5 Questions with Leland Maschmeyer

HOW Design Live is a mere two months away, and to say that we're excited is an understatement. To give you a preview of what you'll see in Atlanta, we're sitting down with some of our esteemed speakers to chat about their sessions. This week, we talk with Executive Creative Director and Founding Partner of COLLINS, Leland Maschmeyer, about the role resilience plays in design.

TC: In what instances have you seen resilience positively impact a brand?

LM: Resilience is the ability to maintain your core purpose even as you adapt to a changing environment. It's a fundamental skill set companies need in our current era of persistent disruption. Specifically, companies need organizational resilience, brand relevance, and executional responsiveness.

Brands that have successfully developed resilience are IBM, Virgin, Johnson and Johnson, Dove, Coca Cola, Nike, Google, New York Times, Ford.

Brands that aren't resilient include Pepsi, Reebok, Yahoo, Howard Johnson’s, Time magazine.

TC: You focus on story-driven design. How do you strive to create this for brands?

LM: Stories, while very difficult to create, are made up of very simple elements:

All of these elements are present in any brand that has a strong culture, clear point of view, and a commonly understood sense of purpose.

But, in translating this into a brand, there is one difference. A story (in movies or books) comes to a conclusion. When building a brand’s story, that story must remain open ended. It's like writing a story half through act 2 and then stopping. The rest of the story is for the brand leaders to live. The first half establishes a trajectory for pursuit and a framework for what are right and wrong behaviors. It's how stories contribute to resilience.

TC: When thinking about the future of design and brand-building, what do you most hope designers will turn their attention toward?

LM: I wish designers will recognize the incredibly unique moment we live in. Right now: we have the power to make companies work for people.

Historically, businesses work for shareholders or operational necessities. Consumers - despite all the rhetoric - have ALWAYS been a tertiary concern, at best.  

Design was conceptually founded on the notion that artists should enter the economic sphere and use the tools of industry and economics for the benefit of mankind. That took many different forms over the last 150 years, but the moral thrust of it was the same. To paraphrase Charles Eames, designers aim to create the best for the most for the least. Only industry makes that noble ambition feasible.

Despite that intent, generations of designers have been kept at the periphery of company operations. Today, that is changing. It’s becoming an business imperative for companies to serve their customers remarkable, fluid, and personalized experiences. Literally, corporations have to reorganize around the consumer.

This is the greatest invitation designers have ever received. Our invitation invites us to change everything about corporate culture from business model to packaging on shelf to sustainability protocols. All in the name of benefiting people.

I hope designers recognize this and don't waste a gift 150 years in the making.  

TC: In regards to your presentation, what is one valuable piece of advice or information you hope attendees walk away with?

TC: In the past year, what has been the most promising advance in the packaging world? What about the biggest disappointment?

LM: Graphene has the opportunity to dramatically minimize the waste produced by packaging. It'll be as transformative to packaging design as the steam engine was to industrialism.


Theresa entered the world of design through The Dieline. With a background in writing and journalism, she has a passion for discovery and cultivating human connections. Her work for The Dieline is a constant journey to deeply understand all facets of the design process and to investigate what makes designers tick. Theresa's writing has taken her snorkeling in between the tectonic plates in Iceland, horseback riding through a rural Brazilian town, and riding an octopus art car at Burning Man with Susan Sarandon as part of a funeral procession for Timothy Leary (long story). When not writing, she is planning her next trip or taking too many pictures of her cat.