Today a Designer Interview With Phillip VanDusen a highly accomplished creative leader from the Greater New York City Area with two decades of experience in strategic branding, graphic design and product development for some of the worlds biggest and successful global companies. Philip is the Principal of Verhaal Brand Design, a strategic design & brand consultancy that specializes in visual identity system design and brand strategy.
Previously Philip held positions of Vice President, Head of Design for Global Snacks at PepsiCo and responsible for the identification, creation, management and execution of comprehensive brand design strategies working on the following Frito-Lay portfolio including – Lay’s Potato Chips, Doritos, Cheetos, Sun Chips, Tostitos, Sunbites, Grainwaves and Twistos.
— The Logo Creative™ ✏ (@thelogocreative) May 9, 2018
Prior to joining PepsiCo Philip was the executive creative director at Landor Associates at the Cincinnati office, and worked with clients such as Procter & Gamble, Kraft Foods, Merck, Sysco Foods, GE Honda Aero Engines, Petsmart and National Geographic.
He also served as executive creative director for Anthem Worldwide for their San Fransico office overseeing brand development and design strategy. Overseeing brand development for clients such as Safeway, Chevron, Avery Dennison, Levis Strauss & Co., Petsmart, Diamond Foods, Microsoft, Campbell’s, Sports Authority and Johnson & Johnson.
In the Fashion world, Philip served as Vice president of graphics and packaging at Old Navy and responsible for the strategic direction and was responsible for the strategic direction and design of graphic products and packaging. Designs created under Philips leadership have garnered awards such as the Communication Arts 2011 Best Design Award for Packaging, 2010 ExTracts Award for Best Packaging, and been featured on the cover of Packaging Digest Magazine. He has also served on the advisory board of Package Design Magazine and been a contributor to BrandPackaging.com
The Logo Creative –Hi Philip it’s nice to have you take part in the Designer Interview’s
Philip VanDusen – Hi Andrew, Sure! I’m happy to participate. Loving your stuff!.
The Logo Creative – What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer and how did you proceed?
Philip VanDusen – I had just returned from working at The Lacoste School of Art in France. I had my MFA in painting and was pursuing teaching fine art as a career. I moved to NYC and was applying for a job at an apparel company. They needed someone who knew the Mac and could do design work on the computer. I didn’t know a thing about it but said I did and rushed out to rent a Mac and learn Photoshop and Illustrator. When I started to play around with those programs I was hooked. Absolutely addicted. I packed up my paints a year later and never looked back. I spent every waking hour of the next 5 years learning everything I could about design and computers – working my way up to creative director in the apparel industry. I was managing designers, which was a lot like teaching – but you could actually make a living doing it. Plus I got to see my work out in the world – literally on peoples chests –everywhere I went.
The Logo Creative – What does your day consist of?
Philip VanDusen – I get up. I drink copious amounts of coffee. I walk my dogs. I write and answer tons of emails. I design. I meet with clients. I communicate with business partners about projects. I develop content for my newsletter, my YouTube channel. I do administrative stuff, finances, billing, scheduling. I network with people. I consume inspiration voraciously. I read about branding, design, strategy, business and entrepreneurship. Some days I do all of those. Some days I only do a couple. It depends on what’s on my plate.
The Logo Creative – What was the first logo you ever designed?
Philip VanDusen – It was for an apparel company called Crash Pads. They make protective clothing for skateboarders and rollerbladers. It’s pretty busy visually, to say the least. I cringe when I look at it now.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite Logo you have designed?
Philip VanDusen – My favourite logo of the moment is an ID I co-designed with a partner, Rachel Zorel of 7 Layers Studio for Idea Space, an architecture firm in New Jersey. We did the naming, strategy, visual identity system. I love the simplicity of it and the indication of the door entering a room, a space for creativity, for ideas, for home, a place to live and be.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite Logo of all time?
Philip VanDusen – The Gulf Oil Company Logo. Design-wise it’s magnificent. But I love it mostly because I have really warm memories about it from family road trips as a kid. It is a love-mark for me. I know I’m dating myself here. Most of your readers have probably never seen it in real life. There are still a couple out there I think.
The Logo Creative – Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Philip VanDusen – I engage in strategic design. Everything I do stems from the brand strategy and the customer target. I do extensive research into the category and the competitive landscape. I research the customer target and what they like and are expecting from a brand like the one I am designing for. I take into account semiotics, the symbolism and meaning of shapes, colors and imagery. I sketch ideas, by hand. I bang out a couple dozen ideas on the computer. I edit fiercely. I try to boil the design down to the bare minimum of elements and colors needed to communicate the strategy and the aesthetics that are warranted. I make sure it is both beautiful and that it works. I review it with the client, we go through a round of revisions or two until it’s finalized.
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?
Philip VanDusen – A fixed rate that is informed by customer budget and many other factors. The price of a logo depends on the size of the company and the impact on their business. You can create a logo for Exxon or you can create a logo for Jane’s Bakery. They are both logos, but they require vastly different levels of time, strategy, research, client interaction and brand touch-point articulation and roll-out. A brand guidelines document could be one page, it could be 200 pages. In my career, I’ve done logos for $500 at the beginning to $250,000 when I was with a global agency. The answer is: It depends. I did a video on this topic below.
The Logo Creative – How long does it take to complete the average logo design project from start to finish?
Philip VanDusen – The average is about a month. The longest I’ve done was 9 months.
The Logo Creative – Are you a MAC or PC User and is there a reason for your choice?
Philip VanDusen – Mac. Designers use Macs. End of story. I’ve never used anything else. I never will.
The Logo Creative – Which software do you use frequently?
Philip VanDusen – Adobe Create Suite, Photoshop + Illustrator. Screenflow for video. Skype. MS Office Suite, Excel. Word. I live and breathe Google Docs.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
Philip VanDusen – Simple and Memorable. Recognition is everything in ID design.
The Logo Creative – What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Philip VanDusen – I get inspiration from everywhere. From walking my dogs. An old faded billboard painting on the side of a building in Manhattan. A crappy takeout menu. A piece of crushed paper on the sidewalk. The reflection in a store window. Digitally, Pinterest. I could scroll on Pinterest for hours and I do. I call it falling into the “PinHole”.
The Logo Creative – In your opinion what’s the best and worst part of your job being a designer?
Philip VanDusen – When I was in the apparel industry the best was going to London or Paris or Japan and seeing someone walking down the street with a design of mine on their chest. I get a kick out of seeing my work out in the world, on a store sign, on a truck rolling by, on a website, a business card. Plus my success in the world of design and design management has been very good to me financially, too, which helps.
The Logo Creative – Who is the most inspiring person to you and why?
Philip VanDusen – My father, who has passed. He was an amazing man, a crusading journalist who pursued truth doggedly, tried to make the world a better place for everyone and nurtured every creative whim his kids ever had.
The Logo Creative – Who is your favourite Graphic Designer and why?
Philip VanDusen – David Carson, hands down. He obliterated every sacred rule of design with Raygun magazine in the 90’s and made all the type-and-stripe BauHaus design mavens shit their pants. As a fine artist turned designer, I loved the rebellion and the sheer guts of what he did.
The Logo Creative – What’s your favourite design quote?
Philip VanDusen – Dr. Ralf Speth, CEO Jaguar: “If you think that good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”
The Logo Creative – In less than 10 words what is graphic design?
Philip VanDusen – Graphic design is art with a job to do.
The Logo Creative – What steps did you take to start your graphic design business? Did you have to make any sacrifices on your journey?
Philip VanDusen – 3 years ago I bailed out of the global agency and client-side in-house corporate life after a wildly successful 25+ years and started my own agency. Starting my own thing was nothing BUT sacrifices. I sacrificed a steady 6 figure salary. I sacrificed having Fortune 100 clients seeking me out. I sacrificed having a giant team to work with. But now I’m my own boss. My partner relationships are mine. All my clients are mine. I drive my own process, design, strategy, content and ultimately, success. I’m loving it. None of what I’m doing now would have happened without the decades or work and sweat I put into previous career trajectory. This is just a new thread in the web of my career.
The Logo Creative – Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would have changed early on in your career?
Philip VanDusen – Nothing. Well maybe get a Wacom tablet earlier. Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI’s) are a bitch – and a potential career killer.
The Logo Creative – If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Philip VanDusen – This isn’t a dress rehearsal. Life is short. Get moving. Chase what YOU want, not what you think you should want. And always ask for forgiveness, not permission.
The Logo Creative – What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you?
Philip VanDusen – Paul Pressler, the CEO of Gap once said to me: “Philip, a great career is more like a web than a ladder.” Meaning: every side-step or change in direction makes the journey more interesting, more fun and your career stronger. My past as a fine artist made me a better designer and my past as a teacher made me a better manager of designers. Everything contributes to everything else. You just have to find and leverage the threads.
The Logo Creative – What would be your advice be for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Philip VanDusen – Learn to draw. Learn to write. Learn to listen. Learn to speak. In that order. Then start designing.
Also published on Medium.