Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Deep Strength"

Last night at the UK's Creative Industries Reception held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, UK Prime Minister David Cameron talked about creativity as a "deep strength" of the UK. He referred passionately to Britain’s global successes in film, arts, dance, music, drama, literature, fashion and the cultural industries. He spoke about the achievement of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It was very much an advocacy of creativity in the domain of culture and entertainment. The overall message was a call to international players to invest in British creativity and to invest now. The time has never been better.

That is not to say that design was not well represented last night. There were very many design industry figures enjoying the excellent English sparkling wine and the beautiful art on the walls of the Royal Academy. The star-studded design cast included Sir Jonathan Ive (who was presented to the Duchess of Cambridge) and many other leading UK design companies across the design disciplines, including Pearson Lloyd, IDEO, Priestmangoode, Thomas Heatherwick, Creative Action Design, Marc Newson, Ozwald Boateng and S-Point from Shanghai.

Creativity and Global Branding

Yesterday morning, I attended the conference session on Creativity and Global Branding which was but one part of the Global Business Summit on Creative Services held at the British Business Embassy in Lancaster House, London which has been transformed into a showcase of British Design.

The session was one of three held following a breakfast hosted by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media & Sport and with speakers Sir Martin Sorrell, Christopher Bailey and Lord Richard Rogers.

At the brand session, Diageo and BBH told the story of the advertising campaigns which over a decade dramatically improved the market positioning and commercial success of Johnnie Walker whiskey. The brand now generates £132 per second in commercial trade worldwide. Landrover furrowed new ground with its pre-launch approach to its city-themed on-and-off line campaigns and events devised by agency The Brooklyn Brothers, which attracted new audiences to the Evoque - dramatically smashing their own targets for pre-launch orders in the process. HSBC spoke of the need to change its approach to marketing and its brand communications and Embraer Executive Jets and their agency MBA spoke of the story bringing the concept of 'intelligent luxury' into their brand positioning. Telecomms operator Airtel in India and the Brand Union told the story of repositioning and updating the brand across all points of touch in all countries - a mammoth task which has brought huge commercial benefit and brand uplift. The company's market capitalisation has grown from $16m in 1996 to $25Bn today. My favourite talk however, was the elegantly and simply delivered story of Figtree and their work in creating a global consumer brand for HTC formerly an unknown Taiwanese OEM. Simon Myers the Co-Founder and CEO of Figtree was assisted towards the end of his beautiful animated presentation slides by a video Q&A with HTC's CEO who was unable to attend the event. He brought home the message of how the concept of 'Quietly Brilliant' had helped to shift the culture of the whole organisation.

Pictured are Andy Fennell, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Diageo and Sir John Hegarty, Worldwide Creative Director, BBH.

Legible London

In addition to the 'Olympic Pink' wayfinding system, there is also considerable amount of temporary signing in the Legible London identity. Here too are a few examples:

Olympic Pedestrians

London's wayfinding and signing systems for the Olympics are overlaid on top of and alongside London's existing pedestrian information systems. The distinctive pink colouring indicating specific Olympic information, sits out clearly from the background and yet does not overwhelm it. The legibility of the font in large scale is good and the support of stewards, handouts, maps etc also adds to the efficiency of the mix through a broad approach. The use of the diagonal as a shaded area or as a signifier on vinyls and the free-standing elements also supports recognition, and where deemed necessary, double-language signing is also used. Here are some images from a wander around Picadilly, Westminster and St James's.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic design achievement

The lighting of the Olympic cauldron last night was an extremely moving and poignant moment, even when viewing it (and photographing it) on my computer screen.

Thomas Heatherwick's idea is beautiful. It brings together a sustainable energy source, technological sophistication and the physicality of wonderfully crafted metals to deliver elemental fire.

All of this ingenuity, skill and direction was brought together in one short, operatic moment of light, movement, music, sound and fire. (Listen again to the soprano singing very beautifully). Thomas and his team delivered a poignant symbol, particularly for all of us who live without strife at this time, of nations coming together in peace.

The whole ceremony has been an uplifting reminder of how superb performance and direction, can move us far beyond celebrity and entertainment, (despite commentators' wretched urge to speak descriptive inanities as soon as there is a silence or a meaningful moment that would by far be best left to speak for itself).

Congratulations to British designer Thomas Heatherwick and his team for that particular moment of inspiration among many.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RIP. Tom Gloesener 1976-2012

It was during my time as Vice President and President of BEDA, from 2005 to 2009, that I was first introduced to Design Luxembourg's representative Tom Gloesener. He was elected to the Board at only 29 or 30 years of age, (BEDA photo taken on his re-election to the new Board in March 2007).

Although I knew that Tom has been fighting cancer with enormous optimism and bravery for some time now, I was deeply saddened yesterday to hear of his unexpectedly sudden death at the age of 36.

Truly passionate about design, Tom was a dedicated member of the BEDA Board committed to raising the standards of professional design practice and design procurement across Europe – in particular, working towards the elimination of free pitching. We benefited greatly both from his expertise as one of Luxembourg's leading graphic designers and his wisdom as President, (for four years), of Design Luxembourg. His counsel was calm and insightful.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to work as a consultant with Tom, his close friend and business partner Silvano Vidale, (with whom he set up Vidale Gloesener in Luxembourg in 2000), and their senior designer and strategist Heike Fries. We worked together on a number of key projects for clients including Rothschilds Bank and the identities of newly formed energy companies Enovos and Creos, (which emerged out of a complex merger process). More recently in January, we worked together on a major tender process as part of a large consortium, pitching for work in the Middle East.

Through working with Tom and his team, I have gained a deeper understanding of the role of simple ideas, beautiful typography and infinitely well executed graphic design in shaping identities and building brands – in making communication meaningful.

But much more than this, I am happy to say we became goood friends and although we were not able to see each other very often, (thanks to the English Channel), I had the privilege to benefit enormously from his generous, warm and open spirit. He was great fun to be with. It is such a shock to have suddenly lost him.

My heart goes out to to Silvano, Heike and the team as well as to his partner, family and friends. He is sorely missed. I can only be grateful that I had the chance to know him, even if only for a short while.

RIP 17 July 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Real Munich

I arrived in Munich yesterday afternoon one stop short of Central Station. I have always loved the unmistakeable, stentorian authority of the rail control towers in Germany. They have strength and gravitas. They speak with a somewhat unforgiving voice that sits half-way between an elegant air traffic control tower, (that stretches upwards to meet the trains in the sky), and the relentless weight of a thousand trains, permanently grounded to their earthly tracks. Perhaps a solar tree could add a more human touch....

Solar Tree

Building a sense of place through introducing a contemporary intervention is a sensitive task. Ross Lovegroves solar tree, truly enhances a public square bringing a beautiful and contemporary structural form with a high technological content into a heritage setting. Designed by Ross Lovegrove and manufactured by Artemide, the Solar Tree has been installed in St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, London. The 6m tall, sinuous form evokes the call of nature whilst integrating ‘extremely high technological content’ resulting from innovative research conducted by Artemide. The 10 ‘branches’ contain photovoltaic cells that collect solar energy during the day, with four of them equipped with LED lights for the dark. The sculptured surround at the base of the sculpture also forms a convenient seat for passers-by. The Solar Tree will be situated in St John's Square from May through to September.