Cover Leviâ€™s Visual Identity System Levi Strauss & Co. 2011
THE WAY WE THINK
Hello Bruce, what’s your Design Friends talk about?
And how did you do that?
YOU TRY AND MAKE STUFF LOOK SIMPLE BUT, IN THE END, THE SIMPLE STUFF IS THE HARDEST TO DO.
It’s about the way we think as an agency, having worked on these large branded entities and packaging design jobs. Coca-Cola Aluminium Bottle The Coca-Cola Company North America 2007 Coca-Cola Identity The Coca-Cola Company North America 2007 - 2008
The fact that we’ve managed to design Coca Cola, which has done very well in the market but also has won design awards. I want to explain to people how we did that.
By concentrating all our efforts on the end product. With bigger companies there’s often a tendency to wade through endless powerpoint presentations on brand strategy and end up with things that look really rather mediocre. So it’s all about thinking from the end. Starting from what people actually see and working backwards.
You make it look easy, is it? You try and make stuff look simple but, in the end, the simple stuff is the hardest to do. You struggle for ever to make things simple. Is that because you won’t compromise your ideals? Actually, you’ve no idea how much we compromise! What you need, in the end, is work that gets out there. An idea isn’t an idea until it’s actually happened. That goes back to the way we think: It needs to be real. And reality can be a scary place, can’t it? It takes a brave person to be simple. It’s much easier to keep adding things. If you think of the design process, we’re often paid to communicate something extra and that inevitably involves some additional graphic element. Eventually, packaging in particular, crumbles under the weight of design. When that happens you have to throw it all away and start again. Or at least reconsider everything.
YOU STRUGGLE FOR EVER TO MAKE THINGS SIMPLE.
Right: Coke Summer 2009 - 2011 Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 Coke Arctic Home 2011 Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 The Coca-Cola Company North America
Is packaging design at least trying to de-clutter? It is. And I think that’s related to technology. We found the ability to make things look complicated with the introduction of Photoshop, and clients quickly figured out that was the look they wanted. But as time has gone on, because everyone can use Photoshop now, people are going back to handmade things and simpler, cleverer design. You can’t just rely on tricks any more.
That must come as a relief? Absolutely. Design is as much about what you don’t do as what you do do. Did the Coca Cola redesign take a long time? We’re still working on it! There weren’t that many presentations, but these processes at large companies do take a long time for things to actually happen.
Packaging has always taken a long time to do right though, hasn’t it? Absolutely. A design graduate coming into packaging is always really surprised that their first job won’t hit the shelves in, some cases, for a couple of years. And when you think of the production numbers, it’s easy to see why. Packaging has got to be one of the highest print runs out there. Coca Cola, for example, serve 1.8 billion servings per day. And not all of those are in cans, some are in
cups and bottles and so on. So graphic design in that case, if you want to change it, has huge implications. So did Coca Cola ask you for something completely different? We’ve been going as an agency for twenty two years now, always in the packaging design and visual identity arena. And over the years we’ve done a lot of soft drinks - probably fifteen or so. They’d seen those and admired them so they asked, “Would you like to work on the biggest brand in the world?” which was a pretty easy question to answer! Posters and Packaging Dripp Coffee Shop 2012
There was no hesitation? If you build an agency on high creative standards, you have to maintain them, so when a client briefs a design agency, you have to go in with your eyes open. And some big brands, their reputation for doing good work isn’t great. You don’t want to work on something for three or four years if you know you’re not going to get great results. So you’re now shaping the biggest identity in the world, what got you into design originally? It was lack of ability at anything else! My interest in design comes from an
interest in drawing and art. This is true of my business partner David Turner too. We weren’t at school together but we shared one common trait: we were both only ever good at drawing. That was at a time when design was quite a rare profession. So I don’t know if I ever thought I’d be a designer but I was good at drawing. Good at observing things. So it followed that you went to art school and specialised. And once you were working, what was it about packaging design that appealed? I found I was really interested in producing design that real people use. The stuff your mum knows. And that actually, the standard in packaging was quite low. So, honestly, it seemed like an easy route to success! You’re too modest. Was there more to it? I hadn’t realised that packaging gets under people’s skin so much. It’s amazing. If you show people a piece of packaging from their childhood, they have an enormous emotional response to it. Often they’ll have forgotten the TV ad, but show them the pack and it all comes flooding back.
IT TAKES A BRAVE PERSON TO BE SIMPLE. IT’S MUCH EASIER TO KEEP ADDING THINGS.
Honey Bee Waitrose 2007
How did you meet David Turner, the other half of Turner Duckworth? We were both at Minale Tattersfield. It was the place to work in the mid Eighties. He’s a graphic designer too, from St Martins. A few years later we set up Turner Duckworth. Do you complement each other creatively? Waitrose branded groceries Waitrose 2004 - 2010
David is a natural strategic brain. He’s great at marketing solutions with design at their centre. And I’m a perfectionist where design is concerned. Well, not quite a perfectionist... But that’s what all perfectionists say! We work well together but from different sides of the Atlantic. When did that start? It started about three months after we set up! When we first started David said he’d met a girl in San Francisco and it could be that ‘she’s the one’. He wanted to go over there and give it a go, so we’ve had two offices pretty much from day one. Has your transatlantic collaboration become a strategic advantage? When we were really small it was a necessity. If I had a job in and I needed help or just got stuck I had to fax it (it was the old days!) over to David who would work on it from his flat in San Francisco. I would come back in the morning and we’d end up with more design solutions.
Death Magnetic Metallica 2008 Through the Never Metallica 2013
That process has continued over the years. And what we found was that our work got better thanks to this back and forth. It was the distance which really helped us. You start to see the wood for the trees. And does it work the same now you have teams of designers working for you? We have what’s called a distance crit’. Taken from the old Art School term where you stick all your work on the wall and the tutors come around and criticise it, literally. Every designer is teamed up with a buddy in the other office and they send all their work across the Atlantic.
How does this process affect the end product in practical terms? We found that the two cultures involved are very different but also complementary. The combination of European aesthetic we have in London with the bold “Tell me what it is” pragmatism of the US produces the work we do now, which is simple and easy to understand.
That’s an extreme example! But people really do love these things. The Amazon logo, we designed that fifteen years ago now. It was an important company at the time, but it was only really famous for selling books. Today that logo must be one of the most famous in the world. You see it everywhere.
People get quite attached to brands, don’t they?
What did Amazon look like before your re-design?
People love brands. If you design a logo and people take it to heart it can be incredible. Take the work we did for Metallica, people have had that tattooed on them!
They came to us with a lower case piece of typography with a yellow underline which was a bit like a downturned mouth. A frown, a sad face.
Logo and Iconography Amazon.com 1999
Assorted Packaging Homebase Ltd 2006 - 2007
Was that the message they wanted to send?
Do you have any personal favourites from the history of packaging design?
No, they wanted to communicate that they sold everything, not just books.
There are some obvious packaging classics. Chanel is a good one. Chanel No5. Take Baz Luhrmann’s ad for them with Nicole Kidman, ‘the most expensive ad ever made.’
We had the idea that because there’s an ‘A’ and ‘Z’ in the name you could do an arrow that points from A to Z. You also have an arrow that’s a smile. Happy deliveries too! They ended with something similar, which avoided spooking investors. But which was rich with meaning.
If you actually look through the footage, the visual emphasis in just about every scene is on that packaging. The packaging is fundamental to the brand. That’s a great one.
The Coca Cola bottle, obviously. Campbell’s soup, Heinz ketchup. They’re classics. They almost become props in people’s kitchens. That’s the background against which you create your own work? Absolutely. We’re constantly trying to create iconic designs which will stand the test of time.
Oasis Bottle Oasis 1996
WE’RE CONSTANTLY TRYING TO CREATE ICONIC DESIGNS WHICH WILL STAND THE TEST OF TIME.
That’s the tricky part isn’t it, the test of time? That comes down to the potential of good ideas. A package is made up of lots of different elements but if you have a core set of ideas that are good then actually they can transform throughout the years. For example, we originally did the launch of the Oasis soft drink. It has a wobbly necked bottle and a logo that looks like the sun going down in the water. And those elements are still there fifteen years later.
DESIGN IS AS MUCH ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T DO AS WHAT YOU DO DO.
That’s the potential. If you have meaning and ideas in your work they can be reinterpreted time and again. The Glenlivet Founders Reserve Special Release Chivas Brothers Ltd 2010 Left: Conté à Paris Col Art 2012
Are there any traits that serve a packaging designer particularly well? Optimism is one. These are projects that last a long time. You need to have a good optimistic outlook and be tenacious. So we try and create a culture where these things happen. You must have to be on top of the production process too? This is probably a unique thing for packaging design. What we try to do is push the barriers as far as we can but we’re constantly reminded that packaging is a very practical thing. You can’t take a beer home unless you put it in some kind of packaging! It has a very practical purpose. To protect and also serve a product, quite often. And crucially, it’s produced in many, many different places around the world. So we try to push the technology and the print process. We know what’s going on but we’re also aware of how difficult it is to achieve consistency around the world. It sounds like a technical minefield? When you see non-packaging designers have a go at packaging, that’s often
their Achilles heel. They don’t realise that actually, innovation in packaging is incredibly difficult, time-consuming and expensive. We know what we’re aiming for, so in our presentations we show a piece of packaging that will be the vision for the next five years. Realising that it will take the next five years to get the technology together to enable that change. How did you make the move from packaging to brand identity work? That has been a natural move and it’s come about because our landscape has changed as packaging designers. We realised we were designing packaging that had a logo, iconography, colour, form, pattern, type, illustration, photography, tone of voice. Everything was on that piece of packaging. So surely, if you take all those bits off and separate them up you have an identity that can form every piece of communication, maybe all the way up to advertising. For you these big brands are more than just a logo? You have to realise that they are cultures. Look at Google, it’s a culture. You can find out what the office looks like, you can see the server room.
You have so much information about these entities that you understand them more as a culture than you do as a facade. And unless you embrace this you’re an old-fashioned brand.
So designers have become kind of culture brokers?
This is a growing phenomenon?
But most consumers will never meet those people at all so what they have to work with is what’s left behind. The printed stuff that surrounds us.
I think so. People are interested in openness and transparency. Everything now is communication whether brands like it or not. The thing is, these brands do have a culture and you get to hear about it. Take Waitrose, you know that every member of staff is a share holder and that makes you think better of them. These things are simple but everything a company does is a piece of communication which either enhances or detracts from the brand. So our job is just to ensure that it all comes across as interesting and nuanced. And has the other part of the equation changed too, the consumer? Definitely. Consumers have become more visual than they’ve ever been. I look at my kids and they don’t watch TV - they just flick through their iPhones or iPads. The amount of images they consume as they whiz through Pinterest or something is incredible. We’re a much more visual race than we were even five years ago. And I think people decode better too. They’re interested in design and visuals much more now. Consumers look at packaging with a much more critical eye. And if it’s good they appreciate it and share it.
When meeting clients we’re trying to represent them in their packaging.
And that’s what you mean when you talk about a brand having a material culture? That’s right. We were talking about anthropology a little while ago and came up with the example of the Saxons. If you were looking at the Saxons, you might have just one object to base your conclusions on. Let’s say it was a helmet - in that case you might conclude they were a warlike bunch. But actually if you look at their entire material culture you find they were into everything: Love, play, music, art. It was a very rich culture. In a way it’s the same with our clients. Everything they produce says something about them, so you want to make it as rich and nuanced as a culture. It’s a conversation you’re having, not a monologue.
Packaging and Gift Packs Liz Earle 2009 - 2012
01 CHRISTOPH NIEMANN Illustration 2009 02 MICHEL MALLARD Creative Direction 2009 03 FUN FACTORY Product Design 2009 04 ANDREAS UEBELE Signage Design 2010 05 HARRI PECCINOTTI Photography 2010 06 KUSTAA SAKSI Illustration 2010 07 5.5 DESIGNERS Product Design 2011 08 NIKLAUS TROXLER Graphic Design 2011 09 JOACHIM SAUTER Media Design 2011 10 MICHAEL JOHNSON Graphic Design 2011 11 ELVIS POMPILIO Fashion Design 2011 12 STEFAN DIEZ Industrial Design 2012 13 CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER Sound Design 2012 14 MARIO LOMBARDO Editorial Design 2012 15 SAM HECHT Industrial Design 2012 16 SONJA STUMMERER & MARTIN HABLESREITER Food Design 2012 17 LERNERT & SANDER Art & Design 2013 18 MURAT GÜNAK Automotive Design 2013 19 NICOLAS BOURQUIN Editorial Design 2013 20 SISSEL TOLAAS Scent Design 2013 21 CHRISTOPHE PILLET Product Design 2013 22 MIRKO BORSCHE Editorial Design 2014 23 PAUL PRIESTMAN Transportation Design 2014
PUBLISHER Design Friends COORDINATION Silvano Vidale LAYOUT Silvano Vidale INTERVIEW Mark Penfold PRINT Faber Imprimerie PAPER Scheufelen (Heaven 42 softmatt) PRINT RUN 500 (Limited edition)
with Carrérotondes asbl MAPPING AUGUST. An Infographic Challenge 2010
ISBN 978-99959-807-4-0 PRICE 5 € DESIGN FRIENDS Association sans but lucratif (Luxembourg) BOARDMEMBERS Nadine Clemens (President) Mike Koedinger (Vice-president) Anabel Witry (Secretary) Guido Kröger (Treasurer) COUNSELORS Heike Fries, Mik Muhlen, Stéphanie Rollin and Silvano Vidale
This catalogue is published for Bruce Duckworth's lecture at Mudam Luxembourg on June 4, 2014 organized by Design Friends.
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