Studio Mag 2019

Your Studio at the U.

Sometimes your college professor becomes your client. For the sixth year, we’ve had the privilege of designing Studio, the University of Utah College of Fine Arts’ annual publication, which is edited by Marina Gomberg and advised by graphic design professor, Dan Evans — who knows well some of modern8’s employees who were former students. The magazine is a rare chance to explore more progressive design solutions, which oftentimes makes corporate clients nervous. This year’s publication describes how the arts at the U are helping to heal, unite, connect, and restore.

View all Studio spreads by year here.

Marae Events


Pulling off a successful event can be extraordinarily difficult, whether personal or corporate. It all comes down to details. Paying attention to the minutiae of event planning and execution is exactly how modern8 and the founders of Marae approached the creation of their new brand identity. We crafted new letterforms in an elegant thick and thin typeface without serifs, but not a san serif in the conventional understanding. The layout of their business card echoes the layout of elements at an event—exquisite but understated, clean yet rich. We love their services and their identity.

Red Fred Kids & Modern8

Members of the modern8 team, together with family members, collaborated with Dallas Graham and the Red Fred Project to help two special needs children write, design and soon publish a children’s book. It’s a story they helped create, both visually and verbally and deals with the health challenges the kids face. We put together a heart-tugging video, featuring the children and the team, that explains what we’re doing.

As described on the organization’s website, “The Red Fred project finds children living in extraordinary circumstances and asks them the question: If you could write a book for the entire world to read, what would it be about?” We need help funding the printing and publishing of the book. Please consider a tax-deductible donation here, it’s a certified charity.

new pics, who dis?

We are still digging our new brand, so when the year mark passed for our first photo shoot debuting our newly expanded color palette, we jumped on scheduling another one—plus we have some new team members that needed a shout out! Monochrome mood boards served as our inspiration and, now a second opportunity behind the camera, we each expressed our personalities and moods with more confidence and playfulness this time around—we even have some high kicks and wheelies documented.

Silicon Slopes Tech Summit

#SSTS19 and modern8

The Silicon Slopes Tech Summit has turned into one of the biggest annual events to descend on the Salt Palace Convention Center across the street from our downtown office. Over 20,000 attendees join to hear prominent speakers and network in the exhibit hall. For the first time, modern8 was a sponsor and had a booth, with our new reel (link) and an interactive game based on brand archetypes. Two days of talking to people led to new leads, new friends and a hoarse voice.

Totes! Totes! Totes!

We’ve got them! One of the perks of designing and producing our own client gifts is the freedom to design whatever the hell we want without any client feedback or direction. We had fun interpreting our new brand in different graphic directions while applying the designs to something we always seem to have a need for. Luckily for you, these bags will be available in our store soon so no need for FOMO if you aren’t one of our clients.  

Where to Eat Lunch

One of the nice things about a downtown location is the lunch options. We can walk to a lot of places. Right next door is Toasters, a sandwich shop specializing in paninis. Then there’s Siegfried’s, a German delicatessen on our street, and Eva’s Bakery on Main Street, whose macarons are independently worth any effort. With so many options, it’s hard to choose.

I was sympathetic, in fact, when I read about “Elliott,” a patient who walked into the office of neurologist Antonio Damasio in 1982—he had a problem. When Elliott chose where he was going to eat lunch, he had to carefully consider each restaurant’s menu, the comfort of the seating, the lighting scheme, and then he’d drive to each place to see if it was too busy. But even after all that, Elliott still couldn’t decide where to eat lunch. Elliott’s indecision was—literally—pathological. A few months before, a small tumor, located near the frontal lobe of his brain, had been cut out of Elliott’s cortex. Prior to the operation, Elliot had always been an exemplary father and husband. He had an important management position at a large company and he participated in his community church. However, after the surgery, everything changed. Even though Elliott’s IQ remained the same (97th percentile), he exhibited one serious psychological problem—he couldn’t make a decision.

It was so severe, that Elliott’s life fell apart. Upon examination, Damasio said that one thing stood out, “I never saw a tinge of emotion in many hours of conversation with him: no sadness, no impatience, no frustration.” He didn’t even exhibit any feelings about the tragic turn of events in his life. He had no emotional existence whatsoever.

It became apparent that Elliot’s issues were a clearly unexpected result of the brain surgery. It was also incorrect to assume that a person lacking any emotions would be equipped to make better decisions. Elliot’s pathology suggested that emotions are indeed a crucial part of the decision making process. When we are cut off from our feelings, even lunch options become impossible, as “A brain that can’t feel, can’t make up its mind.”

The impact on brand science is obvious. We think we’re always rational beings, making decisions about consumer and business choices with deliberate, practical consideration. In actuality, we’re relying on our emotions to short circuit the decision-making process much of the time. Our emotional brain is quick and effortless. That’s why we rely on it time after time. That’s how brands become loved. That’s how brands become tribal.

Emotion is the first step in the Performance Model: Emotion > Perception > Behavior > Performance. It goes like this: if you want to affect the performance of your business, make an emotional connection with your potential customer, which changes their perception, which affects their behavior and drives the performance of your business. We have literally watched this happen recently with a client of ours. We never asked to do their social media—they asked us—and we approached the work believing if we could connect emotionally with their target audience, then we could make a difference. Our social media posts have emphasized highly creative solutions because execution is where and when the rubber meets the road. It either connects emotionally or it doesn’t. Since we began, sales for our client have increased 300%, and they couldn’t be happier.

And if you’d like to go to lunch in downtown Salt Lake I can help you choose.

Randall hits the Slopes

How could we say no when Silicon Slopes asked if they could write up an article about Randall’s latest AIGA Fellow Award and his legacy at modern8? Read about what they had to say. It’s on point—like Randall’s style.

For the full article, click here.

Randall Smith, founder of modern8 and recent recipient of the prestigious AIGA Fellow Award, is a man of eclectic and refined tastes.

  • He owns and wears at least one pair of sleek black leather shoes. I know this because I met him once at Silicon Slopes HQ and his footwear was amazing — pointed, shiny, smooth. I wore dingy green Nikes and the amount of inadequacy/shame I felt was immense.
  • He’s in a bluegrass band called “Smith Bros. Dirt Band,” which is an A+ name. I just watched an older video of their rehearsal on YouTube. All it took was three strokes of a fiddle, two seconds of cascading harmony, and I was in. Randall is currently working on a documentary about the band’s exploits. When it comes out, expect a review on banjo plucking and running baselines from yours truly, published on
  • People have mistaken him for a member of The Rolling Stones due to his snappy dressing and expert skills on bass. According to my notes, he is not a member of The Rolling Stones though he does wear leather clothing — he already has a band as discussed in the above paragraph, thank you very much.
  • He’s an academic cyclist — academic in the sense that he teaches graphic design at the University of Utah, cyclist in the sense that he travels great distances of space via bicycle. A recent vacation took Randall to the roadways between Florence and Rome, and I’ve never been more jealous of an academic cyclist in all my life.

Beyond the eccentricities of this fine bulleted list, however, Randall Smith is known for design. He has spent 30+ years in the space — teaching, creating, forming the design agency modern8 in 2001 and never looking back. Design is his passion and through his work at modern8, Randall and his team have helped shape many of Utah’s most recognizable brands, including tech companies like inContact, RizePoint, and Impartner.

“What we do is very important for clients in terms of how they see themselves, how they want to project themselves, and who they are at their core,” said Randall.

modern8 was founded at a time when public perception towards brand strategy was murky at best, uninformed at worst. Randall saw opportunity to offer not only creative services, but strategic services as well. These two concepts were melted into a process that modern8 has used (with some tweaks and modifications) for nearly 20 years: the Perception Branding d5 Process.

Now hold on. I know this sounds intimidating, like a science experiment performed by a back-alley doctor using 5 d’s and a rusty knife. I can assure you, this is not the case. The Perception Branding d5 Process is (relatively) painless and to the best of my knowledge, uses no knives. And in the hands of modern8, the process is transformative.

It’s quite simple in explanation, more painstaking in execution: five words that start with d, used to shape the branding process.

“Before trying to create anything, before trying to design a solution or implement anything, we need a thorough understanding of the client and their objectives,” said Smith. “We’ve refined and enlarged that since the founding, but it’s the same basic process.”

Steps 1-3 are strategic: discovery, distill, depict. This comes through extensive management interviews, understanding the core message of the brand, and then presenting their findings. Steps 4-5 are pure action: design and deploy.

Smith and modern8 believe brand strategy is expressing what a company is. This can come in a multitude of forms depending on the clients needs, including identities, websites, literature, trade shows, and many other mediums. It’s important to be distinct — Smith says he has spoken with executives who can’t distinguish between branding on their own website versus their competitors.

Smith founded the Salt Lake City chapter of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) in the late 1980s, and based upon his work with modern8 and 30+ years of involvement in Utah’s design community, Smith was awarded the AIGA Fellow Award — according to my design sources, it’s a big deal.

“I was very appreciative and totally surprised by it,” said Smith

the river district branding

On the west side of SLC (west of 400 West to be exact) is a vibrant, engaging array of various businesses and communities. The River District Chamber of Commerce emerged last year, out of a business alliance of 20 years, to advocate for the businesses and community organizations in the area. In addition to the visual identity, we will be putting up some murals and street art within the River District over the next few months to begin rolling out the new branding.

studio mag 2018

Hot off the press, we just designed and printed our sixth Studio Magazine for the U of U’s College of Fine Arts.

Last year’s issue was just honored at the AIGA Top 100 Show. The oversized magazine-like brochure is a 44-page review of the past year in the arts, and celebrates the activities, initiatives, and accomplishments, including an annual report for the College. Each major story is treated with typographic and photographic displays that amplify the impact and message behind Utah’s leading educational institution. Besides designing, we direct the printing and coordinate the complete solution.