Whenever possible I will feature people who are creative, and turn ideas into great work.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of touring the exhibit at Daemen College marking 10 years of work by the White Bicycle brand design studio with founder Brian Grunert. I have known Brian for nearly all of that time. I initially knew of his “GRAMMY winner” reputation and later when I heard him talk of branding and strategy with such simple elegance I became a fan.
The studio's pieces, like the exhibit, unfolded both physically and mentally. Some happened instantly, like the garish wall that collected several of the graphics created for the rebranding of Ted’s Hot Dogs. To take Ted’s forward White Bicycle took them back — mining and repurposing the DNA of words and images of what the last couple generations digested along with their footlongs and rings. Others invite hands-on engagement, like the paper insert in the “All Sides” CD for the band OAR. He talked of the obvious four edges of a sheet of paper and wondered how many new edges might be added, and what is their value, when squares of different sizes are cut into the paper. It served an an echo to the receding black to white squares on the CD cover. He tosseed off the line, “0 equals white, 10 equals black” as if it were a mantra that explains the design's intent.
I’m more the broad stroke pie-in-the-face humor type. Brian’s is arch and cerebral — more David Lynch than Judd Apatow. He giddily reveled in a graphic, nearly hidden in the corner, of an ancient beast attacking office workers. In another destruction of order, White Bike broke apart their work into a hallway of framed images.
Maybe as much a joke as hope for a teachable moment — that there is pure art in design work, and it stands up well on its own.
On destruction Grunert has little to say except to contrast it with creativity. After linking creativity to the many myths our societies have developed over time about how we came to be, he feels he may have gone too far when he connects it to the divine. He capitulates by explaining, “The limitless possibility of the white canvas — the power it has to capture one good idea with who knows how much potential impact. That is divine. To ignore that possibility is to destroy an opportunity for honest expression. The byproduct of that expression is art.”
White Bicycle believes that design with an intent to communicate must be empathetic to succeed. That was new. Other designers have said, “powerful”, “provocative", “bold”, “surprising”. Empathetic seemed almost cloying and trite. With that news the broad array of work began to fall together. I then thought it may be what makes White Bike different - it's their "secret sauce" to engage the viewer to connect, to identify and then to understand.
Brian distinguishes process from creativity by way of math. Process is additive. Creativity is exponential. He believes the viewer is able to occupy the piece when it resonates with her feelings, as if she were part of the creation. It is there creativity and process melt away to a shared experience leading the viewer toward a desire to act.
Later, I wondered why Brian never bought up beauty as a function of White Bike's work. After incubating on the exhibit I realized I was soaking in it.