Tag Archives: AGDA

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.

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.

On PLAYplay by own rules DE crop

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.

Adapt or Die

Adapt or Die

MCA, Saturday 31 May 2014

In partnership with Vivid Sydney 2014, AGDA* presented “2020 ADAPT OR DIE”. Drawing on the phrase coined by Charles Darwin in his “The Origin of Species”, this threatening invitation was billed as exploring two themes: “Learning to Learn” and “The Future of Work”.

I seem to have missed the first theme, but the forum certainly delivered on its overall promise – “Be prepared to be challenged, scared and inspired about 2020 and beyond. Twenty speakers delivered Pecha Kucha** format. For a creative, the news is all good.

Linda Jukic, Creative Director of Hulsbosch sees 2020 as the “era of imagination”, and showed an image that she says is representative of the future – Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde’s real clouds formed inside empty rooms. Creatives will “ideate” – our creativity is now a verb – and we shall ideate and create, our input leveraged at every stage. Our workplace will be open spaces hosting independent idea hubs. “Cross disciplinary talents mixing it up, all fuelled with a collective desire to bring ideas to life.” We will be part of “bespoke teams for bespoke problems”. Creative time is usually billed based on time; by 2020 the currency will be set on the value of the idea. The creative will enjoy greater liberty to work all over the globe; “what will bind us together is our ideas”. To survive, we must be agile and adaptive. There will be you, and me, with a greater emphasis on “we”.

Sha-mayne, Head of Business Design at Alive Mobile informed us that alarmingly only about 20% of people are actively engaged in their job, the rest of us are staring blank-faced on our way up the lift, working only for the weekend. At Alive Mobile, they aim to “make work great” and see this shift towards focusing on people as a primary difference to work/life in 2020. Sha-mayne sees the end of the disengaged worker, “the zombie apocalypse”. Workplaces will share power with the people; will be less hierarchical. Titles will be removed from organisations. Our engaged workforce will enjoy their job so much, the division between work and play will dissolve and we’ll just call it “living”. Sha-mayne did not focus on creatives, but its still good news, right?

Simon Pemberton is the wizened founder of Tractor, an independent design school. Simon was an academic lecturer when Ian Thomson and I studied Visual Communication back in the 80s at Sydney College of the Arts, and when he speaks, I still listen. From an education perspective, Simon forecasts the system “will become an on-demand system where you take a module when you need it.” In 2020, no one in our world cares where or how you got your knowledge; the world will be more interested in “what you can do with what you know, not how you learnt it.” And it will care what kind of person you are. When recruiting, “Google looks for cognitive ability, not academic results”. They’re looking for people who can pull it together, on the fly.

As the last speaker of the day, Simon left us to ponder a couple of global once brands who didn’t adapt; think Kodak, think Nokia. “Dying isn’t a strategy, it’s an outcome.” And while 2020 feels like 2050, it’s less than six years away. Linda’s closing words? “Time starts now”.

* Australian Graphic Design Association
** A presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (six minutes and 40 seconds in total).

Julieann Brooker