Paper Matters Blog
8 Tips for Designers I Learned at Brand New Conference ’22

Featuring some of the most influential design and branding gurus from around the world, the 11th annual Brand New Conference took place October 3-4 at the Long Performance Arts Center in Austin, TX. The conference is a two-day event focused on the practice of corporate and brand identity, hosted by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit, co-owners of UnderConsideration LCC.

Although this is the conference’s eleventh year, it was the first time I had the honor of attending, and let me just start by saying, it was nothing short of spectacular. Every detail, from the name tags to the goodie bags, was thoughtfully designed and creatively executed. The amount of dedication, countless hours and creative brilliance that must have gone into planning this event is truly outstanding.

Having started my role with Domtar earlier this year, the Brand New Conference was my first industry event and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It by far exceeded anything I could have imagined. With a background in advertising and marketing, my design and branding knowledge is minimal.

The keynote speakers were among the most talented in the branding and design industry. Their stories were truly inspiring. They walked us through their processes and the steps taken to begin with nothing and create something extraordinary that will make a positive impact and lasting impression on their audience.

What I Learned:

1.  Be authentic

Tell the story of your brand using authentic storytelling and infographics. Nhi Nguyen, the Art Director and Designer at Tilted Chair Creative, said it best, “give your brand an identity by unleashing your thoughts, movements, emotions, costumes – whatever makes people feel excited. Create what inspires you and make it come to life.”

If you are using print to tell your brand’s story, the paper used makes all the difference. For the ultimate canvas to bring ideas to life and make your brand stand out, there is nothing comparable to Cougar® paper. Your customers’ first impression of your brand can only happen once – so make the most powerful impact you can. Cougar is made from the highest, most exacting standards. This premium, best-in-class paper has the ability to elicit emotion and create a sensory experience, turning every project into a memorable experience.

2.  Be big and bold.

“The most beloved brands are the most bold and courageous.”– Alex Center

One thing many of the brand identities had in common was an emphasis on big, bold typeface and design. Flora Chan, head of design at Redscout explained how designers need to create big and bold packaging to make the product stand out.

Alex Center, founder at CENTER, also presented examples of packaging he designed for United Sodas of America and how clean and colorful the packaging is to instantly capture attention. He suggested using macro photography to focus on the details and make the colors unapologetically full and rich.

When you put your heart and soul into a project, you want to make sure the printed collateral you create (including brochures, invitations, catalogs and direct mail) makes a powerful impact. An important detail that is sometimes overlooked when selecting a paper is performance. The type of paper you use plays a major role in how well colors stand out, so things like ink adhesion and consistency should be vital in your choice. With a reputation for dependable performance and consistency, it’s no surprise that Cougar paper is the brand of choice for designers and printers alike.

3.  Inspiration can come from anywhere

Literally. Take the time to visualize and observe what is around you. Traditions, people, animals, gadgets, shapes and even sounds can assist in creating a unique design.

Abraham Lule, a graphic designer in NYC, explained how design is everything that we are, how we think – it’s a bunch of unconnected things in harmony. He suggested finding new ways to create shapes and going out into the field and listening to customers. Design can be observed anywhere you go and everywhere you are.

4.  Take risks in design and in life

Experiment and use your imagination. Maureen Raisch, brand designer and illustrator for the National Football League, spoke about taking chances both creatively and personally. She told us to trust our gut, own it and go all in. Raisch is a perfect example of taking risks and following her truth by coming out as trans and sharing what it was like to transition while working for the NFL.

5.  Collaboration is key

“The process is more important than the outcome, more doesn’t mean better, and rest is resistance.” – Nermin Moufti

Bring different silos together (like digital and print designers) so there is collaboration to create a system that works for everyone. Learn intimate things about people so you know what moves them. Flora Chan referenced creating idea boards as a team and to look critically at a design as a team. She emphasized that everyone, no matter what their role, should come together and openly discuss the design.

A great example of successful collaboration in our community is between printers and designers.

Working with your printer at the beginning of a project enables you to test different papers, address any potential obstacles and ensure availability. Be sure to check out the Behind the Project podcast that discusses the collaborative process between a paper merchant, printer and designer.

6.  Happy, inspired, well-rested people do great things

Just about every speaker spoke about the importance of prioritizing work-life balance. When you’re in a field that requires long hours and occupational stress, it can impact your physical and mental health. Alex Center presented a manifesto that said, “People first. People second. Work third…. Let go of control. Leave work at 6. The very latest 7. Don’t make it 8.”

7.  Don’t follow trends

“Strive for timeless, long-lasting design” – Lisa Smith, Executive Creative Director at Jones Knowles Ritchie.

Trends do not last. Be one of a kind and tell the story of what makes you different. Don’t build a brand that won’t be relevant in 5 years and don’t worry about what people think. Create what inspires you and experiment.

8.  Paper is a design choice

“The impact you have on the world is on you,” – Lisa Smith.

Your designs give people a way to connect with your vision, your brand and your business. Whether you’re designing menus, magazines, corporate identity campaigns or marketing collateral, choosing the right paper is one of the most important stages of the design process. For inspiration, print samples, gallery pieces and paper resources visit

Paper Resources for Designers:

Free Paper Samples

How to Spec the Perfect Paper For Your Brand

5 Critical Conversations Between Printers & Designers

Printing & Paper – Tips & Techniques

How to Make Ordinary, Extraordinary

Why Cougar® Paper Exceeds Printer Expectations

3 Tips to Optimize Print Quality on Uncoated Paper

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