dan olson (studio MPLS) interview dan olson (studio MPLS) interview
jul 12, 2013

dan olson (studio MPLS) interview

top image: dan olson – studio MPLS founder


dan olson is the founder and creative director of studio MPLS in minneapolis, USA who specialise in branding and packaging.  


DB: please could you tell us briefly about the evolution of studio MPLS?
DO: after more than twenty-five years in the industry, I was wanted to start my own design company and studio MPLS was founded in 2009. at first, it was just ross bruggink (now one of our senior designers) and myself working out of my dining room. since then, we’ve grown in size and into a new space in south minneapolis, having designed for great global brands including amazon.com, ICPenney, target and general mills.



belize identity – logotype



belize identity – regional color palettes



belize identity – regional identities



DB: what has been your most satisfying project to date?
DO: bringing to life the crown maple story has been incredibly rewarding for us. it is always satisfying to imagine a brand from scratch, especially when the brand goes on to achieve success. the results of the three-year project have always been design-driven and that is a testament to the client. the combination of a great product with thoughtful and effective design is wonderfully powerful.


DB: what is the attraction of identity design for you?
DO: a strong identity is pure, simple, honest, and iconic. it imbues trust and loyalty over an undefined period of time. it always clarifies, always gives meaning and purpose to the brand promise.


distilling everything a brand or organization stands for into a single iconic image is an incredible challenge for every designer. when done correctly, the exercise is as rewarding as any. a successful identity, applied well and nurtured over time, is the single most powerful tool in the success of any brand. the shelf life of a strong logo in our disposable society is incomparable with other design categories. for this reason, a strong identity can be one of the best long-term investments a company can ever make.



bahamas identity – logotype



bahamas identity – island marks



bahamas identity – shopping bags


DB: what mistakes or ‘traps’ should a young designer avoid when working on a branding project?
DO: the most common mistake is to immediately look to the category for inspiration to see what has already been done. doing so almost always leads to average, expected results. I encourage young designers to find inspiration in unexpected places; explore places where your mind wouldn’t normally go. find inspiration in all art forms, in nature and media.  



crown maple – identity and packaging



crown maple – identity and packaging



crown maple – identity and packaging



DB: do you think it’s important for a graphic designer to be able to draw?
DO: absolutely. great ideas are born out of a process that first sees the solution in the mind as the imagination goes to work on solving a particular design problem. having the ability to draw is an incredible tool in the hands of any designer as it allows the idea to take on life and form. expressing ones ideas in a memorable and meaningful way is a powerful first step towards great design.



basin identity – logo / store signage



basin identity – packaging



basin identity – packaging



DB: are you conscious not to develop a specific house style?
DO: we try to let each project’s unique problem be solved by a unique solution. we have a specific process that our team uses for every project, but that process allows for a wide gamut of creative solutions to be explored and utilized.



blankets for faribault woolen mill



blankets for faribault woolen mill



blankets for faribault woolen mill 


DB: what is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
DO: paul rand’s advice to stay curious, and to see design in everything is the most memorable to me. that said, I’ve received a lot of really good pieces of advice that have collectively influenced my approach to design.I’m indebted to so many people who have helped guide, steer, and lead me over the course of my career. it’s difficult to label one piece as ‘the best’.

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