Identity Design + People vs. Process + Intersectional Design Leadership with John B. Johnson — DT101 E70

John B. Johnson is an identity architect and principal of a small studio. He works with corporations and scaling startups, using a small studio’s identity design framework. John and his team also work with creatives to bring peace to people’s lives. Today, John and I talk about corporate and individual identity design, why people are more important than process, and intersectional design leadership.

Listen to Learn about:

  • Defining identity
  • Identity design
  • The intersection of brand/identity and authentic design

Our Guest

John B. Johnson is a brother, a son, a husband, a friend, and the founder, principal, and Identity Architect of a small studio. a small studio is a collective of creatives who use their design gifts to improve lives through branding and product design.Portrait of John B. Johnson They believe every design project starts with Identity. In less than 3 years, his team has built over 40 brands worldwide. John leverages his Master’s Degrees in Architecture and Business Administration to help people, start-ups, and enterprises benefit from infusing their identity into the work they do and what they offer the people they serve.

Show Highlights

[01:20] John talks about his path into the work he’s doing today in identity design.
[01:39] Design thinking is a core principle of architecture.
[03:06] John’s fascination with the people in the built environment and designing buildings with an eye towards the human interactions occurring there, and how that led him away from architecture.
[03:34] Leaving architecture behind to focus more on community and the human equation.
[04:45] Lessons learned during John’s first startup business.
[05:25] John discovers his passion for branding.
[06:10] John’s co-founding of a small studio, and a move to Seattle.
[07:43] Authentic design and how it feeds into brand and identity design.
[08:39] John defines identity.
[08:49] What happens during the branding process.
[10:39] The importance of frameworks and processes for John’s work.
[12:28] John uses deeply personal stories and moments to help build powerful visual identities for clients.
[12:59] a small studio’s Identity Architecture workshop — for individuals, teams, and corporations.
[15:25] Moving fully into remote work during the pandemic.
[17:24] The challenges of building a business.
[18:46] Time is a key factor when it comes to going virtual.
[19:55] The benefits that have come from folks needing to work remotely.
[21:35] Remote work has sparked creativity and innovation in ways we’ve never experienced before.
[22:36] Working remotely has led to more acceptance of the humanity of one another.
[26:00] John talks about his life and experiences being a Black man and a Black designer.
[28:27] His experiences being the only Black person in his education and work spaces and the unique way of seeing the world that came because of it.
[29:47] How his life has motivated him to be a connector and a bridge between people and communities.
[31:51] Intersectionality is the ethos of design and design thinking.
[33:55] Dawan and John talk about bringing what is unique to us as individuals more deeply into our professional and personal lives, especially as a designer.
[36:11] Bringing your full, whole self to every situation.
[39:10] “Constant becoming,” and intentionally designing a good life.
[41:47] Where to find out more about John and his work.
[42:45] Books and resources John recommends.


John on LinkedIn
John on Twitter
John on Medium
John on Instagram
John’s personal website
a small studio
Everything Starts Small podcast
Design Thinking Isn’t Just for the Privileged
Brighton Jones Talent for Good Interview Series: John B. Johnson
Book Recommendation: Community: The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block
Book Recommendation: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
Book Recommendation: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle

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