Emily Oberman: all good design has a level of wit

Pentagram partner Emily Oberman explains why all good design needs “a level of wit” in this film from Cape Town creative conference Design Indaba.

Oberman joined Pentagram in 2012 after running design studio Number 17, which she co-founded with Bonnie Siegler in 1993. She recently worked on a Mad Men bench installed in New York to mark the show’s final season, a new identity and book to celebrate the 40th anniversary Saturday Night Live and a brand identity and parody ads for fictional drug Ablixa, which was featured in Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller, Side Effects.

In an interview with Design Indaba (Oberman was a speaker at this year’s conference, delivering a talk on things she has learned in her career so far), she explains the importance of a subtle use of humour in branding.

“I don’t think all good design is hilarious, but i think a wit or a wink or something in everything … it helps you make an emotional connection with your audience,” she says.

Oberman also talks about her work creating titles for Saturday Night Live, and why she enjoys taking on projects where she can learn something new – such as creating the identity, app and website for On Being, a radio show and podcast about religion and faith hosted by Krista Tippett.

Design Indaba takes place in February each year – for details, see To read our daily reports from this year’s conference, click here, here and here.