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Interview with Cord & Berg

Home > Designer Interviews > Cord & Berg

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Cord & Berg (CB) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Cord & Berg by clicking here.

Interview with Cord & Berg at Friday 26th of May 2017

FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
CB: Growing up in Sydney Australia, I always had a keen interest in fine arts. I started to connect pure expression with problem solving at University where I studied a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication. There I found myself problem solving, not in the conventional sense, but in terms of creative thinking, and I was hooked. I was more emotional than mathematical in my choices, but still highly considered and for some reason living outside my comfort zone seemed to work for me. Being a designer means I must consistently seek new ideas, challenge accepted behaviours and work with people all in one fluid wave of creation, and I love that.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
CB: My design studio is called Cord & Berg (a fusion of my last name and my partner Samantha’s) and it has been running for 4 years now. We are a group of highly skilled senior designers and developers that specialise in building brands and compelling online experiences. For us, work is about creating seamless interactions between design and technology to achieve moments of magic. The magic is important, because this is where positive brand experiences are forged and companies can truly stand out.

FS: What is "design" for you?
CB: Design is evolution by thought; understanding why something exists, what purpose it serves and then challenging its place in the world. It’s a combination of empathy and desire.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
CB: I really enjoy designing when a product, company or idea is completely new to me. It’s an opportunity to build a brand’s identity and define their DNA. A chance to empower business owners and team members to make decisions that will work towards their long-term success.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
CB: Picking my favourite design, is like naming my favourite child, morally I can’t say, but it’s Jessica.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
CB: At my first design agency (straight out of university) I developed a way to photograph and edit clothing so it would appear as a 3D alternative to the standard flat lay. We used this method on everything from wedding dresses, sportswear and eventually even underwear. At the time, it was a new technique not many agencies had thought of, or could reproduce, and in turn extremely exciting for the company.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
CB: At the moment, I’m really interested in IBM Watson and how AI can be interpreted for brands.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
CB: Once I’ve cleaned my desk! For me the tactile experience of cleaning a workspace really opens my mind to new ways of looking at things. My next go to, and one of the best ways for me to ignite ideas is through brainstorming. I haven’t drawn a mind map in a few years however, I still follow the process of connecting words together in my head to find a relationship. Lastly joking around with friends helps me to realise possibility in the seemingly obscure.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
CB: I focus on the brand values and how they can be applied to accentuate and execute the idea. By doing this, the end result, is more likely to create an emotional connection with the audience and in turn become a successful piece of design. Target audience is also a consideration, however it umbrellas over the output as a whole.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
CB: Think of every emoji on your phone and I’ve been through them all. Design is a behaviour and with that comes exhilaration, flow, frustration, defeat, laughter, defeat and happiness just to name a few.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
CB: A great sense of pride. Projects take on a life of their own, and as they come to a close, it’s an enjoyable feeling; often relief mixed with excitement.

FS: What makes a design successful?
CB: A design is successful not because it’s beautiful, but because it answers a problem or provides a new solution... And in the digital age, if it answers that problem intuitively.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
CB: The overall feeling and impression. No matter what you look at, it’s human nature to judge first and so we must do the same based on our initial reaction. From there, a design can either exceed or fall short of expectations… don’t get me wrong there have often been instances where I have been underwhelmed at first and on closer inspection grown to love a design. Regardless of your judgement it is the first step toward forming an impression.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
CB: A designer has an opportunity to enhance areas of their practice through sustainable and human-centred design. There lies a responsibility to bring awareness into commercial projects where possible. It is up to the designer to educate, suggest and pass down information to the client so they can make a considered decision.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
CB: Design is moving into the C-suite of business roles where we’ll see the role of a design thinker undertake more powerful positions such as CEO as companies fight for a unique approach to their industry. Because tech is advancing so rapidly, it’s vital to understand how design can leverage new technology without becoming reliant on it. There will always be a new and better program, and so longevity can be found in the approach, not just the tool. For our company, this means creating brands that operate around a set of values that allow them to snowball through time and continue to grow, despite the often-catastrophic changes around them.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
CB: The last third party exhibition where our work was displayed was the Good Design Awards in Sydney - March 2016. An exhibition of our own is in the works!

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
CB: So much of what we create is built around user experience that we actively seek out new opportunities to play on aspects of human behaviour that can go by unnoticed. Walking to work, sitting in traffic, going out to dinner with friends – these are all opportunities to find new perspectives. Think of it in the same way a comedian observes someone waiting a table. They can manipulate the very real aspects of human nature into a story that triggers a laugh from their audience. This is an emotional connection and it means something to people because they can relate to it… but it doesn’t always have to come from something profound, it is discoverable in the everyday, you just have to be looking for it. On my laptop and phone, I have a folder called ‘random-like’ which is full of screenshots from websites, online portfolios and Instagram posts I can also access for inspiration.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
CB: I would describe my style as bold with refined confidence. I’d also be more inclined to describe this as values I take into my design process more so than style attributes. This is important to me because I approach every design with a set of rules derived from the company’s brand values, which help to create a result that is unique to that business. If I relied on style alone, I think I’d end up with multiple projects that look and feel the same, instead of aligning with the brand they were created for.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
CB: I live near the city centre in Sydney, Australia. I’m not sure that the cultural heritage affects my designs however, the people and community’s current perception definitely play an important role. Understanding how your country is perceived by the rest of the world can help elevate local brands on a global scale. We have noticed a need to convince Australian businesses that branding is important and how it can affect a company’s bottom line dramatically. It’s becoming an easier conversation to have, but we still have a long way to go when compared to other major world cities.

FS: How do you work with companies?
CB: We work as an extension of a company’s team, empowering them to make smart design decisions. This includes everything from planning, brand guidelines, strategy, marketing material, websites and applications. The type of work we do will always vary depending on the company’s business goals and we take the approach of only doing design work that will benefit the business and it’s future plans.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
CB: Engage a designer early in a project or to work with your company’s overall direction. If they begin by asking questions about your company, it’s goals and values, then you’re most likely onto a good thing. A good trick is to ask for a re-brief to ensure their expectations align with yours, and trust me it’s worth spending the extra time here, rather than go ahead and find yourself in a corner after time and money has been spent on work that isn’t what you thought it would be. A good designer will interpret and clarify the direction as their first step.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
CB: My design process is based on progression and trust. It’s a step by step process that we can easily walk through with a client, to help them understand how it all works. It’s also an effective way to ensure no-one becomes overwhelmed by the scope or magnitude of a project. To the same point, I look for triggers along the way to ensure we are moving in the right direction. We start with the notion that all our work needs to “say something satisfying”. It’s a kind of criteria that works both ways. For example, it’s an opportunity for us to create something we have a yearning for, and as a final product it should delight the audience. Another important part of my personal process so knowing I get my energy from meeting and socialising with people. It’s a very real part of feeding my creativity.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
CB: - A pair of Arne Jacobsen (purple) ‘Swan’ chairs gifted by a client from their old reception area. - Kartell glossy ‘Antonio Citterio con Oliver Low’ dining table in white. - Ikea ‘Enighet’ candle stick holder. - Design Your Life, a design book by Vince Frost

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
CB: A day in the studio varies, but I’ll usually begin problem solving or thinking of new ideas for the projects I’m personally working on, during my walk to work (for me, I like my studio in close proximity to my house!). Depending on the day, I could be meeting with a client to discuss a potential brief or presenting a design, providing feedback to another designer in the team or working on my own in my office. Regardless of what’s on that day we’ll always start with an informal team meeting so we know where our team is at. Each member of the team will give a quick wrap up on what they are currently working on. It’s an opportunity to share success, ideas, challenges or ask questions, and a great way to ensure everyone starts off the day on a positive foot.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
CB: Ask for feedback regularly. Time can disappear when you’re focused on something, so it’s vital to set regular reviews in order to get a design where it needs to be. More often than not, the person you report to will be busy and forget to check in, so it’s your job to find a way to get the information you need. Often what a person says, and what they mean isn’t the same thing… Or, more specifically, what a ‘word’ means to you and what it means to someone else can be different. To this point, understand who has given you the feedback and pay careful attention to the tone in which it was delivered. The more you ask questions, the more you’ll understand what they mean when they provide feedback.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
CB: Designers get the opportunity to work across a number of industries and within those industries interact with many personalities. I love working closely with teams, making sense of an idea, and hearing new perspectives. With this comes different forms of feedback, a lot of it brutal! Learning to take feedback in your stride, understanding that the most creative idea won’t always go through is a must – and hey, when a client approves something really innovative and ‘out there’ it makes things extra exciting.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
CB: Say something satisfying. It’s a term we’ve began to use in our agency to articulate the 2 sides we endeavour to bring to a project; Firstly, approach each design job with passion by creating something you get a kick out of personally. And secondly create an emotional connection with the audience to communicate with them on a deeper level.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
CB: The ability to concept under pressure. Understanding their own personal creative process and being able to condense it into a manageable timeframe around people.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
CB: My laptop – We try to be as agile as possible, to accommodate flexible work hours and the idea that we can design from anywhere. Creative suite from Adobe, and a refined selection of management applications such as Slack, for direct ‘in the moment’ communication and Trello for more detailed scheduling. Creative inspiration will always be specific to the task at hand, so this one changes for me regularly.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
CB: When something feels overwhelming it usually is, and can take twice as long. To work efficiently, I break up tasks up into manageable pieces, creating checklists as I go. This technique allows me to quickly see if things are blowing out in terms of time. For example, it takes no calculation at all to estimate how long it will take to complete many small tasks vs. the guess work that goes in estimating a project in its entirety. We also have a very thorough Project Manager that will check in with us regularly, without hindering the creative process, so we can remain focused on developing innovative work.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
CB: It all depends on the scope and the client. We always start a project by defining the amount of time we require to produce an effective result, setting expectations with the client and internally, within our team.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
CB: “How did you come up with that?” – We can thank our creative process and team for that one.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
CB: The failures are the most important experience. They are the hardest to go through, but you always come out the other side with a new set of skills, better processes and more creative resilience.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
CB: [Right now] we’re working with Sustainable Décor, E-Comm Fashion, Aged Care Nurses, Tradies and Tech Start-Ups. It’s vague I know, but it gives you an idea of the variety of industries we work with.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
CB: I enjoy branding and identity design. It usually marks the beginning of something new and can really set the foundations for success. If it’s not the beginning, then it’s a defining moment for a company and it’s very special to be part of that.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
CB: Cord & Berg is gaining momentum at the moment and that’s exciting to me. Don’t be surprised if we come knocking on your door rearing to complete your next project, or you hear about our latest work from a colleague.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
CB: We always work as a team, or a small pod of senior designers and developers to be more specific. A well rounded team is really important and we use our different personalities, perspectives and skills to produce great results.

FS: How can people contact you?
CB: Through the studio’s website www.cordandberg.com.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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