Discussing Design & Branding with Yolanda Santosa

Discussing Design & Branding with Yolanda Santosa


Yolanda ‘Yo’ Santosa is an Indonesian born designer, who lives in Los Angeles, California. Since she was a kid, a lot of subjects have failed to interest her, except for art. After graduated from Art Center in 2000, she began working at yU+co designing main titles for projects like 300, Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. She realized that she couldn’t ignore her curiosity in branding, and she finally founded Ferroconcrete in 2006. Pinkberry was her first client, and she got involved in managing all brand and marketing strategies. Throughout her career, she has earned several awards, including 3 consecutive Emmy nominations.

The following is our (quick) email conversation regarding branding and design. envi

Let’s start with a quick question about you. How do you ‘brand’ yourself?

Yolanda Yo Santosa
Graphic Designer, Creative Director
Co Name: Ferroconcrete
Specialty: Branding and Design
Don Bosco SD, Jkt, Indonesia
Opera Estate Primary School, Singapore
Katong Convent Secondary School, Singapore
Art Center College of Design (bachelors), Los Angeles

How long have you been in this industry? Why you picked this industry? What is the story?

10 Years in 2010. In high school, I didn’t excel any subject except for Art; I had Best in Art Awards from pre-school all the way through high school. I had no other choice, really. My future was written in stone.

What is your personal definition of ‘design’?

All things that are thought out to make life (products)/communication (brands) better. In fact, if you want to, you can design your life.

What is your design philosophy?

A good designer doesn’t see platform limitations across print, web, motion or other media. A good designer sees infinite possibilities-and creatively incorporates design into everything, literally. I believe this is vital to remember as traditional branding continues to shift and evolve. The root of successful branding is good communication and good ideas-and good ideas have no boundaries.

Name your design hero(es)!

Tadao Ando.

What is so special about Tadao Ando?

He makes music with concrete, light and space. His minimal design exposes the material and brings out its natural beauty.
And I forgot to add one of my other heroes, Tibor Kalman, for his wit, variety and amazing caliber of work.

Err, I read that Steve Job is one of your heroes. Why Apple is so successful as a brand? Let’s make the geeks happy 🙂

They make “design” a part of the foundation of their brand strategy.


What is branding in one sentence?

Giving a personality to a service/product or even person.

What ‘Branding’ means to you? Why are you so obsessed with branding? What makes it so special?

A brand also has character, personality and emotion; it allures … and entertains, it tells its story visually, emotionally and epically.

In my observation, branding is being discussed more in marketing terms, rather than design terms. Do you think branding is marketers’ thing or designers’ thing?

It’s both. A designer has to be able to market. And a Marketer has to have an eye for design.

How important is branding to a company? In terms of existence, success, or even failure.

Its paramount, specially as we move forward to such a brand and design conscious group young of consumers. Its the difference between being remembered and forgotten.

It may sound so basic, but is branding all about logo and fancy graphics? I mean in order to hype up the actual product or service?

A logo is part of a brand, so are “fancy” graphics. But those 2 things amounts to a small amount that makes up a brand. A brand is so emotive and has no preset tool to communicate. It can be a website, a package, a space, a T-shirt, a song, and event, a sign, a word and, motion. You can smell it, taste it, touch it, love it, hate it. I think of a brand as a person/personality.

After Pinkberry’s branding success, many other design firm started doing the same visual styles. How do you feel about that, as a designer?

Competition is good. Makes the product category stronger, and not to mention it gave me a drive to be better.


Do you think every company should have a branding consultant?

Yes, specially retail.

Why do you only emphasize on Retail especially?

It’s the only market based on desire rather than necessity. And to sell a want, a brand needs to have allure, not just facts.

NavinoT is full of startup (wannabes). So, what branding advices would you like to give them?

Passion for your product/service/what you believe in should show through. People love honestly and transparency. While small, use it as your testing ground to really develop a brand voice.

When should they start considering branding in their work?

When they have enough of a following, and are ready to entice a new, bigger market.

Let’s slow down and talk more about you. It seems that you are an entrepreneur yourself. How’s Ferroconcrete doing right now?

Ferroconcrete? She is doing well. Creating new things. Having a good time, drinking the night away. Making new friends.

So, running your own company is something you really wanted/planned?

Was Pinkberry your first client of your company? If yes, did it help getting you new clients?
Yes. Yes.


In your (relatively) young career, How many awards have you received so far?

You are making me count. I hate counting. 15 or so…  You can check them out yourself.

Which award/project do you feel is the most successful personally? and why?

Emmy Nomination for Desperate Housewives. Its the first big one, and the event had an after party.

What have you learned so far about running a business?

I hate budgeting and estimating

Would you take Indonesian clients? Assuming the price is right.

Of course.

Hey, what is your splash of bad taste?

Back Seat designing.

And what is that?

Someone who sits behind you and tries to tell you where to place the image, move the type, etc.

Pepsi or Coke?

Coke. And no, I do not agree that Pepsi = Obama and Coke = McCain

— End of Interview —

Even though Yo was born in Indonesia, she has moved around so many times. She said that she still understand Bahasa Indonesia, but it is a torture for her to speak and write fluently. Therefore, if you happen to have questions, please ask in English. Cheers! 🙂

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