Fresh Blood, New Perspectives: FUSE University 2012


Today’s branding community is "saturated" with innovative thinkers, designers and strategists who brilliantly lend a hand in shaping and defining our culture. FUSE has welcomed and shared these gifted minds with us for over 15 years. We’ve all listened. We’ve all learned. And we’ve all left inspired and re-energized.

But perhaps the word “saturated” is not necessarily the right term, as there can never really be enough talent in our midst.

Beyond FUSE, the massive conference rooms and hotel lobbies, there lies an emerging community of passionate and eager youth who have begun to find their way into our branding family. Through Debbie Millman’s vision and passion, the School of Visual Arts in New York City introduced the Masters in Branding program in 2010, the first-ever masters degree program in the USA to offer students a unique opportunity to study with some of the most accomplished branding experts working today. 


Last year, FUSE saw an opportunity to add on to this experience by inviting the students to form the inaugural class of FUSE University, an initiative put forth to offer them real world case studies from brand and design executives. But what this really did was bring in a fresh perspective; a perspective that FUSE attendees welcomed, admired and encouraged.


This year, the success of FUSE University was translated into its own track, open to any and all students. An intimate group of registrants had the opportunity to listen to varying points of view, question, debate and lend their own thoughts on branding and design.


The day kicked-off by introducing the “3Ps”: PASSION, PERSONALITY and POINT OF VIEW; three dimensions that when brought together can create “Magic”. Catherine Courage (Citrix Systems) shared why “Design Matters” and how important it is to educate on design within a corporation. Kevin Gilboe (3M) reiterated these thoughts adding on the importance of finding inspiration. Cheryl Swanson (Toniq) introduced the semiotics of branding, pointing out how brands often blend universal and cultural meanings in new contexts to create new symbolic meanings.

A panel discussion with Camille Kubie (GE), Ronald deVlam (Webb deVlam), and Eric Zeitoun (Dragon Rouge) revealed that no matter what side you choose to join, be it client side or agency side, it is through creating relationships and collaborating on both ends that yields successful results.


As I said in my introduction at FUSE University last week, “there is nothing sexier than a man or a woman hungry for an education.” By opening the doors to the next generation of branding experts and designers, we are enabling a new generation of creators and leaders. But most important of all, we are opening the doors for fresh perspectives and new outlooks that we must embrace if we wish to move forward and continue innovating. In the end, we are all students. We are all educators. And we are all sexy!

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