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Same Old Story: Refreshingly Durable Carbone Smolan

Written by in Profiles


Published in December 2012, “Dialog”—What makes a great design partnership, by Ken Carbone and Leslie Smolan, from Pointed Leaf Presswith superb text by design journalist Raul Barreneche, is testament to commitment, patience, respect and, most importantly, “trust and alignment of ambitions.”  They share the same values but they come at them from opposite directions: he’s big picture, she’s into details; he is verbally gifted, she prefers to listen. He enjoys the stage, she’s behind the scenes; she’s directs the strategy, he directs creative; he’s quick off the block, she’s a great finisher.

From 1977 and through today, Leslie Smolan and Ken Carbone have stood side-by-side as business partners and friends, confidants and collaborators. From Ed Koch to Michael Bloomberg, from Donna Summer to Lady Gaga, from Le Cirque to Per Se, from Studio 54 to the Brooklyn Bowl, from garbage strikes to Hurricane Sandy, theirs is an amazing personal and professional journey that never (NEVER!) would have happened had they not done it together (TOGETHER!). This lavish four-pound, 272-page bound book of  tangible evidence codifies a 35-year journey. It begins with a Foreword and ends … with a Forward. Onward!

It is destined to become a design book designers read. Words from Steven Heller and Massimo Vignelli lend context while 35 smart stories illustrate an alliterative four f-word framework fashioned from Fame, Fortune, Fun and Freedom. In fact, the pair’s lifelong respect of the written word imbues their careers as much as their warm embrace of other voices, other talents, other perspectives and other interests enriches their lives. They saw no threat in the other’s strengths;  they saw no weakness in the other’s limitations. They complemented. They collaborated. They trusted.  And, along the way, they extended that collaboration to thousands of friends, clients, colleagues, partners and vendors.


It is a story of a personal friendship and professional partnership that worked, still works and will keep on working so long as Ken and Leslie are willing to take the long train ride to work every day. “He’s a mile wide and I’m a mile deep, ” she says. “She means that I’m shallow,” he teases. Together, they are broad and deep — and  “have miles to go before [they] sleep.”

Purchase “Dialog”—What makes a great design partnership, by Ken Carbone and Leslie Smolan, from Pointed Leaf Press

“Twenty years ago we would slave over a logo, diligently applying it to a range of communications and documenting in a tight identity manual.  Much of this “craftsmanship” remains the same, but today our role is different: we create ” brand messages” across many media channels and we write as much as we design. Sometimes more. The “voice” of a brand is what makes a logo “speak” to the “listener” — a customer. A logo is only as good as the company behind it, the quality of it products and services and the coherence of the messages it sends. Placing a logo beautifully on a letterhead remains a noble endeavor, but creating real value through the expert balance of word and image across multiple media is the benchmark by which we are judged today.”  — Ken Carbone

It takes a mile deep woman to make a mile wide man. Ask these two ladies how they did it.