Oh boy. It’s that time of year again. Welcome welcome welcome to the 2015 live conference blog. Straight outta Melbourne. Crazy copywriter named Cat Wall from a gang called Sex, Drugs & Helvetica. Three coffees deep and we’re ready to roll. Stay tuned for the ins, outs, Who Wore It Best, and all your live update needs.
0955 Testing… 1… 2…
1015 Doors are open, punters are piling in and we’ve got a bit of Jamie xx to set the mood. What a lovely day.
1030 It’s on. The beautiful Andy Murray has taken the stage for our fifth year. We’ve got a little bit of housekeeping before we get down to business.
1035 Mr Ben Miles. The man, the mystery, the Creative Director at Interbrand Australia. He says it’s a very exciting time to be a designer in Australia. People are starting to notice the incredible work coming out of this country. When Interbrand look to hire people, they don’t just want designers, they want people who look at the world differently. This is where we start to change the conversation, and it’s an important part of paving the way forward.
1040 There are three important factors to successful, effective design: Collaboration. Ingenuity. Imagination. Leave a company or person better than when you started. Design is an emotional journey. It’s never straightforward. It’s okay to feel shit one day and great the next day.
1042 Today Ben will be talking about Interbrand’s work with Sky – New Zealand’s equivalent to Foxtel.
1044 First problem: they weren’t allowed to change the logo. Second problem: people didn’t really like Sky. All these problems they discovered along the way helped Interbrand to work out what they were solving. They began to educate Sky about the importance of understanding your customers’ needs.
1050 “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” Unless you understand the problem you’re trying to solve, you’re just making things look pretty. They needed to make New Zealand fall in love with Sky. They came up with the strategic idea of “the expedition” – that Sky would be the guiding force for its consumers.
1055 Their first concept was based on using the sky to explore and express the brand. They presented it. They were completely challenged – rejected – by the client. Defeated, they had seven days left to go back to the drawing board and get a solution. The pressure brought out the best in the studio. How do you bring New Zealand together? They realised the triangles in the original logo – the things they’d been trying desperately to get rid of – were actually the solution. The arrows not only represented both islands, but also created a method of navigation and direction. A journey.
1102 They transformed the brand from their initial, aggressive position of “you need us” and took it in a strategic direction that is inclusive and welcoming – “Come with us”. They presented it to the client via a from-there-to-now video titled “The next episode starts now.” Ben shows the video. Goosebumps.
1105 Ben talks about the importance of brave clients. They’re just as much a part of the team as your team. The client took a chance on something fun, fanatical – they let their brand become something their employees wanted to be part of. The re-brand is an incredible example of the power of good copy. Once the staff were on board it was time to take it above the line.
1112 He talks about the power of good. About helping a company do good things – giving something back to and helping the community. They created Sky Next – putting some of the ad spend into creating the next generation of New Zealand athletes. He shows another very powerful video. This further emphasises the idea that Interbrand wanted to establish Sky as a platform, not a uniform. The initiative was an incredible display of Sky’s transformation into a celebrated, evolved and authentic brand. Brands should constantly be learning and changing the conversation. It’s about creating brilliant content to shape a journey.
1115 Q&A time. How important was collaboration to this project? So important. Interbrand will always bring in other areas of expertise to help enhance and bring out the best in a project. They’re always looking for someone who can bring something special to the table.
1119 Was it a tough sell for an Aussie studio to re-brand something so iconically kiwi? Absolutely. It was incredibly difficult for a bunch of Aussies to tell a New Zealand brand that they needed to be more New Zealand-y. It came down to making the client understand that it’s about being human – and speaking to their audience as humans, not customers.
1121 The power of conversations is so important. Give people a platform to tell you what they hate about a brand. If you give people a platform, they might give you the solution.
1124 Ben’s a big believer of giving a client two routes. You often know what the solution is, or at least you think you do. By presenting two options, you provide choices. You need to believe in both equally, even if you prefer one over another. Always strive to think about two ways of approaching a project.
1126 What’s Ben’s superpower? Collaboration. You’re never bigger than anyone else. There’s no hierarchy. Let’s all have a conversation and see where we can go. Creating environments where people feel empowered to say and do what they want.
Nick Cox – Projects of Imagination, Melbourne
1128 Straight into the next speaker. Nick Cox from Projects of Imagination will be speaking about their work for Melbourne’s award-winning restaurant, Supernormal. Side note: POI are hiring. Fire those folios away.
1131 Their foray into hospitality began in 2007, when they took on Trunk. Since then they’ve branded CODA, Chin Chin and made their mark as the hospitality branding icons they are.
1134 The branding for Supernormal began in Tokyo. How else can you brand a Japanese-inspired restaurant? Nick takes us through his happy snaps from their initial research trips and where their immersion in the brand and the intricacies of Japanese culture began. They then moved onto Kyoto. Nick has been inspired by Japanese graphic design for a long time, so this project was very exciting.
1137 It’s important not to get too emotionally attached to clients. Friendly, but not friends. Keep an arm’s length. It saves for awkwardness later, especially if there’s a lot of money in a project.
1140 Read good books. Nick can’t emphasise that enough. It’s so easy to get caught up on the web, but books are king. His Number One recommendation? G1. It’s the book that opened Nick’s eyes to graphic design and changed his world.
1145 Nick always starts with a name. They won’t start a project unless it has a name. It can make things difficult for clients, but that’s how they work. Their clients ask them to name most of their restaurants. It’s an incredibly difficult part of the process. For this project, it was a bit easier. The name already existed. It’d been kept up their sleeves for a long time. And by sleeves, Nick means “vault” of information and names. And by “vault” he means a file on his desktop… that he should probably back up.
1148 Supernormal had to work. It wasn’t about being overly special or noticeable. It needed to remain as unnoticeable as possible. That way it would just work. When they were presenting they showed the client three things: a book called Designing Design, the brand Muji, and the Mooneyes surf brand from California. This was the pop culture feel they wanted to incorporate into the brand, which was incorporated into the cherries used in the restaurant’s branding.
1153 It began with a change of plan. Supernormal Canteen – a three-month pop up and intense installation turnaround time. A lot of paper lanterns. A bit of neon. Some fresh hand-painted signage. The canteen was the launchpad. The testing place for the restaurant – the look, feel and food. It was packed every night.
1159 They faced a few budget cuts. The night before opening the restaurant was far from ready. The collateral was all developed, but it was definitely a late one. The rollout is stunning. A simple map that no one understands, clean folded menus, a lot of white canvas. Everything was custom-made to suit the restaurant – the lightboxes, the signage, the furniture. Very pared back and neutral, based on the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi – an idea that encourages people to exercise restraint and not get caught up on imperfections.
1205 Q&A time. What’s your Number One Tokyo recommendation? There’s a place you can eat raw chicken… by choice. Deal with the consequences later. “If you’re drunk enough you’ll do anything”. Salmonella nightmare? Potentially. Nick Cox recommended? Absolutely.
1210 There are restaurants everywhere. Too many. What does that mean for a studio like POI who specialise in hospitality? It means they go offshore. Overseas. There is too much happening in the city. A lot of restaurants go broke very quickly because there is simply too much competition in this town. Nick also believes there’s a lot of visual pollution in restaurants. POI really try to pare things back these days. Everything needs to slow down, be more considered, and a little bit quieter.
1212 It was never POI’s intention to fall into hospitality. They’re currently expanding and working on a lot of non-hospitality projects. This is deliberate. They’re trying to get back to their branding roots – including clients from the arts, retail etc. Again – they’re currently hiring. GO GO GO.
1214 And Nick’s stance on the re-attribution of the mooneyes? Borrowing is fine. There’s no shame in it. But borrow, be inspired, don’t replicate.
1215 Lunch. We out. Catch you at 1315, keen readers.
1330 A big thank you to all our sponsors and we’re back into full swing for the afternoon’s speakers. How many NWA references is too many in one live blog stream? Trick question.
YOU ARE NOW ABOUT TO WITNESS THE STRENGTH OF DESIGN KNOWLEDGE.
1335 Eskimo began 17 years ago in the confines of Zoe’s parents’ garage. They’re now a 20-person strong studio, bursting with talent and creativity. She remembers thinking that the day she had a neon sign and reception desk would be the indicator of “making it”. She now works out of her dream studio in Sydney’s Surrey Hills. There’s a sausage dog, and there’s a neon sign. But even with these telltale signs of success, she doesn’t feel “made” – it’s a constant journey.
1338 Good design is nothing if you can’t translate it beautifully into ideas. Today Zoe will be talking about Eskimo’s work on Eastland Shopping Centre. The project has taken two years to date and officially launches at the end of October. It presents both some of the most extreme challenges Zoe has faced in her career, but also the most exciting opportunities.
1341 Zoe says that if there’s anything you need to take away from her presentation, it’s that Eskimo didn’t pitch for this job. It was as much about the relationship Zoe had with the client as it was their creative talent. Nurture your professional relationships. The better the relationships you have with your clients, the better the work you will do.
1346 The brief: do an entire brand revolution for Eastland. Zoe has a love-hate relationship with shopping centres. She loves shopping, but sometimes these centres – particularly the regional ones – are the most uninspiring places in the world. Love them or hate them, they’ve become community hubs. She likens the experience to a clip from 1970s horror film Dawn of the Dead. So the team took it upon themselves to get rid of another concrete box. They wanted to create something with soul, depth and a sense of community.
1348 It began with research, as all the best projects do. A site inspection saw the team fly down to Melbourne and a gentle warning from the site manager to “hold onto your handbag”. Ringwood reprezent.
1350 The team set out with trying to get a sense of the brand. Lots of imagery, lots of words, all contributing to getting an essence of what the brand and its personality is going to be. They keep going until they hit a “goosebump moment” – when they know they’ve hit something special. It involves the whole team – not just designers but all staff. Together, they pull together ideas. In this instance, the notion of “luxury and heart”, which began to drive the creative, came from an intern.
1354 Uh oh. Spanner. The client wanted to rename the centre. There was too much negative sentiment in the name. So they began brainstorming names, before realising it was a wholly inauthentic process. So the challenge became about changing the sentiment associated with the title “Eastland” to something exciting and aspirational. To turn it into “a place where connections are formed and memories are made”. To represent the idea of “coming together”.
1355 Then came the design. The main shape – “the Eastland weave” – came together from the name itself and rolled out beautifully into the idea of creating a “fabric”.
1358 Then everything that could go wrong went wrong. Integral team members had to leave. A key account manager. A senior designer. An art director. All essential people to the projects Eskimo were working on. Add the team’s creative director to that list, and Zoe was left with a multi-million dollar account… and no staff.
1402 Enter freelancers. The studio had never used freelancers to such an extent, but they ended up saving the day. Zoe called the client to explain the staff-exodus situation, worried the account would fold. But, testament to the strength of their relationship, the client had complete faith in Zoe’s ability to get the job done.
1407 Getting the brand together took an intense year of work. A lot of late night phone calls, a trip to London to meet with key stakeholders, trying to hire an entirely new team. But it came together an began to permeate the studio naturally. They beat on.
1412 As designers there are some key principles we abide by – human centricity, search for beauty, order in chaos, intuition and creativity. These all contribute to bringing ideas – both creative and business – to life. A year on and the studio is at an entirely new, advanced level, producing their best work yet.
1415 One of the most important lessons Zoe has learnt throughout her career is that we need to stay open to change. We need to remain fluid. It’s vital to both our success and sanity. Change is the only constant and once we embrace it, it leads to the best work we can produce.
1418 Q&A time. How has Eskimo evolved? How do you go from being an editorial studio to a studio that rebrands Eastland? It’s about evolving. It’s about incredible staff. It’s about trust from your clients. They’ve evolved, they’ve grown up. They’re no longer working with marketing managers, but directly with MDs. They have the power to influence and make a real difference, while creating work at a much higher level with a more sophisticated approach.
1421 Is luxury universal? It’s become a really dirty word. It’s not about wealth and jewels and riches. It really speaks to different things for different people, so creating “luxury” in Ringwood is more about creating ideas around ritual and special times and memories. It’s about creating something aspirational and making people want to hang out there.
1425 Ooh interactivity time. Straight into it. Daniel gets the audience up on their feet. Phones out. Everyone has to retweet his latest tweet. Aw. Thanks, Daniel. Today is also his birthday. Aw. Happy birthday, Daniel. He also wants to confess that he’s a muggle, not a designer. But some of the best witches and wizards we know are muggle-born, so that’s okay.
1428 A bit about August. They’re a digital agency. They’re 10-years-old on Monday. They picked a terrible colour for a brand via opening Photoshop and having a flick through the colour wheel. Science. Today Daniel will be talking about SWEP (the Schools Water Efficiency Program) – a project they’ve been working on since 2012. It’s a collaboration between the Department of Education, Yarra Valley Water and the August team.
1434 The education sector consumes about 10 per cent of all water in Victoria. The brief: take the national curriculum and put it online. They didn’t think this was a great idea. The real idea that needed pushing was to give school students a way to interact with the curriculum they were studying. There was a fair bit of stuff out there already, but it was boring. It needed to be engaging. It needed to get students to change their behaviour. It needed to make a difference.
1438 They began by presenting the students with data. But it needed to be beautiful. They ran a sequence of workshops with some of the leading names in water conservation and sustainable education. Then they put it together and put it in front of kids. They went into schools and presented to students. It led to the realisation that one of the big challenges was bandwidth. It needed to happen quickly – minimal load time.
1441 They also needed to do the exercises in the curriculum themselves – a lot of it was centred around looking at data and interpreting it. But the August team realised they didn’t just need to use the data coming out of schools, but also information from the Bureau of Meteorology etc. By building an application that an eight-year-old could use, they also ended up building an application that a 48-year-old could use. The platform has come a long way in three years.
1445 What’s really exciting for Daniel is the results. The impact. The behaviour. They were given very broad goals – the aim of signing up 500 schools, saving 700 million litres of water, and maybe winning some awards. They’ve got 750 schools signed up and growing. They’ve saved 1.5 billion litres of water. That’s the equivalent of filling up the MCG. And they’ve put $3.5 million back into the education sector – money that would have otherwise been spent on water bills. Real and positive changes.
1451 Q&A time. August are working on a new job with the Queensland Ambulance Service. They’ve been engaged to design and develop and app that will assist paramedics with logging their reports – a process that is currently done, very slowly, on anvil-style laptops. August is all about the business of eliminating unnecessary processes to get the same information. Simplifying. What the August team get excited about is doing work on processes that people don’t normally notice or want to do. If they can make the process of engaging with things like government sectors a little bit more “delightful”, then that’s a great job well done.
1453 What’s the difference between a “right” decision and a “good” decision? It’s not always productive to try to make the “right” decision. If everyone is interested in making a “good” decision, then a team should be working towards that. Making “right” decisions is arbitrary. There are too many different variables that dictate what’s “right”.
1456 Why does the data need to be beautiful? You need to put the audience ahead of yourself. The idea of the data being beautiful needed to reflect what the students wanted to see. Nothing too “Disney”. If we’re going to convey a message and induce people to be more aware of themselves, the way we convey that message needs to be consumable. It needs to be aesthetically pleasing. If you want people to listen – if you want them to be engaged with a project – then aesthetic is definitely a big consideration.
1459 What do you look for in a graduate? August are big on culture – how people engage with a team, with a client and with a project. They want someone open-minded. They want someone who listens.
1527 Bit of a dance party happening in this little afternoon break. Jamiroquai delivering.
1530 Ladies and gentlemen. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. The annual suit change. It’s here. It’s beautiful. It’s glorious. Phenomenal branding by our friends at Build.
1533 The man behind the Airbnb rebrand. Here we go. On the day of launch, the Airbnb rebrand was the #1 global trending topic for eight hours. Just to clarify: you have to have 30,000 mentions a minute to be a global trending topic. 30,000. A minute.
1537 How did it happen? DesignStudio received an email asking if they’d like to pitch. Yes. They said they’d meet the client on Skype. They didn’t. They flew to San Fran and walked into the office at the time of the Skype meeting. “It’s called making an impact.”
1541 They won the pitch. They executed the project. Between five of them, it took 13,000 hours. James shows a video documenting the research process they took – a completely immersive, international travel experience… documented quickly, thoroughly and completely captivatingly.
1548 The point of the video was to show Airbnb what they really looked like at the time. Four people, flying economy, and filming on $100 cameras. Nothing fancy, nothing flash. At the time, Airbnb were talking about what they did, not why they did it. DesignStudio wanted to make something that people need – to execute the idea of belonging somewhere. Belong, anywhere.
1550 They took three key learnings from their research process: Express emotion, engage the community, accelerate disruption. So they took that away and spent 10 days sketching, thumbnailing and coming up with initial concepts. They didn’t get there. They didn’t make the mark initially. How do you represent “belonging”? So they went back to the drawing board with this quote in mind: “A logo is a good one if you can draw it in the sand with your big toe.”
1553 Another few days of exploration, they came up with the Airbnb logo as we now know it. A brandmark which James’ mum, not a very creative person, was able to draw in the sand at the beach near her house. A brandmark which represents four key things: people, places, love and “A” – for Airbnb. A symbol of belonging.
1557 The most difficult thing was changing the colour. Silicon Valley own the cold blue that Airbnb used at the time. It was harsh and unwelcoming. DesignStudio asked what the colour of coming back from a great holiday was, and that’s where the “rausch” came from. Warm, welcoming.
1559 When they first began the project, it was only meant to be the re-brand. But as they kept working away at it, it became clear that DesignStudio would need to be involved in the digital process, too. The digital rollout was incredibly extensive. It had to be easy, simple and globally intuitive. After all of that, they needed to launch it. So they made a film. James shows it. It all gets a little bit warm and fuzzy up in here.
1602 What sort of response do you want from a re-brand? You want the client to be happy. Check. So happy they name their dog after the brandmark – Belo. Check check.
1605 Q&A time. Were they taking on other work during this time? Yes. DesignStudio were spending 51 hours a week – each– on the Airbnb rebrand. They were also working on other projects. Madness. So how did they manage it? “When you believe in something and you say, ‘You know what? We’ve got to make this as good as it can be’.”
1608 Can you embellish authenticity? No. People can see through it. We’ve reached saturation point for messages and PR and the ability to spin. Companies can’t hide behind advertising anymore. If you’re branding something that is authentic and real and you’re connecting that with an audience, then what you’re doing is always going to power on above anything else.
1611 Did it ever go off the rails? It was good at the beginning. In the middle there was a really difficult point where the DesignStudio team worked in a glass box in the middle of the San Fran office. It was an incredible amount of pressure with hundreds of people watching them work. James went into the kitchen to take a break and make a cup of tea and the CEO of Airbnb came into the kitchen and said, “I’m off for the weekend. When I come back in two weeks I want a ‘wow’ moment or we’re in trouble.” Cool. No worries. So they took themselves out of that position and went back to London to knuckle down and get shit done. And get shit done they done did.
1615 Cheryl begins by noting that it’s September 11. Life is fragile, we are all very lucky to be here.
1616 She’s had a long life of designing things. She feels like she’s designed almost everything. Her secret is to never crack a smile. If the client doesn’t think you’re serious, they won’t take you seriously. That’s how you end up convincing clients to do ridiculous, wonderful, exciting things. Like photoshoots in Paris.
1621 And then she hit a wall. And design lost meaning. And she was tired of meaningless conversations. And then she discovered a book by Professor David Orr, where she learnt that humans are not a sustainable species. We use 1.6 times the resources the world can regenerate. These statistics are getting worse. Cheryl decided she didn’t want to propel that boat anymore and underwent three years of painful self-reinvention.
1624 She created the Ideas That Matter program – a company that give money to designers who want to design for the public good. And then the “education” conversation happened, where Cheryl first forayed into teaching. The class was called “Design For Good”, and it was a way for Cheryl to explore the ideas she was wrestling with. She began using what she’s learned in helping big companies to help other people do good.
1629 In 2008, the president of SVA asked what that class would look like as a graduate program. What we now know as the Design for Social Innovation program.
She asked herself some questions that she couldn’t answer. How do you design a graduate program that makes it possible for people to become real leaders of change? It would take a new definition of design. It had to be systems-based. It had to be about creating something new, not just problem solving things that have existed for centuries. And it would need business skills – entrepreneurship, leadership, mapping, change models, data visualisation, prototyping, communication and facilitation.
And most of all, it would take a new belief in the power of designers. It was and is the most difficult thing Cheryl has ever done.
1630 “It was like planning the world’s most expensive party and having no idea if anyone would turn up.”
1631 So the program made a promise – the designer that emerges will not just be a product designer or film maker etc. They will be all of those things, mastering all of those skills and how to apply them with a greater creative purpose.
1632 “The impact will be measured not by the program itself, but by what our students do out in the world.”
1637 Cheryl talks through some of their graduates’ projects. Salvage Supperclub – a sustainable, no-waste restaurant program. A way to minimise unnecessary waiting times and confusions in third-world health clinics. A way to bring together Israeli and Palestinian people by focusing on their similarities, not differences.
1647 Cheryl closes with another quote by David Orr:
“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
1651 Q&A time. How have you changed as a designer? The biggest difference is in what you’re measuring and how you define success. Once you become aware of the impact of what you’re doing on other people and the planet, you start to think about success differently. We need to challenge this idea of capitalist success. It’s a really entrenched system and there’s part of our culture that keeps driving us further and further away from nature. We’ve set up a system based on hierarchy and expertise. We view our species as having the planet here for us as our resource and money drives the system everywhere. We’ve constructed an industrial model of society that is really toxic and incredibly difficult to get out of. That’s why we need designers for social innovation.
1654 We need to be present in the world and pay attention instead of just getting a hammer and trying to make everything a nail. We have a model of nature that’s worked for thousands of years that we now ignore. We need to work out how to align behind a vision that isn’t a toxic one.
1655 At your funeral, what do you want to be remembered for? Cheryl’s big heartbreak is other species and what we’re doing to them. We are failing miserably at making a difference there. If she could really accomplish something it would be to make humans aware of the precious lives around them that they’re destroying all the time.
1656 Is this possible? Maybe not. We are pretty fucked. But we have a shot. And we always need to have hope.
1700 And that’s a wrap. Year Five is over. A huge thank you to our six incredible speakers for another hugely inspiring conference. Thank you to our sponsors. Thank you to our wonderful audience. And thank you to you, wherever you are, for whatever reason, reading this. See you next year.