Archive for June, 2011

Cannes Design Grand Prix shows luxury has been turned inside out

by Alex Benady

When it comes to luxury, it really doesn’t get much more vulgar than Las Vegas. It can’t get much more vulgar than Las Vegas. The combination of legalized gambling and legalized prostitution mean that your shallowest, basest, most crass desires will be pandered to faster than you can say “I’ll have the one with the tassles.”

Marketing a luxury proposition that consists of little more than ‘free money and cheap sex’ hasn’t been exactly pushing water up hill. For years promotions for Las Vegas were just minor variations on one idea. Fat slob counts winnings while bejazzled lovelies smear themselves all over his lap.

But it seems that even life in the moral low ground is not immune to the zeitgeist. And at the moment the spirit of the times is mostly saying , “No, no no. Luxury is no longer a shallow concept based on conspicuous consumption and superficial sparkle. 

According to ‘Luxury from the inside Out’, our study of the £150bn global luxury goods industry, consumers are demanding more depth, honesty and discretion from their luxury goods.  Following the recession, they want stories of provenance and craftsmanship. They want earthy natural colours and materials.  And they want intellectual stimulation.

“Oh really?” I hear you say. Well, if you don’t believe us,  you might believe the winner of the Design Grand Prix at Cannes last week.

The Cosmopolitan hotel is a $3.9 billion dollar resort, casino and hotel located in the center of Las Vegas. No shots  of easy winnings  and easy women in their marketing collateral. No siree. According to the Cannes citation “They set out to create a more meaningful guest experience for a different class of traveller.”

Grasping the zeitgeist firmly by the lapels, design agency Digital Kitchen of Chicago used the entire hotel as a curated art gallery no less.

“We invented a narrative showcase incorporating elegant, fantastical, and often poetic interpretations of life travels in an enlightened, lucid dream, blurring the lines of past present and future into one classic-timeless visual style. The narrative spoke directly to our target audience, the Creative Class, 59 million Americans who are open minded and enjoy adventure. Each story within the narrative tied together evolved throughout the day and had the flexibility to be tailored for special events (New Years, Chinese New Year, etc).” said the agency.

The results are absolutely stunning. Most impressive are the huge columns in reception that are used as canvasses for astonishingly beautiful light installations.

If greedy sex-starved American consumers are suddenly wanting a bit of class in their marcomms, just imagine what your consumers are hankering after. Luxury really has been turned inside out.




From “Patronised of London”

by Alex Ririe

Dear Lil-lets,

Women have periods.

Sorry for stating the obvious, but I saw one of your new packs the other day and for a moment I thought you were trying to attract eight year old girls. Of course I soon realised that this would be ridiculous because children don’t have periods, women do. Agreed teenage girls do as well, but when you consider the total UK female population, it’s probably a fair assumption to say that the majority will be women aged over 18.

I’m sure you’ll appreciate my confusion. It’s just that I saw that you had introduced a new innovation in the world of tampons and it’s called ‘CandystripeTM Technology’. Are you serious? This is just a new accessory for Barbie, right?

I realise now, that you are of course absolutely serious. You’ve got a pink and white cord, an on-pack icon and three claims to prove it. To be fair, it’s a useful innovation. It’s a new technology to prevent leaks. (It means that I can now roller skate wearing white jeans in full confidence.)

This innovation also extends to making the product ‘easy grip’. Hmmm. I’m not convinced that this should fall under the ‘technology’ banner. You’re really only talking about two different coloured strings inter-twined aren’t you? But hey, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt as this might be quite advanced stuff if you’re an eight year old.

Now the final part of the innovation – CandystripeTM Design. Excuse me??? Now I really think you’re stretching the ‘technology’ idea a bit too far. In a way, I suppose it’s actually very clever. You’re tapping into the insight that us girlies are suckers for a pretty design. You’re so right. Yeahhy for the candystripe design!



I do apologise if this seems a little ungrateful. It really is a very good technology. Well, the non-leak bit is anyway. I just wish you’d think about your target audience. Are you a brand for eight year old girls or for women? I do understand that you want to get people into the brand early – that makes good business sense. But what about your old loyalists?

If you could just let me know who you’re for, I’d be very grateful. I’d like to know where I stand (or parachute, or swim, or bike ride).

Yours sincerely,

Alex Ririe.

Royalty Free?

by Ed Silk

Design Week recently published their Packaging & Branding supplement that reported on the top performing independent agencies of the 2010. Reading the table of figures was reassuring, because as an industry we are clearly generating healthy revenues. However, it got me thinking about how we can protect our margins and therefore increase our profitability.

The recession has meant that we’ve had our costs increasingly scrutinised by clients who, rightly so, want a good return on their investment. However, as a consequence, this cost-cutting seems to continually erode the desired industry standard margin of 20%, as well our value perception with it.

So, why is it then that sometimes our contribution is not a valued as, say, the work of an advertising agency? With their million pound budgets for creating a campaign that will quickly be forgotten, when what we create in the design world is so much more tangible and longer lasting, living in the hand, home and hearts of consumers.

Now, I appreciate that we’re not comparing apples with apples, as a large proportion of their budgets are spent on media spend in an increasingly fragmented market. However, I think we could perhaps learn a little from their way of working. When a piece of communications is created for one country or region and a brand owner then wants to use it in another, they have to pay a royalty for the right to. Like with all the photographers and illustrators that we commission, if their work is to be used worldwide then our clients have to pay more for the privilege than if it is just for one country.

And this got me thinking. What would happen if we were to follow this pricing structure with our work? What would happen if we created a brand identity or packaging design for one-country use only and then our clients want to use it in another? Shouldn’t we charge an additional fee for this right of use? Now, this may seem over an idealistic viewpoint, but maybe if we charged more our clients might value our work more. Just a thought. Royalty free.

Beautiful Biscuits from Mrs. Fell

by Leia Baker

Congratulations to our lovely Heta, who got married on Saturday to Nick. We hope you both had a beautiful day and thanks for the yummy biscuiteer biscuits!

Is it a Banksy?

by Alex Ririe


Designer Leia Baker spotted this on Westbourne Terrace on her way in to work today. Is it a Banksy? The fact that it extends from the wall on to the drain certainly has his typical quirk. What do you think?

Our work in ink!

by Tom Hearn

We recently created the identity for Olmeca Tequila’s brand education programme; The Tahona Society. The Tahona Society is a global network of key Bartenders that sets out to recognise and celebrate the ancient art of true Tequila production.

The identity tells the story of the production process, from harvesting the agave plants through to fermentation and distillation, and finally enjoyment of the tequila product.


Roll up! Roll up! Get your new botanicals here

by Ed Silk

Beefeater have launched their new, exciting London Market limited edition Gin this week. With pomegranate seeds, cardamon pods and kaffir lime leaves, the selection of these new botanicals has been inspired by the diverse and exotic flavours of London.

Coley Porter Bell was invited to create a design that reflected these vibrant and refreshing tastes and achieved it by illustrating on pack the story of Beefeater’s founder, James Burrough, who often experimented with the exotic produce he found in places like Covent Garden.

150 years later, Beefeater’s current Master Distiller, Desmond Payne, has followed in his footsteps searching out new ingredients available in the capital’s market stalls today.

With over 40 years in the industry, Desmond is quoted as saying: “By using these exotic botanicals, I wanted to create a gin that captures the drinker’s imagination, reminding them of all the colourful aromas, tastes and charms of London’s bustling markets in the summertime.”

So, happy Summer everyone!

This blog is about all the things that inspire us as we make brands beautiful: insights and ideas, points of view, fabulous work, nascent trends - all the things that excite us and help us to see new possibilities for the brands we work on. So please enjoy, add your comments, forward the link, and come back and see us. We’ll be posting regularly.