.S. & Durga Perfumers website, in development.

“And more & more & more & more
And more of less than ever before
It’s just too much more for your mind to absorb.”

All that ‘more’ is tech-driven, and thank the gods for that -- we need tech to sling Carpool Karaoke vids from our smart phones to our flatscreens.

Experience Design isn’t limited by technological experience though; it’s about ways to contribute meaning to our lives. When good ideas fail, they’re usually plagued by designers who fail to grasp XD.

Right now, design graduates are departing with their diplomas, having never grasped the advantages of Experience Design. That’s an easy one to decode; universities around the world are falling over themselves to attract students by keeping up with the speedy march of progress. Observation-based cultural studies have diminished in favor of broad marketing analytics, and kids leave unaware of what they lack, lost in metrics and lines of code, incapable of sharing with ordinary humans what makes that code so elegant.

I specialize in bridging the human/digital experience, in part through brand-integrated websites and apps. Often clients don’t have the same expectation of artistry in their digital space. Many want sparse, efficient communication and are willing to part ways with brand image in favor of brand efficiency, and showing them they can have both is rewarding.


The La Milpa de Rosa website merges responsive design with organic typography and a natural color spectrum.


In that spirit, the ultra-wonk tech hub of San Francisco doesn’t always put their money on Experience Design. Why? A lot of tech companies in San Francisco are looking for a tech-purebred mindset instead of a humanistic problem-solver mindset

Great companies separate themselves from the pack by designing for the sake of the consumer experience. The great graphic yawns that create similarities among food-delivery apps like CaviarSprigMunchery and SpoonRocket may profit from market identity, but they’ll gain little in the form of customer connection. In the end, profitable tech experiences are those that enhance the human experience.

There’s great opportunity there, if you work to seize it.

UX/UI and opportunities far beyond web are best led by XD thought processes. Thought leadership doesn't come from identifying with technology; it’s all of the things -- behavior, stance, image, tone, approach, confidence and connectedness.

You hire a wonk, you get nerd UX. You hire someone with broad cultural knowledge, you get people UX.

Relatability & relationship building, whether driven by data, insight or hunch, is what makes it all work. Understand the feelings and desires of the customer? Sure. First though, understand yourself. That’s how we develop the emotional content customers have come to expect. 

It’s okay to sweat, it shows your human side. 

Just remember: Don’t sweat the tech -- sweat the technique.

-KL