Autumn 2023

Reputations: Brian Collins

‘The way I see it, problem-seeking is the yin to the yang of problem-solving. Solving is narrow and practical. Seeking is expansive and brimming with possibility. Solving asks “What’s wrong?” and then tries to fix it. Seeking asks “What if?” and then shows how.’ Interview by Louise Sandhaus [EXTRACT]

Brian Collins is a vortex of energy and boundless optimism. Early in my career as a design educator and programme director, when he was Chief Creative Officer (CCO) of the Brand Integration Group (BIG), the design and innovation division of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide in New York, he often reached out for fresh talent recommendations. In 2008 with Leland Maschmeyer, he formed Collins, an independent strategy and brand experience design company with 65 employees. He has garnered a number of industry recognitions, including D&AD Design Agency of the Year, 2021. He was made a distinguished alumnus of MassArt (Massachusetts College of Art) in 2004 and received an Honorary Doctorate from ArtCenter College of Design in 2008. He is a board member of the One Club for Creativity, a professor at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) since 2001 and the first graphic designer invited to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos (2020) …

KALW Public Media, 2021. For eighty years, pioneering Bay Area public radio station KALW has served its listeners with local talk, news and music shows that are socially minded and community focused. Working closely with KALW’s team, Collins designed a new identity and branding system. Top. Portrait by Maria Spann.

Louise Sandhaus: You have acknowledged Push Pin Studios as an inspiration. What did you see in Push Pin that made you want to be a designer?

Brian Collins: I was given a book about them – The Push Pin Style – when I was around eleven years old by a neighbour who had come back from Paris. It was from an exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, with page after page of illustration styles – Chinese woodcuts, watercolours, deco typography – and it was visually mesmerising. It had the same kind of visual intensity as watching MGM musicals and other movies that I loved.

I recognised that you could have different stylistic sensibilities – like the way a Hitchcock film looks very different from a John Ford film. Style created an image that helped tell the story. That this film is a romantic comedy. This is a horror movie. This is an epic science fiction space opera. This is a Western …

Institute of Design, 2022. As the ID’s 85th anniversary approached, Collins was invited to help prepare the institution for the future and build a new identity around its vision of the transformative power of design. Taking the concept of ‘The Evolutionary’ led the studio to imagine a new voice and visual language that could itself evolve.

Louise Sandhaus, educator, author, founder of The People’s Graphic Design Archive, Los Angeles, US

Read the full version in Eye no. 105 vol. 27, 2023

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.