Gulf Photo Plus PopUP_Berlin is Live

Just a quick note to let you know that tickets have just gone on sale for the Gulf Photo Plus PopUP event in Berlin for the weekend of October 29-30.

If you are unfamiliar with GPP’s PopUP, it is a road version/distillation of their world-famous Photo Week in Dubai. Each year, it is held in a far-flung city somewhere in the world that is not Dubai. It is done over a weekend, so as to be able to be fit in with many peoples’ work schedules.

The faculty sometimes varies, but this year it is the core group: Greg Heisler, Joe McNally, Zack Arias and me. The weekend will feature a half-day with each person. Basically, like being in front of a fire hose.

This is the fourth PopUP GPP has held. I have been involved in three of them, and they are one of the most enjoyable photo events I can think of. If Berlin is reachable for you and you are available for a weekend this fall, I strongly encourage you to attend.

(And as an FYI, Berlin has a large and thriving photo community, so this is expected to sell out quickly.)

For more info, and/or to register, head over to the Gulf Photo Plus PopUP site.

Cheers,
David

Gulf Photo Plus PopUP_Berlin is Live

Just a quick note to let you know that tickets have just gone on sale for the Gulf Photo Plus PopUP event in Berlin for the weekend of October 29-30.

If you are unfamiliar with GPP’s PopUP, it is a road version/distillation of their world-famous Photo Week in Dubai. Each year, it is held in a far-flung city somewhere in the world that is not Dubai. It is done over a weekend, so as to be able to be fit in with many peoples’ work schedules.

The faculty sometimes varies, but this year it is the core group: Greg Heisler, Joe McNally, Zack Arias and me. The weekend will feature a half-day with each person. Basically, like being in front of a fire hose.

This is the fourth PopUP GPP has held. I have been involved in three of them, and they are one of the most enjoyable photo events I can think of. If Berlin is reachable for you and you are available for a weekend this fall, I strongly encourage you to attend.

(And as an FYI, Berlin has a large and thriving photo community, so this is expected to sell out quickly.)

For more info, and/or to register, head over to the Gulf Photo Plus PopUP site.

Cheers,
David

Introducing the ‘Give Registry’: a collection of essential items for victims of domestic abuse

The charity sector is now extremely competitive, so it is increasingly necessary for organisations to come up with more imaginative ways to engage with the public than simply asking for money. With the Give Registry, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne has hit on something brilliant – an idea that is extremely easy to understand and participate in, but which gets right to the heart of the plight faced by many of those fleeing domestic violence.

The scheme echoes a wedding gift registry in that it features various pre-selected items at Myer that can be purchased. These will then be distributed to women and children supported by The Salvation Army’s crisis accommodation and women’s refuges, and Myer will also match each product donation. The circumstances faced by those who will receive them – many of whom may have left home with nothing – is brought home forcefully by the items picked, which alongside towels, kettles and other kitchenware, include children’s underwear and socks.

To help promote the project, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne has created three short ads – sparsely shot, they feature voiceovers from family violence survivors, which very powerfully express what receiving products from the regsitry might mean to someone in need.

Give Registry Myer Salvation Army

The registry has been running in Myer since the beginning of the month and over 2,000 items have already been donated, plus a number of Myer customers have already decided to disband their wedding gift registry in favour of asking their friends and family to donate to the Give Registry instead.

The Give Registry is ongoing, and will run all year round in Myer stores. More info is at myer.com.au/c/give-registry.

Credits:
Agency: Clemenger BBDO Melbourne
Creative chairman: James McGrath
CCO: Ant Keogh
Creative directors: Evan Roberts, Stephen De Wolf
Creatives: Elle Bullen, James Orr
Design director: Jake Turnbull
Production company: Flare
Director: Angie Bird

One brand, 50 logos: Music’s localised branding for five-a-side pitch provider Powerleague

Powerleague was founded in Paisley in 1987 and now runs football centres in the UK and in Amsterdam, offering five and seven-a-side pitches, classes, tournaments and children’s parties. The rebrand forms part of a £40 million expansion plan – Powerleague plans to open 13 new centres in southeast England in the next three years and has ambitions to become ‘the undisputed home of five-a-side’ in Britain and abroad.

The company’s new branding gives each centre its own logo in the style of a football club crest. Designs were created in-house at Music and reference local landmarks, culture and heritage, while avoiding colours or symbols associated with football teams in each area.

Tottenham’s crest references historic tower Bruce Castle and the pink icing on Tottenham Cakes, while Birmingham’s depicts the intertwining roads of Spaghetti Junction. Hamilton’s features a knight which appears on the town’s coat of arms, while Paisley’s references the now world-famous Paisley print.

Music ECD David Simpson says the aim was to create an identity that wouldn’t feel “too corporate”. The concept was inspired by the idea of local pride and community – 90% of Powerleague players live within 10 miles of their local centre and the brand was keen to promote each centre as a hub for local football, offering not just pitches but classes and community events.

“We researched each club and found the right story on which to build the crests,” says Simpson. “We wanted them to be authentic and have meaning, but we also needed to steer clear of any affiliation with football clubs in the area.

“Most of the ideas came pretty easily, but we did spend time making sure we had the overall feel of the badges right,” he adds. “We wanted them to have the right mix of modern and traditional, with enough differentiation but also enough similarities that the identity would hold together across all clubs…. The idea is that individual clubs can create their own collateral … we love the idea of a local artist doing something inside (or outside) a club, for example.”

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Sheffield’s crest is inspired by the city’s steel heritage – orange and white stripes represent hot steel coming out of the furnace and form an S shape. Tottenham’s crest features a graphic representation of Bruce Tower while Blackburn’s features the red of the Lancashire rose and a reference to the origins of its name, which means ‘black burn’ or black river
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Sighthill’s crest references local landmark Arthur’s Seat, Paisley’s creates a football shape out of the Paisley pattern and the flaming cannonball in Portobello’s references  an old crest of the town featuring a cannon and ship. It’s believed that the name derived from these two elements, Port, the section of the ship and Bello, the sound of cannon fire. Adam Rix and David Simpson worked with Music designers Dan Lancaster and Lottie Brzozowski to create the crests

Alongside the new logos, Music has created a comprehensive identity system that combines “cool and relaxed” imagery by Sarah Jones with a monochrome colour palette and rounded sans typeface LL Brown. Jones’s images include portraits of players and supporters as well as shots of goal celebrations and friends watching a match.

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Powerleague and its sub-brands have also been given individual crests
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Powerleague’s comprehensive brand book, with guidance on logos, type, tone of voice and photography

The Powerleague Group and its sub-brands, the Powerleague Foundation and Powerplay (which runs five-a-side leagues) have also been given new shield-shaped logos: Powerleague’s is black-and-white, Powerplay’s, bright green and the Foundation’s, a warm shade of orange.

New guidelines on copywriting and tone of voice recommend that brand copy should be concise, upbeat, engaging and informal without being over-friendly. Copy for brand centres in Manchester and Wembley combine gentle humour with references to the local area and ads promoting pitches will feature short and direct lines such as: ‘Get yourself booked. Call your mates. Choose your slot.’

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Brand copy for local centres. The brand’s tone of voice is intended to be friendly, informal and concise

“It was important to get the right balance [between being informal and respectful],” explains Simpson. “Football has a chequered past and football culture amongst lads can veer over the wrong side of the line. We wanted welcoming with wit, to reflect the positives of modern football.”

Marketing director Caspar Nelson, who worked with Music on the rebrand, says the identity aims to reflect Powerleague’s aim of making football “welcoming and accessible” while giving club owners more autonomy to produce their own communications.

The branding is designed to appeal to all age groups and both men and women – not just people who play at centres, but those who might come to watch matches or hold a private event in a function room.

Simpson says it replaces an inconsistent and outdated identity that didn’t reflect the company’s focus on the community aspect of football – the brand’s previous logo featured an uninspiring italicised word mark in a green box.

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Brand imagery shot by photographer Sarah Jones

“The logo had been around for a long time, created when the business was in a very different place, and was just that – a logo,” says Simpson. “Beyond that … any visual identity that did exist, or guidelines, were largely ignored.

“We felt that the overall impression of this was very corporate and didn’t reflect any of the values that you might associate with football, a place where football is played or a football club. People are passionate about football, it’s important to them – their team, the colours, the league they play in, the friends they play with. We wanted an identity that reflected this,” he adds.

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Powerleague’s website
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Powerleague’s website

Keen-eyed sports fans will recall that the American MLS (Major League Soccer) adopted a customisable shield device when it rebranded in 2014, replacing its football logo with a shape that could be adapted to carry the colours of competing teams.

Music’s identity uses the symbol to create a dynamic system that gives each local centre its own look and feel, while still being instantly recognisable as part of the Powerleague group. The new look is fresh and contemporary but crests provide a nod to footballing heritage and the symbols used by football teams since the game’s early days.

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Staff uniforms
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Mocked-up ads showing the new branding

Tom Gauld’s Mooncop is about to land

Mooncop has a good job, a nice little house, but very little to actually do. He zooms around in his police-ship, buys coffee and doughnuts and logs into his computer system to work on some admin. But that’s about it.

His quarterly report tells him that, with no crimes reported and none solved, he has a clean sheet – his ‘crime solution rate’ is 100%. But is his reputation enough to keep him there?

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And something’s up with the lunar population – why are people leaving the colony? Has the moon lost its appeal? Mooncop begins to think that he might be better off transferring, too. But he’d miss the views, that’s for sure.

This self-reflection is typical of Gauld’s method of working with storylines that might initially seem bigger than their protagonists. His Goliath book, where the reluctant Biblical giant would rather not have to fight anyone, is a case in point.

In Gauld’s hands, even the moon, the focus for so many dreams of adventure, is really just another setting for a beautifully-observed story of daily life, its worries and frustrations.

Mooncop is a great addition to Gauld’s body of work. It revisits concerns that have become a much-loved part of his oeuvre, but isn’t afraid to let some welcome light into the vast, overwhelming darkness of space.

Mooncop is published next month by Drawn and Quarterly (£12.99). See drawnandquarterly.com and tomgauld.com for more details

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Mooncop_Tom-Gauld-detail

Richard Evans’ Goodwin Sands campaign highlights Dover dredging fears

The proposed dredging has become a hot local issue in Kent. As The Guardian reported in January, Dover Harbour Board is considering dredging for sand and gravel from an area around six miles out from Deal, to expand cargo facilities and build a marina at Dover port.

However, groups including the Kent Wildlife Trust, Marine Conservation Society and British Divers Marine Life Rescue have all raised concerns that the work might damage habitats and endanger marine life. The area is also home to a war grave.

Goodwin Sands Richard Evans
Stop the Dredge ad for Goodwin Sands SOS protest group by Richard Evans
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Stop the Dredge ad for Goodwin Sands SOS protest group by Richard Evans

 

Creative Richard Evans, who lives in Deal, had been following the issue via the Goodwin Sands SOS protest group on Facebook. “When they started to get more organised and called for people to help out I volunteered,” he says.

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Stop the Dredge ad for Goodwin Sands SOS protest group by Richard Evans
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Stop the Dredge ad for Goodwin Sands SOS protest group by Richard Evans
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Stop the Dredge ad for Goodwin Sands SOS protest group by Richard Evans

Evans created a campaign of press ads which highlight some of the alleged dangers of the proposed dredging, including disturbing the wreck of a U-Boat and damaging the breeding grounds of grey seals.

The ads all ran in the July 7 issue of the East Kent Mercury, which serves the Goodwin Sands area. “The ads countered a DPS Dover Harbour Board had been running, which I was pretty pleased to see run again in the same issue,” Evans says.

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Kent Mercury, July 7 edition featuring one of Richard Evans’ ads for the Goodwin Sands SOS protest group
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Stop the Dredge ad for Goodwin Sands SOS protest group by Richard Evans
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Stop the Dredge ad for Goodwin Sands SOS protest group by Richard Evans

Vincent Morisset creates fun Olympic-themed interactive ad for Skol

Most of us will be guilty at some point in our lives of running down the street while singing the theme from Chariots of Fire. Usually beer will have been involved, so it seems appropriate that beer brand Skol has created this entertaining online ad, which invites you to remix said theme, while also interacting with six characters who are partying until daybreak.

The ad is the work of Vincent Morisset and his production company AATOAA, ad agency F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi and Google. Morisset is renowned for his interactive art projects, which include the beautiful Bla Bla and Way To Go. He also has the accolade of being the first person to create an interactive music video, for Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible.

This work is in the style of the Neon Bible video, with simple but charming effects taking place when you click on the characters and the scenes they are in – these include giving you the power to make them run, dance, or to set off fireworks in the night sky (my favourite). You also influence the music as you go about your clicky work. Finally, at the end, the characters you have clicked the most on receive Olympic style medals and gather together to watch the sun rise.

The game can be played on a phone, or online (Chrome or Firefox) by going to carruagensdefogo.com.br/.

Vincent Morisset Skol ad

Vincent Morisset Skol ad

Vincent Morisset Skol ad

Vincent Morisset Skol ad

Credits:
Agency: F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi
CCO: Fabio Fernandes
Creative directors: Theo Rocha, Pedro Prado
Creatives: Adriana Leite, Isaac Serruya, Rafael Freire, Murilo Melo, Georgi Mitani
Google Zoo creative directors: Vinicius Malinoski, Maria Fernanda Cerávolo
Production company: AATOAA
Director and producer: Vincent Morisset
Lead creative developer: Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit
Art director: Dominic Turmel
DOP: John Londono
Interactive music: Philippe Lambert

Kristjana S Williams brings her cartographic art to Rio in time for the Olympics

Kristjana S Williams‘ latest work appears both inside and outside the famous Rio hotel. There are illustrated maps over the reception and concierge desks and a window exhibit depicting various host Olympic cities – including London, Athens and Rio and 2020’s host, Tokyo – which runs behind the hotel and can be viewed from Avenida Nossa Senhora.

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The projection work consists of a series of animations of butterflies which are beamed onto the building for ten minutes each evening at 7pm. Each butterfly bears a different country’s flag on its wings, reflecting the particular nations who have had success at the Olympics that day.

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Kristjana S Williams is represented by Outline Artists, see also kristjanaswilliams.com. Client: Belmond (Eva Ziegler & Andrea Natal). Creative Director: Adrian Hulf. Animation (projections): Kristjana S Williams in collaboration with Darren Hanson

Martin Firrell brings All Identity is Constructed project to UK billboards

The work, which gives voice to three different identities in a series of 90-second video works, presents the act of choosing one’s identity as a human right.

The new project, says Firrell, is “motivated by a desire to make life easier for people who don’t fit into the usual identity ‘moulds’”. This thinking led him to focus on outdoor advertising, he says, and whether it could be a platform for messages of tolerance.

The three films, featuring Rose, Tyler and Michelle, are shown below and are currently on display on digital billboards across the country.

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Top of post and above: Martin Firrell/Martin Firrell Company

“I’m asking society for more ‘elbow room’ in the way we think about identity,” Firrell explains. “I want to support the LGBT+ community,” he says, as well as “anyone who feels the need to make an unusual identity choice in order to feel real to themselves. Acknowledging identity equality is the next major step forward on the road to a fairer and more open society.”

In Complete Hero in 2009, Firrell explored the concept of ‘heroism’ in a series of projections made on the The Guards Chapel of the Household Division of the British Army.

More at allidentity.com – see also @allidentity and #allidentity on Twitter. The project is presented in partnership with Clear Channel, Outdoor Plus and Primesight

The Gentlewoman’s Penny Martin on evolving a magazine and making great covers

So you want to publish a magazine? is packed with advice for aspiring publishers. The book covers every aspect of launching a new title – from developing an initial concept to working with advertisers, printers and distributors – and each chapter contains case studies on successful magazines and interviews with industry experts. In our second extract from the book, Angharad Lewis talks to Penny Martin, editor-in-chief of The Gentlewoman, about creating great covers and trying to make each issue better than the last…

The biannual women’s magazine The Gentlewoman was launched in 2010 by the publisher of Fantastic Man, writes Angharad Lewis. Defying conventions about women’s magazines and fashion titles, it has carved out a unique place in the publishing firmament with intelligent, witty journalism, exemplary standards in design and photography, and a focus on real women’s lives, rather than products and slavish adherence to commercial fashion cycles. At the helm is Penny Martin, a former academic, a curator and previously editor-in-chief of the pioneering fashion website SHOWstudio

The Gentlewoman, issue 7, Spring/Summer 2013, Beyoncé photographed by Alasdair McLellan and issue 5, Spring/Summer 2012, Christy Turlington photographed by Inez & Vinood. Images courtesy of The Gentlewoman. Lead image (top): Penny Martin © Ivan Jones
The Gentlewoman, issue 7, Spring/Summer 2013, Beyoncé photographed by Alasdair McLellan and
issue 5, Spring/Summer 2012, Christy Turlington photographed by Inez & Vinood. Images courtesy of The Gentlewoman. Lead image (top): Penny Martin © Ivan Jones

Is the cover the hardest bit [of putting the magazine together]?

Well, if I say ‘the Beyoncé issue’ or the ‘Adele issue’, that cover image comes to represent an entire six months of work – all ten interviews, seven essays and eight fashion stories. So it’s a crucial symbol. Plus there’s a long stretch of shelf life from one issue to the next, so you have to feel confident that you’ll want to live through the production process with that cover, and then live through the following six months of it being on the newsstand and in the image at the foot of your email. It’s the person you’re constantly interviewed about; you end up having a really intimate relationship with the cover star, whether you personally interviewed her or not.

The Gentlewoman, issue 3, Spring/Summer 2011, Adele photographed by Alasdair McLellan and issue 9, Spring/Summer 2014, Vivienne Westwood photographed by Alasdair McLellan
The Gentlewoman, issue 3, Spring/Summer 2011, Adele photographed by Alasdair McLellan and issue 9, Spring/Summer 2014, Vivienne Westwood photographed by Alasdair McLellan. Images courtesy of The Gentlewoman

You’ve achieved a few surprises and talking points with your covers. The Angela Lansbury cover [no. 6, Autumn/Winter 2012] is cited a lot for featuring an 86-year-old woman. Are you breaking expectations about fashion publishing?

Well, she’d been on my list since I first had my job interview, so it wasn’t a case of ‘Wow, wouldn’t we capture media attention with her?’ I just knew it would be a brilliant shoot. And it’s great that she’s been so much in the public imagination since the issue came out: she got her honorary Oscar [Academy Honorary Award, 2013], she got her damehood [Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire ‘for services to drama and to charitable work and philanthropy’, 2014], she’s been on in the West End [Driving Miss Daisy, 2013; Blithe Spirit, 2014]. It’s been wonderful that we got mixed up with that late-career renaissance; it’s been to our huge advantage. That image – you wouldn’t believe the number of people who stop me to talk about it.

Adele was another turning point for us, because she really came to mass prominence around the time that third issue was out [Spring/Summer 2011], when her album sold all those millions of copies and she won big at the Brits. It really clarified our position on the whole plus-size topic, which was always going to be an issue for us, as a women’s magazine, without us even having to acknowledge it. You know, we featured Adele and Angela because they’re brilliant at what they do and they’re really lovely women, not because of their size or age. But it’s really nice to think that, rather than exploiting them to stage some phoney debate, those covers turned them into contemporary fashion icons.

How do you keep the magazine evolving?

If an outsider came to the first editorial meeting after an issue is back from the printers, they’d think none of us liked the magazine – ‘That was a disaster, this didn’t work …’ – but it’s just that we’re Scottish and German and Dutch and that’s how candid and fanatical it is in here. Everyone’s completely focused on making sure each issue’s better than the last. That said, I’ve found at other places I’ve worked that you’ve got to learn to make space for pleasure and joy as well as for critique and perfectionism, otherwise it can be a bit destructive.

The Gentlewoman, issue 7, Spring/Summer 2013, Jekka McVicar photographed by Paul Wetherell
The Gentlewoman, issue 7, Spring/Summer 2013, Jekka McVicar photographed by Paul Wetherell

You have certain carefully defined aspects visually and editorially in the structure of the magazine, but there is also evolution. How much was that intended from the start?

It’s in the character of the people who work here that we never want to repeat things; if we have editorial formats, we don’t want them to become too fixed. Some can be great, like the ‘Modernisms’ interviews at the beginning of the magazine. We ran those in the first two or three issues and then began to wonder if we should change that section, but we decided [not to], that they were our equivalent of shopping pages, except that they prioritized conversation over product. It’s an important distinction. There are components of a grid, but the magazine pretty much gets redesigned from scratch every time, when the assets come in. You can be far more experimental that way. And Jop and Veronica have very high standards. They come from a Dutch graphic-design background, which means their approach is very editorially led.

I think it’s rare to have art directors who find it necessary to understand and to some extent shape the editorial direction. And then they’ve got an editor who was very involved in photography [Martin was a curator at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, as well as working with Nick Knight on SHOWstudio]. It’s a very luxurious situation, where we’re able to step on one another’s toes a little bit – it’s not too departmental or territorial.

What are the key things for an aspiring magazine to get right for a launch issue?

You just need a really good idea that’s very clearly expressed. Not everybody is going to see that issue, but if you get it right, it will act as a kind of mission statement for your readers and your team.

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So you want to publish a magazine? is published by Laurence King on August 5 and costs £19.95. Angharad Lewis is co-editor of Grafik magazine and a tutor at The Cass School of Design. 

To celebrate the book’s launch, Laurence King is offering a 35% discount for readers of CR – enter code ‘CR35’ at checkout.  You can order copies here.

Cate Blanchett delivers a star turn for Massive Attack

Appearing in a video for Massive Attack is a hot ticket these days, with Blanchett following Kate Moss and Rosamund Pike to take centre stage in the latest promo for the band, for track The Spoils, which features vocals from Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval.

The meditative film sees Hillcoat slowly evolve Blanchett’s features through many forms, from a Cindy Sherman-esque mask, to a claymation character, to an ancient stone monument. Eerie and compelling, it provides the perfect accompaniment to the music.

Cate Blanchett Massive Attack video

Cate Blanchett Massive Attack video

Cate Blanchett Massive Attack video

Cate Blanchett Massive Attack video

Credits:
Director: John Hillcoat
Production company: Stink
VFX: MPC

Talentspotting 2016 in the wild

From the 11th to the 31st of July a 1000 JCDecaux digital screens across the country displayed art and design work of 11 fresh graduates, chosen by the Creative Review editorial team. This Talentspotting project was our way of supporting young creative talent, something we are passionate about at CR.

Alan Vest's illustration of him and his father
Alan Vest’s illustration of him and his father

Located at some of the country’s busiest railway stations and shopping centres, these screens were pretty hard to miss. Each screen was captioned with the student’s name and university, and you can read the full list of graduates and find out more about their work at creativereview.co.uk/talentspotting

Fredrik Andersson's work at a railway station
Fredrik Andersson’s work at a railway station

Just like it was in 2015, the project was well received with plenty of spotters posting images on Twitter and Instagram. You can follow the project on our social channels, just search for the hashtag #CRtalentspotting

Illustration by Hattie Clark from Bath Spa University
Illustration by Hattie Clark from Bath Spa University

 

Mondo’s head of design Hugo Cornejo on designing a digital bank


In October last year, a survey by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority revealed that over half of banking customers in Britain had been with the same current account provider for ten years. In the same study, over a third said they had been with their bank for twenty. Many of these people are happy customers with little reason to change – but there are others who stay either because switching is too much hassle or because the competition doesn’t seem all that different.

A new group of banking startups is attempting to rival legacy banks with mobile services that make it easier to manage your money online. Atom, backed by Spanish bank BBVA, became the first mobile-only bank to receive a licence from the Bank of England last summer, followed by Tandem a few months later and now, Mondo is hoping to follow in its competitors’ footsteps.

Mondo was founded by digital entrepreneur Tom Blomfield and a handful of former colleagues from banking startup Starling. Mondo is still awaiting its banking licence but currently offers a prepaid Mastercard debit card and an app allowing you to view transactions and send and receive payments. The app is still in beta but has over 20,000 users and a waiting list of over 150,000.

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Mondo’s logo

What’s most surprising about Mondo is how easy it is to get setup and track your spending online. There’s none of the usual faff associated with opening a bank account – just subscribe to the waiting list and, when your card is ready, you’ll be asked to transfer £100 to your account to receive it. Mondo verifies each customer’s identity by asking them to record a short video clip and take a photograph of their passport or driving license from within the app, meaning no paperwork or proof of address is required.

Payments show up almost instantly – buy a coffee in the morning and you’ll receive a push notification showing what you’ve spent, complete with a coffee cup emoji (see above). Your available balance is updated immediately and transactions are clearly displayed with the name of the company and its logo. Sending money to other users is equally straightforward – tap ‘send money’, select a name from your phonebook and funds will be instantly added to their account. If your card is lost or stolen, you can freeze it from within the app and defrost it if you find it again, or order a new one.

All of this may sound fairly unremarkable – features that should be commonplace in mobile banking apps. But they’re not. In most apps offered by legacy banks, payments won’t show up for two or three days and when they do, they appear as a complicated transaction number, making it difficult to remember what the payment was for, when it took place and how much money is left in your account. Doing anything other than viewing a balance or paying a bill usually requires logging in to a computer or making a call to a helpline.

Hugo Cornejo, who heads up Mondo’s design team (made up of Cornejo, graphic designer Samuel Michael and product designer Zander Brade), says its app aims to deliver the same level of service customers are used to seeing from the likes of Netflix or Amazon. “The most important thing, for me, is that it works like any other world class service you use. If I need to send someone something I use Dropbox or WeTransfer and it just works. If I want to call a car on Uber or upload a picture on Instagram I tap a button and it works. That’s what Mondo should do,” he says. Cornejo says the company does “a huge amount of work behind-the-scenes” to make it easier for customers to see what they’re spending and where – something that legacy banks, with their outdated storage systems and technology, are struggling to do.

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Mondo’s eye catching debit cards

In its visual identity and tone of voice, Mondo takes a very different approach from brick-and-mortar banks. Its colourful logo is designed with iPhone home screens in mind, its cards are fluorescent orange and customer messages feature cheerful emoji and exclamation marks. The app has a simple layout but features some lovely animations – a running card character appears alongside a short message when your card is on the way, adding some humour and visual interest to what would otherwise be a dull holding page.

“I think we are quite good at separating the architecture and interior design of things,” says Cornejo. “We have a very functional building – the app is very fast, it’s easy to use and you can find your way around easily, but there are rooms and corridors where you have to wait. That’s where you can have animations and where you can delight, when there is no immediate action to perform, because people are in the mood for that. A legacy bank will probably tell you ‘Your request has been accepted’ and talk like a robot but we show you a lovely little guy running with your card to tell you it’s on its way. Both things mean the same, but those little details show we care, they’re more human,” he says.

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Payments show up almost instantly – often accompanied by emoji

 

Mondo’s focus on transparency and offering a human touch has been key to its success so far. The company posts regular articles on its blog about what the team is working on and has a community forum where beta users can offer feedback – from complaints and concerns to suggestions for new features. Everyone at Mondo is asked to work on customer support from time to time, chatting with customers and answering their questions within the app, and the company regularly invites users in to hear what they think of the service so far. On the community forum, members of the team respond to users in detail, asking them questions about their comments and in some cases, updating or tweaking the app in response to their suggestions.

“Sometimes there are things that aren’t perfect but we listen to customers and we say sorry and we fix them. I think there’s tonnes of value in that, in seeing the people behind this – it’s not so common in banking,” says Cornejo.

For the design team, this has proved an invaluable experience. “I wasn’t particularly sold on the idea in the beginning because as a designer, if you’re working on something and it’s not finished, but you want to see what people think of it, you need to adjust your own expectations and perfectionism. But the feedback has been great,” he adds. “A lot of people will ask about features we’ve already thought of … but sometimes they will tell us things we didn’t know – like an Apple update that can help make the app more secure.”

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Mondo allows users to send money instantly to other Mondo customers and turn on push notifications which alert users to how much they’ve spent each day

Mondo has also opened up its API, allowing developers to use its software to create apps and widgets that are compatible with Mondo. It regularly runs hackathons to see what coders can create using its technology and has a developer forum where coders can share what they’ve done.

“It means that anyone can go and build apps for themselves using Mondo,” explains Cornejo. “For example, we don’t have a Windows app currently, but if you have a Windows phone, you can go and build your own,” adds Cornejo. “We get good insights from what people are trying to build, whether it’s things related to notifications or things that connect Mondo to other apps,” he says. Recent ideas to come out of a hackathon include the ability to connect Mondo with other services such as Citymapper, allowing the app to suggest cheaper routes or times to travel to customers, and a desktop widget allowing you to view your balance on a Mac.

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As well as providing Mondo with ideas for future development, working closely with customers and developers has helped the company understand what does and doesn’t work in its service and what needs to be improved on while the app is still in beta.

“It’s totally pragmatic. If we rolled out an app and no-one liked it and it doesn’t work, we’d have wasted a lot of money … you’re basically building a trap for yourself. You could get away with it and everyone could love your product, but it could go the other way. We haven’t made any big mistakes yet but with small mistakes, you can fix things easily and you learn and make things better. If you do everything behind the scenes, you might not see a problem until it’s too late.”

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On the Mondo app, users can view a list of transactions and search by date or retailer

“I think it’s really important in finance as well,” he continues. “People manage their money in very different ways … and you can’t simulate that, you need to speak to many people and start identifying patterns and then you learn tonnes of valuable stuff.”

Cornejo admits that Mondo’s customer base is currently made up of early adopters – mostly, affluent males with a keen interest in tech. “It used to just be people around Old Street and that’s not longer the case but we still have a huge bias,” he says. The app is unlikely to appeal to those who prefer to do their banking in person but once it receives its licence, and can offer full current accounts, Cornejo hopes it will attract anyone who already uses mobile apps to shop, chat or manage their life and is frustrated with some of the inefficiencies that exist in digital banking.

“People always say it’s just millennials but it’s not, it’s anyone who lives their life on their phone, to a certain degree, and trusts their phone and expects good services out of it,” he says. “If it doesn’t bother you that banks aren’t very good at giving information in real time, or that they aren’t very transparent, then you’re not going to see the value in us probably, but if you’re that person who started using Amazon or Deliveroo and thought, ‘this is amazing’…. That mentality is growing,” he adds. With its customer base mainly growing by word of mouth, Cornejo says the team must now figure out how to reach people who aren’t friends or fans of Mondo and convince them of its benefits. Key to that, he says, is making a service that “just works”.

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Geolocation features also show users where transactions were made

When designing a banking experience, one of the biggest challenges is creating something that feels new and different but is sensitive to customers’ expectations. There are certain things people expect from a bank, whether in terms of security or printed communications – for example, a welcome letter with your card or a pin number delivered in the post. Mondo sends pins via text, recommending users update them immediately – a move that has been questioned by users concerned over security on its forum.

“That’s such a difficult problem because many of those expectations are built on things that are not real anymore – for example, every time you pay there’s this concept of pending transactions,” he says. “Basically, you buy a coffee in the morning, open your app and the coffee’s not there – it’s going to take two days to show up, because in those two days, technically the transaction is pending, so it can settle or it can not. In 99.999% of cases it does settle, so we removed that obstruction. If it doesn’t settle, we’ll remove [the payment] but the default is that it will show up instantly. Some people had problems with that because they’re so used to the classic way of doing things – they almost miss it to a certain degree. I think for things that don’t happen so often, you can have a more old school approach, so you can push a bit harder with the things that happen everyday and hopefully raise people’s expectations,” he adds.

With its current accounts, Mondo hopes to allow customers to set up overdrafts, direct debits and standing orders. Eventually, it plans to create “a financial hub” for customers – a service that can connect with other apps to help customers manage their money more efficiently and even secure mortgages by allowing Mondo to share data with providers and compile a list of competitive offers.

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Customers can freeze their card if it is lost…

Whether Mondo can retain its personal touch as it grows bigger remains to be seen, but with its user-centred approach to design and a small and nimble creative team, it has a clear advantage over traditional high street banks when it comes to innovation.

“Traditional banks are packed with really smart and talented people – I’ve worked for banks in Spain and they have some of the best designers, in beautiful massive offices in the city … but the problem is their organisations aren’t ready to be innovative. They built their systems in the sixties and seventies, so there’s usually room somewhere that’s still running software that is really old, and you have teams building things that are never going to be released. We built our technology a year-and-a-half ago, so it’s state of the art, and when we build things, they show up in the app three or four days later. It’s a very small and lean time and a very quick turnaround – a designer, that’s amazing,” he says.

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…and defrost if it they find it again

For startups like Mondo – and Atom, Starling and Tandem – this ability to innovate quickly and deliver a more user-friendly service is their biggest selling point. Without the heritage of a legacy bank, or a reassuring physical presence on the high street, their success lies in putting customers’ needs first to deliver a service that people both enjoy using and come to trust. “We try to make common sense business decisions of course but all of our decisions are focused on making a better product, something that people will love and I think the whole company is based on that,” says Cornejo.

As Cornejo points out, many legacy banks aren’t quite so interested in putting customer’s needs at the heart of their service. Banks have a vested interest in a customer’s balance falling below zero – most of them charge a fee for doing so – so it’s little surprise they’re not rushing to help people track their spending and avoid being overdrawn. But with rival companies like Mondo, Atom, Starlight and Tandem attracting hundreds of thousands of users, it’s clear these banks will have to up their game – and provide a more efficient and transparent service – if they want to keep hold of those long-standing customers.

The athletes take over the ad in new Nike commercial

Last month Nike released an ad which showed various babies in their cribs. They didn’t know it yet, but the name labels on the cots – which included Neymar Jr, Serena Williams, and Lebron James – suggested that these babies were going to grow up to be very unusual adults, athletes at the top of their various fields.

The spot was extremely popular, but it turns out it was just a precursor to a longer, funnier piece of work released today, which shows just what these players, and many more, are capable of. Watch it below:

Nike Olympics ad 2016

Nike Olympics ad 2016

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Nike Olympics ad 2016

The spot, tilted Unlimited You, opens in fairly regular style, with the voiceover intoning how various young athletes, while not doing that well right now, would become great in the future. The tone here is witty from the off, but moves into out-and-out comedy halfway through, when a gymnast dramatically shatters the Just Do It tag, and the athletes begin doing their own thing, to the outrage of the voiceover man (played by Star Wars: Force Awakens actor Oscar Isaac).

Nike has taken a more light-hearted route in its advertising for a little while now, previously using a comedy voiceover in its Inner Thoughts spot last year. This approach is a welcome break from the earnest, bombastic style that has dominated sports advertising for what feels like decades. After all, sport is a fun as well as competitive activity, and it’s good to see the likes of Serena and Mo playing along here too.

Credits:
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Directors: The Daniels
Production company: Prettybird

Strangely familiar – the type of Stranger Things

Like most of us at studio Nelson Cash, you’ve probably heard about Netflix’s latest cult show Stranger Things from your best friend or work buddy.

And if you’re like me, you innocently pushed play on a work night and by midnight realised the scene in your living room was looking a lot like that one Portlandia skit.

Yes, the show is really that good. But what got me? Besides brilliant character development, a killer score, and all those warm and fuzzy nods to my youth?

These 52 seconds:

As a person who spends her days trying to effectively communicate with people through design, I recognised another star on the screen: that typography, tho.

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The Stranger Things title sequence is pure, unadulterated typographic porn. With television shows opting for more elaborate title sequences (think GOT and True Detective), the opening of Stranger Things is refreshingly simple. It trims the fat and shows only what is necessary to set the mood.

More importantly, it proves a lesson I’ve learned time and time again as a designer: you can do a lot with type.

But how do a few pans of a logo accomplish so much in such a short amount of time? I break down its typographic success to three powerful plays: recognition, scale and palette.

Recognition

The Stranger Things logo probably looks strangely familiar, taking you back to an era when Stephen King reigned supreme.

The show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, directly cite King as the inspiration behind the show’s logo, having sent copies of King’s novels to Imaginary Forces, the creative studio behind the title sequence.

Stephen King novel covers, the inspiration behind the Stranger Things logo
Stephen King novel covers, the inspiration behind the Stranger Things logo

Immediately recognisable to anyone that lived through the 80s, those covers bring chills to your spine.

Using a modified version of the distinctive typeface Benguiat, the Stranger Things logo respectfully and effectively plays on that recognition in the title sequence, setting the mood for what is to follow.

Scale 

Glowing red lines enter the frame. One might think they’re simple shapes at first, but soon you realise it’s a close up of the joint of N, the arc of R, the spine of S.

They’re so close you can make out individual specks of film grain. Gets your heart going a bit, amiright?

An extreme close up of the joint of N
An extreme close up of the joint of N

An extreme close up is a cinematic technique that when used sparingly and with intent can invoke intense emotion from the viewer. By getting up close and personal, the viewer reaches a new level of intimacy with the scene.

This intimacy causes the viewer to become vulnerable, and vulnerability elicits a deeper emotion – in this case, unease or even fear.

Palette

Finding the right combination of typefaces can be tiresome. Although there are no rules, there are some techniques designers use to guide us through the process.

Using some of these techniques, the pairing of decorative serif Benguiat and geometric sans serif Avant Garde builds a typographic palette that effectively sets the tone for the show.

Decorative serif Benguiat was smartly paired with geometric sans serif Avant Garde
Decorative serif Benguiat was smartly paired with geometric sans serif Avant Garde

What particularly interests me about the two typefaces is their historical alliance.

Each was designed by typographic heroes and old pals, Ed Benguiat (Benguiat) and Herb Lubalin (Avant Garde). Each was released by ITC in the 1970s. And each was inspired by distinct art movements of the early twentieth century  –  Benguiat by Art Nouveau and Avant Garde by Bauhaus.

The 1980s revived retro typography from various art periods in a way that brought new meaning to their use.

By using them again in 2016, as the Stranger Things team did so brilliantly, we are reminded of the historical power of typography, the transcendental property of design, and the nostalgia that lives forever in our hearts.

Note: I have since binge-watched the rest of the season. Bravo to the geniuses involved in the production of the show, with a special callout to the insanely talented team at Imaginary Forces. Credit for images used throughout this article goes to designer and animator Eric Demeusy.

Sarah Gless is a designer at Nelson Cash in Chicago, nelsoncash.com. This article originally appeared on blog.nelsoncash.com and is republished with permission.

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