Brand Identity Design and Consulting

As a brand communications and design firm, we purposefully remain lean and manageable even after almost two decades in service.

And for good reason.

Coming from a background of agencies, we have seen that too many cooks really do spoil the brand.

We work closely with business owners and thought-leaders to help build a purposeful, coherent, and profitable brand. Companies eager to reposition a tired old brand identity frequently approach advertising agencies or large design firms only to find their projects handed off to inexperienced designers or interns.

Briefs get briefer and ideas get diluted.

Special Modern Design keeps the same set of eyes on all aspects of the project from start to finish so we can to cross the finish line together.

Who

Karen Barranco and friends

I am Karen Barranco. Originally from New Orleans, I put down roots in Los Angeles on January 1, 1992 and was welcomed with a flood, an earthquake, and a citywide riot — all within the first year. Through the years, my work has been recognized in online and offline publications, featured on lynda.com by John McWade (who actually said my work is better than Pentagram’s! —crazy), and recently, Shepard Fairey hand-picked my design to represent the ‘Revitalization of the Los Angeles River by 2020’ initiative.
My brand identity design work has been published internationally in books, print magazines, and online. I have also spoken at art & design colleges and lecture on the topic of branding and identity to academic, creative and business communities.

In 2000, I founded Special Modern Design, an award-winning design studio in Los Angeles providing conceptual branding, corporate identity design, and graphic design to small and medium sized product or service entrepreneurs and organizations.

One of our first projects was collaborating with Guidance and Weider Publishing, Inc. as the lead and only front-end designer on their websites Shape.com and FitPregnancy.com which included Shape Magazine’s proprietary fitness tool called iShape.com. (You can see the body of my work at specialmoderndesign.com.)

I then spent about five years at Evenson Design Group as Creative Director. There I led talented teams to create identities and designs for some of the world’s most iconic companies such as Apple, NBC Universal, DayRunner, Disney, Mattel, Pepsico, Warner Bros., Nestlé, Cartoon Network, Andy Griffith(!), Reading Cinemas, and many more.

It was there that I headed the herculean task directing multiple creative groups to develop and design merchandise for the then pre-constructed theme park in Orlando called Universal Island’s of Adventure.

The task included product design and brand storytelling for three of the six “islands”, submitting hundreds of unique SKUs per property for: The Port of Entry, Jurassic Park, and Seuss Landing (in which we were the very first to introduce Dr. Seuss products, including Baby Seuss, and the first product style guide.)

During the dot-com boom of the 2000s, I worked as Creative Director with a well-funded, celebrity based start-up.

After a few years there, I left to be the Creative/Brand Director at Red Ant Media Group U.S. where I provided direction for brand experiences in a variety of newly-emerging platforms.

I might be best described as a ‘Brand Therapist’ who can dig deep into the soul of your company to find, apply, and communicate your story.