Why do you teach? What is your teaching ethos/style?
I teach to give back. I strive to teach with clarity and encouragement, with the understanding that anyone taking a class has put themselves in a vulnerable position, and will always be doing the best they can.
A typical response by people when I show them the work on my website is, “Did you really do all of these?”
— John Burns
You have redesigned some of the most iconic brands. How do you go about refreshing the designs, and yet keeping them identifiable?
My brand design work falls into two categories: refreshing an existing brand, or starting from scratch. In both cases, I always want to know who the product is meant for, and who the buyer is. (Those two things are not always the same.)
I ask the client to give me a list of adjectives that best represents the brand. I’ll ask, for example, “Would your company/product best be described as traditional, timeless, trendy, edgy, or whatever?
When redesigning an existing brand, I ask the client how much equity they want me to preserve. Should my work look essentially the same (but with improvements), look radically different, or somewhere in between?
Designing a brand has an inherent limitation that I actually enjoy: you have to work with the letters you are given. From there, I work to create the letterforms that best express the personality the company wants to show to the world, then I look for the best ways for all of the letters to interact.
Brands by John Burns
Working with clients can often be the hardest part of design work. What is your best tip for creating a great relationship with your clients?
Under promise, over deliver, and deliver on time.
What jobs have you done besides being an artist?
The jobs most people enjoy hearing about are: my performing in the National Tour of the musical “Godspell”, and playing a clown on “Mister Rogers Neighborhood”.
What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?
Pickleball. (Yes, that is correct.) If you haven’t heard of it, search for a video on YouTube, then look for an opportunity to play. It’s great exercise, and a ton of fun.
What is the best advice you ever received (lettering or otherwise)?
“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”—Fred Rogers
More brands by John Burns