Creative Inspirations: Kit Hinrichs, Graphic Designer
Illustration by John Hersey

Video: Project: Muzak

(Music playing) Kit Hinrichs: The thing when we did muzak was this simplification from the whole name down to a single symbol. As they went forward, it wasn't just a matter of, gee, how do we change their identity that way? How we change the way we communicate about them? Simpler, stronger messages as you go through, not overly complicated things. And then it's all kinds of music. It's not just elevator music.

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Watch the Online Video Course Creative Inspirations: Kit Hinrichs, Graphic Designer
1h 13m Appropriate for all Feb 26, 2010

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Kit Hinrichs is one of the most accomplished and respected graphic designers and illustrators of the last fifty years. A master of corporate communications and a consummate visual storyteller, he has been awarded the highest honor in his field: the AIGA Medal. Formerly a partner in the legendary design firm Pentagram, he is reinventing himself (again) with a new endeavor called Studio Hinrichs. In this Creative Inspirations documentary, Kit shares highlights of recent projects, his renowned collection of American flags and American flag memorabilia, as well as the irrefutable wisdom of one who has stayed at the top of his game for five decades.

Subject:
Design
Author:
Kit Hinrichs

Project: Muzak

(Music playing) Kit Hinrichs: The thing when we did muzak was this simplification from the whole name down to a single symbol. As they went forward, it wasn't just a matter of, gee, how do we change their identity that way? How we change the way we communicate about them? Simpler, stronger messages as you go through, not overly complicated things. And then it's all kinds of music. It's not just elevator music.

Then to go into imaging, it's the same kind of work that we do, visually, for a corporation, they do, musically. Usually, the change has happened in the corporation already, but they have no way to let people know that it has changed. When we came in with muzak, they were doing these things. They had already done a lot of this stuff, but no one outside had any idea that it had been done. So I went in, met the guys in their very sophisticated offices, with great music playing and you talk on a very sophisticated level about what it is they're trying to achieve, and they give you a story of saying when they were working with Ralph Lauren, that they had talked to all the senior vice presidents about what they were going to do, how the retail environment was going to change, how music was an important part of creating their signature.

And the contract went all the way up to Ralph to sign and Ralphs says, "I can't sign this." Muzak is not comparable to our brand. And that was a real wake up call for them, when someone won't work with you because they think your brand is not up to theirs, and it is every other way except in kind of understanding of that brand or the image of that brand. And as a consequence, they said, "We've got to find some way to change that." So, they engaged us to come in and work with them and we did exactly that.

We, instead of changing the name, which we could not do, so we said, "Okay. Well, "if we are not going to change the name, then we will change the visual image that it has," and so we created a symbol for them and then we created a complete program for them. We organized all of their franchise owners to have a consistent look to the way they did things. We then, because of Jim Biber, our architectural partner, he did their offices down in North Carolina - brand new offices - and they were so cool that they had their clients coming and saying, "You guys are cooler than we are." And all of that really changed, not only how their clients viewed them, but how they viewed themselves.

And so it's not at all unusual for us to come in after a lot of the heavy lifting has being done. And we're really, we're the voice, at that moment, of letting people know how it's changed. We don't change the company. They changed the company. We just help them make it clear to the audience they want to talk to.

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