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Design Philosophy

We believe that design can help to make better societies; it has the power to create a positive influence on culture at large, a guiding focus for all that we do.

We embrace collaboration and design through open communication with clients, never from a template. By harnessing a collective consciousness and challenging preconceived notions of what might be possible, acceptable, or successful, we expand our worldview and increase the opportunity for design that has a targeted impact.

Our strongest partnerships are with change-makers: those that serve their communities by providing opportunities to engage in civic discourse, inspire empathy, and reflect on history as a gateway to contemporary growth.

We give credence to the idea that centering the audience, along with methodical and objective reasoning, set a stage for more innovative, personal, and lasting visual outcomes.

“Topos Graphics is the most intuitive and inventive creative firm we’ve ever collaborated with. They listen carefully, considering aspects of each project that we had never even anticipated, and always with the goal of creating the most meaningful solution to any design challenge.”

— P. Scott Cunningham, Executive Director of O, Miami

“The Baltimore Museum of Art cannot offer enough praise for the truly brilliant team of Topos. Over the years, Roy and Seth have listened to every strange idea we propose with care, crafted extraordinary design solutions with their trademark elegance, professionalism, and exquisite attention to detail, all the while making the creative process enjoyable and fun. As thought partners, design professionals, and project managers, they are peerless in the field.”

— Asma Naeem, Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director,
The Baltimore Museum of Art

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Seth Labenz presenting our name and brand identity concept for Upside Downtown Miami to the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Photograph by Irvans Augustin, October 2021.

Design Methodology

Articulation + Ideation

Our first priority is to articulate our client’s core organizing values. By doing this, we identify what differentiates them from others in their market landscape. Who are they? What makes them special?

We then extrapolate an idea that serves as the basis of their graphic identity. That idea is unique for each partner. Graphic identities rooted in a predefined studio “look” or subjective personal style alone may be susceptible to short-term degradation. To create lasting visual representations of the client’s voice, we abandon presuppositions and tailor both the process and designs to the nuance of their character.

Collaboration + Ongoing Discourse

To evaluate design success, we establish a critical framework that is inclusive, original, and logic-based. This requires the client’s buy-in to the idea as well as consideration of their audience’s perception of it. Do they get it? Do they see themselves reflected in the result?

We encourage transparency. Institutional and community buy-in is paramount because pride in the ultimate design solution cannot be overvalued; from enthusiasm comes confidence and consistency. If the design process is seen as existing in an executive silo, it’s unlikely to survive use-case implementation. It’s important that all agents of the brand identity believe in the design at a foundational level. Staff and community should be invited to dialogue about the merits and future sustainability of our resultant design drafts.

Topos Approach 1

Baltimore Museum of Art’s Lindsey Lang presenting previous design samples to the Topos Graphics team during our research and discovery site visit.

Working Design

The design system should be comprehensive. Grand gestures like trade-fair or billboard advertising can be thrilling but are often easier to achieve. Brands are most tested in the less glorious, smaller use-cases like marketing brochures or digital ads. We pay attention to the inherent needs of our clients to develop systems that scale and adapt over time.

A clear guiding idea and logical visual examples ensure everyone is working from the same playbook and toward the same goals. We consider the dexterity of graphic attributes and troubleshoot the in-house team’s ability to implement the system successfully. Does it scale efficiently? What tools do we provide the in-house team? What kinds of use-case examples prove what we’re trying to achieve?

Brands are organic entities. Moving beyond the rebrand launch, it is also imperative to constantly be weighing what’s working vs. not and adapting.

“Bringing a thoughtful and naturally collaborative approach to their work, Topos works with stakeholders to truly understand the nuances of different constituencies and institutional goals in order to craft successful and beautiful solutions.”

— Sarah Supcoff, Deputy Director of Marketing and Communications, The Jewish Museum—New York

“The Topos Graphics team offers incredible value. They are personable and flexible. They skillfully implement a collaborative process in which every member of the team feels included. Their assessment and proposed directions for brand strategy and creative solutions are both effective and refreshing. In short, the best partners for designing with a soul and branding with vision.”

— Jean Malpas, Founder, The Gender and Family Project at the Ackerman Institute For The Family