Cindy Hohman Interviews Brand Designer Mark Jasin

April 12, 2021

Marketing Director Cindy Hohman recently interviewed creative consultant Mark Jasin about his fantastic work on the Festival’s “brand refresh” and bright new logo. The Festival’s new brand rolled out across the website and marketing materials in March 2021.

Watch the interview or read the full transcription below.

Cindy Hohman: Alright, here we are! Hi, I am Cindy Hohman. I’m the Marketing Director for the Colorado Music Festival and Center for Musical Arts. And this is Mark Jasin. Mark is the creative, I’ll let him introduce himself a little bit more here in a minute, but he is the one who created the beautiful logo that we have for the Colorado Music Festival. 

So I just finished talking with Liz, our Executive Director, about how we had so many fabulous people involved in this project. And one of them was Henry Beer, who Mark can share a little bit about. Henry was kind of our, I’d say, creative director or artistic director. So his job was kind of translating between the strategy, which was my side of things, and the creative, which was Mark’s side. And Henry Beer brought you into this project and introduced you to us, Mark. So why don’t you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe how you know Henry, tell us about that.

Mark Jasin: Oh great. Well thank you so much. Well starting with Henry, who’s just extraordinary. I first started working with Henry over 20 years ago when he was one of the co-founders to CommArts in Boulder, which was a very influential design firm in Colorado and projects all throughout the world. 

And I was brought in as a Senior Brand Designer focusing on a lot of brand identity. So throughout that period, I’ve been having the great opportunity to work with Henry, who is just so talented and perhaps the most informed person I know and also the most entertaining. So Henry just has always been an inspiration and I’m glad to keep working with him even today. And I appreciated him bringing me into this project which is just the kind of work I love doing.

Cindy: So tell us about your role in this project then.

Mark: So, for the last 30 years I’ve been a brand design strategist and a designer. So a lot of my work has been focused around doing identity work. So it’s creating the logos and for all types of projects. And so there’s a whole ideation process and discovery process that we go through with every client. 

It’s really trying to understand as much as you possibly can about an organization, what their motivations are, certainly understanding their history, what is important to them as a legacy brand, as in this case we’re doing a brand refresh. So there is so much discipline involved in that process before we even begin designing. And a lot of that hard work is what you, Cindy had done and your core team at the community music festival. I’ve really did a lot of important research even before we began. So we were so, I would say prepared to be able to focus on what your needs were before we even began because you already did that hard work.

Cindy: Oh yeah. In my interview with Liz, I was sharing this process with her and she asked me about what was important to me in this project and the process. And I said, and I’m sure you would agree with me that on the Marketing Director side, I don’t want somebody walking in and say, “You need a new logo and here it is. It’s green, green is perfect for you.” And I’m sure on your end, you don’t want somebody to say, “Hey, just come up with a logo. Just something.”

And so that strategy piece was so super important to me and what I know, you and I had kind of, we met each other on email, kind of chatting here or there. And you were like, “So, when are we going to have that design brief?” And I kept saying, “Yeah, we’re doing more work. We’ve got to do a little more work over here.” And so what was that like for you? I mean is that the way that you prefer to work? And I know you had to wait a bit for us to pull all that stuff together. So tell me a little bit about that.

Mark: Well it’s not unexpected but not every client provides you that. Every client’s different but I would say that it is actually very valuable. So I appreciated that you were doing the work. And really trying to understand not just who the Colorado Music Festival is and was, but where you want to go and how you want to establish yourself in the market. What’s most unique and beneficial for you? How do you stand out? Because that’s going to be a big part of our conversation, is to create an identity that really represents who your organization is and your motivations.

Cindy: Well I’ll tell you Mark, from my perspective, I know you know this because we communicate about it regularly, that I have done graphic design in my career. I, at a certain point in my career, I decided that I much preferred the strategy side than the design side. So I have a great appreciation from my perspective, for a creative who really gets the strategy and doesn’t just say, “Oh, wait, I don’t want all that stuff. Don’t bother me with all those details. I just want to create something.” I really appreciate the creative person who can take a strategy and actually deliver on it. 

I have a question for you and I’ve been wondering about this. I wonder about it throughout my career, honestly. I find someone like yourself, and I’ve said this to my daughter, I mentioned her in my interview with Liz. She is graduating with a BFA and she has been doing some illustration work here or there. And I told her, and I think you probably agree with me, that a creative or a graphic designer who has that ability to create original work, like original illustrations and be able to bring a vision to life rather than going to find clip art or just using some kind of font here or there. I think it’s quite hard to find and it’s super valuable when you do. 

So I see someone like you as being like that unique, I don’t know… I’m trying to think of some catchphrase here, but you’re that unique person who has both the understanding and not just the understanding of strategy, but like acceptance of its importance in a process like this, but also that super creativity. I am curious how you got to be you, Mark. I mean, did you start as a kid who just wanted to draw everything? What got you to here in your career?

Mark: Oh well I would say that I’ve always been an artist but there was always an interest in graphic design per se as a field to focus in. And specifically identity, which is really where a lot of my passion lies. But the more you do it, the more you realize there is a real discipline to that. And so thank you, thank you for making that observation. 

I hope that I bring those to these types of projects because there is an obligation to communicate as opposed to fine art where you can really express yourself on an individual level and hopefully people will relate to it to some degree. But with design, it’s really about communication design. And so you have the importance of understanding the client’s motivations and you take all that collective information that you provided and my own personal understanding of what’s possible.

And then you try to push that limit to try to create something that’s new and exciting and touches on all the key points that ultimately we created in the design brief. The design brief is very important for any project because it is the point, the document that everyone vectors back to to understand what we’re trying to do, where are the end results? Where are the goals? Kind of keeps everybody on the same page if you will. But then to get to that, the more you do it, the better you are.

Cindy: Well, you’re very good at it. So one of the things I was curious about, I know having been involved in this process, I’ve seen maybe the answer to this question, but what were the big challenges for you in this project?

Mark: So well, one thing we all did, the whole core team, and I think there were about six of us on your side and Henry and you and I, we did some research. We went pretty deep in terms of who your competing festivals are, the very best of the classical music performance organizations around the world. We put together image forwards to represent what we think are some of the best ones out there. 

And we made an assessment collectively, I would say we had about a half a dozen conference calls where we looked at all these types of images and we said, “What’s working? What isn’t? How do we differentiate ourselves?” Which is always so critical. And try to make some cohesive sort of collective understanding of what we want to achieve. So that’s the challenge.

Cindy: One of the biggest challenges was looking at all of those logos from everybody else in this market and going, “Wow.” Like you said, there’s no brand new logos. It’s like coming up with a completely different visual for an organization, it’s hard these days.

Mark: Especially now because you know that in the whole world is branded essentially. And the goal of creating a successful brand often is to break it down to its simplest form. And in order to do that, then you need to also try to create something that is unique, that you can take individual ownership of as an organization. That is recognizable, great brand equity. But when things are breaking down at that simple level, it’s hard to do something that is truly unique. And maybe what I think ultimately that’s the scary part, but it’s also the exciting part.

When you start a project, you have all this information and then how do you then, what do you do? And go, “Oh my gosh.” One of the things about a music organization is one of the primary strategies in creating a new identity is to find those type imagery that universally people understand and can communicate. Things about the organization, in this case music. Like whether it’s musical symbols or in our case it’s Chautauqua, which is really meaningful in Boulder. So you look for those kind of visual cues that we could start to create with.

Cindy: And so I’ll be sharing. I’ll put the logo up on screen here in just a bit, but everyone who’s watching will have to wait for just a bit more. Because one of the challenges, I would say, we talked about the reviewing of other logos and what we liked, what we didn’t like, what we felt was done well, how we wanted to differentiate ourselves. But then you took that and our design brief, and you went away over into Mark’s area and percolated for a while and came back to us with — what was it, like six or so, maybe half a dozen kind of creative ideas. So tell me about, I’m just honestly quite curious about… I mean did these come to you in dreams? How did that come to be, from our design brief?

Mark: I would say that it, once again, vector back to the idea that there are some universal themes that people can identify. And then you try to, what I do is I make a list of all the things that have potential to represent this particular brand experience which is quite unique because it’s at Chautauqua in this natural setting in Boulder. And it’s this virtual also series of concerts in the summertime at Chautauqua. So that in itself suggests a lot of unique potential. The problem though is because Chautauqua is represented by the Flatirons and Boulder–

Cindy: There’s Flatirons everything, right?

Mark: Yes, right. So you start to imagine from that list, some visuals that can resonate that hopefully they’re what we refer to Henry and all, positive ambiguities. So there are positive ambiguities and negative ambiguities, and you want to move to the positive. And the idea is that you find meaning within the associated logo mark itself. In this case, that’s what we went for, not so much the type, which sort of takes a back seat because we really wanted the mark to represent the new brand. So we had those kinds of strategies in mind.

And then it’s really, that’s where the art comes in, is trying to find the shapes that start to speak to a certain idea that you have in your head. A lot of those ideas reflected back to you and Henry was very important in that whole process. He always is, he has a lot of ideas. And then you’re trying to filter through it and then ultimately, I think we did come up with about six ideas, unique ideas. And then we kind of worked through them collectively as a group.

Cindy: I’m sorry about my trying to interrupt before but what I was going to say is I think what you’re saying is yeah, it is a little bit of magic. It’s like you have all these elements.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. And sometimes the magic is you discover things along the way that you didn’t even anticipate but then open yourself up enough to realize, hey, there’s potential here.

Cindy: Yeah. So I’ll tell everybody here that none of you are going to, well I’m going to share the logo that we chose with you. And you probably, depending on when you’re watching this, it may already be out there on our website and everywhere, and it might be old hat to you, but right now we haven’t really shared it publicly and I’ll share it with you here. But this logo that you created kind of was the leader in all of our discussions when you shared the six or so ideas and then paired it down to two or three.

And we asked you to do some, “Well, what if you took this logo and made these adjustments to it,” and you did for us. You did that kind of, well, let me see how that would work if I tweak this this way, and this logo just kept coming up to the top and everybody was just really struck by it. So I’m going to share the logo here and let’s talk about it. And I think everyone will be interested to hear from your perspective on what this logo is and what it means. So all right. [shares logo] Can you see that, Mark?

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

Cindy: Yeah. So tell us about this.

Mark: So you’re seeing the end result. And as you were just describing, there is a real process and it’s a collective process with the team where any identity, any visual is subjective to some degree in terms of what people favor and what they don’t. Some people are more traditional, some people are more modern. Part of the design brief really talked about some of those qualities that we want to achieve. 

We did want something to be modern and to really be unique and stand out, but we also wanted it to be a brand refresh. And so the end result was that we chose, thematically, was to play off your existing legacy brand icon, which is the treble clef. Which it does look, even though it takes a lot of liberties artistically and with color, this is an interpretation of that.

So it’s much more abstract in the sense that we’re really taking license with these semicircular components. We’re using what I would say are optimistic, summer color pattern. And in fact, one of the things that ultimately you, Cindy, had recommended that I think really made the mark, really beautiful was the introduction of the fuchsia color at the center which really draws your eye. It’s a powerful color. I’m so enjoying using that color as we’re developing the brand look and feel. But that color is becoming a signature color throughout in a lot of the collateral we’re developing.

Cindy: Yeah, yeah. And I think maybe you heard this when we were talking about the logo as it was being finalized. But purple, Peter [Oundjian] loves purple. So that’s the other thing, the fuchsia color in the center, it’s like, ah, it absolutely reflects Peter in it. And I think the other thing that people will, inside the organization and also in the other interview I did with Liz, hear me talking about the brand archetypes and we really felt that this logo absolutely delivered on primarily the artists. This is a modern art interpretation like you said, of the treble clef and that it’s modern and for us, the [brand archetype of the] visionary.

Looking to the future and the modern view of the world. And then also the [brand archetype of the] athlete. We felt that the strength in this logo, that it just stood on its own and had that strength of the athlete as well. So as we were talking about these brand archetypes that we decided on that were the personality of the Festival, we’re using that as a lens to look at everything that we’re doing now and saying, “Does that fit?” And we felt that this absolutely was like the artist, the athlete and the visionary embodied in a logo.

Mark: Right. And I think that speaks so much to how we are all collectively talking about this before it began, the design process of it. And I think the one that I particularly latched onto was the [brand archetype of the] artist and because it gave license for artistic interpretation of an existing icon, which is the treble clef. So this is a very abstract representation of that. 

We as humans have a natural ability to sort of connect the dots, if you will. So there is the use of positive and negative shape in terms of just the basic principles of design that starts to suggest that shape. But once you discover it, then it’s there, and so it very much is a very design-forward, modern solution. And part of the discovery process that became what I think creates a truly unique brand for the identity, the Colorado Music Festival, is when you discover that there is also the state acronym “CO.” In the yellow, you get the C and then in the fuchsia and gray you get the O. 

Cindy: I’m so glad you said this Mark because I was going to say, Liz, that is I think one of the things she loves the most about this. And I was like, please, please talk about that. So, yes, I’m so glad you’re saying that because like you said, once you see it, then you see it.

Mark: Yeah. And so I think to whomever is listening, watching this video that maybe they didn’t know that before they see that, but once you see it, you — like you’re saying — you’ll recognize it. And that goes to the positive ambiguities and really does then become reinforcing as an identity because then it’s not just an abstract, modern art interpretation of a treble clef, but it’s your treble clef. It’s Colorado Music Festival’s treble clef.

Cindy: Yeah. We are just Mark, over the moon with this logo. But I am curious, I’m going to just stop sharing. So give me a second here. You’re going to pop back up big on the screen. I’m curious about what you’re the most proud of from this process and the end result?

Mark: Well I just think it’s a lovely identity. The service mark, the proportions and everything. And I really am just having the best relationship with all of you. Working with you and the team, you’ve been so available and open. You really did, right from the beginning, you wanted something innovative and new. 

And I think for some, it may be shocking that our new brand logo, what it looks like. But I just think as we’re getting into developing the brand from a visual content perspective, that there’s just a lot of opportunity with this logo to create some beautiful imagery.

Cindy: Yeah. So those of you watching, depending on when you’re watching this, at the moment that we’re recording it, Mark and I are working on the 2021 season brochure and it is phenomenal and breathtakingly beautiful. And so you will be seeing that, those of you who we’re going to be mailing that out. And we’ll have those visuals on our website and other places so you’ll see some of the process like after the brand refresh project is done and how we’re taking this new Colorado Music Festival logo and using it as inspiration for the other things that we’re doing.

So Mark, bottom line is we all thank you for your imagination and your creativity and your ability to, I am very thankful for every creative person’s ability to put out six creative ideas and then open the doors and let us all have conversations about them. And I know the creative work can be very personal. And you’d have done such a great job of kind of shepherding us through the process and hearing our thoughts and feedback, and trying things out with us and letting us come to kind of settle on what I think all of us knew when we first saw it, was going to be the right representation of our brand for the organization. So we all just say thank you.

Mark: Well, thank you. It’s been a pleasure and it continues to be so and I look forward to just developing this every day.

Cindy: All right. So nice talking to you and everyone will see your ongoing work in the future. So thanks, Mark.

Mark: Thank you, Cindy.

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