November 9, 2008

Manifest Plainness, Embrace Simplicity, Design Terrific Logos°

An Interview with David Pache of the Creative Studio 'dache'
We have a confession to make – when setting up this interview, we initially thought to ourselves: what the heck does a logo designer have to do anyway? Seriously, it looks so simple, anyone could do it, right? All you do is take a company’s name, study a bit what the client wants to say, what and/or to whom they wish to sell, fool around with Microsoft Paint and maybe PowerPoint, maybe refer to some color swatches if you’re feeling really fancy... Then, BANG, the next Nike swoop or big fat IKEA sign is born with instant global recognition and world-wide acclaim being assured.

Well, how do we put this? Needless to say, we were wrong about the whole logo design thing. Very wrong. Very, very, most extremely, nauseatingly wrong. And we want to apologise to not only all the artists out there working on logo design, but all the people who may have been inadvertently exposed to our efforts (that poor garbage collector is still in a coma). In fact, we found that not only is logo design NO WHERE NEAR as easy as it looks, but especially fighting the urge to adjust, or add an element, or continue to tweak a color or a line was overwhelming. We’d probably show our age too much if we reminded everyone of an episode where former President Ronald Reagan once
‘squoze’ and picked at a pimple (which was actually skin cancer) so long that he had to go to the hospital to get it treated… so we won’t do that, keeping in mind this guy had his finger on THE button for 8 years… we mean, what if he had wanted to pick at that instead?

You may have even noticed in recent e-mail rantings that we’ve picked a final Ziggy Nixon logo and even letterhead-slash-business card theme; but it also needs to be noted that this was only achieved after much hullabaloo and Nixon family brain-storming (read: in our house this is accomplished by great amounts of shouting and chasing one another around the yard with large sticks in order to settle our differences). In other words, our selection came down to throwing in the towel and giving up after a good 20 or 30 main designs, admitting we were lost and using our best shot. In addition, we knew that this was far away from a commercial reality in that it’d look even worse on a billboard or on the side of a truck or gods forbid presented by any other form of mass hysteria, we mean, media.

In the end, we did confirm one thing: making bad logos is very easy indeed (just ask
Swisscom – or better said their CEO [translation: the boss is NOT happy!]– or the 2012 London Olympic Committee). Clearly after this personal introduction, we gained a lot of respect for this branch of design and especially anyone who regularly produces quite aesthetically pleasing and commercially successful logos. And David Pache – from the Swiss-based design firm dache (pronounced “dash”) – is a terrific person to talk to if you’re looking for someone who’s knows how to get it right.

If you do have some exposure to the world of logo design, you’ve probably run across David’s name or at very least mention of his work. He’s had his wide array of logos and other work reviewed and featured many times recently and has provided a number of interviews for various publications as well. See for example these references to the dache brand of design at, and also, all very well known sites amongst designers and clients alike.

Ziggy Nixon caught up recently with this talented – and extremely busy – young Swiss designer: David, can you tell us please a little about your business, including the scope and even your likes and dislikes of running an agency?
Sure! I started the business out of college in 2005 and have been building it up ever since. I’ve had some good exposure and have also managed to continually upgrade my website, offers and contacts.

At this time, my client base is predominantly US-based but I also have clients in Canada, Mexico, the UK, Asia, India, Australia and Europe. This has really been exciting for me, in that what started off as a national business here in Switzerland has expanded and taken me to an international level.

In terms of running a business itself, I have to admit that I do not always enjoy the business element which sometimes takes the passion out of design for me. For example, this is why I have previously offered discounted logos to start-ups or offered logos at lower cost through other channels. I also try to stay pretty flexible with my pricing structure in order to be more accessible to a wider customer base.

I plan in future to widen this kind of activity and even try to offer my work to charities. I enjoy doing this as it helps me then balance the pure business aspects with my passion for what I’m doing.

How would you describe the dache style?
My style is contemporary with classic elements. I enjoy simple logos and their interpretations. Sure I am able to produce all different types of logo styles as you can see on my site. But I do have a preference in that I really like the geometry and symmetry of logos.

My work has been featured on many websites as you mentioned and can soon be viewed in books such as
The Web Designer's Idea Book and LogoLounge V (see also here for more details to which logos from my portfolio are to be included). I’m also very excited that 10 of my logos were recently published in Los Logos 4, which I also describe on my website here.

How would you describe yourself – or let's say your professional title – best?
Ultimately, I consider myself a multi-media services provider. However, the reason why I focus a lot of my time and energy on logo design per se is that this is the area that 90% of my clients require from me. And it really is my passion.

Logo design is the most dynamic aspect to my job as it allows me to use small snippets from my entire portfolio of pictures and other artistic creations to really showcase my designs. For example, if I am asked to design a web page, the business brief is much more limited for me as a designer. This is because the client already has an idea of what style he requires including format, lay-out, colors, etc.

In general, what types of new customers do you like dealing with the most?
As I really focus on offering the highest value for the customer’s money, I find that much of my new business is sourced from start-up companies. These types of businesses will obviously have a name but not always be sure about the style of overall branding they want to establish. It is very satisfying to help this type of client find this initial starting point from which to launch their business.

How do the additional aspects of your work beyond logo design fit into your business and daily routine?
I am constantly reviewing my portfolio – if you will for marketing purposes – to see if there are any aspects which will generate additional business beyond just logo design. In many cases, I will initially be asked to provide the logo for a company; but then later down the line, these same clients will re-visit me to do also perform website revisions, create business cards and letterheads, etc.

Most recently, I have spent most of my spare time updating my own web page in order to make it easier to use. This includes setting up a new
online quote page, which allows potential clients to complete a simple questionnaire, including all their contact details and the basic brief for the project. This is then sent to me in a pre-formatted e-mail for me to begin the creative discussions. Also included in the online quote is my pricing so clients may see upfront what would best suit their budget.

How do you set up the operational part of the business with customers, including pricing?
I offer 4 set price packages but each of these allows the customer to add on certain elements. I find this is working well and it is a new idea where the clients, in effect, can build their own package. So again, setting this up has taken a lot of my time but it seems customers really appreciate it.

In addition, I’m trying to support my business even further with my new blog forum,
dacheboard, which is also run from my site. I use this to feature articles, illustrate processes and post general information that is a useful reference point to fellow designers and new starters to the profession. (ZN recommends surfing all the available pages and articles, there’s a load of terrific input and offers some key pointers for us novices as well!)

Although we've lived in or near Switzerland for over 16 years now, how would you describe to the non-initiated what having a Swiss Touch means in terms of design?
This is a good question and I suppose it’s really a matter of personal opinion.

However, I would say that the Swiss in general have a reputation for clean, good quality products in all areas of business – and the world of design is no different. I like the geometry that certain projects allow which also is part of the true Swiss style for me. If I had to summarize it then, I’d say that using simplistic, clean lines to create a reliable, quality-oriented finished product that meets the client’s requirements is what I offer as my Swiss Touch for logo and web design.

We have quite enjoyed surfing all the available examples of your logos, it's really very inspiring. Now, we want to ask a few questions that we hope do not in any way insult your craft:
1) In so many ways – where you've mentioned this yourself in other interviews – successful logos are frequently relatively simplistic, even seeming (later) to be very obvious designs in terms of fit and message including as examples both NIKE and Adidas brand logos;
2) When going through your collection, we found ourselves again and again thinking "hey, that's the logo, without question", almost like it had always existed like that (actually, we mostly thought "well, duh!" but we’re beginners at this). A couple of the best examples we could mention would be your own professional logo (a subtle combination of a “d” and “+” that acts as well as a tie-in to the Swiss flag) as well as
'Ecstatic Media' (so straightforward yet so brilliant!! See also in the logo section of the website for more!);
click on image for larger view:

3) With this in mind how do you either keep your logos simple enough to convey the message the customer wants to get across? Looking at this slightly differently, how do you keep your designs from going too far and becoming, if you will, over-engineered?
This is a very valid question and I think touches on why a lot of start up designers may struggle. They try too hard with the design process and wind up making a product that is far too complicated.

I think I manage to retain the simplistic interpretation of a logo as I find that brainstorming / sketching on paper really helps me maintain a good oversight. Of course, by talking with the clients, looking at the brand name and establishing what the client wants their logo to portray, I find that in 80-90% of cases “the simpler the better” is most often the best philosophy.

I try to not take too much away from the logo itself, which allows it to be workable and have an almost obvious interpretation, as you say. If I wanted to produce very artistic logos then my clientele would be different, I guess, but my style is what it is. The existing and new clients comment on this when they first approach me to work for them. They find the honest approach to my work appealing.

One of our favorite examples of your work is the 'Social Generations' logo shown below; it really spoke to us in terms of the family unit and color scheme. Can you describe how you created this example, including the decision-making interaction with the customer?
I think it is easiest to provide a general view of my design process, rather than be specific, as different projects require different approaches. As mentioned earlier, clients typically initially approach me through e-mail to find out quotes, where again, my new online quote page ensures that all emails I receive are from potential clients who have seen my pricing levels and have already made the decision that they want to move forward.

At this stage, I take a look through their brief and try to focus on the main points of what they are trying to say with their logo and to whom it will ultimately be presented. I brainstorm ideas on paper for a few days and once I have a few ideas that I feel the client would like, I then start preliminary sketching on grid paper. Very early in this process though, I already report back to the client for their initial thoughts on the direction I’m going in. If it seems we’re in agreement, the initial drafting can then take place.

Importantly, I provide one concept at a time to allow the client to consider each in its own right. This is something which developed over time because I found out earlier in my career that if two concepts were presented together, they would wind up being compared to each other rather than each being judged on their on merit. I found then that this was really unfair to the client to be in this situation, namely where they felt that had to choose rather than just focus on the big picture of their targets.

Admittedly, it’s often the case that a client will love the first concept, therefore I may wind up doing revisions on just one approach anyway. Still, most clients want to see the initial drafts and later potentially the revisions of at least two concepts, dependant as well on the price package they’ve chosen.

It is, however, critical at this point to hold a very thorough dialogue with the client; this is paramount in order to achieve their targets. After this, I then begin to finalize the revisions and present the finished concept to the client in their specified format. I think the key point is that client consultation is something that cannot be replaced in order to obtain the desired logo.

How do you decide on the color schemes to include in your logos? Is it necessary for example to make adjustments to fit into your customers' already existing media (for example, brochures or online communications, etc.)?
I do not have any pre-determined color sets with which I work. My influences are taken from combinations of colors that I see everyday.

When my clients approach me, they will often go ahead and indicate their color preferences – which is part of the briefing questionnaire. It may be as well that they will have already created part of their business image already – e.g. with an existing website – therefore the colors with which I should work are specified and fixed.

Examples of dache-designed typography, click on image to enlarge:

Other clients give free reign and leave it to my personal judgment. These are the most liberating projects for me as I really enjoy being asked to look at all aspects of the logo as opposed to working within a given set of criteria. If I am indeed given the choice, I will still do all I can to choose colors which I feel will best interpret a logo in the correct way the client wants, and not based solely on my personal opinion.

How has your design process evolved over time? Have you always been essentially computer-based in your design work or has this changed, and if so, in what ways?
The available software over the years has certainly got better and better both in terms of the quality of the final products you can make as well as the different programs’ ease-in-use and flexibility. My process has therefore become faster as a result of working in the Internet based industry for a while.

That being said, I continue to place a great deal of importance on sketching by hand and grid work. This is a manual process on one hand; but on the other, scanners make it possible to integrate it directly into my work with the software. This also allows me to find the lines which I want for a particular logo.

For example, the project for ‘brokers’ used a simplified bull symbol. I first sketched the lines on paper, then in a grid book and then finally scanned the image into the software for me to work with. I have an article regarding this project on the dacheboard on my website if you’re interested in finding out more about this example.

We've seen you mention travel as being an integral part of both your creative process and also of your personal life. How does this help your designs?
The reference to this was the general travel of everyday life – trains, buses, walking, etc. It is a time when I can just clear my mind. Then, when I least expect it, I will see a landscape or the clothes of a stranger which may inspire one of my current projects. These influences usually materialize in the color palettes that I select for a particular project more than the actual design element.

Sure the various holidays that I’ve been on in different regions of the world have also exposed me to an amazing assortment of unique designs and architecture. For example, I was recently approached to design a logo for a UK-based finance company specializing in and wanting to represent the Middle Eastern market. The
finished design featured an inlay (see below) which was inspired by architecture from this region I’d experienced and which gave the desired effect. It is these areas of the travel that feature in my design process.

Looking ahead for the next years, do you see any particular design trends in your fields?
To be honest, I think it’s difficult to predict how the field will change or develop. But I have noticed a slight trend in reviving styles from the 70’s. I suppose therefore it would be expected that the 80’s will have a strong influence over the next phase.

Also, in logo design, there is great influence from the other genres of graphic design. I see a trend then towards very illustrative, photographic, even almost what many might think of as ‘arty’ effects. These are being used more and more by designers to fall in line with where the field is going.

In general, I think that the future outlook for design is very positive. With the market in the recent decades developing with the mass production of computer technology, we are now seeing a period where the general public are aware of our market, are more willing to accept the concept of design and are hungry to seek out good work. This is good news for the industry as we are seeing more clients and are being encouraged to produce better quality projects. We are also being given much more freedom to experiment in our approaches.

How do you see your own business evolving?
If I look back to starting dache, the first two years were, as expected, a lot of hard work. But in 2008, I have really seen the benefits. I’ve established a solid client base, new business is coming in regularly and this makes all the time and energy I’ve invested worth it.

As mentioned earlier, I have re-worked the website to provide a space for discussion and also to provide online quotation. In the short-term, I plan to do much of the same to make the service which I offer as streamlined as possible for the clients. In the long term, I will see how it develops, with the view to possibly expanding into other areas.

We don’t know why but we get some kind of morbid pleasure asking this question: have you ever had a project that you thought just didn't work out – for any reason, including lack of ideas, problems with the customer or just general malaise – and if yes, what did you learn from this experience?
No doubt there are teething problems with any business. For example, in the first months, I had a couple of clients who approached me to produce logos for them; however, rather than asking me to actually design new logos, they provided drafts of the logos they wanted and said, “Do this, please”. As you can imagine, to a designer this allows no creative freedom and it did seem to be a pretty pointless exercise.

But it was a part of the learning curve in terms of realizing how different clients expect different results and how they can differ as well in terms of how much control they are willing to give you. Even when I am given full creative freedom, I still stay in constant contact with the client to ensure I am heading in a direction with which they will be happy and satisfied. But this is something which has very much developed through my experiences in customer service.

You also mention that you are interested in sculpture, music,
suprematism and painting. How do these different aspects of your interests contribute to your work?
I would not say that each of these specifically contributes something to my work; however, they are all areas which are of great interest to me culturally. By studying them and even following the current views on them, this has allowed me to be influenced by them in order to make a logo work or get the correct perspective on a certain concept.

The suprematism movement is an art genre which I love to use for inspiration on colors or shapes. As for sculpture, painting and music, these are all hobbies of mine so these act really as a bridge between my personal and professional life.

If you could do any other kind of work in the world, what would it be and why?
I have recently been editing some video clips from the camcorder and the editing software was something which I had not used since I was in college. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the process. I never chose to pursue this area; however, I think if I could not be doing what I am doing now, being a film maker would be of great interest.


Graduating from the nearby Ecole romande d'arts et communication, David picked up various skills along the way including working with multimedia design, graphics, communication, project management, sound and video, 3D illustration and photography. Some of his tools of the trade include working with Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Fontlab Studio, Flash and Dreamweaver.

He is officially the Owner and Art Director of the self-created design company, dache, located between Geneva and Lausanne in the mountain village of St. Cergue in Switzerland, a place where the locals have to suffer tremendously owing to being surrounded by the sheer beauty of the region and having to live in one of the most spectacular areas on the planet. Alas despite this, it was indeed after his college days that it dawned on David that he should set up his own business in order to do what he loved most of all – website and especially logo design. And since forming his own company in the second half of 2005, he’s never looked back.

dache focuses on logo design, corporate and brand identity, multimedia, illustration and production of internet and print marketing campaigns. And David will proudly tell you that he is all about creative and dynamic out-of-the box thinking, Swiss style. His tailor-made and original concepts continue to satisfy a wide range of local, national and international clients to the fullest.

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°CONFESSION 2: the main title of this article is based on a quote we like, namely:

Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.

Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC), from ‘The Way of Lao-tzu’
(ZN note: Lao-tzu is perhaps better known for this quote:
‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’)

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EPILOGUE 1 – for a quick and dirty run-through of various ZN favorites of dache’s logo portfolio, check out these links (in no particular order, just listed pretty much at random). AGAIN NOTE THAT ALL INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN ORIGINAL FORM VIA dache’s
LOGO LINK so visit now! You’ll be glad you did, ‘cause there’s tons of neat stuff, where especially enjoy the input about how the links came to be or what David was aiming for:
- African Tradition (love the Giacometti connection!);
- TreeSpread (great descriptive included: ‘For this design a fractal was created,
a beautiful and natural phenomenon of growth and infinity.’);
- hope stewart (we had to stare at this one for a while to get it [we confess to
thinking it was an Alpine ram], but now it’s so obvious!);
- goodtogether (again the simplicity is grand!);
- foxsaver (seriously, we would buy a cap or other merchandise with
this logo! Free advertising people!!);
- Slicejack (getting redundant now about simplicity, but the story is great here, too!);
- crazy japanese videos (hee hee, no doubt this would never fly in the US, but we’re so sick of being politically correct);
- MediaFactory (filing this one under ‘things that make you go ‘hm’’);
- Grooveshark (who wouldn’t want a chance to design a logo for a company with
this name? Well, there is always
- twuut (which is coincidentally also the sound a 400 lb. parakeet makes,
so the logo fits right in);
- the sapient group (we have no idea what sapient means, but this is too cool!);
- and last but not least,
The Creative Inbox. ‘Nuff said.

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ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK! At this link you’ll find a quick run-down of the ZN home-made logo design process (from our soon-to-be-patented 5 minute blog entry approach). YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
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All images - well those from the David Pache/dache bits above - are used by exclusive agreement and kind permission of the dache design agency. All usage is strictly by restricted to written permission of David Pache. Some images have been resized or combined in such a way as to ensure their fit into this blog article. All original images are available at www.

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