Non-Traditional Branding: Design Your Obsession | Rich Greco | Skillshare

Non-Traditional Branding: Design Your Obsession skillshare originals badge

Rich Greco, Executive Design Director

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5 Lessons (15m)
    • 1. Position

    • 2. Direction

    • 3. Execution

    • 4. Feedback

    • 5. Production

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About This Class


Learn to think outside the box with your passion projects. This 15-minute case study is perfect for designers, artists, and thinkers who want to get a glimpse into the creative process and see one of the many ways an idea can come to life.

Designer Rich Greco will show you how to turn your passion into a visual brand through his Feast of St. Pizza project, where he creates a holiday celebrating his love for New York pizza. Rich designed a full visual identity system and pilgrimage celebration for his love of pizza and design. It is all about making your subjective opinion an objective reality.

Rich will talk theory and approach, and speaks in terms of opinions, not definitive rules. Through a series of prompt questions, you'll learn practical processes, questions to ask, and inspirations to seek out to make your passion project happen. This non-traditional case study will challenge you to be self-critical to help you reach your desired audience in a creative way.



1. Position: So, the first thing you want to do is choose something that you really care about. Pick something you're passionate about and use that to drive this project, work towards expressing that in some visual form. I'd say I'm pizza obsessed and I want to have other people experience pizza the way I do. I think it's an important part of New York City culture. I want to work on a project, where I get to eat a tone of pizza. I had this idea to do a pizza marathon of sorts where I would go to 10 pizzerias in one day, that will be a great day for me, and if I can include others on that and get a portfolio piece out of it, so I'm going to do that. You have the subject matter, now what statement would you like to make about it? You test me more then I like Twin Peaks or Twin Peaks is a great show or did you see that episode of Twin Peaks? It has to be more about a position that you have that you can convince others of or convince others against. I want to convince people that pizza is an important part of the culture in New York and it deserves its own holiday, so I'm going to create a holiday for pizza. Then celebrate it, whether it's by myself, or with the rest of the world. Where do you think you know everything about your subject matter? Do some research and approach it from an objective standpoint, figure out multiple angles and find similarities in your research, find differences and start to group that and organize in ways that you can go back to it later. Pizza and religion is a holiday, I researched religious symbology, different pilgrimages, Mecca, saints, way of the saints, other holidays, stations of the cross, different materials like cloth and holy water and oils and elements within the religion and pizza where they overlap. So, pull your research from multiple resources. Search blogs, new books, old books, old blogs, blog books. So, come up with a name for your project in a one-line description, it will help you when you explain it to other people or when you have questions about the who, what, where, what and where and you want to know where and what? The important thing is that you don't have to stick to this. In the beginning, you can have this idea evolve, at least you have something to work towards, you know when it's right and wrong to tweak it and fine tune it. My project is the Feast of St Pizza, the Feast of St Pizza. A one-day pilgrimage to ten pizzerias of reverence across the Holy Land of New York City. It's a little bit longer than it has to be but I like adding all that religious stuff. Pilgrims, which is now part of the verbiage of our describe every element of this project, is in some kind of religious reference. Pilgrims will start at the southern tip of Brooklyn and make their way north to Lower Manhattan, having a signature slice at each of the pizzerias, it's something like that, this could change later. So, choose a time and a place to release your project into the world, it gives you a time-frame for you to finish your project, so if you give yourself way too much time you just kind of slowly roll through this thing. Work twice as smart as you do hard, you want to make sure you think about things before you do them and backtrack and when you have this deadline in place, you can definitely can have a focus that you wouldn't have if you knew you had all the time in the world. 2. Direction: So, consider how your idea will manifest itself. What is the best way to convey your idea? Is it just a word mark, a sticker campaign, wild postings of billboard, funny hat, maybe a t-shirt? Whatever gets your idea across, figure out what those things are and make a list of all the best ones, and that'll help you focus on what you need to do to get there. So, the elements I would use to convey the idea of same pizza would be a map, symbol of worship, stickers, posters, maybe some products to sell on a website, a hash tag could be useful. A symbol of worship would be something that people could rally around. It'd be easy to reproduce, but there'd be an official seal, something simple that combines both the aspects of religion that I'm referencing and pizza that I am heavily referencing. So I've kind of done my research. I have a lot of my references at top of mind. But I'm not going to look at it right now. I'm just going to kind of put pen to paper and not be worried about how terrible certain things are, how terrific certain things are as well. Normally, I keep all my ideas on any pile of pieces of paper. This way, they're kind of loose. I could draw them in my study or the restroom. I'm not thinking about color palette yet or how this will manifest, what textures it might be. It's more about just getting a shape down and figuring out if that's right and then once that's set, I could figure out if typography is necessary. The most relevant references will surface in your sketches, so you don't have to just copy things you think will work. It will just kind of come out naturally. That was the case here, where as you can see, I've done pretty much the same sketch over and over again, and it's what I wound up using, which is one of my earlier sketches. So, sketched out my first thoughts for the symbol, what works, what doesn't. Then I started circling things that kind of resonate. Elaborate on those pieces. A lot of these scribbles are very simple. I didn't take more than two seconds to really get through each one of these. Then I figure out how those symbols work in the elements that I'm going to create. A lot of this also is relying on copy. If you're not good at writing copy, include someone who is good at taking copy that exists and changing words to sound like they were made to be about pizza when in reality they're about religion. So, that was pretty simple. I kind of just stole everything from the Bible. So you're at the point where you want to commit to an expression of visuals, narrow down all your sketches and figure out what are you working towards, which we call a palette, what does everything sound like, what does it feel like, what's the voice of everything. At this point, it might help to choose kind of monolith or something to rally all of your thoughts around. In this case, mine came to me. It was under my windshield. It was, "Jesus loves you. He is coming soon. Repent." So, I figured that this is kind of my approach, grassroots evangelical approach to a holiday that I made up, and I'm asking people to join me. So, how do I do that? Someone must have printed out thousands of these and just put them under windshields. It's not particular. It's not aesthetically intelligent. It's not a great approach to getting people to convert, but it's something people are familiar with. So, I thought if I could riff on this idea and make something that's design well, but still feels like some fanatic wants you to believe in the same thing they do, and I consider myself a pizza fanatic, this is the approach. Now you're going to want to make a checklist of everything you have to make because you have to commit to doing it. Otherwise, you won't do anything. It feels great to check stuff off the list. Usually, when I check off the box, I yell, "Boom." Anything you think you can't make to the best of your ability, this is the point to scrap it, or if you don't think you have the time based on your deadline, this is where you really just want to finally craft everything that you can because a great project that isn't finished is a terrible project. So, on the list, you want to have everything you need, whether it's supplies or things you create. So, my list consist of stickers to post up at every location, a flyer to put under the windshield and leave at each pizzeria, posters. Consider your budget and what you're able to spend. Or if you're not willing to spend anything, make it look like you spend something. Don't let anyone think that you achieved because you didn't have money. Make cheap your approach. If you can make things look high-end, and that's part of your concept, then make them look as good as you can without compromising another element lower down the line. So, if one thing looks amazing, make sure that last shitty little thing looks amazing too. If they all look shitty, at least it's consistent. 3. Execution: The execution stage will put your concept to the test. This is where all your research comes to life and becomes one unit of visuals. So, I open up Illustrator, I got this white canvas and the one thing that helped me focus was putting on Puccini's Tosca in the background. So, I've pulled elements from all my reference, and I use them to define the parameters that I'm working within. Everything needs to feel like an evangelical pamphlet that you would see on the street, but it also needs to have hints of Italian restaurants and pizzerias. That's where my color palette came from, the reds and whites. The copy itself is very matter of fact, and then seeing how a poster relates to the brochure, what kind of copies works on both, what things individualized each elements of the certificate of authenticity that goes with the products. That'll look different because different information is coming across, and really the flier, the pamphlet is what sells the entire idea. It's the one sheet in the form of something you would give to a stranger on the street. So, early on, I set parameters around building everything towards this one monolithic graphic. I don't always follow my rules because these guys are bozos, they have no design sense. So, I want to make a nice poster. I'm going to make a nice poster. I'm going to use a nice typeface. I'm going to have more informed decisions that ultimately feel like they are sourced from a lesser designer, but they're from me. So, don't follow your references to a fault if it's going to inhibit your creativity or limit what the final product looks like. 4. Feedback: In his book, Bugumbos Snuffbox, Kurt Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story. One of which was, "Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world so to speak, your story will get pneumonia." Kurt Vonnegut. I approached a friend of mine. You could approach an enemy, you can approach a stranger. So, I approached a friend of mine who's in PR. I figured, why not? She's going to put in all the best publications, all the newspapers will pick this up. She said that no one would care about it, from a publication standpoint. Well, she laughed when she read it, so that's enough of a sign of success for me. Once you have this feedback from your friend, or mortal enemy, go back over the previous two steps and kind of address anything you think might make it more clear. Don't re-do everything, or start from scratch. I mean you had enough conviction to go this far. Trust yourself in certain aspects. But if it doesn't make any sense, after addressing all your solicited feedback, it's time to produce. Start making this. 5. Production: Now it's time to reduce all the elements that bring your concept to life. Be conscious of the deadline that you've set, you don't want to have a couple of nice pieces, you want to have an entire suite of things that feel like they're at the same level of finish as one another. So, already my stickers, I had them printed, I had a couple 100 of them made. I printed the posters for the website on a nice linen stock. I printed the flyer on a really piece of sheet printer paper. has photos from the actual day. A map of the pizzerias of reference, so you can follow in our footsteps. There's a place for you to submit your own maps. As long as you shove 10 pieces of pizza in your face, you're pretty much covered. There is a gift shop for people who don't have the guts to really go out on their own and eat 10 pizzas in one day but want to participate and have enthusiasm so that they could buy products like New York holy water or consecrated chili oil. I purchased all these vials from a taxidermy shop and filled 20 of them with water. After a few of them turn yellow, I realized I had to wash the vials first. So, make sure you troubleshoot during this stage, you don't want to have a bunch of materials that aren't the right ones or go to waste because you didn't properly plan. This relic of St. Pizza is pizza crust which I'm not sure how long will last, but I think the humor or the grossness of it outweighs the actual functionality of it. So, that's fine. The chili oil which I was able to get from a friend of mine who opened his own pizzeria and makes his own chili oil. I was able to get him to make these in time. The other participants in this pilgrimage get handkerchiefs. So, they would have the handkerchief to wipe their face off sauce, and then at the end, you can hold it out and hopefully you see the face of Jesus in there, maybe Mary or something. But at least they have to keeps sake too and it's something they can hang on the wall or just throw out. So, you spent all this time finally crafting your work. You want to document your project in an unobtrusive way so that you don't take away from what went into in the first place, which is what you were obsessed with or something that you really care about. You don't want to cheapen that with an invasive film aspect or something that takes away from the event you've planned or something that cheapens the materials you've created. So, make sure you document it in a way that's tasteful and can be shared, but isn't shoving it down someone's throat or forcing people to pretend that they enjoyed more than they do. Don't make a bullshit case study about it. So, I took photos at each of the pizzerias of reverence, of the store, front of the slices. Don't be afraid to have other people document an event for you as well. Don't explain your idea too much to people once it's finished, I mean, you've done enough at a certain point to get your idea across. Leave some mystery to it and don't ever tell anybody everything. So, hopefully at the end of this process, you'll have fully understood why you're obsessed with something and maybe have convinced other people of that as well. If not, at least you did all you could with the things that you care about, and now you can move on to the next thing like Morrissey or Twin Peaks or.