Eric Heiman of Volume Inc. Talks Site-Specific Branding

We caught up with Eric Heiman,creative director and partner at Volume Inc. (San Francisco) and asked a few choice questions about design and site-specific branding—the focus of his upcoming session on March 28 at SEGD Branded Environmentsin Las Vegas. 

Eric Heiman and Adam Brodsley are co-founders of Volume Inc. a multi-disciplinary design firm in San Francisco that specializes in branding, print, digital, environment and exhibition work. The Volume Inc. team is known for their masterful brand work—subtly yet effectively communicating the deep and philosophical core of their clients brand culture and DNA through a high level of attention to craft. Volume is proud of the fact that they inspire and activate users of the artifacts, systems and experiences they design. 

 

First things first: In your opinion, what makes a successful branded environment experience?

EH: A design that accomplishes its goal with as little overt branding, or “hard sell," as possible. My feeling is that the days of slapping a logo and brand colors everywhere in a space are (hopefully) over. People are looking for more bespoke, content-rich and (I hate this word, but I can’t think of anything else) authentic experiences. Spectacle and empty stunts are not enough in the long run.

More walk the walk than talk the talk.

In other words, experiences that embody the brand, but don’t necessarily hit you over the head with it. Whether it’s the Target exhibitions at their Metreon location in San Francisco or the IBM Think exhibition from a few years ago. If anything, it’s even designing spaces that don’t overwhelm us and instead provide respite from all the static and distractions in contemporary life. I was struck by how the MUJI flagship store in Tokyo, despite the crazy amounts of product, felt weirdly calming. I’m not sure how the designers did it. 

 

What spaces, environments and experiences are inspirational for you right now?

EH: Oh, man, there’s something new every day! 

Lately, I’ve been very intrigued by the work of Korea-based Cho Min-suk and his firm Mass Studies. I visited Japan for the first time last fall and was fascinated by how design informs all the different environments there—the beautiful density of Tokyo, the Zen gardens in Kyoto and the remote “museum” island Naoshima with all the Tadao Ando architecture. The organic orderliness and ritual of Japanese culture are altogether more calming than our western one to me. Kenya Hara’s "Designing Designis my new bible!

 

And what experiential projects have you been working on lately?

EH: We’ve been doing a lot of work with the BloombergArchitecture team helping them translate their brand into workplace environments all over the country. We recently completed offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and are currently finishing one up in New York City. The D.C. office is a news and media office, and we carved the entire text of the first amendment in marble floor tiles with 14" high letters around the entire perimeter of the main floor, a symbolic “shield" for the journalists that work there. With this new political climate, it’s become even more meaningful to the people who work there.

I love when outside events unexpectedly amplify a design solution. 

We recently completed the second part of our Boy ScoutsSummit “suite” with the Summit Visitor Center environment and exhibit program. We’re also designing an ongoing series of environment-based projects for Facebook (but that’s all I can really tell you).

 

Could you tell us a little about your session at the SEGD Branded Environments event?

EH: The talk will be about “site-specific branding,” (a term we coined during the Bloomberg work). I was trained as an architect originally, and we were always taught to use the site—the landscape, the history, the people, the surroundings—to inform our solutions. My talk is about how we apply this thinking to branding—which tends to be abstract and location-agnostic in its conception—and how it can inform its expression in physical spaces. 

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The SEGD Branded Environments event has evolved from a series of SEGD educational events individually examining brand and identity in various contexts from retail and corporate to cities to include a cross-section of all three. The 2017 event will specifically address branding of cities, workplaces, leisure/play spaces and retail environments in depth. Branded Environments will be held at and in conjunction with the Digital Signage Expo,but the content will reflect both texture-rich traditional and hybrid digital-physical branded spaces. Register today.

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