Branding may seem superficial from the outside, but further scrutiny reveals that it may actually foster personal and professional development. In the latest installment of PSFK’s School of Visual Arts (SVA) Alumni Series, recent graduate Zachary Lynd, who recently completed the Masters in Branding program, discusses how he was able to change his self-perception, and how he forged connections with companies and people, through his studies.
Branding is certainly not a modern notion, it’s centuries old. Why do you think this is such a unique area of study that is now gaining traction in both the creative and business worlds?
I think for one we are just giving it more structure and vocabulary. Simply put: we understand it better and therefore more people are beginning to grasp its importance. If you want to include centuries of human behavior in the definition then I think it has to do with just that, culture. Today’s world is evolving rapidly and I don’t just mean for brands or markets. Obviously we are heavily influenced by new technology, but we are also dealing with serious issues around our resources and the planet; at the same time we have more transparency and collective knowledge. It’s coming together to shape culture and behavior in interesting ways. Companies have to find a true vision and strategy for why they exist and then position themselves in the midst of many changing paradigms; branding will help them not only understand the landscape and their unique propositions, but build for a future that is quite unpredictable.
What is one common misconception about Branding that you think people have, or you had, before entering the program?
That brands are logos and logos are brands.
Many graduates of the Masters in Branding go into different fields of strategy. How did the program change your approach to business and brand strategy for small and large businesses?
There are many ways to approach any problem. The program is essentially an opportunity to learn how some of the best minds in the field approach, or have approached, projects of different magnitude or in different markets. I didn’t leave with a golden formula or approach, I just have a more confident individual interpretation of the problems or opportunities I see for a client and I have built a better arsenal of approaches to help us meet our objectives.
How has having a Masters in Branding helped you to further your career?
The program shifted my personal attitude about myself, my work, and my relationships with others. The work I did in school and the risks I took in my thesis earned me a lot of maturity and clarity. I don’t know where I would be had I not gone, but I am thrilled to be doing what I do the way I do it, and the program was most certainly a catalyst in my journey.
What was the greatest challenge you faced while enrolled in the Branding program? How did you overcome it?
Trusting that this was going to help take me toward my ultimate goals. I got my hands dirty.
What do you feel is your most valuable experience or memory to come out of the program?
Spending Tuesdays with Matteo Bologna on a personal thesis project, and co-authoring a book with Debbie Millman, those are great memories. But what was really worthwhile was that I got to spend everyday with a group of people who became my new inspiration and pushed me to do my best work, that is what I consider to be my most valuable experience.
If you had to offer one key piece of advice to interested applicants, what would it be?
It’s about what you put into it. The learning is your responsibility, so if you’re ready to dedicate yourself and you come with an open mind, then the rest has already been taken care of.
The Masters in Branding at The School of Visual Arts is a one-year Masters Degree program that examines the relationship between design and strategy, the power of design thinking and the decision-making processes of design and business. They are currently accepting applications until February 23rd 2013. Please contact: J’aime Cohen for more information or Apply here!