From designing and building a website for a privately owned island to branding an independent cinema in a redundant fish factory – all in all it’s been a very diverse and exciting 2014.
We've started working for new clients in some very dynamic sectors and one long standing client is coming back for an unprecedented fourth time in 10 years for their latest website. We've art-directed, coded, illustrated, photographed, designed, artworked, project managed, strategised and deliberated over 465 individual projects spanning 65 clients and a pigeon even flew through our window to join in the fun. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been up to in 2014.
The other week we climbed aboard Stranger Collective’s Raft event for a Friday afternoon that was just ever so slightly out of the ordinary. Tempted away from our desks a healthy mixture of curious people amassed aboard the ‘vessel of ideas’, all as perplexed and intrigued as each other about the upcoming events that proved hard to define.
Sipping on our cups of Yallah Coffee the proceedings began by hearing from Kyra Maya Philips about the benefits of being a bit more like a pirate. Kyra is one of the founders of The Misfit Economy and has carried out research and interviews with some of the world’s most notorious hackers, pirates, black marketeers and criminals, with the aim of discovering new ways for businesses and economies to function. But for us it was more about how we can stand on the shoulders of giants by taking influence from those who we admire most.
We heard about Pirate’s strictly democratic customs, who in fact faced far more benefits from operating as a pirate than working legitimately as a merchant sailor. They only ever followed an elected leader during battle and all decisions were feverishly debated with all opinions equal.
After some time to stretch our legs (the majority of us were sat on deck) and quell some mild sea-sickness with our provided Fisherman’s Friends, we heard from writers Molly Naylor and John Osborne about the conception of their first sitcom; After Hours. The two long-time friends told us how their labour of love, which they had started writing just for fun, blossomed and was picked up by Sky. They have since been closely involved with Sky and director Craig Cash to produce the 6-episode series, which will hit the screens of all those with a Sky subscription in spring 2015.
After another short break admiring the surroundings as we meandered up the waters of the Carrick Roads, flirting with the mouth of the River Fal, we headed back inside to have our minds blown by research magician Stuart Nolan.
Stuart’s talk opened by helping us to swing a paperclip on the end of a string using just the power of our minds through concentration. Nolan afterwards explained how this was no mystery but actually down to our bodies subconsciously channeling our concentration into the minute cognitive muscle movements in the tips of our fingers. An interesting exercise possibly best attempted on dry land…
Stuart also showed us what had inspired him and his work in the first place by demonstrating the best trick his dad never did. A trick that as a child he had always thought his dad had shown him, but was in fact his uncle’s — the power of a determined mind perhaps?
Before we knew it we had already moored back on Falmouth’s Prince of Wales pier and were heading to Hand bar for Sipsmith cocktails and complimentary seaweed-based snacks from The Cornish Seaweed Company. It wasn’t long before we were gathering back at the pier for the start of Bullsh*t London’s fantastically fictitious frolic across Falmouth. We heard of promiscuous adulterers that congregated on ‘staircases to heaven’, and how Falmouth was in fact very much in the middle of a war in which bunting that at first appears friendly can easily be transformed into deadly tools of battle.
The day was rounded off in spectacular fashion with an evening at The Falmouth Townhouse. We watched the first public viewing of Finisterre’s amazing new film ‘Edges of Sanity’, directed by Chris McClean and narrated by Charles Dance. The evening was topped off by Dave Waller and his journey to bring a little bit of Brooklyn to Bodmin through the creation of hip hop made using Cornish vinyl.
Read Stranger’s more succinct and eloquent write-up of the day, including pictures, here.
I recently paid a visit for the first time to the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, just outside of Penzance, with a personal highlight being James Turrell’s piece ‘Tewlwolow Kernow’ (Twilight Cornwall).
Tremenheere Gardens themselves are nestled slightly inland, set back from the nearby coast, with views of the ocean and St. Michael’s Mount when looking south. Opened in mid September 2012, the gardens are still relatively young, but seem to have reached a stage of adolescence, providing a perfect landscape for the various sculptures to be set within. With a number of different paths to ascend by, and plenty to see along the way, James Turrell’s skyspace sits almost at the summit of the gardens.
James Turrell is an American artist who has worked with light and space for over half a century. His work is influenced by an early childhood fascination with light and his formal training in perceptual psychology, as well as having a keen interest in flying — having flown over twelve thousand hours as a pilot. Turrell’s work predominantly deals with creating spaces that gather and arrest light, personally describing his work as “more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing”.
As you enter the Tewlwolow space you’re steadily introduced to a new and very different set of surroundings, that will ultimately feel very visually distant from the gardens previously experienced. Turrell’s piece was completed in 2013 and includes a sheltered entrance space with a relatively narrow set of doors and intimate tunnel, through which you must first travel before entering the skyspace itself.
Currently just concreted walls with a gravel path, the tunnel is narrow, dark and provides a starkly different transitional experience to the main feature. Entering the main space on a bright, late summer’s afternoon you’re immediately struck by a sense of release created by Turrell’s arrested light and organic circular space.
The space feels quite separate from outside and seems to have its own micro-climate. With hardly any wind and the September sun still going strong outside, inside the space it’s distinctly cooler in temperature. Neither too cold or particularly warm, but somewhere in between — just the start of feeling somewhere separate from the outside world.
Beyond the natural feelings of tranquility and serenity there’s also a slight curiosity and even sense of foreboding to the space. Gazing skyward through the oval viewport you can hear the outside world and even faintly smell the gardens outside and the sea beyond. But you’re starkly aware that you’re somewhere physically separate. Connected, but not by sight. With the sun still shining, a bright oval is cast on the smooth walled space, interrupted only by a shelved area that’s just a few feet out of reach.
Ideally viewed at either dawn or dusk the view is still just as seductive on an early afternoon, the sky shifting with mixed cloud cover that’s pushed around by the coastal breeze above. The view is only occasionally broken by a gliding bird or inquisitive insect coming into view. You can see the outside but only through a distinctly vignetted view high overhead, creating a feeling that you could be anywhere.
With the sun obscured by cloud the space starts to cool. There’s a slight chill and it’s time to leave. Although you could easily stay in this state of transcendence, you exit back through the dark tunnel, which feels oppressive by comparison, before re-emerging in the gardens, back where you started.
Since the early 1970’s Turrell has been working on his largest project, Roden Crater. The crater is an extinct volcano that Turrell has been sculpting within to create a series of chambers, tunnels and apertures that “heighten our sense of the heavens and earth”. More information about the artist and his monumental project can been seen on his website.
The last two weeks I have been lucky enough to be working with Nixon as part of a university work placement. Being apart of the the design team and discovering how a design studio works has given me so much knowledge and insight into the design world. An aspect that I have realised seems to be at the core of everything in this studio is detail. After observing and participating in projects and spending time in the studio, detail is one thing that has stuck with me the most.
Attention to detail in everything from the importance of every single word within a brand’s strategy, all the way through to finding a small detail in an object for inspiration right onto the final execution and even the interesting details within the studio itself. Working across multiple projects has been really interesting and exciting as well as giving me insight into the depth in which everything has to be completed.
The whole team at Nixon have been incredibly welcoming as well as honest with regards to the projects I have been working on and improvement of details, which has been a really helpful experience. The guidance and experience of the team has helped me know what small things to look for and perfect when creating work. These busy two weeks have given me the ability to observe the way everything from clients to a rogue pigeon flying through the office window are dealt with. The studio is filled with a crazy mix of interesting and inspiring objects. The disco ball hanging from the ceiling in the office begs a few questions, and the interesting objects continue right through to the sardine tin pattern on the bathroom mirror. You could not be bored visually here, there is something to look at every time you turn your head.
These last few weeks have gone by incredibly quickly and have involved pushing myself into lots of of different projects with the help of everyone at Nixon. It has been an incredibly inspiring and very satisfying experience and I really hope to see everyone again one day!
Quite why a creative agency like Nixon would choose to exhibit our wares amidst the flowers, farming implements, prize winning cattle, rabbits, poultry and other assorted livestock at an agricultural show could be a mystery. However for us The Royal Cornwall Show is a highlight of our calendar, and given we’ve now been exhibiting there for over a decade, if we chose not to do so many people might well wonder what fate had befallen us.
Being authentic is genuinely a challenge to most brands.
When we first sat down with Tresco Island and started tentatively talking about the website, the word authentic leapt out instantly.
Before a mouse has been moved, a pen picked up or information architecture explored we like to ask questions. Most of those questions revolve around how, why and what. How do you want your customers to use your website. Why do you do what you do in a business sense. What is the end goal… More units sold, more bums on seats, more charitable donations? You get the idea.
Tresco though, felt different. A whole island to contend with. Businesses within businesses, restaurants, working fisherman, a gallery owner who swims every morning at 6am (yes, it is as cold as it sounds), charities, events, world class gardens and binding it all together the people who make the Island tick.
We began by breaking down the main challenges of the island. How do I get here? Where do I stay? Where can I eat and what can I do when I arrive? We felt that each section needed it's own visual personality and content strategy, not a one size fits all approach. 4 websites within one. It made the client excited and the designers enthused. It gave our developers headaches.
Each area posed its own unique problem with individual briefs within something much larger but underlining everything was the same word: authenticity.
Take just one of those problems: How do I get there. Both a political hot potato with the disappearance of the helicopter link and a matter of confusion for those who have never been before. After a series of workshops we decided to create a level of information hierarchy. On the first level, a light touch dispelling the myths of how hard it is to get there underpinned with a secondary level of all the core information you could ever need – from hotels to stay on route to mooring costs. Once the strategy of the section had been resolved, the content mapped out and agreed then comes the fun part: the aesthetic.
We wanted to enrapture the genuine spirit of adventure getting to an island so we commissioned illustration based around the golden era of travel. We wanted to glorify that in an era where you can hop on a plane and be most places within a few hours the essence of what Tresco is all about… a small by-plane, a concierge service to the docks, the smell of sea spray as you take the powerboat to one of any number of landing points depending on the tide… The sense of relaxation when you get picked up in a tractor (a luxury one of course), knowing you don't have to worry about where your bags will be meant that we wanted to sell the traveling to Tresco as much as the island itself.
Creating a point of difference is important to all of the brands we work with. Sometimes the easy things, the things which people expect, blend into the background and get lost. We wanted to be brave with Tresco and stand apart. The proof is in the pudding on how it'll increase number of bookings but we're confident in our small piece of the larger website jigsaw. We'll keep you posted.
Discover more about the Tresco website here
I've become a huge fan of Paul Smith, both the brand and the man himself. It all started when I received a trademark vividly striped shirt for my 40th birthday, and later when I discovered his sale shop in Avery Row and ended up 'investing' in a pair of boots. Since then any trip to London for me isn't complete without a quick gander at this special little shop- or if I'm really lucky a few frantic hours spent amongst the crowds at his warehouse sale in Holborn.
Stylish, well-constructed, quality clobber, i.e. built like it will last a good few years, not just a single season. Reflecting an inherent classic tailoring heritage that is a core hallmark of the brand, with a generous sprinkling of eccentricity and witty humour. This sums up for me one of our greatest and definitely my favourite British brands.
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Global Design Forum in London. An international group of designers, strategists and others from across the creative industries gathered to debate how design impacts on the world socially and economically, and ultimately how it can transform all of our lives for the better.
Nothing can prepare you for a trip to Mumbai. No amount of prior research, whether it be from documentaries or Youtube clips, best-selling novels such as 'Shantaram' or dare I say it even the much lauded film 'Slumdog Millionaire' can prepare a first time visitor for the sensory overload they'll experience in this most extraordinary city. You simply have to go there.
Last year a few of us went to a great series of talks and interactive lectures called Here curated by the fantastic It's Nice That blog. Amongst the gems and insights into what makes a cocktail with khat and Guiness taste like was some advice by Paul Smith.
He's always been a big believer in the shop front. Lay out your wares in the most engaging way visually and people will come to you. From Miami crisp decadence to a red brick west London hideaway he's never shied away from making bold brand statements architecturally which fit in with their surroundings. The shop front becomes an extension of his brand and all his eccentricities.
The photo above is a wholesale supermarket behind our studio before they rebranded and decided to inflict orange over everything. You can almost feel the branding agency making the pitch... consistancy of message... impactful... memorable. Maybe it's just me but I prefer it how it was.
It got me thinking about what attracts me to brands on the high street. I find myself drawn to stores and buildings with such minimal branding and wayfinding it would give a PR company nightmares. They say less is more but what about nothing at all? That run down shop or pop up restaurant in an old hairdressers with the A4 menu blu tacked in the corner seems to hold the most appeal to me. What does this say about me as an individual? I could say something about discovery and sophistication (as if!) but I won't gloss over the fact that right now I love the anti design as much as I love the design itself. Next week it might change to a comic sans poster in the charity shop window down the road. Who knows?