Josh Miles is a brand-obsessed // strategist // speaker // author // podcaster // designer // marketing consultant // caffeine addict.
A longtime devotee to marketing impact, he once threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game dressed as a giant Subway® sandwich. Yes, he got it all the way to the catcher.
— The Logo Creative™ (@thelogocreative) May 1, 2019
As a past TEDx presenter and author, Josh speaks coast-to-coast on branding and marketing, including his role hosting the podcast Obsessed With Design. Josh frequently serves as an event emcee, and marketing conference keynote presenter. Miles was honored as 40 Under 40 by both Indianapolis Business Journal and Delta Sigma Phi, and a 20 Under 40 by ENR Midwest. Josh was awarded the 2016 Emerging Voice Award by Purdue University. Josh authored the Content Marketing Institute book, Bold Brand, and after five years, published the latest version, Bold Brand 2.0.
Josh is an advisory board member of the Purdue University Lamb School of Communication. Josh is also consulting with and involved in several startups.
Prior to co-founding his former branding agency, MilesHerndon, Josh served as an art director and an adjunct faculty member for three university-level graphic design programs. Josh is a long-time member of AIGA, the professional association for design, having served three years as the Indianapolis chapter president. Josh is an active member of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). Josh is a past advisor to the Oasis Network for Churches, an international church planting and resourcing organization for churches spreading the gospel of God’s grace, and the Indiana chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Josh loves to cook meat, eat anything with bacon, hit the gym, play the guitar, travel to new places with his family, read, and draw.
Josh lives in Indianapolis with his beautiful wife, daughter, and son.
The Logo Creative – Hi Josh thanks for agreeing to take part
Josh Miles – Hi Andrew sounds good, thanks for the invitation!
Josh Miles – As my parents tell the story, when I was three years old I loved to draw. My mom would challenge me with more and more complex challenges, until at the ripe age of about six I won a Thanksgiving coloring-contest, and received a huge stuffed monkey that I named Snow. I think at that point, by accepting the prize, I lost my amateur creative status. And in all seriousness, I think I’ve been telling people I was going to be “an artist” when I grew up ever since. Sure there were phases where I wanted to be Batman, but the whole artist thing seemed to stick.
Fast-forward to 2018, and I’m thinking about this again for only the second time in my life… what is it that I want to do with my life? I have to say, it’s both exhilarating and occasionally… terrifying.
The Logo Creative – What does your day consist of?
Josh Miles – In my current phase, I bounce around often. It’s probably hard to imagine, but I think I’m busier without a full-time job. I’m splitting my time between hosting and producing two podcasts, trying to learn everything I can about audio and video (specifically YouTube), consulting for one of my favorite clients in a more marketing-driven role, and serving as a part-time CMO for a startup that I invested in called Codelicious. They develop coding curriculum for kids in grades 3-8.
The Logo Creative – Are you a morning person or night owl and is there a reason why?
Josh Miles – I was naturally a night owl, but running a business for almost 16 years while being married to an extreme morning person has converted me to the light side. I still enjoy sleeping in occasionally on a Saturdays, but for the most part, I’m up and at ’em between 5:45 and 6:15am most days.
The Logo Creative – What was the first logo you ever designed?
Josh Miles – I remember drawing logos on my notebooks in middle school. Back then I was especially obsessed with active lifestyle brands like Nike, Vaurnet, and Oakley. Many of the brands were surfing related, which is rather ironic, since I couldn’t swim back then and was basically terrified of deep water.
Although I’m sure it wasn’t the first logo I designed, this was one of the first logos I designed in my first full-time job, as well as one of the most memorable. I was working as an art director for a small local advertising agency, and had the opportunity to design a logo for the Indianapolis Colts in 1999 or 2000. Our client was a local bank, who was the offical bank sponsor of the Colts. In some legal technicality, they weren’t allowed to use the “horeseshoe” logo on a MasterCard, because Visa had apparently locked up all of the rights on NFL logos. So our agency was tapped to create a secondary mark for the team that would only be used on Colts gear related to the bank. Sure, it’s a little dated today, but it’s still one of my favorite things I’ve ever worked on.
As a bonus, it’s one of the few logos that I’ve designed that I know to have been tattooed on someone. Now that’s a milestone.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite Logos of all time? (this will be included)
Josh Miles – Mostly for nostalgia reasons, I think the “original” Oakley logo (sometimes called the thermonuclear logo) is one of my old time favorites. Having debuted sometime in the early 80’s, it feels a little dated today, of course. But the nested letterforms were an interesting study in how much you can take away from a word, and still have it read correctly. I guarantee that logo was scribbled on many a folder back in my middle school days.
The Logo Creative – Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Josh Miles – I usually refer to the initial stages as discovery, which is a fancy word for asking a lot of questions and researching on the web for related brands and competitors. Discovery usually involves zero making and lots of curiosity. From there I move quickly into sketching and initial typeface research. Then I try to spend time away from it, forgetting all of the things, and letting my mind work on it in the background. Sometimes its a shower, a drive, or watching something on Netflix that will shake an idea loose. From there I’ll go back to sketching and then open up Adobe Illustrator and start mocking up shapes. I tend to focus on form and black and white until I’ve really nailed the design. Color is typically the very last thing I look at.
The Logo Creative – What brands do you most admire and how do they influence your creative thinking?
Josh Miles – I know I suffer from a recency bias in many things… my latest project is usually my favorite, and the last successful brand I’ve admired is typically my favorite. These days I’m enamored with the Century 21 rebrand. The old brand was horribly dated, even for a residential real estate brand. So much so, that it almost had a retro charm to it. However, Century 21 boldly moved in a very minimal and contemporary direction, which makes the brand feel so much more luxury oriented. The familiar black and gold have remained, but are dialed in to much more contemporary hues. I’d give them an A+ and that’s a very rare grade in my book.
The Logo Creative – What do you consider your most successful design project, and why?
Josh Miles – As I noted in Bold Brand 2.0, there are really four kinds of rebrands.
1. Window dressing – the outside has changed, but it’s still a lousy company on the inside. In my mind, this type is dishonest and unsuccessful.
2. Because we can – this is when brands are already bored and they change for the sake of change. Think Uber from two years ago. This is rarely successful.
3. A new face on a great place – Sometimes brands are amazing, and they simply don’t look the part. These types of rebrands bring great energy to deserving organizations.
4. Legitimate improvements inside-out – It’s rare that you can tell a successful turn around story from start to finish, but these types of rebrands reinvigorate the inner workings of the organization and help them tell the story of who they’ve become, and why. These last two types were always my favorite types of clients to work with.
The Logo Creative – How long does it take to complete the average logo design project from start to finish?
Josh Miles – I’m not sure there’s a true average, but anywhere from 4-12 weeks has been typical. It’s usually a function of the number of decision-makers, and clarity the organization has around who they wish to be.
The Logo Creative – What are you recommended design books to read?
Josh Miles – I will share a list of some of my favorites I recommend
- The Brand Gap – Mary Neumeier
- Saul Bass – A Life in Film & Design by Jennifer Bass
- Thinking with Type – Ellen Lupton
- How To… – Michael Bierut
- Designing Brand Identity – Alina Wheeler
The Logo Creative – Which software do you use frequently and is there any you would recommend to designers?
Josh Miles – I think most designers have the basics down. But if you want to be a productivity machine, I’d recommend focusing on a few additional apps that you use as go-to apps for notes, to-do lists, and other tasks.
For me, Evernote, Google Drive, OmniFocus, TextExpander, and Keynote help me keep everything organized.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
Josh Miles – I’m definitely a modernist. I’m a sucker for the work of Saul Bass, Paul Rand, and Michael Bierut. And although I love what guys like Aaron Draplin are doing in that retro, blue-collar aesthetic, I have a hard time channeling a vibe that’s less than squeaky clean. One of my professors at Purdue University, Dennis Ichiyama, was a student of Paul Rand, so I like to think I’m a protege of his, once removed. Don’t tell Dennis, but I have a few of his pieces framed and hanging in my home.
The Logo Creative – When you’re not designing do you have a favorite free time activity you like to do?
Josh Miles – I spent a long time so focused on my career that I did nothing but work. I would highly discourage anyone else to follow this path. Thankfully about two and a half years ago, I broke free a bit and started working out. I mostly just lift weights, which helps to balance out my bacon habit.
The Logo Creative – What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you?
Josh Miles – My first boss taught me an important lesson. He said, most clients only ask for base hits, while most creatives want to swing for the fences. The problem with this thinking is that if you show your client the home run without first acknowledging their idea, they’ll never come around. So the lesson is this: If you want to show your client a home run, first show them the base hit.
The Logo Creative – In less than 10 words what is graphic design?
Josh Miles – The process and visual artifact of problem-solving.
The Logo Creative – What would be your advice for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Josh Miles – I seem to have no shortage of advice for new designers, and aspiring creative people. In fact, I’ve been considering writing another book on this very topic… the working title is “Dots and Lines,” so keep an eye out to see if that ever happens. But in the meantime, if I could have just one piece of advice, I’d encourage everyone reading that your creative career will only amount to what you make of it. I didn’t attend a famous design program in an amazing metropolitan area. Heck, in the late 90’s, we barely had the internet in college. But I was bound and determined to start my own design firm someday and to make an impact on the national design scene. And while designing was fun, running a business and empowering dozens of designers and other creative pros to reach new heights was truly an honor. Today I get to interview some of the most important design professionals in the world on Obsessed With Design. And dear reader, you can choose to accomplish so much more than I have.
Proverbs says that “death and life” are in the power of the tongue. Which simply means, you have the power to say what you believe and believe what you say. Make it something worth believing. I hope you believe that, and I hope you tell yourself you can do it.