Archive for September, 2012

A cool new design for Olmeca Altos

by Alex Benady

Coley Porter Bell has created new designs and a cool, authentic new positioning for Pernod Ricard’s premium tequila Olmeca Altos to help it to operate as more of a standalone brand. The new bottles were launched in the US this month and are being rolled out to other markets round the world.

The brief was to distinguish Olmeca Altos from the rest of the Olmeca range by creating an appealing personality for the brand, while making the bottle easier for bartenders to handle.

The original Altos bottle  designed by CPB in 2010 was created as a  sub brand of Olmeca and had a close visual relationship to the parent brand. Since its launch Altos has been developing a loyal following so the time is now right for it to have more of a distinct personality.

The new positioning is aimed at attracting sophisticated creative young urban drinkers. The design itself is deliberately minimal, featuring clear hammered glass with the branding embossed onto the glass itself.

“Altos needed to play up its authenticity whilst also highlighting the taste of the product, making drinking Altos more about enjoyment and discernment than shooters and partying, “ explained CPB creative director Stuart Humm.

“The target market is notoriously unresponsive to marketing, so rather than the design shouting at them we wanted consumers to feel that they have discovered it themselves. As a result it’s deliberately understated and dressed down.”

Wine wraps cast new light on labelling conventions

by Alex Benady

Beautiful game changer?

At the risk of sounding like straight talking former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it’s very hard to know what you don’t know, especially if that’s all you’ve ever known. By which I mean that often we are not aware of the limitations of things because they are so ubiquitous and so pervasive that it doesn’t even occur to us to question them.

Sometimes it takes a new way of doing or looking at things to expose the short comings of convention.

A new series of utterly beautiful wine bottle wraps for California wine maker Truett Hurst does just that for the design of wine labels. They  seem to have been running  on the same tram lines for at least the last two hundred years.

It’s not until you see the Truett Hurst designs that you realize quite how lazy and self-centered wine labelling has been. Conventional wine labelling is all about provenance, (Grape, country, year,) (aka me, me me) the producer.  Imagine a chocolate bar wrapper that just listed the ingredients and when and where it was made. Want a bar of, glucose, caramel and chocolate, Slough 2012 anyone?

In contrast, the Evocative Wrapped Bottles line designed by Stranger and Stranger is defined by the way the wines are to be consumed.

Consumer research helped the company to identify 22 events that trigger wine purchase. Each wrap design is covered in recipes, pictures and words that relate to that particular occasion. There’s ‘Curious Beasts’, a red blend made for Halloween which has a dark foil wrapper decorated with skeletons and skulls; Schuck’s pinot noir, has fish illustrations and recipes on its foil wrapper. A brut rose from the Russian River Valley is designed for occasions like an anniversary or the birth of a child.

It’s easy to see how and why the  restrictive conventions in wine labelling came about. In a highly competitive and fragmented industry with world-wide markets, it has been hard to establish brands. Country of origin was the main discriminator so labels have tended to be little more than stamps showing ingredients and where the product was made. Slap on a crest of some kind to show that the estate has been around for a while and there you have it.

The surprise is that those conventions have been so rarely challenged. OK Truett Hurst’s lovely designs are not the first or only wine packaging to take a different approach. For decades wines have gone the branded route. Think Blue Nun and Black Tower in the eighties. But these were designed to be nonthreatening entry level wines for plebs who found themselves intimidated by conventional wine livery.

But consumers are changing. No longer are they prepared to be cowed into deferential subservience by category conventions. reports that Research by the US Wine Market Council says that 60% of those aged 26 to 34 find “fun and contemporary looking” wine labels of great importance when purchasing wine.

And the fact that these designs are strikingly handsome is not just bunce. It is a fundamental part of changing the game. Blind and branded taste tests reveal a totally different perception of the wine, claims Stranger and Stranger.

There is the possibility that the 22 usage occasions may prove to be too restrictive. Will I drink Curious Beasts at a time other than Halloween. Can I drink Schuck’s with poultry?

But at the very least these designs have cast light on the walls of the prison that confines wine label design. It is up to each brand to make its escape as best it can.



Future Cities

by lauriehills

Although I’m still on my training wheels in this industry I’ve quickly realised that a big part of my job as a planner is to make connections between what’s changing in the world and how this impacts on the way consumers engage with brands, businesses, products and services.

This means I often find myself reading things that make me stop and think ‘No. Really? That can’t be right.’ A few days ago I came across one such nugget of information, and an unsettling one at that. The world’s population is growing by the equivalent of a city the size of London every six weeks.

1 new London every 6 weeks? That’s an extra 77 million people every year. As someone who grew up in the most isolated city in the world, Perth, this is a pretty difficult concept to fathom. 

The situation is this: millions in emerging markets are migrating from their rural homes to new urban lives, more and more people are living in densely populated spaces, more singles are living alone and the traditional family unit is becoming a multi-generational clan. Put this alongside the frightening truth that we are burning up the world’s resources at the rate of 1.5 planets, 3 if you live like the average gas-guzzling, air-mile loving European, and we have ourselves in a right old pickle.

Kowloon in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated areas of land in the world


Whilst this has created an entirely new set of urban problems, it also signals an opportunity for designers and innovative thinkers to leverage their skills and create  clever, innovative and sustainable solutions that benefit themselves, brands, companies, indeed the planet as a whole.

It was with these thoughts swimming in my head that I went along to LS:N Global’s Future Cities evening, held at the Future Laboratory in Shoreditch last week.

In their typical 6 x 6 x 6 method, six thought leaders in the fields of infrastructure,transport, packaging and design gave their perspectives, in under six minutes, on what they think it means to live through the greatest migration of the 21st century to date.

The Future Laboratory, London

The speaker with the most, ah, shall we say strongly-phrased ideas was Eric Kuhne, founder of Civic Arts, a research and design practice that works on global urban regeneration projects. Kuhne bustled in and launched off with the brilliant opener “Let’s skip the introductions, shall we? I don’t want to waste the time. I’m here to talk about the fact brands are the new slave traders…” and closed a few diagrams and some equally direct turns of phrase later with “Right. Time’s up. It’s nice to not meet you.”

Eric Kuhne, centre

To be fair Kuhne’s opinions about how brands should behave towards customers amid a growing cityscape stuck with me perhaps the most of all the speakers. In particular his point that people don’t buy products, they buy ideas, and if you can empower consumers, you can change a society overnight (or in his words; “you can’t force people to hoover up your crap, you have to empower them.”) Not a new argument, but no less right because of it.

Other speakers were Charlie Crook, founder of Future Industries, who showed us his micro-recycling system that lets people re-purpose their own plastic waste into new and useful objects like this:

Next up was Jason Bruges, founder of Jason Bruges Studio, presented some of his recent work that shows how public spaces can be more beautiful and friendly to the environment.

Rick Robinson, IBM’s Architect for Smarter Cities, explained why he believed living in future megacities can be enhanced with technology and by understanding the flows of people as well as systems.

But my personal favourite was the last speaker, Clare Brass, a senior designer at the Royal College of Art and founder of the brilliant SEED Foundation. In a more personal account on the power of design, she spoke about how her realisation that “with designing, so many products end up in landfill…” led her to walk away from a successful design practice in Milan. Instead of designing products with a sustainable bent, Brass believes the solution lies in designing systems; “there is no such thing as a sustainable product, but if you can make the product part of a longer existence than turning into rubbish, then the impact is reduced.”

When prompted on her favourite piece of work  she immediately mentioned ex-RCA student Markus Kayser whose  solar-powered 3D printer creates glass from just sand and a sun-powered cutter. If you haven’t already seen it, I’d really encourage you to watch the video of his cutter in action in the Egyptian desert.

Markus Kayser's solar panelled 3-D printer

It’s astounding to me that this kind of design is already possible, and one of dozens of  examples that make me confident the pure ingenuity that lies behind all great design will ensure  the demographic trends currently putting such pressure on the planet do not become our undoing.


Dreams for sale because ‘Reality Sucks’

by Alex Benady

Even before the media started to talk about the post Olympic blues that the UK is experiencing, and how people will pick themselves up from this, the British people and indeed people across the world have been feeling an increasing desire to escape.

Research we conducted back in April found that 54% of Britons agree that the need to escape has become more important to them over the past few years and 69% agree that ‘it’s good to be random or do random things occasionally’.

This is no surprise really given the grim economic situation many in the West have been experiencing, and the over regulated world we live in today where we consume too much, often on autopilot and follow very rational ways of thinking, that leads to dull monotonous design.

In this rather grey world where ‘reality sucks’, we have seen a new trend emerging which we have explored in our latest Visual Futures presentation, ‘Reality Sucks’.  Click here for quick snapshot of the presentation

The full report covers how design, products and brands are drawing on the principles of Surrealism to offer consumers alternative realities, such as Cadbury’s Joyville and an Alice Wonderland inspired gym in Japan to escape to. We have also seen absurd design from the likes of Lady Gaga, a rabbit shaped exhibition centre at the Shanghai World Expo and a boat on top of the Royal Festival Hall, just for the hell of it.

The use of Surrealism has not gone unnoticed by the public. Indeed, it has even been attributed to feeding collectors desire for Surrealist Art. In the past 18 months, Surrealist records have fallen like dominoes with Miró’s “Peinture (Etoile bleue),” 1927, fetching £23.5 million at Sotheby’s London in June. It is Oliver Camu’s belief (deputy Chairman of Christie’s Impressionist and modern art) that the growing interest in Surrealism can be attributed to its “presence in everyday media, marketing and advertising”.


Jonnie Peacock crosses the line

However, for me personally the greatest example of how juxtapositions have becoming more accepted and can be used to open our eyes, is the rebranding of people who were once ‘people with disabilities’ as ‘superheros’. There can be nothing more amazing than the sight of Jonnie Peacock on his blade completing the 100m in 10.9 seconds! They have escaped the grim confines of their everyday reality, by sheer determination, dreams and getting people to see them in a new light.


Olympic livery can brand London

by Alex Benady

The colour of brand London?

The pink and purple livery of the Olympic Games has become a familiar sight over the past few weeks. Especially familiar to anyone in London will be the pink and purple shirts worn by the games makers at Olympic venues, stations and airports. With their civility, engaging charm and helpfulness they have made a massive contribution to the success of the games.

Could pink and purple now contribute to the future success of London the host city?

The games makers were without doubt a masterstroke. Clearly recruited for their friendly outgoing natures, they set the lighthearted, informal , very human tone in the venues. Even in the thickest crowds they were always immediately identifiable. The pink and purple which was the livery of the games as a whole never failed to stand out.

In TV shots of the stadium, at the opening and closing ceremonies, pink and purple were also used extensively. They always told you instantly where you were and what you were doing.

After weeks and weeks on global television, after a glorious summer helping people on the streets, those colours have had a rare launch platform with squillions of pounds worth of media coverage. They are now very firmly established as the colours of London 2012.

Isn’t it time they became the permanent colours of London?

F or decades now London has been searching for a strong visual identity. Generally symbols of London have been split between the skyline –the Post Office tower, Big Ben and the Tower of London. Or it has been the ribbon like track of the river Thames.

But they are relatively complex graphic devices. All brands need a distinctive identity. An important part of any identity is colour –because it communicates so much faster than words or images. That’s why this week French shoe maker Christian Louboutin went to court in the US to protect the use of its ‘trademark’ red soles from use by rivals.

In the case of the London Olympics the colours say ‘lighthearted, informal , civil, creative and very human’ –just like London.

London has never really had a branding colour. (Red for telephone boxes, the Guards and London buses is the closest we have come). Most cities don’t have a branding colour.

Now London has two colours which it has paid billions of pounds for and they are already established in consumers’ minds with exactly the right values. It would a criminal waste to let them go now. We don’t have much time before they lapse. So this is something we need to move on mow.

London has been an incredibly accommodating host to the Olympics. I would guess that the Olympic livery will never see the light of day again. Wouldn’t it be a nice gesture if our delightful guest gave us a small thank you in return and donated the colours to London?


Actegy’s Revitive circulation booster launches in UK

by Alex Benady

Designed by Coley Porter Bell

Actegy’s Revitive circulation booster which Coley Porter Bell helped design -in addition to developing its brand identity, packaging and corporate identity, has made its market debut in the UK.

The Revitive IX is the latest version of Actegy’s ‘Circulation Booster’. Designed to help people with circulation disorders, as a result of old age, illness or disability, the new product was launched exclusively in Boots last month. The device uses electrical stimulation to significantly increase the blood flow in the feet and legs.

The Revitive IX was designed by Cambridge based medical product design company Team Consulting. Coley Porter Bell contributed design detailing to improve the branding of the product itself.

Also designed by Coley Porter Bell

CPB also designed new packaging and a word mark for Revitive IX intended to create a simple clear and powerful expression of the product’s benefits. Previous packaging had focused on product use.

The launch comes months after Actegy, formerly High Tech Health, rolled out its new identity, -also created by Coley Porter Bell. The device features the word ‘Actegy’ in moss green accompanied by a heart-shaped device that could be a tree or a circulation system. Attached is the phrase ‘powered by science, inspired by you”.

“Home healing is a relatively new way of dealing with illness. High Tech Health built the original circulation booster but its lead is being threatened by rivals. We helped them devise a visual and verbal language for the category,” said Helen Westropp, head of Coley Porter Bell’s corporate practice.


Are people hearing what your logo is saying?

by Alex Benady

On my first day in my first job in a proper marketing company, my new boss was explaining the importance of research. “An important part of it is about ensuring that people are hearing what you are saying,” he said. I was hearing what he was saying but not really understanding, so he gave me an example of how context, tone , connotation and vocabulary, can not only affect meaning, but change it diametrically.

“Imagine that you are on an airplane,” my new boss continued. “Suddenly the cockpit door opens and the pilot comes out and starts talking to the passengers. “Don’t worry,” says the pilot, “everything is alright. It’s ok.” What do you hear?” Of course you hear “We’re going down . We’re all doomed.” The exact opposite of what has been said.

Words are a relatively precise form of communication. Think how much more room for misinterpretation there exists in the visual realm.

Originally I was going to make this point in the context of the new Microsoft logo, which is very much like the old logo, but with all the dynamism, confidence and optimism stripped away. But as I researched it, I stumbled on logodesignerblog which had a piece on bad logos. Many of them were just poorly conceived, many more were poorly executed. A third group was both poorly conceived and poorly executed. (I should add that logodesignerblog stands accused of of borrowing their bad logos from the very excellent yourlogomakesmebarf).

The logos shown below below take mispinterpretation to new levels. Obviously I’ve selected the most salacious and sniggersome to make my point. Some of them suffer from cultural problems. Maybe for instance the Orient isn’t as highly sexualized as the West, so maybe the coupling couple in the Kidawara Pharmacy logo are just being mutually supportive.


Sadly no such defence can be mounted for the The Arlington Pediwhat Center? Yes we can see that the idea is that the man is protecting the child. But the way his back is arched and seems to be pulling the child in? And the way the child ‘s body is arched makes it look like it is pulling away. Shocking.

There is no indication what this logo is for. We don’t know it is even genuine. But its strong graphic  nature makes it look like it was designed by someone who knows what they are doing (graphically). Unfortunately they have failed to keep up with developments over the past 20 years or so surrounding the Roman Catholic Church and children in the U.S.  This is as bad as it gets and is one of the most powerful arguments for research I have ever seen.





This Clinica Dental logo would be fine if only the dentists and his patient didn’t meet at the waist.


The Bureau of Health Promotion looks like it is advertising  some sort of orgy. But then maybe  the BHP is just innocent going on naïve.



Is our reaction to this simply cultural imperialism? Is stranger danger even considered a problem in China?

I’m sure the designer of the  Insituto de Estudos Orientais logo thought he was loading his design with oriental imagery. In this case a pagoda and rising sun. It just didn’t work out that way did it? Why didn’t he just show it to his younger brother who would have immediately warned him.




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