For my graduate course on Brand Identity Design (AVT 614), I came up with Vietjazz Records for my project. The reason is obvious. I am passionate about Vietnamese music and jazz and my goal is to connect and advance the two distinctive musical forces. The concept of Vietjazz had been on the back of my mind for a while and I have thought of creating a side project to highlight Vietnamese music sets in jazz arrangements. over the years, I have been collecting these type of tunes and I have over 100 tracks to listen to whenever I am on the road for a long trip.
What piqued my interest in Vietjazz was the first time I heard Tùng Dương’s debut Chạy Chốn. Both the bossa-nova flavor on title track and the country-blues feel on “Trăng Khát” hypnotized me. The way Tùng Dương bent the notes, changed the phrasing and played with the syncopation to get the Vietnamese lyrics to mesh with the jazz sound were quite inventive. On top of that, Trần Mạnh Hùng and Lê Minh Sơn played some of the best jazz and blues solos coming out of the Vietnamese music scene.
As a jazz fan with Vietnamese music in my blood, I love the marriage between the two distinctive musical landscapes and want to explore more in this direction. In my informal research, what I have learned is that most Vietnamese listeners aren’t familiar with the jazz sound. My goal for Vietjazz Records is to produce and promote Vietnamese music with jazz flavors. From signing artists to album concepts to art direction to distribution, Vietjazz will be involved in every aspect of crafting an experience.
Since the target is to reach Vietnamese listeners around the world, the web would be the best medium for the company. The web would give us the limitless possibility to create a true experience. Once the album is set to release, the customers would be able to get it immediate through our web site.
That was my pitch for Vietjazz and my professor approved the concept. During the course, I spent weeks developing the logo. I literally did a hundred variations before we came up with the final version. I am happy with the result. The logo consists of eight vertical bars, which could be interpreted as the piano keys. The slight tilting and offset of each bar conveys spontaneity. All the bars are in blue expect for the green accent on the letter “j” to signify syncopation.
After the logo, the next assignment was to develop the stationery, which included business card, letterhead and envelope. Designing and developing the three applications for the brand were the most fun part of the project. I chose the web site, the mobile app and the vinyl album cover for Vietjazz. Designing the vinyl cover were the most challenging one. I had to paid Goodwill a visit to see a a vinyl record were designed.
Even though I had a blast designing the applications, my favorite assignment for the course was the development of the brand guidelines, which was our final project. I had never done a branding guide before; therefore, I loved the new challenge and I could also pull everything together for a portfolio piece. While all of my classmates chose to do a book, I convinced my professor to let me do a web site. The reason was that my company is primarily online; therefore, it makes much more sense to go with a web version. In addition, the brand guidelines are constantly changing; therefore, the web could be much quicker to update and could save some trees. A third reason would be that people could download and use our logo and templates immediately.
I spent quite a bit of time researching big companies like Apple, Adobe and Facebook to see how they have created their brand guide. I also picked up some great tips from MailChimp and Squarespace. The Vietjazz Brand Guidelines turned out quite well. It’s responsive and intuitive. Even though I had spent quite sleepless nights working on it, I am very proud of the outcome.
The branding class is one of the best courses I have taken at George Mason. The professor is awesome. He has real world experience and his critiques were very constructive most of the time. From our interaction in class, he values simplicity and he is a typographic geek. One of the things that I learned from him in this class is that every design decision has to have a reason. You can’t just pick a color or a typeface simply because it looks right or feels right to you. Especially for a brand, you have to have a reason for it like Tiffany has its distinctive blue, Coca Cola has its red and Starbucks has its green. Overall, this semester has been quite rewarding for me even though I had my moments of stress and anxiety.
Without further ado, I am proud to present the Vietjazz brand guidelines.