Looks Like Someone’s Trying To Call Us On The Visual Un-Acuity We’re Always Pretending To Have

We woke up in a fit and start this morning, rushing to our inbox to see the wisdom we were hoping Sunday night had brought. And did it ever deliver. We received a long-ish note from Frank C. Briggs (a nice primer here), aka Design Maven, who, it seems, has taken no small amount of issue with our fly-by-night criticism of the World Trade Center memorial logo design. We’ll paraphrase:

We found the logo (and the explanatory written description) to be more commemorative and less future-focused, which we found didn’t fully encompass the memorial’s twin objectives of commemoration (Michael Arad’s footprint pools) and forward-leaning hope (Peter Walker’s landscaping).

Design Maven found us to be “asinine, misguided, ill informed [sic] and unintelligent.”

Snap. That, er, hurts. Or, it should. We’re suddenly feeling the incomparable benefit of our thoroughly repressed emotional response.

Full text after the jump. It’s a doozy. Dooziest parts bolded.

My correspondence to you is directly related to comments you made in reference to Eugene J. Grossman Identity Design for the World Trade Center Foundation.


Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Frank C. Briggs. I write Identity Design Commentary under the Moniker DesignMaven on Design Weblogs Speak Up and Design Observer. If you read those blogs you’re familiar with my writing. I am one of the Foremost and most Informed Experts on Corporate Identity. You can check my credentials with Michael Bierut and Steven Heller. Both whom you interviewed, if you question my validity and credentials. The aforementioned Design Luminaries are my friends.

First and Foremost, Mr. Grossman is not a Branding Expert. Branding and Corporate Identity are two separate practices. They cross pollinate, often times to the untrained they are inseparable, yet they are clearly distinct practices with differing goals and missions.

Branding in its simplest terminology denotes a name, logotype, or trademark and was originally used to signify ownership as with the Branding of livestock. The above terminology is used as the essence of a Brand and not the essence of Branding per se.

Branding refers to the added value that a Brand brings to a product. Products may or may not have Brand Values. Product Brand Values are manufactured by marketing and communications experts whom make them memorable. These values are fashioned in the mind and not the production floor. These are synthetic attributes. Whereas Products made in the factory, Brand Values exist in the mind. Brands can be timeless in a way Products may not be.

Branding is a marketing term it’s mission is to analyze, strategized, develop and position products, services and corporate mission. Branding focuses on equity, image, promise, mission, values, style, culture and customer experience.

In brief and Laymen terms; Corporate Identity is a Management Tool used to accurately address the Goals and Aspirations of a Corporation.

However, the Corporate Image is composed of all planned and unplanned verbal and visual communication that emanate from the Corporate Body and leave an impression on the observer.

The Corporate Identity (Symbol) is one of the major influences on the Corporate Image, it is all planned and all visual.

A successful Corporate Identity System visually separates and distinguishes a Corporation or Firm from its competitors.

The Corporate Identity whether a Trademark, Brandmark, Logo or Logotype is the Corporation or Firm’s visual statement to the world of who and what the company is. How the Corporation see itself. What it want to be; and what it has become meaning Public Perception; how the world will view the Corporation.

The most important element of the Corporate Identity Program is the Identity Symbol. It is the first element of your Marketing and Communication Program the general public will see and remember.

At the same time, the Corporate Identity is the Flagship of the Corporation. It is the banner under which the President, CEO, and Managing Partners gather its employees to meet the public.
As I’ve just provided you History, Definition and Clarification of Terminology and Practice differentiating between Branding and Corporate Identity. There are differences in Constructive Criticism and Blaspheme and Desecration of a Master’s work.

Gene Grossman is one of the Foremost Corporate Identity Designers and Consultants in the History of Visual Communication.
Responsible in the 1960s for Development and Revitalization of Coca Cola’s Identity and placing the wave under the Signature at Lipponcott & Margulies with Rey Yoshimura. Also while at Lippincott & Margulies Mr. Grossman Developed and Designed the Identities for RCA, Canadian and Pacific, CP Rail and CP Air. Mr. Grossman has enjoyed a fifty year career as one of the World’s Preeminent Corporate Identity Consultants. On the same level as Saul Bass and Paul Rand he is their Peer nd Equal and was their competition when they were alive. Today, Mr. Grossman holds the distinct Honor of being the Foremost Authority in Corporate Identity along with Tony Spaeth, Don Ervin (others). Tony Spaeth being the Preeminent Independent Naming Expert, Identity and Branding Evangelist. And Don Ervin being one of the Greatest Living Practitioners of Corporate Identity. Sharing his distinct title with Mr. Grossman.

I found your comments in reference to the Mr. Grossman’s World Trade Center foundation Identity asinine, misguided, ill informed and unintelligent. Certainly, a critical review and commentary of a given work should reflect a balance between praise and censure. No Design or Work of Art by a GOD is totally meritless as you indicate and led your audience to believe.

It was obvious from your opening comments you lacked the knowledge and expertise to critique the subject matter. Questioning Mr. Grossman’s Credentials when you were in possession of a pdf via BrandLogic’s website bestowing the virtues of his accomplishment.

Your comments paraphrased in bold and italicized.

“just announced their new logo, designed by “branding expert” Gene Grossman, responsible for Citibank/Citicorp, Lockheed Martin, and Pfizer (we’re trying to figure out how those relate in any way whatsoever to being good at designing anything to do with a memorial), came up with a shifted square with two tower icons rising out of it. We’re not feeling it, to be honest”.

Gene Grossman has Designed Corporate Identities within every market sector imaginable. From Airlines; Automotive;
Business/Professional Services; Communication; Consumer/Household Products; Events/Entertainment Sports;Financial Services/Banking/Insurance/Investments; Food Products; Government/Utilities; Healthcare/Pharmaceutical; Industrial/Manufacturing; Institutions/Non Profits; Media/Information Services; Oil & Petroleum; Retail Stores; Technology & Computers.

Why wouldn’t, Mr. Grossman be qualified to Design an Identity for a memorial which is referenced under the above category market sector Institutions and Non Profits?

Irregardless of your visceral reaction to the Identity. Your cerebral cortex should’ve processed the information incorporating your Analytical Prowess exercising the left hemisphere of your brain which is lineal and analytic and verbal and logical.

Whether you like an Identity or not is irrelevant and purely subjective. Astute criticism of Design or Art has to be based on Informed and Intelligent Analysis and not Pretentious Jargon, Blaspheme and Desecration under the Guise of Critique.

In the future lets strive for an Holistic Approach to Critiquing Identity Design. If the purpose of Critique is to examine or evaluate a Designers work (Corporate Identity,) in order to increase the reader’s understanding of it. Your analysis has Failed because it neither provided factual material; persuaded with appeal to reasons or emotions; entertained to effect readers emotions.

If the purpose of your critique was to inform. Your Editorial Critique was neither presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence. Furthermore, lacked conclusive evidence, logical reasoning and void of rational contrary evidence to support your Visceral Reaction.

It is not our job as commentators or critics to gratuitously shoot at people from every angle. In the process annihilating Excellent and Exceptional Work. Our responsibility is to present the facts within a candid, infomed and intelligible discourse.

My unbiased cogent analysis of the World Trade Center Foundation Identity. It is the most Visually Impactful Identity Designed in
the 21 Century, thus far.
It addresses all the criteria of Good Identity Design which are memorability, usability, livability and propriety. It incorporate Uniqueness, Imagination and is Meaningful.

With this knowledge I trust in the Future you will exercise Prudence and Better Judgement in Critiquing Identities and The Work of a Master responsible for Engineering the Practice of Corporate Identity.

Thank you for your time and attention.


Frank C. Briggs


Yes. Because nothing says Pretentious Jargon like “we’re not really feeling it.”