Designing for Impact: An Interview with Hannah Meng
July 18, 2023, New York, NY: Hannah Meng is a designer and art director based in New York. Previously, she served as the design director at the award-winning Isometric Studio in Brooklyn. She is now a part of the creative studio at Notion, a productivity software valued at over $10 billion, where she designs their beloved brand. In this interview, Hannah and I discuss the role of design in the production of culture, how to grow in different work environments, and the invisible ways that design can create memorable experiences.
Journey to Design Directorship
Hannah began her design career at a design studio, specializing in design for culture and the arts. Her work included projects for museums such as the Museum of the City of New York, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Rose Art Museum, and Johnson Museum of Art. She also worked extensively with global nonprofit organizations, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, Center for Architecture, and Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House and Museum. During this time, she moved from being an individual designer to managing a team that included content writers and architects. In 2020, the creative company Brand New School approached Hannah to lead several campaigns for big tech companies. This prompted her to shift her focus more toward creative design in the tech industry. Since then, Hannah has joined several tech companies to help them build their brand.
Hannah shared her experience transitioning from a designer to a design director. She noted that many designers in this position may experience an identity crisis, questioning whether they are still designers if they are not designing 24/7. Her role shifted from actually creating work, which is what she was hiring people to do with her, to advocating for the work. This involved showing and discussing how it could be used to solve new problems or for clients. This new skill made her a valuable candidate for any fast-growing company.
She emphasized that designers are often introverted and prefer quiet collaboration. Describing visual work in words may not always be easy. Having someone, such as a manager or another designer, to assist with language and strategy can be incredibly helpful. This is what she loves about working with a team.
What Makes Good Brand Design
Hannah has her own opinion on what constitutes good brand design. She believes that brands should be inherently attention-grabbing and create a lasting image. The brand is based on the product or service in people’s minds and has a profound effect on users’ thoughts and behaviors. Brand design is not just about aesthetics; it must start with the brand strategy. In addition to the brand’s core concept, brand design is also heavily influenced by the brand’s personality and external performance.
Hannah also mentioned that brand design should carefully consider and understand which positive aspects of the existing brand visual assets need to be retained, which negative aspects need to be abandoned, and which missing elements need to be added. This is usually referred to as the creative guideline.
Hannah Meng’s experience as a design director in studios has given her the ability to bring a unique approach to advertising through the lens of design to tech companies. She is able to consider systems as a whole and make room for growth and movement in brand design. Her ability to understand the context of the design and the kind of place, whether geographically or culturally, involved in the design has been valuable in her transition to different working settings.
Hannah’s journey has earned a stellar reputation for her ability to bridge art, design, and technology with a detailed and intuitive approach while ensuring that each project is infused with humanity. She believes that to be a designer is to be of your time, and this is an emerging form of our time that needs designers, and where designers can have a greater impact than in so many other forms.