Conor Birney


Conor Birney is Executive Design Director at Madwell in Brooklyn. He joined the agency in its infancy, and his — career-wise — and has helped build out the design practice over the last 11 years.

A true believer that everything is interesting, Birney has designed for a range of audiences and organizations including Happy Family Organics, The Glenlivet, Pernod Ricard, men’s grooming brand Harry’s, non-profit New York Road Runners, and Whyte & Mackay, the company that produces spirits brands Jura, Dalmore, John Barr, and Shackleton. Creative direction, UX, branding, product design, illustration, animation, 3D, prototyping, design strategy, design systems, and presentation design are among his specialties.

Birney’s goal is to design holistically across a brand’s identity, all advertising elements, and digital systems to tell a consistent, impactful story that is beautiful to look at. For New York Road Runners, he designed a multi-year program that was intended to drive at-home interest in the popular NYC Marathon, which was not a spectator sport when it came to home viewing. “It Will Move You” was a multi-media effort that delivered on the promise of the marathon for runners, spectators, and supporters and got at-home viewers participating by texting each other digital stickers and creating digital cheer cards.

What Birney loves most about this industry is that he gets to satisfy his curiosity on a daily basis by diving into different industries and subject matters — no two days are ever the same. “When I say everything is interesting, I mean that there’s a universe of subject matter that the design process allows us to tap into and hopefully make accessible to others.”


Looking forward to 2023, are you optimistic about the role and impact of Graphic Design and Visual Communication in Business? Culture? Causes? Have the events and disruptions of the past few years changed the role or trajectory of Graphic Design?

With AI at large in our industry, it can be tempting to start second guessing the role of design. Who needs a designer when you can generate a flood of assets with a simple text prompt? The truth is, the more content we proliferate (or: the more content society has to wade through), the more essential graphic design becomes in helping to make sense of it all. Great design has always been more than the tools used to create it. That’s true now more than ever.

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Herb Lubalin

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