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Design Review

By The Drum | Administrator

September 27, 2004 | 12 min read

The concept was simple. Ask some of the best designers on our patch to nominate the best work that’s come out of their patch over the past year or so. They then had 100 words to enlighten those of us who are fumbling around in the dark and impart upon us the wisdom of their decisions. The only catch being the caveat that they couldn’t nominate work from their own agency.

Despite some grunts, groans and the odd harrumph, this seemed to be the best way to ensure that the feature wouldn’t be tarnished with the dreaded advertorial brush of doom.

So there you have it: a feature (hopefully) of unalloyed integrity, free of backhanders, devoid of politics and simply showcasing the design work that our best designers wish they’d designed themselves.

The cream of the crop nominated by the cream itself. Surely we couldn’t have designed it any better?

Design by: True North

Nominated by: Alan Herron, The Chase

Always on the lookout for something rude and immature, this cheeky stationery range aroused my chuckle gland when it plopped onto my desk.

It’s for freelance writer and art director Danny Mycock (I think I knew his sister, Pat) and it really stands out. It’s printed on a pink flock stock, which feels very unnerving in the palm and is definitely not wipe-clean. Copywriting worthy of “Carry on typographing” coupled with a big bulbous throbbing typeface: it’s a real lady-pleaser. Oh, I forgot to mention, it comes oversized. What a show-off. It is big and it is clever.

Design by: Northbank Design

Nominated by: Colin Townsend, TWO Design

We feel this brochure is a real step forward in design produced for the legal sector. Beautifully photographed by Tim Soar, it introduces the practice’s new London office with a minimum of fuss and very little text. The outer cover uses an abstract image taken from a painting hanging in the offices: a perfect counterpoint to the inside pages. The feel is warm and understated and manages to present Slaughter & May as both human and businesslike. The imagery is enhanced by the subtle use of gloss varnish, which is offset against the matt stock used for the text pages. What Northbank has achieved goes far beyond both the usual “we have moved” letter and the everyday solicitor’s brochure.

Design by: Dinosaur

Nominated by: Rob Taylor, Like A River

100 words big’n up someone else’s work – mmmm!

OK – how about Dinosaur’s Lanson work?

I wish I’d done it. It’s beautiful – beautifully simple and simply has everything it needs – nothing it doesn’t. There you go, reviewed. How many words is that – 42? Some explanation for the hard of seeing then ...

It aims to position Lanson Champagne as being “celebration in a bottle”.

Celebrations should be lively, hence all those lovely bubbles. It emphasises the black and gold of the Lanson brand. The logo is clear on the bottle and not the “Ad handbook” bottom right.

No copy needed. Campaignable. 100.

Design by: Brahm

Nominated by: Ady Bibby, True North

It’s been a difficult task finding a piece that really stands out. Most of the things recently that have made us sit up have come out of London (or the London office of regional agencies). The only thing that really hits the “I’d love to have done that” button is Brahm’s guide to the new Yorkshire Dales identity.

The use of the map to orientate yourself around the identity is a delightful touch – simple and witty. For the most part, guidelines are usually competent, solid and professional but lack creativity as design pieces themselves. I’m sure all agencies, including those in London, would be delighted to have produced this. I know “I wish we’d done it”.

Design by: True North

Nominated by: Lee Bradley, Brahm

Like any great poster, this is a simple idea, brilliantly executed. It catches the eye and the imagination of an audience from a distance and then draws them in. The simple, understated concept is strong enough to communicate both the nature of the venue (the Imperial War Museum North) and publicise the art exhibition.

The use of negative space and contrasting colour allows the striking poppy image to do the talking, whilst the typography is purely complementary. The photography is beautifully art directed and lets the idea speak for itself.

The overall result is a highly crafted piece of artwork in its own right, which effectively marries the concept of art and war to entice the public to the museum.

Design by: Reach Design

Nominated by: Philip Kelley, Village Design

I was loitering around the “chiller cabinet” in Sainsbury’s recently, when the New Covent Garden soups caught my eye, standing out in a pool of calm – no mean achievement amongst the cacophony of messages on supermarket shelves nowadays.

It’s always encouraging to find a brand with such a clear position – and when there are always so many “top” priorities for the marketing budget, it’s nice to find a client who clearly recognises the value of good packaging design.

But then, all you have to do is communicate the product benefit, and wrap it in a strong idea that embodies the brand. Simple. Why doesn’t everyone do it?

Design by: Elmwood

Nominated by: Euan Webster, STB

This lifestyle brand brings the aspirational qualities represented on today’s high street with the ever popular coffee culture into the world of transport catering previously perceived to be canteen-style. This offer is in stark contrast to the anonymous commuter food expected in an environment where there is no other choice. The Go Eat brand now sets the benchmark for transport catering. The name Go Eat offers a strong call to action and, together with simple, consistently applied graphics, has created a brand leader in this sector.

Design by: Thirteen

Nominated by: Simon Cryer, Northbank

Having been a long-time fan of the Bristol-based design agency Thirteen, it was no surprise to see its latest new brand identity for Bristol Old Vic, Britain’s oldest working theatre.

The new brand is modern in its approach, combining a deceptively simple and flexible logotype with a dynamic approach to colour and consistently inventive, supporting imagery. This is implemented with their usual passionate eye for detail across all aspects of the theatre’s communication needs, from the quarterly “what’s-on” and accompanying website through to the internal signage and the beautiful cards the tickets are presented in.

Thirteen has managed to portray a new, energised national theatre and provided the city’s theatre-going public with a vibrant, welcoming face. I wish we’d done it ...

Design by: Elmwood

Nominated by: Paul Thwaites, Boxer

Being asked to comment on other design consultancies’ work is always difficult. Especially when it is non-London-centric. However, there is one piece of work that stands out like a belisha beacon, as far as I’m concerned. That work is the Serious** brand by Elmwood.

Instead of allowing the client to call themselves something anodine like “Alpha Waste Management Solutions” they’ve bucked the conventions of the particular market sector. They’ve used self-deprecating humour to front up to what they actually do. Personality and tone of voice is a fundamental element of a well-rounded brand, and in this particular case I think that Elmwood has got it spot-on. Humour has given its client a name, a positioning, endless verbal puns and, almost certainly, a different outlook on business life. Great piece of work. I wish we’d done it.

Serious** Re-th-p-ekt!

Design by: Love

Nominated by: Richard Scholey, Elmwood

I admire anyone who can successfully tackle every studio’s nightmare project – the company Christmas card. So my vote goes to Love’s bumper book of fun Christmas “card”. Aside from it being both fun and original, you have to admire the attention to detail: for instance, paper stock, typography, dodgy drawings and, of course, really bad jokes. I also like the complete lack of corner-cutting, no “let’s just do a little 12p booklet” here. A lot of time and effort obviously went in to all 60-odd fun-filled pages. Wish I’d done it.

Design by: True North

Nominated by: Alan Bullock, 999 Design Manchester

I think what we admire most about the work is that it is a fine example of “old school” design. A simple, clever idea, which is beautifully executed and hits exactly the right note for the subject at hand. Tim Ainsworth’s photography complements the layouts perfectly and the art direction, combined with suitably subdued typography, gives the work personality and authority – and as a communication piece it gets you on board. A potentially difficult subject approached with sensitivity and care, the work is certainly something that we would have been proud to have been involved with. (Imperial War Museum project.)

Design by: The Core

Nominated by: Spencer Buck, Taxi Studio

One of my favourite pieces of design actually found me. On one of my last trips abroad I visited The Clubhouse (Virgin’s answer to those with more money than sense).

Prior to The Clubhouse, I was one of the many chickens-in-transport who’d rather spend the extortionate upgrade fee on a new house or car but, on this one occasion, I faltered and decided to give it a whirl.

I’m glad I did. What struck me was the overwhelming attention to detail implemented across a vast array of things. The boiled eggs, for instance, resembled a Queen’s Guard, the complimentary pen actually looked like it could improve my handwriting and even the ashtrays made me want to start smoking.

The cherry on the top, however, presented itself at dinner: on the edge of my (non-plastic) butter blade were the words “Finest Sheffield Steal”. I spat my sushi.

Design by: newenglish

Nominated by: Paul Barton, Parenthesis

newenglish seems to excel at this effortless style. It looks almost un-designed, a minimalism that looks good and, best of all, is relevant.

When filled with people, the interior design drops into the background, allowing you to get on with what you’re there for.

As a brand, it feels fresh but also quite timeless. The colour palette is bold but friendly and unusual.

The concept is presumably about giving the library back to the people. This inclusive approach is great for the market and is backed up by the literature. I particularly like the old woman surfer!

Design by: True North

Nominated by: David Coates, NE6 Design Consultants

The piece of work that stood out most for us was the series of posters produced by True North for the Imperial War Museum, entitled “Art at the Imperial War Museum”.

The first impression was “Lovely. Wish we had done that.” The clever but simple juxtapositions get the message across beautifully. It’s a classic example of the eloquence of great design a la Pentagram. The iconography is powerful, its application simple, its execution wonderful. You couldn’t ask for more. Great piece of design for a client that seems to encourage inspired work.

Design by: Blue Marlin

Nominated by: Mark Carter, The English Group

Blue Marlin has demonstrated its ability to work beyond the brief – and in doing so has won an international design competition sponsored by Ducati motorcycles. Its work, imagining developments of the Ducati brand, is truly inspirational and the award-winning piece – a Ducati heart pacemaker – demonstrates the depth of creative thinking that so many agencies in my own sector are entirely lacking.

Blue Marlin recognises that good design is often the result of research, consideration and an intelligent approach to problem-solving and, in doing so, highlights to the rest of us that perhaps groundbreaking design solutions can actually be married to commercial realities too.

Design by: Design Project

Nominated by: Ian Thompson, Thompson

When I saw this book a few months ago I liked it immediately: it had a simplicity and attention to detail that’s missing from so much work I see these days.

For a book that contains all the print production bells and whistles, this is a considered and thoughtful execution that has to come with the territory when you create a “design” book illustrating the capabilities of a printer.

I found the content well judged and the pace of the book good throughout – all in all, a fresh and rewarding designer’s design piece.

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