All posts by julesbrooker

Thirty Second Storytelling

We recently invited renowned Director, Writer and Producer Karen Borger to join our Art Direction & Design students at Macleay College. Chatting informally with a small group in our Sydney TV Studio, Karen generously shared tips and tales from her 30+ year international career.

Karen Borger, Ian Thomson and I were all fortunate to be accepted into Sydney College of the Arts to study BA Visual Communication and subsequently Award School in the 80s. Over four intensive years of full-time study, we gained a solid grounding in graphic design, art direction, photography, illustration, printmaking, typography, film, creative writing and multimedia. Karen’s first love was photography until she explored and was soon engrossed by film. A stellar international education and an award-winning career spanning advertising, feature and documentary filmmaking ensued.

A lucky break winning the US Green Card Lottery enabled her to live and work as a permanent resident in America. Couple this good fortune with a love of learning and a determination to find fun at every opportunity, and Karen was soon working at the Disney Interactive Media Group in LA. Karen became the Director of Original Content (DIMG), and Filmmaker with the Disney Imagineers WDPRO (Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online). There she enjoyed extraordinary levels of creative freedom, generous budgets and also learned the business of entertainment; the delicate balance between creativity and commerce.

The advertising world has changed inordinately during Karen’s career, and she’s seen budgets for the same scope of shoot plummet from $300k to $10k. Karen still values her background in advertising and the artistry it adds to her career in cinematography and directing.

Advertising creatives gain invaluable training in learning how to get attention, tell a story, deliver a message, leave an impact, and fast! We’re trained to know first and foremost who we’re talking to and to present the single most important message (key insight or proposition) in a few words or seconds. “We make films too; 30-second stories!”

The key takeaway from Karen’s discussion involved the importance of learning visual styles and the history of symbolic references.

“Learn to notice everything.”

Why/how does something capture your attention? What did it lead you to feel, to do? If you’re creating for an era, for example, the 60s, what images conjure up that time for you? Cars, architecture, colours? Ask yourself: if I’d lived in the 60s, with what would I have connected? Cars, food, fashion, music, white goods, sporting heroes?

Using an example of a highly recognisable item of clothing – the ubiquitous Breton shirt, Karen explained its history and relevance in film and advertising. From Coco Chanel visiting the Navy docks in the 1930s, the significance of the 21 stripes – each representing a Napoleonic victory – James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol, the addition of a neckerchief and beret to characterise an artist, and so on.

“Do not underestimate the importance and power of cultural symbols and styles.”

TIP: Conduct thorough research and trace concepts back to the source to gain a richer understanding and appreciation.

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“This is Me” showcases Australian children in a factual and entertaining short-form format. As director of several episodes, Karen and her crew hit the ground running – flying into sometimes remote locations, spending a day shooting and flying on the next day. The result is extraordinary and moving storytelling, in 5-minute bites. The series is currently showing on ABC iview. This episode featuring Campbell Remess in Tassie has recently gone viral on Facebook.

Karen currently works between Australia and the US, producing engaging projects with international story lines. Her passion as a Producer is for the development of projects and cross-platform digital media that unites the best methodologies of film-making and the latest in interactive media.

jules-stripesJulieann Brooker is a lecturer in the Advertising & Media Faculty at Macleay College. Study options include a Diploma of Advertising & Media, Diploma of Digital Media, BA Advertising & Media and BA Digital Media.

Brands that move at the speed of culture

Macleay College Advertising students recently attended an AGDA event, “How to make brands and influence people,” presented by Chris Maclean, Creative Director of Re.

1_coverMaclean believes the term ‘branding’ has become so nebulous it’s lost all meaning and is even a dirty word in some circles. Even the design industry struggles with the concept, confusing ‘Corporate Identity’ with ‘Brand Identity.’ To make matters worse, the world is confused about branding; both clients and audiences alike.

Your average cabbie, worldwide, has long been considered a good sounding board for community sentiment. With equal measures of humour and frustration, Maclean shares his regular attempts to explain what he does for a quid without saying he ‘just’ makes logos. A good analogy is that a corporate identity (beginning with the logo), is like wearing a uniform, and the brand is more about the personality under that uniform.

Maclean believes that brands are living, breathing entities that should be built to evolve and meet the changing needs of people. Modern brands are “expressive personalities that attempt to influence how you think, feel and behave.”

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Chris Maclean was “shi#*ing himself.” In 2011, as Creative Director of Interbrand, Maclean was about to launch the Telstra rebrand.

In The Australian, Sydney reporter Mitchell Bingemann had not been kind: “Telstra’s new $3m logo puts critics off colour”, and “It really seems to be a dilution of a powerful brand,” comments conveniently attributed to an unnamed “senior brand design specialist.”

A household name, we’ve probably all heard worse descriptors than “shi#’ used to relay a typical Telstra customer experience. Telstra was keenly aware that many of their customers were ‘hostages,’ and that “more people buy from us than ‘like us.’” Notwithstanding, CEO David Thodey’s mission for Telstra was “to become Australia’s ‘most loved’ Telco.”

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In this environment, Telstra had the seemingly impossible task of re-emerging as a brand relevant and engaging to everyone from a tween to a government department. This realisation was instrumental in the decision to introduce a six colour system. With colour, Maclean had extra levels of emotional flexibility to play with, from hot pink for a teenage girl toting birthday cash, to deep blues for bureaucrats and contracts.

One can only imagine the pitch required to sell this to the decision makers. He laughs at his cabbie’s efficacious summary, reducing the extent of his three-year project to having “just changed the colours, six times,” and that he “didn’t even design” the Telstra logo. By then he truly wished he’d booked an Uber and was instead enjoying his own music, the complimentary water, and mints to boot.

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Maclean takes us on the journey of the branding creative. After months of strategic planning, design work refinement, and celebratory launch, the project culminates in a design firm handing over a collection of digital artwork (brand assets) and guidelines to the company and their ad agencies for ongoing implementation. At this point, Maclean feels heartbroken and ready to capitulate – “Maybe I am (just) ‘the logo guy.'”

Reflective self-assessment leads him back to an ongoing exploration – how can Advertising and Design play nice together? He sets the scene: for consistency, designers want to build visual glue for brands. Conversely, advertising creatives don’t want to be restricted by static visual communication as it becomes featureless wallpaper. If a brand stays the same in a changing world, it loses relevance. So, while adhering to strict brand guidelines, how does a brand stay relevant and engaging?

Maclean’s discovery of the collaborative ‘middle ground’, is his innovative compromise that enables design and advertising to “play nice” together. The solution is explained with a simple graphic featuring the ‘core’ and the ‘playground.’ Maclean outlines a scenario where the brand agency creates the brand essence at the core, which remains consistent and stable. The playground is a large area orbiting around the core which allows the brand to remain relevant and engaging.

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To use a successful brand as an example, Apple (of course, though image shows Nike), has a notorious solid core (no pun intended). No other brand has managed to deliver such a consistent brand experience and any changes in the delivery move at a glacial pace. Yet, when they need to ‘circuit break’ the market, they elegantly but deliberately step into the playground and shake up the space. For example, the dancing silhouettes of the 2004 iPod campaign.ipods

Maclean’s model is entirely appropriate for a landscape of digital disruption, and brands that move at the speed of culture.  Relevant brands are in beta state – alert and focussed. They need to evolve, and as brand designers and strategists, we need to build in flexibility.  Maclean likens it to a ‘Creative Thinking’ exercise: “Listen, think, create. Repeat”.

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Chris Maclean and ‘Re’ are currently hiring: “Design Directors, Senior & Mid-weight Designers, Motion Designers, Strategists, Account Managers.” Get in touch hello@re.agency  These roles are all suitable for graduates of the Macleay College Advertising & Media courses.

In a follow-up post, Julieann will review Maclean’s theory that “brands have the power to change the world.”

jules-stripesJulieann Brooker is a lecturer in the Advertising & Media Faculty at Macleay College. Study options include a Diploma of Advertising & Media, Diploma of Digital Media, BA Advertising & Media and BA Digital Media.

TypePlay® at Macleay

Inspired by Jessica Walsh’s AGDA keynote presentation Play by Your Own Rules, and Jessica’s design workshop by the same name, Julieann Brooker ran a TypePlay® workshop for our Creative Process students at Macleay College.

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The client:  Pacific Artisan, a new online shop that sells ethically sourced and produced fair-trade products handmade by women from countries in the Oceania region and indigenous Australia.

The biggest advertising related problem:  How to promote yet another online shop in the Australian market, with a minimal budget. No real promotion has been done yet other than infrequent Facebook and Twitter posts.

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The creative task:  To develop branding and advertising to target socially aware women, aged 35+, and persuade them that the relaunched online shop will provide an easy way to buy unique hip cool products made locally by women living ‘off the beaten track’. To use creativity and design to do good.

Why TypePlay®?  Let’s get serious about play. In Dr. Stuart Brown’s 2008 TED talk, Play is more than just fun, he shares how contemporary innovation and creativity has been impeded by the reduced use of our hands. In fact, it’s currently a condition of employment, in problem-solving roles at NASA and Boeing, to have worked with one’s hands.

Play is boosting creativity and innovation for young and old, across several domains, (Brown, 2009), and studies indicate work and play are complimentary, (Staw & Barsade, 1993). Hence, it’s an ideal practice for developing branding and advertising.

“Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties.” (Brown, p. 127, 2009).

The students made their own rules and played.  

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Constraints included materials, limited words, and time. They split into groups of 2-4, selected words and brand statements to portray, sketched ideas and tested materials. From a wellbeing perspective, play is an excellent conduit to integrate our lives and ourselves, and especially useful in building trust, a valuable commodity for group work!

The cohort regrouped for a quick critique, then photographed and recorded their work as pics to be used in marketing, the website, and social media.

PA_brookeOne team used the products and some props to create a stop motion piece of an island village.

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“Nothing lights up the brain like play”, Stuart Brown, 2008. 

The rewarding project continued in the Social Media and Digital Design units, and the bountiful creative concepts presented pitched to a panel of judges at Publicis Mojo.

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You can browse the Pacific Artisan story, and purchase their authentic range of off-the beaten-track products here.

Play By Your Own Rules: AGDA Workshop

The morning after Jessica Walsh’s AGDA keynote presentation, Julieann Brooker and a few fortunate Sydneysiders met to Play by Our Own Rules.

The task set by Jessica for the 2-hour workshop: Design, create and record a typographic piece within specific constraints. I recalled some of the bold typographic work Jessica Walsh and Stefan Sagmeister produce at Sagmeister & Walsh.

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Clearly, time was going to be our most challenging constraint,  and Jessica reminded us that limitations provide opportunities for creativity. The other three constraints were our team – we split into groups of five; the material – we scrambled to select only one set of media from the colourful range on offer; and the phrase we wrote – the shorter the better for efficacy.play by own rules DEWe dove for the reels of coloured crepe paper, spent less than two minutes on introductions, and eight minutes on brainstorming our words. We settled on Roll With It for the kinetic possibilities.

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We had 20 minutes to sketch some concepts, while Jessica played with a Sharpie and some typographic art in her notebook. She was clearly in flow, and soon, so were we.

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We started big and bold, on the floor, red words on black paper. Jessica advised us to work small(er), both for speed and ease of production.

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We changed process. Restricted to our one media, we innovated and twisted the crepe to produce a finer ribbon.

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We chose three bolder colours and complementary cardboard backgrounds. We worked fast, laying out the words and photographing intermittently in order to produce the stop-motion.

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We had an hour to create it, and 20 mins to photograph it. We used every minute, hastily inverted the pic order and created a gif of the piece for the quick group presentation.

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Our team was strong – all AGDA members, practicing creatives or design educators. All eager to participate and contribute, five was perhaps too many, and teams of three may’ve been enough.

others 1.jpgOne group used party poppers to illustrate the verb ‘pop’, and another ‘handle with care’ with drinking straws.

One of Jessica’s mantras is: “Just get off the computer and make shit.”  And that’s what we did.

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The results are raw and far from finished, but absolutely adequate to experience this innovative approach – taking chances, starting over, and experimenting with techniques not available via digital media.

Play has proven benefits for creativity, moving students – and businesses – from a ‘fixed’ to a ‘growth’ mindset. In his book Play, Stuart Brown writes, “Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties.”

See Macleay College Advertising & Media students playing, and generating dynamic typographic and illustrative work for Pacific Artisan, in our Creative Process TypePlay® workshop here.

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AGDA is the acronym for the Australian Graphic Design Association Limited, and is our design industry body. Annual membership starts at $65. Benefits include access to resources and discounts to local and international events.

Play by Your Own Rules: AGDA Keynote

JWJESSICA  WALSH  is introduced by stating she needs no introduction, which looks about right as I pan across the star struck faces of AGDA members assembled for her Sydney keynote presentation. Jessica is the “IT Girl” of graphic design (Observer, 2014), and “an ever growing personal global brand.” (AGDA, 2016)

A self-proclaimed computer nerd, Jessica was coding at 11, and soon blogging, designing graphics for websites and even creating free CSS and HTML tutorials and templates. Now 29, Jessica introduces herself as a partner at Sagmeister & Walsh, and both a graduate of, and teacher at the Rhode Island School of Design.

 

s and JThere is nothing pedestrian about Jessica’s creative work. “It’s bold, provocative, surprising and playful all at once,” says Dan Olson, AIGA Portland. Together with her “personal projects”, such as “40 Days of Dating” (2013) and “12 Kinds of Kindness” (2016), she is becoming increasingly well-known. Such social experiments have earned millions of unique visitors to her blog, the purchase of film rights by Warner Bros, published books and enormous (mostly) positive feedback.

On CHOICES

apple logo cropOn graduation, Jessica interned with Apple and turned down their $100K+ per annum role to take an internship at Pentagram design firm. Jessica entreats us to “do the work that feeds your soul, not your ego.” Next was Print magazine, and in 2010, she joined Stefan Sagmeister’s New York studio. Sagmeister – described as “the rock star designer” in the biography of one of his three TED talks – invited Jessica to become a business partner at just 24.

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When Jessica talks about the role of “play”, it’s not the activity that matters, ”play is a state of mind”. We can use a playful attitude and “state of mind to be more creative”. She quotes Picasso, reminding us “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” She refers to Stuart Brown’s pioneering research on play – his evaluation of highly creative individuals, their success and well-being. Brown writes:

“We are designed to find fulfillment and creative growth through play.”

Jessica makes time and space, away from phones, emails and clients, to play, and potentially arrive at the state of “flow”. If Jessica hadn’t become a designer, she says she’d be a psychologist and is a prolific reader on the topic. “Half of our job is psychology, getting into their [clients’ and consumers’] minds… changing [our] approach based on who they are and how they’ll respond.”

Book-Flow cropPositive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called “Flow”. Jessica actively sets up this meeting of skills and abilities, of complete concentration, when we’re so involved in what we’re doing that we’re no longer aware of ourselves, time, hunger and so on. This is when our best work is done.

With this playful approach, Jessica believes humour allows our mind “to make interesting and new connections – which is what creativity is about – in a fresh or slightly twisted way.”

Sagmeister & Walsh are creative celebrities, in fact, they’re so highly regarded they’re able to insist on realistic project time frames.

“Sometimes these ‘deadlines’ come out of people’s asses (sic) and if we push back they [find] us the time.”

With enough time, Jessica can take risks and fail; without adequate [play] time, we can miss an opportunity to find a new direction; we’re more inclined to pull from existing styles we feel more comfortable with.

On CONSTRAINTS

“Every great game has a strict set of rules, and I think the same goes for design. I think limitations help creativity thrive. It’s difficult to do something great when the possibilities are endless,” Jessica explains. Leonardo da Vinci wrote: “Small rooms discipline the mind; large rooms distract it.” When clients approach Sagmeister & Walsh with open briefs, a “trick” they use is to set their own rules and constraints. Jessica:

“I used to think to have a wide open creative brief was the dream. I quickly learned that when you can do anything, it’s the worst possible scenario for a creative”…

Case Study

Aishti, a premium Lebanese department store required a complete rebrand in order to compete with brands such as Prada in the Middle East, but without the budget. Jessica focused on the luxurious orange and black boxes that customers wanted to keep.

Constraint: The ads must contain the orange and black box. The campaign began enigmatically, featuring merely the shoe box, then positioned in different scenarios – on a mouse trap, in a safe, a spider web. Gradually Jessica added fashion models, typography, energy and drama, but still working within the self-assigned creative constraints.

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Identity and advertising campaign

Aizone is an Aishti sub-brand targeting a younger market, with a significant scheduling issue – it isn’t possible to show the new season range in advertising. So Jessica leveraged this production constraint for her creative constraint: creative was initially restricted to a palette of black and white, supplemented with patterns, zebra stripes, then elaborate painting of maxims on models. After three seasons, both the audience and creatives were bored of the black and white, so they leveraged the positive response to the short inspirational maxims.

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In typical Jessica style, colour was added with a bang – brave and bold. The art direction and attention to detail is painstaking, see the process here: https://vimeo.com/72424814  View the print campaign appearing in newspapers, magazine and billboards throughout Lebanon here: http://www.sagmeisterwalsh.com/work/project/aizone/

On doing work WITH HEART

Jessica didn’t always have her current dream job; she created it. Persistence, not procrastination is key.

“I had a job I hated. You don’t have to have a perfect client. Don’t let that stop you. You can make what ever you want at night, on weekends.”

She asks herself: “Can we touch people’s hearts? Not just at a conceptual level but on an emotional level too.” We’re urged to “make less pretty crap, and more with heart and soul”, and to not be afraid of discomfort, any good idea is born out of some form of struggle”.

On DOING It

The overarching mantra?

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“Just get off the computer and make shit.” Jessica Walsh

See more of Jessica’s graphic design on Behance:  https://www.behance.net/jessicawalsh

The morning after Jessica Walsh’s AGDA keynote presentation, Julieann Brooker and a few fortunate Sydneysiders met to Play by Our Own Rules. Read about the process and view the creative output here.

See Creative Process students in flow during Julieann’s TypePlay® workshop at Macleay College.