How to Make the Cut: A Branding Talk w/ Aaron Belyea

Fab@CIC is a unique space in ­downtown Boston where creative imaginations take physical shape – a makerspace unlike any other where the public can bring their ideas to fruition while enjoying a favorite drink by Render Coffee.

Merging creativity and entrepreneurship, Fab@CIC and AIGA Boston jointly held a unique event creatively monikered ‘How To Make The Cut’ on September 19th. It was a two-part event consisting of a Q&A session with Aaron Belyea, a seasoned graphic designer and expert in designing logos, followed by a vinyl cutting demonstration. Alongside learning about the art of logo designing, the audience learned about an artist’s journey to entrepreneurship.

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Over the past two decades, Aaron carved a niche career in ‘creative logo designing’, but his path was not necessarily a linear one even though the foundations were laid during his younger years as an amateur photographer. Aaron was especially fond of taking photographs of signs and posters, particularly the weathered ones that seemed to have a story to tell. Over the years, he captured hundreds of pictures on film and eventually this passion led to designing event flyers for his band. As Aaron poured his creative energy into creating clever and artistic posters, other bands started asking him to design their posters.

Aaron describes the defining experience when he realized he was a designer: “Being self-taught, it wasn’t until I started with a job that a writer said ‘I want to write a piece on you. You are the real thing.’ It ended up being a full-spread on Sunday and I got four years of work from that one piece.”

“So, you were following your passion?” to which came an enthusiastic “Exactly, that’s the definition of creativity. That’s exactly what happened!”

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I suspect that there is more to it than just passion. Aaron came cross as a personable, cheerful, and humble professional whose innate creativity and artistic imagination found life when given the right circumstances and motivation that enabled growth. As a young adult, Aaron worked as a caretaker for abused children for ten years. It was a rewarding career that demanded much in fortitude and empathy, but also dedication and self discipline – qualities that served with the transition to the next phase in his career that came serendipitously.

Aside from those personal attributes, there were the innate skills such as ingenuity and an imaginative mind that took inspiration from everyday objects. Starting at a tiny studio with an intern and later bringing on a full-time employee, Aaron entered the world of designing artistic logos for companies and organizations across the region.

Known as ‘Alphabet Arm’ because of the tattoos of alphabets in different fonts around his upper arm, Aaron became known in the art and design world and used the fame to brand his design work – naming his new company Alphabet Arm. Through a client-oriented approach of teamwork, dedication, commitment to never compromising on creativity, and promise to deliver by the deadline, he built the company over the next 18 years and chose interesting visual identity projects.

Along the way Aaron taught a growing cadre of interns on how to deal with clients, create designs, have (and not have) a thick skin, avoid being too enamored with one’s work, give back, and build relationships. It was also an opportunity to teach about the reality of small business – some projects were fun and others had stringent guidelines and no matter how big or small, the team strived to always do the same type of quality work.

Almost always, Aaron found the artistic inspiration right after his meetings with clients and did the first design by pencil and paper, which meant it was drawn in one color and was tiny; color was then included as an additional character.

According to Aaron, “My job is understanding the customer and what their hopes and dreams and aspirations are. My job is to serve the client. I almost always get inspired immediately. I show them a couple of ideas, a bunch of different versions. I think about it all the time. Taking the research and thought and just digging in and hacking at it. How can I tell a deeper story? You only have a few things to work with.”

It is that kind of ingenuity that led to continuous creativity when designing the logos and a constant flow of interesting work.

After 18 years of running his own company and building a portfolio filled with experience, creativity, and a proven systems approach, Aaron decided to join New Balance two years ago and currently works as its Creative Design Manager.


The Q&A session with Aaron was followed by a demonstration by Fab@CIC’s Julia Hansen on the use of the vinyl cutter to print logos and the transfer of the designs onto surfaces.

Participants who had sent in their logos ahead of time had a chance to ‘weed’ the vinyl around the images and trim the design so that they could then be transferred onto a desired surface using transfer paper.

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Providing this kind of a collaborative and creative environment that fosters public engagement and interaction within a community setting, while also encouraging the use of the machines, is one of the primary goals of Fab@CIC. If you would like to attend one of the upcoming events or come by to learn how to use the machines, take a look at the events calendar at Fab@CIC. You are also welcome to join as a member or just drop in to use the machines for your own creative projects.