Founder of the Brand New School tells us about his classical inspirations, and how BNS used the concept of the bookshelf to inspire their latest website design.
Jonathan Notaro is the Founder and Executive Creative Director of Brand New School (BNS). Founding BNS in 2000, Jonathan is an accomplished creative visionary in commercial art. In a recent interview with PSFK, we learned more about the inspiration and process behind the design of BNS’s new site.
Tell us about your background and what you have been doing most recently with the Brand New School.
I studied graphic design at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), worked for a design company immediately after school and about 1.5 years later–after that company was bought, sold and given a death sentence–I formed BNS. I had no plans except to be in control of how I spent my time and whom I would be working with. Initially we worked on motion design projects, on branding and design projects for youth driven television networks and advertising agencies. Before long I found myself directing little pieces for them, and then onto some bigger, more high profile projects. Most recently we/I have been rebranding the FUEL TV television network, designing and developing a massive touchscreen installation for a client I can’t mention, and in post production on the latest in a series of commercials I’ve directed for Ikea. Oh, and I designed the new website in collaboration with my friends at Linked By Air.
Can you tell us what the new website has achieved in terms of design, interactivity, and user experience?
The design uses the metaphor of bookshelves as a framework for the content, inspired by my personal office shelves which basically tell my story. The new site does the same, only it’s the company’s bookshelf and company’s story. The interactivity and the site’s features encourage the public (potential and current clients, interested parties) and internal staff to contribute to that story. Anyone can login and create and share reels, which are collections of our work. Staff can edit content from the page view rather than back-end, as well as create their own pages. As a design studio, the staff has editorial discretion, which allows us to leave the door open a little wider than other organizations might.
The website’s objective is to showcase the bonds between your people. Also, Tamara Maletic mentioned using the metaphor of having “infinite shelves” as a design strategy; how did these ideas come about? What was the process and how did Linked by Air come to the table?
I knew it was time for a collaboration with someone outside of the commercial sphere, so enter Linked By Air. I have always admired their POV, and my fellow BNS director Eric Adolfsen was a student of Dan Michaelson’s at Yale, so he helped make the connection. Most of their portfolio is for arts and cultural clients, and the sites have a database driven feel with the functionality in the foreground of the design. I suppose that is partially due to Dan’s programming background.
At BNS, we tend to gravitate toward big overarching ideas or themes, and form. So in a sense it’s a perfect fusion. The ideas that we arrived at all had a similar makeup in this sense… metaphors for content, and inspiration that is familiar to designers and the creative process. So what do we do? At BNS we stack our shelves with chotchkies and books, pin-up findings – posters or textiles – and paint the walls. We scour the earth for inspiration and keep it in front of us with hopes of it permeating our subconscious.
Where do you go for inspiration on your own projects? List any resources, public figures, creatives you feel are relevant.
With a few exceptions, I tend to look back all too often for inspiration to design, art and film luminaries of the past. Gold-plated and on the top shelf are Robert Brownjohn, Bob Gill, Milton Glazer, Saul Bass, Brian DePalma, Coppola, Truffant, and Michelangelo.