Interview with Jesse Reed


Jesse Reed is a partner at the Brooklyn-based design office, Order and Standards Manual, independent publishing imprint with a co-founding partner, Hamish Smyth.  As a designer, he focuses on identity and branding work that has allowed them to work with a variety of companies, including Kickstarter, Adidas, Floyd Furniture, and Shake Shack. His design studio and himself place much value on the research and building a design system that has a reliable backup. From his words emerge deep respect for the research and system for branding. The same core values shared in his company.

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Start from research with clients

Q: Could you tell me the project that forms the basis of philosophy at your company? What were the challenges, and how do you overcome?

A: It’s hard to choose, but if I ordered to choose, the project for rebranding Syracuse University when I was working at Pentagram. At this project, the difficulty was the opposite of the “normal” project. The university already had an official seal and a logo for the sports team, which weren’t really up for alteration. Therefore, we thought the solution was the way they use typography. We discovered a typeface linking the university and the famous early 20th-century type designer Frederic Goudy through the research. What I learned from my boss Micheal was not only the importance of research but also the key tactics to communicates with clients well. He told me the key thing I should keep in mind is “ let clients talk”. We can’t work on the project without the client’s engagement. In my company, one of the core values is “honest”, which means we will be honest to work collaboratively with the clients and get the most of it.  I believe working as a designer is all about relationships. 


Image: via Pentagram

Designers create a system that has a cohesive brand identity

Q: What kind of request you get at your designer agency “order”?

A: We often time hired to unify the brand identity with reestablishing a design system. We are asked doing audit the company’s assets which they had from the begging of the company till today. It happens over the time people create something, and other people create something different. They are good individually, but they often lack consistency. We are a very heavily research-based agency. It takes time to do research for finding a reason that supports the design system. However, without reasons, it is impossible to find a brand identity that only “ distinctly” belongs to the brand. A designer historically plays a role to bring visual consistency to the organization. In the latest book, "Parks", we published as Standard manual chronicles the history of the United States national parks service maps and brochures, from 1960 until today. Through these historical documents, the book reveals the history of graphic design in the U.S through the lens of national park service. By the time around the 1960s, the National Parks Service was hiring independent designers and artists to create a unique design for each park. One would be expressive, and the other would be quiet. In 1977, it hired Massimo Vignelli to create a system called the Unigrid system that would work for every single park and standardize all of the agency’s paper publications. In this way, the government can cut the cost of publication as well as people feel some sort of security since they are familiar with the way they look. Thus, what he did and what we do is fundamentally the same thing.

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All images: Standards Manual

Ultimately, in the trenches with my team

Q: What kind of project do you want to do as a designer, as CEO of an independent publishment firm?

A: I want to work on projects that I know nothing about—new industries, new products, new perspectives—I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again. One of our dream projects is to design an identity for a freight company so our logo can be 90 feet tall on the side of a shipping container or sea freight vessel! At the end of the day, I don’t want to lose my ability to design by focusing on being the owner of a company. I like being in the trenches with all of our designers.


In sum, what I learned from him was “system” is vital to create a consistent brand identity. This concept could be applied to any type of business. This is the reason people ask him, his agency from various industries in order to build a design system that has utility and longevity in this competitive market.