Base Design: Big Names, Big Ideas

In How to Become a Brand Expert workshop, two branding veterans discuss the common mistakes designers make with branding that sabotage your work before you even get started. They’ll show you how to think about branding and present it to clients on a broader business level, so you’ll gain their enthusiastic support and understanding of its value—which means you can charge what it’s really worth.


Firm: Base Design

Names of principals: Min Lew, Geoff Cook, Dimitri Jeurissen, Thierry Brunfaut

Total staff members: 50 worldwide

Year Founded: 1999 (New York)

Notable Clients: Louis Vuitton Foundation, MoMA, Meatpacking District, Milk Studios, NeueHouse, Kanye West, NYCxDESIGN, Kiki de Montparnasse, Pantone, Haus der Kunst, JFK Terminal 4

“From fashion to culture, luxury, education, civic, corporate, hospitality and more,” Base Design has been creating iconic brands since the early ‘90s. The Brussels-based firm has spread worldwide with offices now in New York and Geneva, and works for names like Louis Vuitton, Milk, Pantone and MoMA.

Before the firm opened their offices in New York, Dimitri Jeurisson and Thierry Brunfaut joined forces as the “perfect combination.” Jeurissen worked as the art director with Brunfaut as the graphic designer and typographer. After their first few projects—including a hand-set book for Joseph Kosuth and the identity for a fashion house—Geoff Cook took notice. He loved Base’s work so much that in 1999, he left his position with DKNY to invest in the unique culture and works of Base. Thus, the New York firm was brought to life. All three—Jeurissen, Brunfaut and Cook—continue to work with Base and share the firm’s “human” characteristics.

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When asked what made Base so human, Min Lew, partner and creative director, explained that they don’t just say they care about their teams and clients, but they “back this up with concrete actions.” As an example, Lew shared that in order for Base Design to keep growing, the three founders knew the importance of introducing a new generation of creatives. As a result, “they reconstructed the company to bring in new equity and partners.” While this isn’t unheard of, it’s definitely “rare at the boutique level.”

Can you imagine? Years of experience with well-established brands like NeueHouse and Louis Vuitton, and suddenly they introduce a younger generation to the game. The potential for disaster is real. But for a very selective firm like Base, which employs only 50 people worldwide, the reconstruction worked out perfectly. Probably due to their incredible “transparent” culture. So transparent, in fact, they even share financial figures with teammates in addition to the company’s very clear five-year plan.

“Actions like these are done out of respect for our people … This results in a very strong connection with our clients and long relationships that, in the end, resemble an enormous extended family.” Maybe that’s why the biggest compliment the firm has received, in Lew’s opinion, is, “Base, yeah, they’re the good guys.”

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So how does a firm that’s goal is “to become a household name” keep their business going and continue to stand out from the pack? Their motto 100% You is just the start and reflects how the firm thinks about their clients. “We think about brands like people in that they have an identity, personality and way of experiencing them.”

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Lew shared some of her favorite projects while working with Base Design. “In 2000, we did MoMA QNS (the temporary museum in Queens that operated for three years while 53rd St. was rebuilt). It was a landmark project that really put us on the map in New York. Milk, without question, is a favorite, due in part to our 17 year relationship with them and the free reign they give us to do creative work that has resulted in their becoming a fashion industry empire.”

As for what we should be looking forward to from Base, Lew shared, “We have some big announcements coming very soon, including the branding of an iconic neighborhood, an international airline terminal, an edgy museum, a major auto company and a very fun food project with a major Hollywood star.” We’re all watching and waiting for the latest Base developments to show up on the firm’s blog, On a Day Like Today.

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