The Heads of State Takes a Look Back

Asking designers to pick their favorite project from the year is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child.  It’s nearly impossible, as some may argue that each project holds a special bit of pride or nostalgia. So we tweaked our phrasing and asked the uber-talented crew at The Heads of State to indulge us by selecting some of their most unforgettable projects. As the last days of 2015 neared, four designers at the Philadelphia-based studio reflected, and each shared a project that they were especially fond of having a hand in creating.

lehigh FW

1. The State of Democracy Poster Series

Designer Michael Houtz chose a poster series about the decline of American democracy at Lehigh University for a few different reasons, including the meditative qualities he found in perfecting Bézier curves. “I think this was one where the idea just surfaced. There wasn’t really any labor at all. It just flowed. The process went from sketch, to approval, to comp, to final in the span of just a couple days—if that. It’s really remarkable when that happens,” he says. “The ability to visually communicate an idea clearly and succinctly is what makes the task of designing anything exciting for me, so this poster was no exception.” For Houtz, he’s excited to approach political subject matter in a way that evades cliché and seems fresh. “Ultimately, it’s all about being receptive and thinking laterally, but it’s also no small convenience that our country’s flag has such wonderful design elements to work with. Thanks, Betsy Ross!”


2. Germantown Friends School Rebrand

Tanner Panetta, The Heads of State design intern, first struggled with grasping how such a refined look and feel could be applied in so many different ways. But she quickly learned that all of the hard work put into developing a strong system from the start is what allows for greater versatility. “The overall versatility of this branding is quite nice. The beautiful iconography and simple type system allows for a lot of variation in its different applications, while maintaining a consistently strong identity across all platforms and materials,” she says of the look, which appeared on recruitment materials for the school ranging from a viewbook, student handbook and stickers to a folder, wrapping paper, and school flags.

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3. The New Balance Runner’s Guides

The Heads of State designed and illustrated these New Balance Runner’s Guides for both the Boston Marathon and Brooklyn Half Marathon. Woody Harrington, senior designer, was surprised to find so many well-known landmarks along the race courses, which inspired much of the look. “This became a great subject to illustrate for some of the spreads,” he says. From these landmarks and architectural details of the city to overhead maps of the course and racing gear checklists, Harrington found it satisfying to illustrate it all in a single cohesive style. After crafting a cover style, Harrington carried it through the rest of the layout by using the same lineweight and subtle textures, even framing the photography and creating a motif that spanned the entire book. Fun details were intertwined throughout, including a runner’s log, where runners could keep track of their training progress. “Each guide came wrapped in a bellyband thatunfolded to become a race map, and you could even tear away the cover flap that doubled as an illustrated postcard,” Harrington says.

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4. Wondermade Branding & Packaging

For Wondermade, homemade marshmallows with flavors encapsulating the whimsy of its namesake, The Heads of State sought to position the brand as honest with roots in the kitchen and heart in the clouds. Dusty Summers, principal and creative director, loved how open the client was not just to the creative but to putting the little extra touches into the packaging as well. “The die-cut sticker was the piece that really tied everything together in the design process. For ages we had just a normal sticker, and the packaging looked fine but there was never really a continuity between the mark and the label. Bringing that cloud shaped die-cut onto the sticker wrapped everything together so nicely,” Summers says.  And it’s those small touches that really make this packaging pop from the shelves. “Despite having a client who was open to adding bells and whistles, it’s always our priority to stay simple,” he says, so they worked closely with the folks at Studio on Fire to combine letterpress, premium Mohawk Loop paper, and die cut stickers for maximum aesthetic appeal.

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