Marlee Bruning


Marlee is a Creative Director at Design Bridge and Partners, New York, where she leads a team of creatives through comprehensive brand world development. With a background in advertising, her approach unifies the strategic, the visual, and the verbal to make brands that really connect with consumers, from packaging to communication and beyond. She is particularly passionate about luxury drinks and lifestyle brands. Her work has taken her from San Francisco to New York via Oaxaca, building a diverse portfolio that includes Beam Suntory, The Archer School for Girls, KinderCare Learning Companies, Walgreens, and Toyota.

Design Bridge and Partners is a global design agency with 850 people in 12 countries. We work to redefine what design is and what design can do for brands, businesses, people and the planet. Our expertise includes strategy, identity, brand experience and brand optimization.

As we pivot into a post-pandemic era marked by societal challenge and change, are you optimistic about the future of Graphic Design to support and shape commerce, culture and causes? Why do you feel the way you do? Are you optimistic about the future of your own firm?

Yes! Design is inherently optimistic. Our work relies on our ability to acknowledge that challenges exist, but instead of throwing up our hands in despair and waiting for someone else to fix them, we choose to see them as calls to action: briefs to make change. For example, take a challenge like childcare infrastructure in America. Too many families don’t have access to the childcare they need. Consequently, those families can’t show up at work, support their families…and the dominos continue to fall. Design can shine a light on the issue and give voice to the players who can fix it. Design facilitates the solution, and sometimes even is the solution.

We are seeing an increased focus on Package Design to advance the brand, tell the story, amplify the experience, forge an emotional connection with consumers at the moment of truth. Do you agree with this observation and, if so, what advantages does packaging have over other graphic communications? Also, do you see any notable trends regarding package graphics and/or package production?

In the age of social media, we see into each others homes, drawers, and cabinets. Packaging has been elevated from a vessel of product to a vessel of identity—it’s become fashion. And since these products are often discovered in a split second, on a crowded shelf, in a grainy video, on your tiny phone screen, it’s the cut-through designs that win. Bright yellow, giant text, iconic graphics—packs that hold up as a thumbnail. While boldness is critical to catch attention, it’s not enough to hold it for long. The brands that get it right continue to connect with people through rich storytelling and shared values across the off-pack ecosystem. After all, if packs are representing identity, they need to be more than skin deep.