Miles Newlyn has designed some of the most conversation-provoking logos in the public eye today, including Unilever's remarkable Pangaea-like "U" logo. But Unilever is not Newlyn's client. Nor are Honda, Sky and Suez, although the 36-year-old London-based designer has created outstanding logos for them as well.
Newlyn is a designer's designer in the grandest sense of the phrase: Although he does have his own handsome list of clients, the largest branding agencies, such as Wolff Olins and Interbrand, bring their clients' design needs to him. He calls himself an "idea man who works with type." Clients come to him when they have a client who needs an idea-a really big idea that represents a step change for the company.
He explains. "I spend a large proportion of my time working with clients who are either engaging in a rebrand or are new businesses in emerging markets. So an idea and identity that is unexpected, interrupting or provocative will gain attention in the crowded place of people's minds. Once attention is caught, there's an opportunity to change, or at least challenge, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions. It will often feel uncomfortable initially, yet feel right in the pit of the stomach."
The beauty of his client list is that its members are often repeat clients: Agencies grow to trust his work, relationships flower, and he establishes long-term, symbiotic relationships. Trust is crucial as he often does not get the opportunity to meet with the end client. He must depend on perceptive creative direction for guidance.
"The most important thing for me is to get a good idea of what kind of person the [end] client is. A good description of the client is the best possible brief," he says.
The Unilever logo is a good example of how thorough the process can be. He worked with the creative director of Wolff Olins, Lee Coomber and says the experience was extremely energizing.
"I've literarily hundreds of iterations of [the design], and really, at no point did it become frustrating since I could see it getting better and better before my eyes," Newlyn recalls. "Working with Lee, we looked at many different elements that could have come together to make the U-it was like playing catch. I'd find a way of depicting frozen food or whatever, and Lee would sketch an improvement or alternative, then I'd consider it and push it, both to fit in the puzzle and to harmonize stylistically."
Another project he found invigorating was creating the Honda logotype, again, in collaboration with Wolff Olins. There were numerous stages of development, as well as a very high degree of detail and finessing in the type forms. It is satisfying, Newlyn says, to get something perfect, to reach a point where moving a single point disrupts the harmony or fluidity.
"There's a point in time when you know the work has reached a precise balance between the attributes with which you have tried to imbue it. At that point of refinement, even the most challenging and creative lettering somehow dissolves in the eye, becomes assimilated in the mind. It's something to do with understanding the formal roots of the alphabet."
Ninety-nine percent of Newlyn's designs are typographic, like the Honda design. The goal of a logo is to achieve the strongest and most effective means of communication: Type does that best, the designer says.
"Typographic logos are just writings of the name that are consistent in appearance. Addendums to the typography such as symbols, whether abstract or representational, are designed when something additional to the sum of the name and typography needs to be expressed. It is only possible to drop the name after [the art] has become very established. More often the symbol is dropped over time."
To learn more about Miles Newlyn's work, check out his website at www.newlyn.com