Public Address Studio shares three brand identity projects that break the norms of their genre
Off the back of its campaign for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, the studio takes us through the ideas behind a wine brand, a cannabis brand and a strategic consultancy brand, each of which brings a touch of the unexpected.
- Jenny Brewer
- 2 September 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Public Address Studio is made up of 15 designers and business leads based across Toronto, Los Angeles and London, which is notably small for the scale of projects it takes on – not least the campaign for the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Founders Christa Muio and Chris Braden put that down to an atypical way of working that comes out in the surprising identities they create for brands. “We don’t have departments,” they tell It’s Nice That, “instead we have project teams that work from kick-off to final files.” This model “makes sure nothing gets lost in translation,” they say. The studio also prides itself in lacking a house style, looking for ideas that “don’t neatly fit into existing categories,” and projects that allow them to experiment, hence its range of collaborators from winemakers to esports tournaments via cannabis retailers and strategy consultants.
Its most recent work for winemaker Randall Grahm saw Public Address create a brand strategy, visual identity and tone of voice for his new wine brand The Language of Yes. Lead by Randall’s approach to winemaking, the identity “takes design cues from the past,” says Christa, “re-interpreting them and, where possible, creating room for Randall’s sense of humour, wit, and enthusiasm to shine through.” The labels had already been designed by wine label design connoisseur Chuck House, who based his designs on a WWII-era book on Medieval Occitan culture sourced from a rare book dealer in Paris – a book about the very place and culture that The Language of Yes itself is inspired by. So Public Address looked to create an identity with a “distinctly literary style”.
The studio took some of the label’s details and expanded them across the whole brand, adding a few new elements to complement what already existed. The type is a combination of Baskerville (which is used on the label) and Trauhla (by Bureau Brut), a contemporary nod to the historic roots of the wine’s region, Public Address tells us. “With the overall design system, we tried to bring back the context of the book, with colours referencing the paper and layouts that feel editorial and bookish. Randall is a great thinker and writer, so we also wanted a design system that would highlight long-form writing about the wines.”
Where this brand looked to go against a highly traditional and historic product genre, another recent brand identity for cannabis retailer Cannoe was the opposite, in many ways. An entirely new genre of products was borne from recent legalisation, but Public Address says that wave of brands “did everything other than the one thing people actually wanted: make it normal.” For Cannoe, the studio aimed to design a brand that integrated into communities and “could become a part of everyday life, just like your favourite coffee shop.” Therefore Public Address took inspiration from the diverse neighbourhoods and reasons people consume cannabis.
As such, Cannoe’s logo – the double “N” at the centre of its wordmark – transfigures into various forms depending on its environment. Its style can be anything from subtle and bubbly to brazen and spiky, whatever it needs to be to fit its neighbourhood, architecture or canvas. The rest of the type is Sharp Grotesk, a typeface that’s “bold enough to work well as a wordmark, but can also recede when using the more expressive, dynamic ‘NN’ [logos],” says Chris. Also, Cannoe’s brand colour palette is, simply, green. “Not a specific shade, the entire spectrum,” he explains. “This range of colours means the brand can be quite bold and electric, or calm and natural. Strategically, this lets Cannoe’s physical stores adapt to their neighbourhoods in which they exist, rather than impose themselves — aligning with Cannoe’s commitment to being a good neighbour.” Public Address collaborated with photographer Brendan George Ko and illustrator Adrian Forrow on the project.
Lastly, and in an altogether different design genre, Public Address also built the brand identity for strategic consultants The Foresight Studio. Comprising strategists, artists and designers, the firm takes an experiential approach to its presenting its work, replacing traditional reports with showing its findings in a gallery, for example. So the brand “needed to reflect the group’s dual personality: professional and unconventional,” Christa says, to attract the kinds of clients that would be open to their unique style of working.
Unconventionally, the logo was actually designed in Slack. “One of our designers, Annie, posted two of the ‘eyeball’ emojis, and it hit us that the four eyes could be a great logo for a pair of founders looking into the future,” she explains. So the identity centres around these cartoonish eyeballs, which animate to look side-to-side and straight ahead – eyes right to indicate foresight, eyes left to suggest hindsight, and eyes centre to represent insight, apparently. They bring playfulness to an otherwise corporate world and coupled with a stripped-back, more “serious” identity using a black-and-white colour palette and Neue Haas Grotesk, overall it represents the company’s unorthodox personality perfectly. And, in turn, shows just how Public Address can bring branding the shakeup it needs.
Public Address: The Language of Yes shipper (Copyright © The Language of Yes, 2021)