Last year I toured my talk 'How to Make Brands and Influence People' around Australia on behalf of AGDA. The talk was videoed at the first event in Brisbane on 20th July, and I'm pleased to announce that AGDA has released the video online and you can watch it here.
Once in a while life presents an opportunity that you simply have to follow. For me, that is to become Creative Director for branding studio, Gretel, in New York. After ten years in Australia, it was a tough decision to leave this life behind to start a new adventure in New York but it’s been a life long ambition of mine and Gretel is a studio I’ve been in love with for the past 12 months. So, I’m taking the plunge and the adventure.
Australia has been good to me and I’ll be indebted to the opportunities it has given me - this being one of them. I learned my entire branding career here and owe a debt of gratitude to some very good people. But for me, now is time to get scared again, to be a small fish in a big city and to learn new tricks.
It’s only been a short time at Re and that’s sad. I’ll miss my guys very dearly. Every one of them is amazingly talented, hard working and hilarious. And, while it’s only been 15 months, it’s been a rollercoaster of a ride. We’ve reinvented the place and done some amazing work together. I know it’s only going to get even better. Every day has been a joy. I’ll miss Re culture more than anything. Thanks for having me.
So, on 20 December I leave these shores for a wintery christmas in Manchester, Snowboarding in Europe and then braving the New York winter in February – just to make sure I show up super pale! But don’t worry, I’ll be back, I’m a citizen you know?
Thanks everybody. For everything.
It’s been amazing.
This year's AGDA Awards were a triumphant success for Re with 25 finalists (most of any studio) and 3 distinctions.
Our three distinctions were all for our Optus rebrand including:
Large Brand – for Optus
Logo – for Optus Yes mark
Brand Experience – for Optus artist installations
We're absolutely thrilled with our awards for Optus which is high praise indeed. Branding is a notoriously difficult category to win given the depth of such projects. So, it's amazing that Optus has been recognised as one of the best brand identities of 2016.
Congratulations everybody at Re and all the other winners. Australia is the ultimate winner!
What an amazing way to wrap up my series of talks around Australia on 'How to make brands and influence people'. The finale was in Sydney last night to a sold out crowd of 300 people at the Powerhouse Museum. Fantastic energy, amazing feedback and an absolute pleasure. Thanks to much to Anita Lyons from AGDA for organising the whole series and for Graham Barton for hosting last night. It really has been a blast.
On Thursday, 28th July, I took part in AGDA's Twenty20 event at the Surry Hills Community centre along with 19 other Sydney based designers, many of whom are my good friends. The event is like speed dating for young and aspiring design under grads and graduates to probe the minds of established designers and get tips on starting out in the industry. It's a great idea and something I'll definitely be getting involved with again.
On Wednesday 20th July, I delivered my latest talk, How to make brands and influence people to a sold out audience in Brisbane. Over 200 people filled The Edge auditorium to hear the hour long talk about my approach to branding and some of the philosophies I employ every day. The talk, which is hosted by AGDA, also has a strong point of view about our roles as designers in this world and leaves the audience with something to think about.
Since Brisbane I also delivered the talk in Melbourne on Thursday 4th August to a more intimate crowd of 100 people in The Provincial Hotel. Since both talks have been sell out events AGDA have put on three additional dates in Perth, Adelaide and Sydney making this my first Australian tour. Many thanks to AGDA for giving me the opportunity to do this series. It's been great fun so far and I'm not even half way!
After the second world war, capitalism took off in a big way. Brands vied for our attention through television, radio and print advertising; each of them attempting to convince us to choose them over the others. It was a one way conversation. Messages flowed in one direction, from the company to the consumer. Branding was, in essence, the packaging and advertising of products, and brands needed to be expressive in order to get our attention. In millions of households across the world, televisions beamed advertising messages into the brains of consumers to convince them to part with their hard earned cash. TV was the perfect medium – engaging, entertaining and emotional. Brands understood the power of moving images to make people think, feel and behave differently.
Conversely, the companies that produced those products presented themselves very differently. They didn’t need to interact with regular people. They didn’t need to be expressive. They were corporations, and corporations didn’t have personalities. This was about business and the only thing that needed to be expressed was what the company did and its corporate values. It was more important to present a consistent image with an identity that represented the company and so corporate identity was born.
Born in the age of modernism, corporate identity was largely about utility. It was a uniform that a company wore for the purpose of identification. Consistency was the order of the day and guideline manuals were followed to the letter with no room for interpretation. Corporate identities were toolkits made up of logos, colour palettes and typefaces; devoid of any kind of emotional expression.
Corporate identity designers were happy to follow the same formula for years, churning out corporate toolkits and identity manuals in their sleep. But it wasn’t until a little thing called the internet came along that things started to change. All of a sudden consumers were given a voice and the one-way communications of yesteryear became two-way conversations.
Companies could no longer present themselves as expressionless corporate uniforms. They had to develop likeable personalities, engage in conversation and express themselves in ways that surprised and delighted their customers. The game had changed. Companies too were forced to become brands – expressive, living entities that engaged with their audiences. Corporate identity was dead and brand identity was born.
That’s why everything and everyone is a brand nowadays – even corporations. You can think of brands as being a bit like people – living, breathing entities that seek the love and adoration of other people. Ultimately brands try to make people fall in love with them and that inevitably means emotion and expression are involved. Great brands know how to tap into your emotions with expressive personalities that attempt to influence how you think, feel and and behave.
That’s where motion design comes in. Film and animation are two of the most powerful tools we have as designers to shortcut to the soul and make people feel something. The marriage of moving image, music and storytelling resonate inside human beings in a way that’s primal. Film and animation transport us from our regular realities to new places. They tap into our innermost feelings and trigger our emotions involuntarily. Motion and emotion are therefore intrinsically linked.
That’s because film and animation are incredibly immersive media with both and sight and hearing being stimulated at the same time. Think of the last time you cried in front of a painting. Now think of the last time you walked out of a cinema wiping tears from your face. I bet one is more common than the other. It’s a uniquely human trait – one that separates us from animals.
Now more than any other time, motion is one of the most powerful tools for expression that a brand designer can draw upon because our primary interaction with brands is though screens. Whereas the brands of yesterday had television and cinema to tap into our souls, today’s brand designers can talk to their audiences though smartphones, tablets, computers and digital advertising displays to mention but a few.
So today’s brands must be designed with motion in mind. Gone are the days of static, corporate identities that live on stationery sets and corporate brochures. Brands reach us through a plethora of screens and mainly the ones in our pockets. So the modern brand designers must think motion first and print second.
A new breed of brand designer is required. Not one that thinks like a print designer, but one that thinks in motion. We need designers who not only understand traditional design skills such as typography and layout but also digital skills such as user experience, interface design and motion.
Tomorrow’s brand designers will be digitally native and build brands that are in touch with the uber-connected world in which we live. They’ll be as comfortable with code as they are with a pencil and they’ll build flexible, interactive, living brands that will delight us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
How will tomorrow’s brand designers exploit emerging technologies such as augmented and virtual reality? How will they harness wearable technologies to make the relationship between people and brands even more intimate? And what platforms will exist that we haven’t even thought? One thing’s for sure; they won’t be static.
But we don’t have to wait for that future. It’s already starting to become real. Designers across the world are pushing the boundaries of what brand identity can be. They’re finding new ways to create living, breathing brands with ideas that keep surprising us. They’re experimenting with technology and exploiting its huge potential to innovate. They’re thinking like animators, developers and engineers to create exciting brand expressions that get under our skin and into our hearts. These are the pioneers of the future of branding and this by far the most exciting time to be a designer.
Australian Design Radio is a podcast to provide Australia and the world with conversations and commentary on Australian Design. Hosted by Flyn Tracy and Matt Leach with regular industry guests.
The guys kindly got in touch to ask me a few questions about my career so far. The podcast, which lasts for about an hour, talks about my move from Interbrand to RE, the Telstra rebrand, my philosophies on design, Moleskines and all things branding.
As part of AGDA's annual awards celebrations, AGDA hosted a morning of speakers and panelists to discuss a variety of topics about design. I was invited along to participate in an open to the floor Q&A discussion where the audience could ask myself and four other panelists anything they wanted. Funnily enough the most heated discussion was about timesheets. Who would have thought?!
Other talks came from Hey studio from Barcelona, James Brown from Mash, and a rather entertaining debate on the subject of 'Designers are wankers'. A good time had by all. Thanks to AGDA for getting me involved.
On Thursday, 15 October I spoke at AGDA's Pecha Kucha event at Play Bar in Sydney. If you're not familiar with Pecha Kucha, it's a format of talks where each speaker is allowed 20 slides which auto progress every 20 seconds. I was one of seven speakers who were all given the topic, 'A different point of view', to respond to however we felt fit. Here is a re-recording of my talk from the night.
Two weeks ago I started my new role as Creative Director for RE Sydney – M&C Saatchi's internationally renowned brand consultancy.
After seven wonderful years at Interbrand Australia, it was time for me to try something new before the complacency set in and I lost my ability to innovate. It's important to me to shake things up when things get too comfortable.
RE has been the agency that kept us on our toes at Interbrand, formerly under the creative leadership of Jason Little. It's a great accolade to have been invited to join the family by Managing Director, Patrick Guerrera. The team has been more than welcoming so far and I'm excited to see what amazing brands we can make together. Oh, and instead of Telstra, I'll be working for their main competitor, Optus, which should be interesting :)
A brand is like a person. A living, breathing entity, with a set of beliefs, a sense of purpose and a personality. And like people, brands have to find their own unique way of expressing their personality with a hope that others might fall in love with them. That expression is called brand identity.
But before there was brand identity, there was corporate identity. Born in the 1950s, it was a way to present a consistent, corporate image to the world which best represented what that company did. Corporate identity was like a uniform with a consistent logo, colour palette and typography, applied in exactly the same way across everything. Communications went one way, from company to consumer, presented through a consistent image with rigid rules open to no interpretation whatsoever. Let’s be honest, it got about as exciting as a company brochure and stationery set.
The holy grail for any logo designer in those days was to design a mark that would last forever. Something so representative, so timeless, that it would remain relevant against the background of constant change, no matter what. Yet arguably (with the exception of Coca-Cola) few logos ever achieved this. Why? Because change is inevitable, and a mark frozen in time would have to remain relevant in a future that nobody could predict.
A more likely fate for a logo built to last, would be for the fashions and tastes of the day to change and the logo be discarded after 5 to 10 years as it becomes dated and irrelevant. A new identity would need to be created and the cycle would start again. In a world of constant change, nothing stays the same for long.
As time moved on, modernism gave way to post-modernism. Uber-functionality gave way to freedom of expression. Corporate identity gave way to brand identity. No longer was it good enough to be a boring old corporate – you had to become a brand. Something that stood for an idea. Something bigger than the product you sold, but an ideal. Something people aspire to. Something that appeals to people’s souls.
Flash forward to today, where brands fight for the attention of consumers with ever-increasingly inventive creative expressions that continue to surprise and delight their audiences. Brands are alive and it's no-longer appropriate for them to present themselves as static organisations, devoid of personality.
Brand identities are no longer uniforms, but platforms for expression. It comes from the understanding that brands are living entities and must be built to flex and express a myriad of emotions. That’s why today we see an ever-increasing number of flexible brand identities.
These brands are built as playgrounds for creative expression. The playground has walls which form creative boundaries, but allow much more flexibility to surprise and delight their audiences, whilst maintaining a recognisable look and personality.
Brand identities are no longer restricted to the formula of logos, colour palettes and type styles – only by our imaginations. We’re creating small universes, dictated by their own mechanics and laws of physics. We set the parameters of those universes, release them into the wild and see what they become. In this sense we really are giving birth to a living, breathing entity that will grow and evolve.
Graphic design has reached a point where everything has been done before. After a century of designers answering similar briefs for similar clients, graphic design has reached a level of exhaustion – but the pursuit of creativity has not. The rate of technological change our world is going through makes this the most exiting time ever to be a designer. Technology opens up new possibilities to push brand identity into new and exciting places. The internet, user generated content, and any data source imaginable can now be plugged into identity design. The possibilities are endless.
What’s more, unlike when corporate identity was king, we now live in a world of screens first, paper second – identities can no longer be static. If they are to be truly alive, they must move, and that means brands must be created with that philosophy embedded. It doesn’t mean just how a logo will animate, but how the whole system lives in animated media such as the web, smartphones and TV. How does it interact with content, it’s audience, and with user interfaces? These are all questions the modern brand designer must ask themselves, but the questions don’t end there.
Brands must be responsive, adaptive, and inclusive. It's no longer about one way conversations with consumers, but two-way, co-authored experiences where consumers are as much a part of shaping the brand as the companies who made them. Brand identity can do that too.
A new philosophy of brand identity design is emerging which flies in the face of the old world of corporate identity. It suggests that identities needn’t be built for a snapshot in time, only to be replaced when they fall out of fashion. Instead, the new way is to set up identities to evolve. To have a strong platform at their core that can be evolved in whatever way the future requires. Because in a world where everything is being re-imagined to be smarter and more sustainable, brand identities must do the same. Because this is the way the new world is being built.
Ram Castillo is an award winning Designer, Art Director, Blogger, CreativeLive Instructor and Author of the internationally acclaimed book ‘How to get a job as a designer, guaranteed’. He’s based in Sydney, Australia and in 2012, started the blog giantthinkers.com which helps thousands of design students and graduates be employed.
Ram got in touch with me to kick of his new podcast series where he interviews influential designers about their experiences in the creative industry and their philosophies on design. I was flattered and honoured to have been asked to participate.
Here's the blurb from Giant Thinkers:
It’s finally launched! Here it is, the first episode of the Giant Thinkers podcast! As an extension of the blog giantthinkers.com – I’ll be bringing in top experts from various industries worldwide to learn from their success and to help us become better designers, creatives and giant thinkers.
In this first episode, design industry heavy-weight Chris Maclean joins the show. He is the Creative Director of Re. (M&C Saatchi Group) and previously the Executive Creative Director for Interbrand Australia. He’s been a practicing designer for over 13 years. Originally from Manchester in the UK and currently living in Sydney, Australia.
His work has helped transform brands such as Opera Australia, Griffin Theatre Company, Darling Harbour, Alzheimer’s Australia, Queensland Art Gallery and Australia’s biggest brand, Telstra. In 2012, Chris was recognised as one of Australia’s Power 20 by Australian Creative magazine for bravery in the creative industry.
On top of that, he’s been recognised by some of the world’s most prestigious awards bodies including D&AD, AGDA, Red Dot, Clio, Type Directors Club and IDCA. And he’s a frequent writer, public speaker and lecturer on the subject of design and branding and their ability to change the world.
After 7 years as CD and ECD of Interbrand Australia, it's time for me to move on and try something new. I'll be heading over to M&C Saatchi to become the new CD of their branding consultancy, RE.
During my time at Interbrand I have stuck with one notebook – the trusty black Moleskine. And in seven years I've managed to fill 16 of them. Within the pages of these books are the sketches, doodles and ideas behind brands behind some of Australia's most iconic brands such as Telstra, Opera Australia, Alzheimer's Australia, Australia Post, Igloo, QAGOMA, Darling Harbour, IR and the Sydney Opera House, amongst many others. This is where every idea is born and every stupid idea tried and for some reason I can't stop drawing squares. The answer will reveal itself one day.
To commemorate seven years of ideas at Interbrand, I thought it would be nice to photograph them. So here they are. One day they'll be worth millions! But today they're not for sale.
On Wednesday, 18th March, 2015, I was part of a discussion at the Apple Store, George Street, Sydney on ‘How to get a start in the design industry’. I was joined by the lovely Jenni Doran from Landor Sydney and the discussion was hosted by Nathan Scoular from Think education. The event was well received with about 50 people in attendance. Special thanks to Mariko Elliott for sending through her notes from the event for those who missed it!
A little over a year ago I spoke at the Sex, Drugs and Helvetica conference in Brisbane. The guys got back in touch with me recently to write about my theories for how to build brands to evolve over time, rather than be replaced after five years.
The full article appears online here, but here it is in full for your reading pleasure.
How to Create a Timeless Brand
Here’s the conundrum. Brands needs to be relevant to customers and in order to be relevant, they need to be current. But if we design brand identities for ‘the now’, with changing trends, they’ll be facing a redesign in five years time. So how do you make your design stand the test of time?
Evolve or die
A good approach is to design brand identities to evolve – to move with the changing needs of customers, business and culture. This way brands can remain both relevant and timeless. But it takes a bit of careful thinking about how to build brands to evolve.
It’s important to understand that today brands are living, breathing entities that need to engage with their audiences in relevant ways. The interactions and relationships we have with brands today are not too dissimilar to the interactions we have with each other as human beings. In this way brands are a bit like people and brand identity is how they express themselves and interact with their customers. Think about a person. They have a core personality which stays fairly consistent in adulthood, but their identity changes as the tastes and fashions of the day change – their appearance evolves with culture. The same is true of brand identities that evolve to keep up with the times and stay relevant to their audiences.
Let’s talk about flex
The key to building a system to evolve is flex – allowing the identity room to flex and stretch in order to adapt and stay relevant. The designer determines which identity elements (logo, colour, type, image, etc.) are locked down and which are flexible. Some ideas will stay true forever and some elements will be free to express the brand in new and unexpected ways, pushing the identity in new directions as time passes, whilst staying true to a core idea.
When we designed the identity for Darling Harbour at Interbrand, we built it to flex for every event. The big idea is ‘inflatables’, which nicely captures the personality of Darling Harbour and allows the brand to scale to enormous sizes. This is the core idea and stays constant throughout every execution. As long as it’s inflatable, it’s on brand. Balloons, rubber duckies and beach balls are all fair game. The system is based on an inflatable typeface which we allow to flex by colour, pattern and a variety of finishes from matte to metallic. Even more latitude is granted to imagery which is completely free for creative expression. The only non-moving part is the typographic system which designers must follow, albeit with many options for play. Apart from that, designers are free to express the brand in new and relevant ways for every event at Darling Harbour, albeit carefully managed by the client.
Freedom of expression
Designers need to build expression into their brand identities in order to express their personalities and better connect with their customers. The majority of the time the job of the brand identity designer is to build systems for other designers to use, so a designer with flex in mind needs to leave room for the system to be played with and expressed in new ways. Some components of the identity system will be undefined and free for other designers to add their spin without damaging the core idea and elements. The brand identity should be a playground for expression so the brand can continue to surprise and delight its audience.
Some large brands have tightly controlled identity systems in order to control consistency across multiple design and advertising agencies. It can be a necessity in some instances in order to avoid the brand becoming schizophrenic. If every agency expresses the brand in new ways concurrently, the brand can suffer inconsistency and lose strength.
To build these brands to evolve, designers can consider different timelines for different elements and subsystems within the identity, such as literature systems, promotional advertising and retail environments. Some elements, such as the logo and other core identity components, will stay constant but other elements will have expected lifespans, and hence will be replaced over time with updated systems.
Think of a list of identity elements (logo, colour, typography, etc.) and draw a timeline for each of them. For instance, typography might be important visual glue for the system so will stay constant. At the top of the list of identity elements should be the big idea – something big enough to transcend time, that won’t date. This is the core of the brand identity and has the longest timeline. The logo probably has the next longest timeline. Designers dealing with existing brands should consider whether years of equity built up in the logo is worth keeping, polishing up or discarding. New logos should be designed with a timeline in mind. How long it should last will determine how able it must be to transcend fashions.
This way the brand doesn’t need to change entirety every five years, rather elements get replaced on different timelines. The transition can be gradual, or collections of elements can be updated at the same time to produce a noticeable update to the identity. When a designer chooses to consciously design a system to evolve they can make notional estimates about how a brand will evolve, but ultimately evolution will find its own path shaped by the needs of culture and business.
In order for brand identities to have a prolonged life, designers must engineer their identities to adapt to their surroundings from their very conception. Brands must be granted freedom to express themselves in new and exciting ways that help them stay relevant to their customers’ worlds.
Identities should allow other designers the freedom to take brands to new places. But most importantly brand identity designers must release control. They should set the core ideas and conditions for evolution to occur and embrace the inevitable change their identity will go through on its exciting journey through life.
In Novemeber, Billy Blue College of Design and Think Education hosted a three day programme of talks and demonstrations called The Festival of Change. The festival featured over 150 events across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. They asked me to talk at their Sydney event at Billy Blue's Ultimo.
I spoke for 45 mins on the subject of What is Design? A talk I gave to the students of UTS a while back, to help designers remember their role in this world, and how that role is evolving with the times. Unfortunatley it was a scorching hot Saturday and the Newtown Festival was on the same day, just around the corner. So I spoke to 13 people, including my good friend John. Oh well, they're not all sellouts! People seemed to like it though judging by the single tweet I got after the talk. Thanks @jordanpayne for the tweet and the photo!
We are now in our second year of working with Opera Australia and are pleased to share our work on the 2015 season brochure, launched at the season preview last week at the Sydney Opera House.
For this season we worked again with the internationally recognised fashion photographer Georges Antoni and Opera Australia performers to capture the energy and emotion of the season through rich and evocative photography.