Ben Burns is a brand strategist, an award-winning designer, and an expert in user experience. As the Digital Director of Blind, he oversees the intersection of design and technology in all client work.
Prior to joining the team at Blind, Ben founded Burnt Creative, a brand experience agency in Richmond, Virginia. He also served on the executive board of the Richmond AIGA chapter as Vice President.
— The Logo Creative™ (@thelogocreative) October 17, 2018
He received his BA in Media Arts with a focus on New Media from the University of South Carolina and a Masters Certificate in Cyber Security from Armstrong Atlantic University. Since then, Ben has enjoyed working with brands like DreamWorks, Paramount Pictures, AMC, TBS, (Olympic) Team USA, Laika, and Hyatt among several exciting startups.
Ben is a veteran, serving five years in the Army National Guard, earning the rank of Sergeant. In a brief intermission from the creative sphere, he also spent a few years chasing drug dealers as a decorated Narcotics Agent with a multi-jurisdictional narcotics agency.
The Logo Creative – Hi Ben love the content your putting out for the futur and its great to include you in the designer interviews.
Ben Burns – Thanks Andrew, Sure thing, it’s a pleasure.
The Logo Creative – What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer and how did you proceed?
Ben Burns – Boy. I was late to the ball game on this one. I didn’t even know design existed until my junior year in college. I was, however, crazy about photography in high school. I learned basic composition, exposure, etc. I actually had a Photography Five class created just for me so I could keep shooting. I was the only one in the class. I was going to be a rock star photographer with a studio in NYC, traveling around the world. Ansel Adams was my north star. But then digital cameras came around and just absolutely ruined the magic of it for me.
I cruised into college first chasing a graphic arts degree, which was mostly boring pre-press stuff (sorry pre-press guys, but let’s be honest… booooring). Then I started pursuing an advertising major. I found that I liked laying out the ads more than concepting, so I started looking deeper into this design thing.
By then it was too late to change majors again (into a BFA program) and graduate on time, so I settled into the Media Arts track at USC. Somehow, I stumbled into an internship as a designer in the art department of a local agency. The creative director there took me under her wing and a designer was born.
The Logo Creative – What does your day consist of?
Ben Burns – Various important things. I kid. Typically I start the day with something that requires thought. Usually writing. Then knock out client management stuff and head to lunch. We usually film YouTube episodes after lunch, but when we’re not doing that, I’m managing the team, reviewing work and finding time to tweak The Futur’s website. Read: I do a lot more emailing than designing now.
The Logo Creative – What was the first logo you ever designed?
Ben Burns – The internship I took in college required a portfolio, and I didn’t have one. Made for an awkward interview. Not being one to give up an opportunity, I created an entire portfolio of work within 24 hours of interviewing. And yes, it was all awful. The first logo I did there was for a spice company. I’m 98% sure that I chose Papyrus as the typeface. Oh, momma, that thing was sweet.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite Logo you have designed? (Can include if you like)
Ben Burns – I really like our Bermuda Pie Company logo. It wasn’t the biggest job in the world, but I think I was able to tie a really long name together well. Plus, this was the first time I had ever done any hand-lettering. Fun stuff!
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite Logo of all time?
Ben Burns – Hands down, the Batman symbol. Cradle to grave, it will be my favorite icon.
The Logo Creative – Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Ben Burns – Sure! For a fee… I kid. I always start with a thorough discovery process. This is much different than the creative brief. In a facilitated discovery session, we can draw insights and confirm or reject assumptions with the client right there in the room.
From there we present stylescapes, which are robust mood boards with broad visual directions. This allows us to collaborate with the client much earlier. Then we move into thumbnail sketches, which we also share with the client.
By now, we have a specific direction and we refine into a single final option, which we present in multiple mockups to the client. (A video/article about presenting logo designs and identity projects to clients)
Collaboration, not research. Facilitation, not briefing. These are the differences that can set you as a designer apart from the crowd. These are the things that give you that expert status in the eye of the client.
The Logo Creative – In your opinion regarding Logo Design pricing do you prefer working on a fixed rate or customer budget and can you explain why?
Ben Burns – We may use different words to describe these methods of pricing. I prefer a fixed project fee over an hourly rate. Let me explain:
I can’t tell you how frustrated I get when I take my car into the repair shop and receive a bill that includes the hours spent on the job. I asked once, “Did you guys hurry?” The manager was quite confused.
If you charge for your time, you have no motivation to finish on schedule. More hours equals more pay. This does not set your relationship up for success.
By charging a fixed project fee, both parties know how much money will be exchanged, and it’s your responsibility to manage how much you profit. The caveat? You must have a well-defined scope of work outlined and agreed to before the project starts. Which includes a set number of revision cycles. This is vital.
The Logo Creative – How long does it take to complete the average logo design project from start to finish?
Ben Burns – There really isn’t an average. I mean, I guess mathematically there is, but each client has their own wants, needs, and timeline. I worked with a client once who had been working on their identity for three years. Three years!
We try to have things knocked out in about three months.
This also depends greatly on how much money you plan on making. Let’s say you’re confident that you can take on ten projects in a year. If you want to make a million dollars, each project must be worth $100,000.00 and take no longer than six weeks to complete. Having that sliding scale in mind will help select the right clients.
The Logo Creative – Are you a MAC or PC User and is there a reason for your choice?
Ben Burns – Mac. All the way. I like the OS far better. That being said, that Surface Pro Studio has my attention…
The Logo Creative – Which software do you use frequently?
Ben Burns – In no particular order: Mac Mail, ToDoIst, Evernote, Adobe (all), Chrome, Sketch, Brackets, Slack, iCal, Keynote, Cyberduck. On mobile: Instagram, Twitter, Medium, YouTube, Mac Mail, Sketch, Evernote, Robinhood, Nike Running Club, Activity, Waze, Audible, Podcasts. I want to get into Anchor.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
Ben Burns – I’m in transition right now. I was super into the hipster thing for a hot minute. Right now I’m focused on condensed sans serifs. So sexy. But I’m honestly not one to pick a style.
The Logo Creative – What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Ben Burns – The people I work with. Seriously. I’m surrounded by amazing designers. Matthew Encina is a huge creative role model of mine (shh don’t tell him). Just being around people who are far better than I has been amazingly inspirational. And I like Pinterest, Behance and Dribbble. The standard stuff.
The Logo Creative – In your opinion what’s the best and worst part of your job being a designer?
Ben Burns – Hmmm. The best part? Getting paid to create. Seriously, the act of selling an idea is marvelous. The worst part? Imposter syndrome. I’m not the most talented designer in the world – and seeing some of the incredible work people put out is absolutely intimidating.
The Logo Creative – Who is the most inspiring person to you and why?
Ben Burns – My two year old daughter (I heard you all groan, stop it). Seeing her make these first connections and explore her own creative side has been incredible. I’m playing with crayons for the first time in twenty years.
The Logo Creative – Who is your favourite Graphic Designer and why?
Ben Burns – Haha I hate this question! I didn’t go to a true design school, and have never bothered to look up design history, so I don’t have one of those Saul Bass/Paul Rand characters lined up for this. I’d say honestly right now I am a huge fan of the work by The Young Jerks and Jon Contino. They have similar styles that are so fresh and retro and awesome.
The Logo Creative – What’s your favourite design quote?
Ben Burns – I love the quote by Silvia Plath, “The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.”
The Logo Creative – In less than 10 words what is graphic design?
Ben Burns – Art for the purpose of communication.
The Logo Creative – What steps did you take to start your graphic design business? Did you have to make any sacrifices on your journey?
Ben Burns – I started freelancing while working full time. When I had enough revenue consistently coming through the door, I made the jump. During the entire process, I sacrificed a ton of time with my wife, vacations, etc.
The Logo Creative – Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would have changed early on in your career?
Ben Burns – Hmmm. I’d like to be a better designer. For a decade, I’ve been designing with my gut. Purely instinct. Only recently have I gone back and started to learn the ‘rules.’ I wish I had done this much earlier. It’s starting to add many more tools to my belt.
The Logo Creative – If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Ben Burns – Prepare for drama: I would have pushed myself to join the army at 18. My military experience later in life taught me work ethic, persistence, how to act fearlessly, discipline. Things I could have used six years earlier.
The Logo Creative – What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you?
Ben Burns – Make the logo bigger. Hahaha no – I was told early on to find mentors at every career stage. That has been vital to my success and could have prevented many of my failures. I can trace back every amazing thing that has happened to me in a mentor relationship.
The Logo Creative – What would be your advice for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Ben Burns – I am seeing a huge lack of sharing. What I would have given to have the level of transparency and input that we have today back in the early 2000s. If you’re not participating in design competitions, sharing your process on social media, taking part in design discussions with people on the internet, you should. And stop consuming so much content. Especially if it’s getting in the way of action.