Last year, I taught a graduate class on branding called Nature of Identity at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, together with Hunter Wimmer. This post showcases one of our student’s work, recently selected as a winner in the 2011 Brand New Awards student category.

Dara Weinberg, a student in our fall semester, decided to work with a defunct brand in the fashion space, Members Only. Popular in the 80s, it’s a brand best known for their jackets and their tagline “when you put it on, something happens.”

During the first month of the course, students are tasked with uncovering the essence of the brand they chose. To find out what makes their brand unique in the marketplace, they are asked to research the company history, its mission and values, targeted and potential customer profiles, who the competitors are, as well as to map out brand attributes through brand grids.


Through the research Dara uncovered that the best way to reinventing this brand would be through a satirical approach, raising the stakes of what’s possible with an outrageous brand promise: to be the epitome of exclusivity and cool. In a world governed by image, Members Only sets the rules.

Members Only thus stopped being a mere fashion brand, to become an opulent gentleman’s club and secret society complete with its own secret coded language, loosely based on one used by the Freemasons.

The next two months of the semester are devoted to visualizing the newly defined brand strategy. It begins with a logo exploration, which in Dara’s case culminated in the one seen above: a series of glyphs, which only “those in the know” can decipher, spelling out the society’s inaugural year and a coded “M” in the center of the hexagon. The logo and its guidelines are explored and presented in a brand book, with various examples of applications. The examples below illustrate how the new mysterious Members Only brand would go about setting rules on exclusivity and cool modernity.