Part of a series on the designers and firms featured in our exhibit, CREATIVE CAPITAL: DESIGNED IN BOSTON.
From the outside, Korn Design’s office looks like any other town house on Boston’s St. Botolph Street, just south of Huntington Avenue. Inside, however, half a dozen designers work on projects ranging from creating packaging design for retail products to developing visual identities for luxury hotels and restaurants. Though Korn Design works with clients across the US and overseas, their branding initiative for the Boston Ballet earned them a spot in Creative Capital: Designed in Boston, on view now through October of 2011.
With Creative Capital, we hope to expose Bostonians to the thriving design scene here. After working in New York City for 8 years, Denise Korn, who grew up in Boston, discovered the vibrancy of design in Boston for herself. “I was very very happy in New York, and moved here and found that there are amazing people doing amazing things,” she said in an interview with Design Museum Boston
“My first job out of school was in the design department at the New York Times, and subsequently I worked with some incredible design firms along the way,” she said. “Just before I left New York I was working at Corporate Graphics, one of the leading corporate design firms in New York at the time. Bennett Robinson, who was one of the partners, was a true leader in annual report design. I learned a lot from him.”
For Denise Korn, the Boston Ballet was an ideal client. “Personally, I love the performing arts,” she said. “The ballet was a dream project for me. I’m a huge dance fanatic… I wrote a review column for a dance magazine called Dance Pages, that is no longer in print, for four or five years while I was working in New York. I’ve also done a fair amount of dance photography--it’s just a personal passion of mine.” According to Korn, working with the Ballet had been on her mind for a few years: “I’d been talking to the Ballet on and off for a long time, just sharing advice and ideas on ways to better position themselves in the city. When Mikko called and wanted to engage in a full brand strategy and rebranding of the company I was just thrilled.”
Working directly with clients and maintaining a day-to-day role in projects is one of the parts of running a firm that Korn loves. “[My business partner] Javier and I touch all of the work, we’re very involved in all the client relationships. That’s why we purposely have kept the firm to a manageable size, so that we’re not pushed further and further away from the client relationships and the work, because that’s what we love to do.” Korn and her fellow designers worked with Mikko Nissenen, the Artistic Director of the Boston Ballet, for over a year to develop a branding strategy that honored the Ballet’s history and artistic direction while also making the Ballet accessible to a wider audience.
I asked Korn if her clients have come to expect a certain style from her firm. “We definitely don’t have a certain look or style,” she said. “If you look at our work it’s very eclectic and it’s really diverse, partially because of the designers who work here. We let them be who they are and express themselves in their own personal way. But that being said, there is a thread to all of our work that’s really based on thorough research and a really really solid understanding of the problem set that’s put before us. So whether it’s for a hospital or for a sexy fashion company or whether it’s for a luxury hotel—we work with all of those types of clients—there’s an integrity and a very thoughtful strategy behind the design recommendations that we come out with.”
It’s not just her clients that keep Korn busy. For the past nine years, she’s also been the head of a mentoring program called Youth Design that places Boston high schoolers in internships with local design firms. And, with a grant from Sappi Fine Paper, she’s written a book about it. “The Ten Who Mentor book evolved out of my work as a mentor myself, coaching mentors, working with kids and figuring out how the mentoring role can really effect change in their lives. I’m pretty excited about the book; it’ll be printed and available by January.”
Images courtesy of Fernando Neves and Korn Design