Darrin Crescenzi’s portfolio is spectacular, with particularly striking designs from his time spent with Nike. The impressive ‘Sigils of the Houses of Westeros’ poster also stands out; this re-brand of fantasy series ‘Game of Thrones’ was named one of the ‘Best Branding Projects of 2012’ by Fast Co. Design.
In addition, Crescenzi’s other projects include pieces for contemporaries such as designer, director and illustrator Adam R Garcia.
We wanted to find out more about the inspiration behind Darrin Crescenzi’s work, exploring brand positioning and future projects…
How did you become a graphic designer?
I grew up in central Oregon, where my parents owned a restaurant and my father was a painter. He had a lifelong appreciation for aviation history, and much of his work was about researching and painting famous air battles. We had stacks of books about the history of military symbols, aircraft nose art, and visual design of aircraft throughout history, which he used to ensure accuracy in his work. As I got older I began to understand the complex and sophisticated political motivations and histories embedded in each symbol. Because of this, from a very young age, I was fascinated with semantics and the ways in which meaning could be implied through simple form.
In my small rural town, though, there wasn’t much exposure to consumer brands or art and design culture, so I didn’t know what to do with this fascination. I went to college at Oregon State University to study civil engineering, because building bridges seemed cool enough, and it wasn’t until a chance encounter in the art building that I discovered there was an academic major for people with my affliction. I quickly changed majors, and that was that.
The Houses of Westeros poster 2012 | photo credit: Darrin Crescenzi
You describe yourself as a “brand-centric communications designer”, tell us about the importance of brand positioning?
Though it may have a different name at different places, essentially brand positioning is a distillation of what you stand for as an organization: your values, how you want to be perceived — it’s everything. Great brand-led organizations are very good at vetting decisions through the filter of their positioning.
What I like about Prophet, the agency I work at now, is the intense focus on on-brand creativity. As a designer I’m paired up with strategists, engagement managers, brand innovation specialists and business analytics types — a wildly diverse group of brains who all inform on different aspects of a client’s needs — to actually help author these brand positioning concepts in addition to executing against them. This means being involved much earlier on in the process than is standard, bringing an end-in-mind mindset to the forefront when helping our clients establish the guiding principles for their business.
Lunatic | photo credit: Darrin Crescenzi
I see one of your recent projects was for a friend of yours, Adam R Garcia. The piece illustrates the history of the word “lunatic”. Could you tell us more about it and how you went about your piece?
Adam is one of my all time favorite humans, an unbelievable collaborator and dear friend. I’ve always admired the way he is able to apply the same high level of passion and drive to personal projects and curiosities as he does to his client work. He’s very diligent about creating tangible manifestations of his interests, of which his Illustrated Etymology project is a great example. I learned a lot about prioritizing self-authorship from working alongside him at Nike, and I ramped up my own commitment to personal work partially out of a sense of design-envy of self-initiated projects just like this.
I selected the word lunatic because it provided an intriguing visual challenge: needing to illustrate the cyclical story behind the word’s origin in a single frame. Using the phases of the moon as a way to “reveal” a hidden nature wasn’t my instinctual response to the brief, but through design methodology and many iterations I found it to be the most effective solution — which I guess is my way of saying “beautiful.”
What project are you working on at the moment?
Never a dull moment. For clients, I’m currently working on a refreshed visual brand for a major pharmaceutical company, as well as a couple of really exciting identity projects which unfortunately I’m sworn to secrecy on, for now. Then there is a couple of passion projects I’ll be sharing very soon — a brand identity for a Brooklyn-based charter school with a focus on art and design, as well as a fun personal foray into digital experience that I’m extremely excited about. I just need more time in a day to get it all done.
Which brand would be your dream client?
I’ve been very fortunate in my career thus far to have had a few “dream” projects — designing Team USA’s Olympic uniforms, creating immersive experiences as a part of one of the most revered brands in the world. These days, I’d rather be helping something fledgling become ubiquitous or helping to expand iconic brands in new directions — create the next brand du jour rather than simply maintaining the current one.
For me, the dream project is one in which I work alongside talented people on a complete vision; from initial positioning and portfolio strategy of an organization through how the visual and experiential design can reinforce and express the positioning in exciting and unprecedented ways. I’ve really enjoyed my limited forays into hospitality and retail design for this reason, so hopefully there’s more of that coming.
Team USA | photo credit: Darrin Crescenzi
Do you have any advice for aspiring design talent?
I get asked this a lot, and have been trying (unsuccessfully) to compile a list of things I wish I would have known coming out of design school. In lieu of that, here’s the gist: Set impeccable type, and be the type of person that others want to have around.
Darrin Crescenzi’s drive and passion for design is undoubtedly mirrored in the brilliant work that he does, with the underlying sentiment that “real fulfillment comes from never being content and having the passion to grow both as a designer and as a person”. Crescenzi’s design career is a creative evolution that we at GraphicDesign.com are sure to follow…