June 16th, 2011
Branding: When Good Guys Go Bad

Take one young mother struggling to pay her son’s school fees, a lucrative casino (is there any other kind?) and a tattoo parlour. The result: ‘GoldenPalace.com’ tattooed across said mum’s forehead for the princely sum of $15,000 (roughly £9244.50). Check it out here: http://j.mp/maGWOG

GoldenPalace.com undoubtedly gained some global attention from this stunt: some might argue that the tattooed woman was mad to agree to it; others would argue she was manipulated by a global brand. Either way, it seems a tad unethical. A bit like a US confectionary brand we’ve been reading a lot about over the last year or so…

We love chocolate. But it’s fair to say that the actions of Kraft’s Irene Rosenfeld have made us think twice about where we want our Stripey pound to end up.

Rosenfeld, who Forbes names as the second most powerful woman in the world, led the hostile takeover of Cadburys in 2010. Since then, and despite promises to the contrary, hundreds of Cadburys workers have been made redundant, with talk of manufacturing plants moving abroad.

Rosenfeld has repeatedly snubbed requests to appear before British MP’s to answer questions about why she backtracked on her assurances. Now, those MP’s are pushing through legislation to prevent similar takeovers happening again.

Perhaps the saddest part of the Kraft debacle is that Cadburys, a unique piece of British history, is systemically being dismantled by a superbrand with little regard to its historical and cultural significance. Not only that but rumour has it Kraft also aims to tamper with the sacred recipes of our beloved Cadbury’s chocolate! Thanks to Rosenfeld, the Kraft brand is certainly leaving a bad taste in a few mouths, and they’re not the only ones.

Take the fashion industry for example. In particular Nike, which certainly hasn’t escaped the spotlight in previous years. Having admitted to using child labour in the past, Nike has, according to The Global Alliance ‘acted in good faith, and developed a serious and reasonable remediation plan’. Although not every quarter is convinced, it’s clear to see they’ve made an effort to change.

WWF however, were so disturbed by the unethical activities of other fashion brands that they came up with a novel idea to counteract it.

In 2007, WWF undertook a study of businesses and their ethics, with some shocking results. Right at the bottom of the list was Tod’s, a luxury Italian leather company, who scored the lowest marks across every aspect of the survey. Another surprising report arose from Garnier, who were found guilty of racial discrimination after attempting to ban non-white women from promoting its shampoo in French stores.

WWF, after realising the power of celebrity endorsement behind these big brands, came up with the great idea of a ‘star charter’. The charter encourages celebrities to consider the ethics of the firms they endorse. And if the success of PETA is anything to go by, then the ‘star charter’ for big brands could be the one to watch. That’s assuming that the stars endorsing the brands are ethical themselves…

Maybe the real question is not how good or bad brands are, but whether their ethics make any difference whatsoever to their popularity. And if it doesn’t, what does that say about us as consumers?

Interested in reading more? Take a look at these articles:

http://j.mp/lW9TU9
http://j.mp/miCKbg
http://j.mp/mnm86M

http://j.mp/l73XhG

 

June 9th, 2011
Crafty Branding

Craft: A word that might once have conjured up images of frilly pillows, scrapbooks and cross-stitched cats playing with balls of wool. But, as we recently learnt, not anymore.

Thanks to the Birmingham based charity Craftspace, we’ve spent the last five weeks working with a brand new social enterprise called Shelanu. Designing their branding package with a logo, website and marketing materials meant we were lucky enough to watch their delicately handmade jewellery take shape, which is special in itself. But what makes this group really important is the people who belong to it.

The enterprise is made up of migrant and refugee women. Together, they’re a diverse cultural collective, creating intricate, ornate jewellery inspired by their experiences in Birmingham. To celebrate and share that creativity, Shelanu is exhibiting at the prestigious Bovey Tracy Craft Fair at the end of this week. And with these guys, Bovey Tracy better watch out! Not only are they a talented group, they’re also vibrant, energetic and fun loving – all the qualities apparent in their sparkling jewellery design.

We think you’ll be seeing a lot more from Shelanu – check out their website for more information at www.shelanucollective.co.uk. And if you’re interested in learning about more up and coming craft projects take a look at www.craftspace.co.uk. They’re one of the few charities that have succeeded in winning Arts Council funding and they’re not wasting time in putting it to good use.

 

June 8th, 2011
Superbrands: It’s a Battle of Hearts of Minds

Lately, we seem to be hearing a lot about brands being a bit like religions: Apple store openings have been likened to evangelical prayer meetings. And only recently we learnt that our brains recognise our favourite brands the same way we recognise close friends and relatives.

So if brands are becoming such an integral part of how we function as human beings, what exactly are these superbrands doing to achieve this?  Alex Riley is the man with the answers, as he goes on the trail of the world’s biggest brands and comes up with some fascinating insights.

Perhaps most obviously, the one thing superbrands seem to have in common is longevity. But that aside, the forefathers of these global brands display a startling ability to market their businesses at a time when even the term ‘marketing’ had yet to be coined. Their brand strategies were way ahead and whether you’re a big fan of fast food and soft drinks or a fully fledged fruitarian – 1.5billion servings of Coke a day can’t be wrong.

Riley’s documentary also surprisingly illustrates what a pivotal time for developing brand loyalty World War II was: Heinz became known as an affordable and nutritious staple food during rationing while Coke shipped its bottles to troops overseas for a dime a bottle.

Then there’s Red Bull, which is one of the most unique branding models around. Forget sponsorship – Red Bull weren’t playing second fiddle to anyone. They own their own sporting teams for Formula 1, they also own Salzburg football team and even invented the now famous Red Bull Air Races.

They’re all impressive examples. But ethical? That’s for you to decide. With Coke aiming to double their marketing share by targeting teenagers, and Red Bull erasing the historical culture of their football team, some might argue that they’re ruthless industry machines. But then business ethics are a whole different blog post…

If you didn’t catch it the first time, check out Alex Riley’s ‘Secrets of the Superbrands’ here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011fjbp

 

May 10th, 2011
Leaders of Branding

News out yesterday that Apple has recently become the most valuable brand, taken over from Google’s four years at the top spot. According to the BrandZ study of the global top 100 brands, the Apple brand is now worth £93bn, and has become the world’s most valuable technology company, overtaking Microsoft last year.

A good proportion of this revenue has come from the new consumer products Apple produces, which include the iPod, iPhone and iPad. These new products (which take advantage of iOS) are for the consumer on the move and, although they didn’t invent the tablet format, they seemed to have perfected it. The iPad has become the model that other manufacturers have been trying to emulate.

The Apple brand has increasingly become one of desire. “It’s doing what luxury brands do, where the higher price the brand is, the more it seems to underpin and reinforce the desire.” says Peter Walshe, global brands director of Millward Brown.

For further reading about the top 100 brands, including how McDonalds have manipulated their brand considerably over the past years in order to shift consumer perception, visit the website http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Found via twitter @orbstudio

Check out the Millward Brown website too.

 

April 28th, 2011
Motion Graphics. Phone Evolution

Everyone remembers their first mobile phone fondly. It is very easy to forget just how far we have come in a relatively short period of time. In this video Vodaphone uses some great 3D projection techniques to illustrate the evolution of mobile phones. From the huge brick phones through to the small smart phone that does everything.

This was my first phone. The Mitsubishi Trium Geo! It was a sturdy build, I lost count the amount of times it dropped… and once I threw it like a Frisbee, it never broke!

 

March 28th, 2011
Designspiration

We came across the website Designspiration recently. The website lets creatives share their favourite images and design, plenty of inspiration throughout and updated regularly by the community.

Check it out and ask for an invite here: http://designspiration.net

 

March 23rd, 2011
And So… To Sew. Graphic design

We found these recently. You got to just love them, graphic design from the early 70′s they are about knitting patterns. We just love everything about them, the design, the photography and the copywriting. I feel a personal project coming on!

 

March 15th, 2011
Birmingham — The Beat Begins

Since Birmingham lost the City of Culture bid, it’s fair to say there’s been a bit of naval gazing going on. Why did it happen? What’s Derry got that we haven’t? Where has all this belly button fluff come from??

But maybe we’ve been looking at this all wrong. Maybe, we should be looking at why we missed out. And maybe the answer is because, in actual fact, we’re doing okay thanks very much. We’re not so down on our luck! Birmingham’s got a lot to offer after all, and particularly from its creative industries.

It seems though, that the message isn’t quite getting out there. And we’re not the first city to be in this dilemma …

Dublin for many years was really missing a hardcore creative design scene. Pockets of creativity subtly hammered away, keeping Irish design afloat with an understated presence. Thanks to the initiative of a few bright sparks however, things slowly started to change, and the results for Dublin were phenomenal.

First, Ireland stopped looking for answers externally and started looking inwards, for homegrown talent. With this change in perspective came a new attitude, and a common goal –If They Can Do It We Can Too! Eventually, a design community that was once scattered became insular. It only took a few steps to change the whole dynamic — a few small steps which snowballed and resulted in Dublin as it is today, a hub of design creativity.

The biggest change, yet arguably the smallest step, came with the introduction of CANDY magazine. Launched in 2005, its intention was to showcase Irish creativity to a worldwide audience. Using its own contributions while simultaneously drawing on the creative expertise and skills of new members, growth was rapid. Before long a vast creative community emerged, a cohesive powerhouse of talent and with it, an unprecedented level of global awareness. And that wasn’t all…

More creative events and forums followed: Sweettalk initiated seminars where heroes of the design industry shared their inspirations, their experiences and their expertise. Moving forward to collaborate with major brands such as Sony, Habitat and other retail goliaths, Sweettalksupported the design industry and encouraged creatives to get involved. Synth Eastwood,50×50, Shock’d, and talks at Electric Picnic followed, offering a huge variety of opportunities for creatives to meet, relax, drink, socialize and learn, in a friendly, supportive environment. The result of all this? Dublin, creatively speaking, is on the map.

Ireland has always been known for its unique vibe, with live bands in traditional pubs creating the atmosphere it’s become famous for. A short walk along the River Liffey and through Temple Bar with its street performers and musicians will leave you with the sense that it truly is a creative place to be. But now, alongside that traditional creative essence, it’s achieved status as a hotbed of design creativity. Take Offset for examplea weekend attracting inspirational speakers every year, bringing together the creative community through knowledge, open debate and inspiring stories of success. With an annual calendar of events that would make industry giants like London and Manchester blush, Dublin it seems has stamped its presence on the global creative industry. So what can Birmingham learn from that success, if anything?

Historically, Birmingham was at the helm of a global industrial revolution, a world leader of industry and technology. Perhaps that’s why Birmingham is sometimes overlooked for other cities — because the word isn’t quite out that we’ve evolved, that we’ve moved with the times. Birmingham is at the forefront of digital media, creative design, branding, social media — you name it, we can do it. And what’s more, we do it well.

The fact is, Birmingham is the city of choice for hundreds of creative agencies. In a highly competitive industry, Birmingham design agencies have honed into a slick movement of cutting edge creatives, offering commercially viable solutions that satisfy demand and exceed expectations, locally, nationally and globally.

Word is spreading. But how do we speed up the drumbeat on that grapevine? And is that what we can learn from places like Dublin? Interestingly, social media sites are seeing a new movement from Irish creatives — a red and white badge added to individual profiles simply stating in icons ‘love Irish arts’. It’s a small action, but the symbolic gesture is much more significant.

It would be good to see a stronger community here in the Midlands. Perhaps a merging of two well-known creative centres — the Jewellery Quarter and the Custard Factory — could really raise the flag for Birmingham’s creative industry. The opportunities are limitless.

We didn’t win the City of Culture bid because we’re already too advanced, we’ve got too much going for us! Now we just need to put those small steps in place that will make us become the big creative presence we know we can be.


This is an article we wrote for Created in Birmingham.
Visit the Created in Birmingham website for events happening in and around the city: http://www.createdinbirmingham.com

 

February 15th, 2011

 

February 12th, 2011
Everything is a Remix

Kirby Ferguson produced this short film entitled Everything is a Remix. There are some really interesting facts throughout, the connection between Led Zeppelin and William Burroughs being just one.

Is graphic design a remix? There is certainly a lot of ideas and different styles which recur again and again. The graphic design style of the Russian Constructivist was one such movement which seems to resurface every few years. I previously did a lot of research into this re-emergince of Constructivist graphics which you can read here: http://www.stripeyhorsecreative.co.uk

For more information on Everything is a Remix project head over to the website: http://www.everythingisaremix.info/

 

September 28th, 2010
good fucking advice. every designer needs some advice.

Great advice for graphic designers and webdesigners the world over… Birmingham designers check it out. Its tells you what you want to hear right at that point of giving up on a design. This web site will make you a better designer. And the website looks good to.

Check out the webdesign here: http://www.goodfuckingdesignadvice.com/index.php

Found via http://siteinspire.net/

 

September 27th, 2010
eco-graphics. vinyl print design.

These wall stickers are a really nice design concept, and they would suit any design studio. The were created to give a fun reminder to the amount energy and electricity we use. They are really simple black graphics, the stickers were created with eco-friendly self adhesive vinyl.

As a graphic design and branding agency in Birmingham we take environmental issues very serious. We try to recycle and re-use everything we can, these stickers are a friendly reminder we can always do more.

check out the website here: http://www.hu2.com/store/eco-reminders.html