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A celebration of creative thinking - week 4

14 Jun 2019 by Alice McKeown

This week our creative celebration focused on Digital Solutions . Augmented Reality experiences, responsive websites, intranets and tactile hands on digital playtime in a sandpit. A variety of creative solutions for...

a celebration of creative thinking - week 4 alice mckeown

this week our creative celebration focused on digital solutions. augmented reality experiences, responsive websites, intranets and tactile hands on digital playtime in a sandpit. a variety of creative solutions for diverse user experiences.


here’s what the team put forward…

mercury build your own hydro network

love how digital came to life in a very tactile way. i’d never seen technology work like this before so for me this project was a very exciting, delightful experience. great opportunity to release the inner child and learn by doing.

jo ross


mercury showcase – ar waikato river

it was wonderful seeing this at our insight strategy day. from redrawing the river and contours, to the assorted animated / video / interactive and final ar elements, it brings together our wider skill sets and expertise across the team (and some outside help). a great creative, practical application of ar that will inform anyone from school age to old age about how power is generated and delivered to us all.

edwin hooper


insight’s ar wall

what better way to celebrate digital than one of the newer mediums within that world – augmented reality. it’s great to work at an agency that prioritises new tech, and learning about it. spearheading the design aspect of our spacewoman wall was a lot of fun for me. and at the end of all the thinking and doing from so many people here at insight, we have two gorgeous static artworks in our offices, which we can play and engage with over the coming months.

sarah turner 


meredith connell

the mc intranet demonstrates a really strong design solution showing growth and visual identity evolution. a highly technical and challenging project for the build and a hugely improved user experience. great solution within tight boundaries.

brian slade 


watercare annual report – online

a great example of how to successfully take a strong print design and apply this to a digital setting. engaging animated interactions help bring the content to life while warm, people-focused images continue to tell the brand story.

alice mckeown


snickel lane website

the snickel lane website strikes the perfect balance between functionality of a responsive website and an interesting design idea that stands out. the site loads quickly on multiple devices, and draws you in, with highlighted headlines and creative imagery of street food markets.

anna charlett

design, creative celebration, insight creative, digital, augmented reality, ar, websites

A celebration of creative thinking - week 3

07 Jun 2019 by Alice McKeown

This week our team focused on examples of Illustration , and its effective use to communicate a creative idea. Helping the viewer navigate content with often abstract themes, challenging content or sensitive...

a celebration of creative thinking - week 3 alice mckeown

this week our team focused on examples of illustration, and its effective use to communicate a creative idea. helping the viewer navigate content with often abstract themes, challenging content or sensitive topics. here’s what the team had to say…

heartland good motoring programme

as part of the visual identity for the good motoring loyalty programme, insight created a simple and friendly illustration that speaks of a positive driving experience. it successfully communicates the idea that driving is a feel-good experience, that gets even better with driving tips, motoring discounts, and rewards offered to heartland customers as part of the loyalty program. simple, fresh and energetic illustration of a happy driver zooming in their new car is a successfully executed single minded idea – thumbs up from me! 

anna charlett


te ture, the law

this beautiful pattern was created for meredith connell offices. insight worked with the artist arekatera maihi to create this taniko design. the forms have a strong reference to protection, connectivity, genealogy, strength, structure and foundations. the artist described the meaning behind the work as follows: “the black outer diagonal bar forms the roof a whare or house – the sheltered safe zone to work in, as well as the law which employees work with and strive to uphold. the internal black bar looks at the connections, the foundations and core of the business. this all sits safely under the roof of the whare. inside of those areas is the most sacred part of the whare – that is the people, the communities, the families and the workers. this talks about the responsibilities of the company for its clients' whanau and staff. the black niho all face up so as not to be seen to be biting down on the people.”

jo ross


blake identity

intelligent and considered use of an illustrative element for our rebrand of the sir peter blake trust. a distinctive and unique marque.

brian slade


financial markets authority

this social media campaign worked so well because most content we see about boring things like investments can be a bit dry. cue the cute illustrated animation about learning to swim! the style is contemporary and clean, with a distinct kiwi feel – no wonder it was a big hit!

sarah turner


auckland council – parks, sport and recreation

i like that the illustration and illustrated-style text helps to make the information easily digestible and unites three diverse departments together with ease. the illustration style successfully allows the information to be split into three, or broken down further to be used across a range of platforms at a variety of scales.

alice mckeown


nz drug foundation

an exciting illustration for a space which is aptly named the catalyst room. here the illustration is a hardworking communication tool – delivering a wide scope of thoughts, initiatives, events and stories for the nz drug foundation. this is all achieved in a friendly and open style, creating sparks of interest through use of brand colour and additional ‘added-value’ quirk that only experienced illustrators can offer to an already content rich brand communication piece such as this.

chris gough palmer


matters of substance – cover

we’ve used a number of illustrative elements across work for the nz drug foundation. one primary reason is its flexibility to use a metaphoric or symbolic approach to develop imagery that communicates the story, or some context to the story – without showing drug use directly. we’ve developed a series of illustrations showing the history of drugs in nz, and typographic-led illustrations with information about individual drugs. this recent cover uses a stock image base, supported by typographic elements to create a generic ‘protest’ movement of people campaigning against the ‘war on drugs’. the ‘war on us’ term refers to the failings of the war on drugs and treating drug use as a criminal issue over a health one.

edwin hooper

design, creative celebration, insight creative, illustration

A celebration of creative thinking - week 2

30 May 2019 by Alice McKeown

Continuing this new series, where we stop occasionally and take some time to celebrate our creative achievements. This week, I've focused around the theme ‘ great ideas ’. It was great to see a wide variety of work...

a celebration of creative thinking - week 2 alice mckeown

continuing this new series, where we stop occasionally and take some time to celebrate our creative achievements. this week, i've focused around the theme ‘great ideas’. it was great to see a wide variety of work coming through from the past 12 months. clear, strategic thinking helped to solve and navigate complex briefs. all projects chosen were excellent examples of how balancing strategy and design is essential to communicate a ‘great idea’.

breadcraft – cottage lane

simplicity is a great idea.

as designers we can quite often get carried away with details and seduced by the unnecessary – confusing what is trying to be communicated. the cottage lane logo is a good example of a good idea simplified. with the name at the core of the idea, it is presented as an elementary laneway sign, using classic street-sign typography and a recognisable street-sign shape. you get it, a nod to classic european street experience, the cafés, the food, all echoed too in the packaging through the traditional ‘naked’ presentation of the fresh product.

chris gough palmer


airways brand

the big idea behind airways branding is a “going beyond” story to define the essence of the brand. it expresses the role of airways in the modern era, doing more than just guiding planes to land safely. with a customer first ethos, and using cutting edge technology to deliver beneficial outcomes. i love this idea because it’s dynamic and exciting; there is always more to be discovered, implemented, and delivered to their customers. the visual identity that followed expressed that story. triangles facing forward and up express the forward motion and innovation, generous tracking in heading type treatment creates a sense of space and energy, combined with a bright and bold colour palette and future focused, fresh imagery, creates a compelling and forward thinking identity.

anna charlett


insight’s new website

i think it was a great idea to put energy into refreshing and updating the insight website. as a design agency i think it is really important for anything created that represents ‘us’ to be at the same level as something we would create for our clients. after all, it’s generally the first piece of work clients will see.

alice mckeown


insight’s ar wall (featured in insight’s offices)

there are so many exciting layers of thinking within this project. i think it’s a really smart idea to capture our vast range of capabilities in a piece of technology that we can show to clients and help them understand and buy into ar. it successfully represents what insight stands for as a business. a true result of learning, pushing the boundaries and collaborating as a team.

jo ross


mashmaster’s mallington - insight's end of year christmas gift

the mallington. this baked goodie not only supported the ‘big idea’ behind the gift it was a part of (two complementary forces coming together to create a better end result), but was delicious enough for both eyes and tongue that one of our clients is getting it re-made for her wedding! it shows that not all ‘design’ ends up printed on a piece of paper, or formed in pixels on a website.

sarah turner


mercury showcase

this project was so deserving in recognition across the whole of company. from the initiative to invest in the project, used as a testing ground and the ongoing development of strategic creative idea generation. i think it’s lifted us all to another level of expectation.

brian slade


design, creative celebration, insight creative, big idea, single organising thought

A creative celebration - week 1

21 May 2019 by Alice McKeown

Since I started at Insight Creative, there has been much talk about how we need to stop occasionally and take the time to celebrate our creative achievements. So with that in mind, let me introduce examples of great...

a creative celebration - week 1 alice mckeown

since i started at insight creative, there has been much talk about how we need to stop occasionally and take the time to celebrate our creative achievements. so with that in mind, let me introduce examples of great typography created within the walls of insight within the last 12 months, as seen through the eyes of our design team:

custom typography / nz super

i just think it’s great that we took the time to create something bespoke for a client that many people might consider ‘a bit dry’. it’s going the extra mile for them, but also gives us something to feel chuffed about. the theme of the report was constant change, so the fact that the typogrpahy character changes and evolves throughout the document is really fascinating.
sarah turner


handwritten type / victoria university

the typography used for victoria university's 2019 recruitment campaign successfully delivers the concept of thoughts swirling around a young person’s mind. the hand-written form, using various sizes, cases, and styles, conveys the different options/thoughts when considering their future career, while also subtly promoting wellington. this all reinforces the strategic idea that you know your mind and that vic will teach you how to think, not what to think. composing those different type treatments together, evokes a compelling visual that connects with potential students making those big choices; it cleverly delivers the message that victoria university is the place where you can decide the route to fulfil your potential.
anna charlett


creating a 'black' font / breadcraft 

when do you get a chance to use a ‘black’ font? in my experience not that often. with this new range of wraps, we were aiming to express the ‘rebel’ at every touchpoint, and so we combined a slightly redrawn version of black future, redrawn copperplate gothic 33bc, aardvark and trade gothic. 
— brian slade


typography as a graphic device /  nzso

i really like the way the typography is the central graphical device in bringing the idea to life: “so… let’s begin. so… on with the show” is a really clever idea. bold and simple, with good use of colour and scale. 
— jo ross


architecturally inspired typography / 7 waterloo quay

we are working with argosy on some signage elements for 7 waterloo quay (formerly known as nz post house). we’ve developed a typographic approach informed by the brutalist architecture of the building. the feature 7 graphic made up of elements echoing ‘7’ and of similar proportion to concrete elements used in the building. 
— edwin hooper


good ol' helvetica neue / auckland airport annual report

here it is presented boldly in the airport's report. amongst the billion dollar busyness and ongoing construction at auckland airport, the typography adds a sense of confidence, clarity and calm; expressing the ongoing growth of the airport’s infrastructure through the repeated titles – underpinning the theme of the report ‘delivering, planning, building’. and of course the way it translates online is also great (as it should).
chris gough palmer

wordmark / mashmaster

the typography created/used for mashmaster word-based card game instantly reinforces the concept or ‘big idea’. by combining the ‘h’ and ‘m’ the concept of two elements combining to create a unique hybrid is visually represented. it shows the amalgamation of two elements becoming a quirky, and creative final product.
— alice mckeown 


design, creative celebration, insight creative, crafted typography, typography

All fonts look the same

30 Oct 2018 by Trent Kokich

All fonts look the same is an Exhibition of 260 fonts, celebrating uniquely restricted shapes with an almost endless amount of variation. On October 12th 2018, my group exhibition had its opening night at 45...

all fonts look the same trent kokich

all fonts look the same is an exhibition of 260 fonts, celebrating uniquely restricted shapes with an almost endless amount of variation.

on october 12th 2018, my group exhibition had its opening night at 45 courtenay place. it was the output of an exhibition paper that i took during my 4th and final year of study at massey university. myself and four others worked for a full semester, conceptualising, developing and curating this unique exhibition experience.

our aim for this exhibition was to give typography a voice within gallery contexts, as it is an often overlooked art form. we wanted to show appreciation towards the designers who crafted each typeface as well as inform the general public of various typography terminology.   

a big part of the exhibition process was contacting every type foundry whose typefaces we chose to exhibit. this proved to be an enormous amount of admin work with 100s of emails sent back and forth between us and foundries all over the world. thankfully almost every foundry we contacted were really excited to have their work on display, and even allowed us to use their typefaces at no cost. because we reached out to so many international foundries, our exhibition gained a lot of overseas recognition, with the website being shared across multiple graphic design blogs. it also meant our facebook event gathered a following of 700 or so people. this made us anxious going into the opening night as we had no idea what sort of numbers to expect.

leading up to our exhibition opening, we were worried that people would see our exhibition at a surface level. what we were met with on opening night was quite the opposite and really surprised us. the level of engagement with the typefaces was amazing and more than we could have hoped for. throughout the night people were photographing letters, noting down typefaces and engaging in deep discussions on their new appreciation of the letter z and why they will never look at it the same way again.

overall it was an awesome experience and a great end to my uni career.

check out the exhibition website here:

all fonts look the same, insight creative, massey coca year end exhibition, typography

The ideas path

18 Sep 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

I’ve always been an ideas guy. I feel comfortable looking at a problem or an opportunity and then generating lots of ideas about how to tackle it in a creative way. I’ll go one step further and say, it’s...

the ideas path steven giannoulis

i’ve always been an ideas guy. i feel comfortable looking at a problem or an opportunity and then generating lots of ideas about how to tackle it in a creative way. i’ll go one step further and say, it’s one of the things i’m good at. but if i am going to be so shamelessly boastful i should be a bit more specific: it’s the quantity of ideas - not necessarily the quality – that i’m good at.

i’m not saying all my ideas are rubbish (though many are), just that the particular skill i bring to the idea generation process is helping generate that initial long list that eventually leads to one or two nuggets coming alive. after all, all innovative ideas have to start somewhere. often one of my seemingly random thoughts gets refined, expanded and turned it into something good that barely resembles the original idea.

so, what’s the trick to coming up with lots of ideas quickly? the honest answer is, i don’t always know where my ideas come from. i’m not shy in coming forward so often it appears as simply just saying random stuff. it’s not all that loose though, i do have a couple of techniques to help find ideas, wherever they are hiding.

  1. learning. there’s not much in the marketing and comms field i haven’t seen before. yes, technology is different and some channels are different but clients’ objectives and customers’ basic needs remain largely the same. so, i examine a challenge in order to understand the real problem that needs to be solved. i then consider other scenarios where i’ve solved this same problem before. this isn’t about copying the same good idea again and again but about leveraging past learning. i think about why i used that solution and what worked and what didn’t. this gives me insights on how to start thinking about the challenge in front of me. 

  2. parallels. it’s one thing to look at what other agencies around the world have done with the same challenge. this is a useful start but can often lead to ‘me too’ thinking. i find it’s better to seek the parallels in other industries and other environments. how have they solved this same problem in their field? what’s the core insight and idea behind their solution? how can we apply this same thinking here to solve the challenge in front of us?

  3. building. my approach to idea generation is to be unfiltered. i love mind-maps so, when brainstorming, i look to rapidly connect ideas and follow the path to see where it leads. follow your head. follow your gut. often this means spitting out whatever half-baked idea is forming in my head and then building on the idea out loud. this gives others the opportunity to add their thoughts and perspectives, helping the idea grow and take shape.

  4. perspectives. the most useful tool i use for idea generation is looking at the challenge differently. i always have this matrix image in my head when i talk about this. the challenge is suspended in mid-air and we spin around it in slow-mo, looking at it from different angles. i run through a checklist of what ifs in my head. what if the client was different? what if the target audience was different? what if the goals were different? what if time and budget were no issue? what if there was no money or time? what if we doubled the problem? halved it? multiplied it? most of these perspectives go nowhere, generating ideas that have others thinking i’m a complete idiot. but sometimes one of those idiotic thoughts becomes the first spark of a really good idea.

my advice for generating ideas is to free your inhibitions and let your ideas take you to new and unexpected places. one idea sparks the next, taking you down an uncertain path until a moment of clarity reveals itself. and avoid judging your ideas too early, as you’ll quickly close off the most interesting and rewarding paths.

idea generation, innovation, creativity

Meet Sarah

11 Sep 2018 by Brian Slade

A new design face at Insight, here's a sneak peek into Sarah Turner's creativity and innovation. Sarah has only been with Insight for a short time but has made an immediate impact. All very positive too: she's a...

meet sarah brian slade

a new design face at insight, here's a sneak peek into sarah turner's creativity and innovation.

sarah has only been with insight for a short time but has made an immediate impact. all very positive too: she's a strong inquisitive creative thinker and creator. she is also a prolific note taker and great communicator. all the way from palmerston north via taupo, i was keen to share a bit more about this creative talent but forgot to ask about her cat echo!



who has been the biggest creative influence in your career?
i’d have to say my biggest creative influence was very much pre-career! ms wolfsbauer was my high school art teacher and i’m sure it was her forward-thinking and support that lead me towards the design career i have today. every spare period and most lunchtimes we were in the art room with liz, talking design and creativity, as well as discussing the big issues in life. she taught me that art isn’t about being rigid and perfect, just like life isn’t about being rigid and perfect either. she helped me to look at things differently and to always strive to be the best you can be. sure, she hasn’t beaten all the perfectionism out of me (i am a virgo after all), but she was the one who watered the seedling that i call my designer instinct.

"lady gaga. auckland. 2010. where do i even begin?"

most powerful ‘creative’ experience you’ve had?
lady gaga. auckland. 2010. where do i even begin? a glowing deep sea angler the size of a truck. a fibre optic dress. a fountain of blood. the piano slowly catching fire as she sings acoustic. a black and white art film played on a giant led cylinder screen in between songs (which also doubled as a changing room for the lady herself!). leather-clad dancers, so many lights, a pumping bass, and the all-time classic – a metallic sparkler bra. for me the most powerful creative experiences are totally immersive, and this show really saturated all the senses. forever remembered as the best performance i’ve ever seen, i have always admired the way lady gaga mixes art and conceptualism while still reaching the epitome of ‘popular’.

"bloody receipts!"

if you could make one creative or innovative change to a thing what would it be and why?
bloody receipts. with all this talk of reducing plastic waste by turning down a straw or using a fabric tote, surely there is also something that can be done with these little (or sometimes not so little) bits of plasticy paper we get handed every time we purchase something. i get annoyed with them floating around in my bag when i do take one, but also annoyed when i tell the cashier to keep it. either way they all end up in the same place! won’t someone please think of the children…?

sarah turner, insight creative, designer

Shifting creative conventions

04 Sep 2018 by Brian Slade

Christmas day early 1970s, I opened a bag of Lego blocks. Just blocks, no people, characters or wheels. One of my favourite ‘toys’, I loved creating houses, forts and spaceships. Today Lego produces hundreds of...

shifting creative conventions brian slade

christmas day early 1970s, i opened a bag of lego blocks. just blocks, no people, characters or wheels. one of my favourite ‘toys’, i loved creating houses, forts and spaceships. today lego produces hundreds of options, variations and themes and in 2008 it broke with its creative conventions, setting up ‘lego ideas’ as an offshoot of the japanese website cuusoo. it allows users to submit ideas for lego to develop commercially. fans get an opportunity to ‘co-create’ on submissions online and give feedback. if a project gets 10,000 votes, lego reviews the idea and gives the original creator 1% of the commercial sales once in production.

fast company credits this breaking with convention for winding back a decade of sales slumps and putting lego in the same league as apple.

we all have ways of doing stuff. when we’re looking to stretch our creative, digital, and innovative thinking, it’s worth taking a look at our personal conventions and reshaping our thinking.


some tools to reshape your own creative conventions

a bit like therapy, you’ve got to ‘own’ the idea that there’s an opportunity to grow and develop. once this is done you’re on your way.

the next critical step is to move from theory to practice. one of the simplest ways to get tangible is to create a visual trigger. take some post-it notes and write reminders of what it is you're aiming for, such as:

"what’s the creative/innovative opportunity here?” 

"just be creative!"

"listen more."

you’ve just got to remember to refer back to them as you generate ideas!

like lego, you need to continue to develop your strengths, values and desire for co-creation by doing less in isolation in front of the computer. get busy communicating, sharing early and progressively with your project team. your best results will be achieved when you collaborate, value each other’s angle and captain your own specific area of expertise. 

as fast as possible, define clearly the issues and challenges you’re creating for. at the briefing stage, gain personal empathy for the task and ask the ‘dumb’ questions. get what you need to do the job. start with why? work on shared options through discussion then agree on a shortlist. 

agree on a ‘good enough for now’ thought process. this saves time and creates enough to communicate the ideas you most want to progress with. this will mean different things for different organisations obviously. working with each other creates a stronger, unified belief and understanding in the idea and direction, thus making it easier to support.

shape the individual and collaborative design process into four clear steps:

  • explore
  • expand
  • apply your knowledge and insights
  • focus

so that everybody in the team understands where you're at and where you’re going.

make time pressure your friend by using words only to describe an idea and why it works. it’s quicker to come up with the words ‘tomato with an umbrella sticking out of the top with a pink flamingo sitting on top’ than finding visual reference!

apply a bit of this thinking to shift a creative convention or two and you might just start humming the lego movie anthem… everything is awesome… 


credit: magenta lego house by luka hooper

visual design, creative innovation, breaking creative shackles

What makes visual design effective?

21 Aug 2018 by Brian Slade

The surprisingly simple idea of ‘clarity’ will invariably unlock the answer to the question of what makes visual design effective. Clarity of understanding based on the accessibility, usability, and desired...

what makes visual design effective? brian slade

the surprisingly simple idea of ‘clarity’ will invariably unlock the answer to the question of what makes visual design effective. clarity of understanding based on the accessibility, usability, and desired activation for the primary audience that the design is intended for. if clarity doesn’t completely unlock the answer, it will without doubt get the designer in the right space.

this may not sound like a design theory ‘go to’. it almost sounds more like a side step: bounce the problem back to the client or the brief author to provide more information. however, until the designer has clarity on the audience, their ‘profile’, what makes them tick, sit up and take notice, they’re going to be reliant on their own personal bias and preferences. and that’s dangerous because we’re often not the audience. so more than a nominal stab at this, it is essentially going to be the first thing to get right in creating effective design.

beyond the brief, day after day we’re flooded with information, products, services and decisions to be made. effective visual design principles have evolved over time, from the early cave drawings through to today’s virtual realities. the eye and mind need space to work out what’s being communicated.

until the designer has clarity on the audience and what makes them tick, they’re going to be reliant on their own personal bias.

if everything stands out then nothing stands out. as designers, we need to create a visual path and hierarchy based on what we believe will stimulate the audience to be engaged and activated. this doesn’t mean a boring solution. this means we need to think, not only analytically but creatively about what will push the right audience buttons - and not necessarily those of the internal corporate client hierarchy who have their own bias and preference. chances are they’re not the audience either.

scan, weigh up, select, digest. composition is vital.

a designer needs to be a master of information architecture and navigation. if you’re a client assessing a proposed design, think about what the designer has crafted. allow your eye to scan. very few people read all the information you’re providing at first glance, like body text. think smorgasbord. scan, weigh up, select, digest. composition is vital in assisting the primary audience in navigating the information. an underlying grid will create structure and form. 

look for the underlying presence of classic, proven design rules: consider the appropriate application of the rule of thirds where designs are segmented into nine equal sections and key information is clustered into one of the top or bottom left or right segments. balanced ‘golden mean’ mathematical proportions developed by the greeks and used to create the proportions for the credit card just feel ‘right’.

yet, unbalanced visual design that can either break, or appear to ‘randomly’ conform to, underlying grids can also be the right ‘feel’ for the audience. it can work because it creates tension - a totally valid tool in stimulating a response that draws the eye to a specific element of interest or desire.

graphics, colour, images, shapes and text selection will all be based on how the designer wants the audience to feel and assist them in navigating the information. selected audiences will respond to each element based on demographic-specific preferences. 

a designer will often contrast elements to create emphasis, scale and pace and will never ignore the eye’s need for ‘white space’. the eye and mind needs a rest from the flood of information. sometimes you need to create your own white space in a crowded environment, so as designers, we often simplify things to get noticed rather than try to shout louder than the crowd. 

so, next time you’re assessing a piece of design from your agency, look beyond the surface to the considered architecture beneath.

visual design, effective design

Semi Permanent - Day One

13 Aug 2018 by Jeremy Sweetman

  Semi-Permanent has always been a calendar event, but previously there was never really enough ‘digital’ to justify shelling out any sort of investment. This year, however, the ‘Day One’ agenda looked...

semi permanent - day one jeremy sweetman


semi-permanent has always been a calendar event, but previously there was never really enough ‘digital’ to justify shelling out any sort of investment. this year, however, the ‘day one’ agenda looked particularly designed for the technically inclined. speakers from air bnb, google and uber spoke alongside netflix and facebook forming the opening salvo for this year’s event. dad, can i go? pretty please!

the morning was crammed back-to-back with the above speakers, and they were all good (well, mostly). each offered a mix of wisdom and experience, which is still echoing away in my mind. one clear theme from all speakers was a need to craft the solution, prototype, test (and repeat and repeat and repeat), before deploying at scale (and by scale, think 80 million uber users generating over 10 billion rides (to date) or 120 million netflix users over 109 countries). what’s even more mind-blowing is the netflix product design team is only ten-strong and constantly on the move, experiencing the different countries and cultural differences to maintain relevance for each country netflix is in.

another core theme was the notion that ‘there are no sacred cows’, citing many examples where improvements can be found in areas already thought perfect.

whereas the morning talked digital, the afternoon couldn’t have been more different with a series of talks aimed at diversity within the creative industry. really powerful stuff! talks from beth o’brien (colenso) and tea uglow (google) left me particularly inspired (for different reasons) and reminded me of the benefits that pursuing more diversity brings to our own creative pursuits.

for me, ‘day one’ was a success. well done semi-permanent! knowing me, the speakers’ experiences will now slowly be deconstructed and repurposed' eventually touching aspects of my work. thanks for letting me go, dad. 

semi-permanent, insight creative

Great Semi-Permanent Things

09 Aug 2018 by Sarah Turner

When thinking of great things that have helped form me as a designer, the top of the list would have to be Semi Permanent. For those who haven’t heard of it it’s a “global creative and design thinking...

great semi-permanent things sarah turner

when thinking of great things that have helped form me as a designer, the top of the list would have to be semi permanent. for those who haven’t heard of it it’s a “global creative and design thinking platform”. which all sounds very fancy, but in my own words is a multi-disciplinary creative conference that is (to put it simply) ah-may-zing!

of course busy schedules and budget restrictions can put a dampener on things; but i would strongly recommend you to go check it out one day. whether you consider yourself “creative” or not, semi permanent will inspire you, excite you, and send you out into the world refreshed.

still not convinced? here’s five reasons why i love semi permanent:

1. the diversity

the first thing you’ll notice about semi permanent is the diversity of the speakers. so much more than just graphic designers, there are photographers, videographers, fashion designers, typographers, experiential designers, fine artists, poets, musicians, product designers, restaurateurs, creative directors, brand strategists, smell scientists, ar, vr and mr specialists, animators, body architects, web architects, actual architects – creators of all kinds!

i’ve been to six semi permanents in my life (yes, i counted them) and there has not been a single talk that i have missed. why? because even though it’s a three-day mammoth marathon of mind-blowing mish-mash, you learn something from every speaker. not into surfing? i still learned something. don’t even know what a body architect is? neither did i, but i do now!

2. the creative community 

with the diversity of speakers naturally comes a diverse range of viewers. hundreds of creators, coming to gain inspiration – just like you are yourself. it’s such a great feeling to be in a room of like-minded creatives (who may be in fact be nothing like you at all). the point is you’re there, they’re there. they’re just as immersed as you are, just as hungry as you are. and that vibe feels pretty dang good.

3. future state

semi permanent hosts a long-standing segment they like to call ‘future state’. it’s usually made up of a series of talks from the big movers and shakers (like google, uber, airbnb, neflix) disussing the big changes that our society is going through, and what the future of design (and indeed creativity itself) looks like.

this is where the big weird thoughts start creeping in; and like a lowly art student you ponder your small part in the complexity that is the universe. wow, that sounds deep. some of the heavy themes that have been tackled in future state to date are the importance of diversity, authenticity, inclusion, empathy, ar, vr, mr (all the rs), data influencing design, the ethics around ai, the ethics around social media (and yes, this was prior to the infamous zuckerberg testimony before congress).

4. the big names 

i’m not one to throw around names, but when i’ve had the privilege to listen to some of these people speak, i think it can be forgiven. david carson. kate moross. jessica hische. tobias frere-jones. plus representatives from pentagram, instrument and all those other big-name companies i listed in #3.

it’s really not about the names. these well-known creatives give us all an insight into their creative processes, to their wins, to their losses, to them as a person and as a company. their achievements somehow seem both attainable and unattainable at the same time. and like i said before, you learn something meaningful from each one of them. something you hope to implement in your own life, even if it’s only to the smallest of degrees.

5. the kiwi host

te radar. if you’ve never had the pleasure to watch this guy perform in person, this is a great way to do it. hilarious, creative, intelligent, and a raging ginge. what more could the audience want? he keeps the audience going in-between talks, with joy and enthusiasm and some welcome light relief. pondering the future of wellness through technological innovation getting you down? well here comes te radar in a funny hat. you’re welcome. 

semi-permanent, insight creative

The strategy of design

21 Jun 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

We describe ourselves as a strategic-creative agency. This leads to the obvious question, what is it? You just design stuff, right? Strategic-creative is about how we go about making sure that the stuff we create is...

the strategy of design steven giannoulis

we describe ourselves as a strategic-creative agency. this leads to the obvious question, what is it? you just design stuff, right? strategic-creative is about how we go about making sure that the stuff we create is fit for purpose and delivers results for our clients. 

strategy in the design world is very different to strategy in a military, corporate or even advertising world. what they have in common is that sense of thinking about where we are now, where we want to be and making a plan to get there. here’s a quick run-down on how a design agency strategist fits into the design process.

understanding of the brief

finding a great solution starts by understanding the real problem to be solved. a strategist engages the client, asks lots of why questions and listens in order to really understand what is needed. how does this brief align with the value drivers and the business, brand and marketing plans? what will success look like and how will we measure it? a well-defined problem is critical to helping the team come up with a well-conceived solution.

  1. audiences. a strategist defines the target audience, their needs and motivators and what their current behaviours and perceptions are. this clarity helps everyone on a project focus on what journey we need to take the audience on. audience insights mostly come from research – either directly by talking to them or through secondary sources. often it comes from a long-held appreciation of human psychology, group dynamics and organisational behaviour.
  2. frameworks. there are a number of proven best-practice models that define core communication processes like engagement, decision-making and purchase. a good strategist knows when and how to apply these frameworks to different briefs in order to move audiences towards the desired outcomes.
  3. positioning. working closely with the designer, the strategist helps define how something should be positioned in the eyes of audiences through its messaging, tone and visual language. this positioning allows a differentiated market offer that aligns closely with the audience needs and motivators.
  4. channel/medium selection. good thinking and design is pointless if it doesn’t reach and/or register with audiences. the strategist works with the designer to identify the best way to get to audiences, and what mediums work best. 
  5. creative development. as we move into design, the designer takes lead on the creative process. the strategist plays a supporting role, helping identify and evaluate design ideas and approaches. they review designs and provide feedback to help improve single-mindedness, effectiveness and strategic alignment with the brief and audience needs.
  6. selling ideas. rarely do clients buy into an idea just because it’s a thing of beauty. mostly they chose it because they can see its potential to solve their problem or realise an opportunity. the strategist works closely with the design team to sell-in an idea to the client by highlighting how it will deliver the results they need.


strategic-creative is both a mindset and a process, ensuring that the discipline of being creative to a brief is geared towards achieving the right outcomes. strategy-creative equals better design – but i would say that, i’m a strategist.  

creative, strategy, strategic creative, insight creative

Feeling the work

19 Jun 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

  Yesterday Brian and I had our monthly one-to-one meeting while walking around the new Te Papa Art Gallery –  Toi Art.  We wanted to talk about how to raise our creativity to the next level and...

feeling the work steven giannoulis
yesterday brian and i had our monthly one-to-one meeting while walking around the new te papa art gallery – toi art. we wanted to talk about how to raise our creativity to the next level and what better place than amongst an eclectic collection of the best nz art.
toi is brilliant and we were both inspired and talked excitedly for an hour and a half. we had different pieces that spoke to us. brian fell in love with the story-telling associated with a small house from outer space in the detour collection. i was taken by the possibilities and perspectives reflected in the crochet circles part of the colour section.
the big take out of our walk was that we can go even further in our drive to make people feel something from our work – joy, anger, passion, nostalgia, pride, etc. (yes, even an annual report can do that!)  to take our designs to another level, we must work harder to engage audiences at an emotional level, making them feel something. think about your favourite movies, art, books and music – chances are they are your favourites because of the emotions they stir in you.
we came up with a number of ways to capture the feeling the client wants in the brief; how we can ensure our territories have a strong single feeling aligned with what audiences need and will respond to; and how to engage our client in going with creating a feeling rather than literally telling audiences stuff.
it has already started informing our idea creation on new projects.
if you get a chance to go to te papa toi art, do it. it’s well worth it.
inspiration, creativity, effective design

Dem Kiwi styles

01 May 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

I was recently asked to be part of a discussion on the Kiwi design aesthetic which got me thinking about the topic. So here are my views on what defines the Kiwi style. Given I’m not a trained designer or...

dem kiwi styles steven giannoulis

i was recently asked to be part of a discussion on the kiwi design aesthetic which got me thinking about the topic. so here are my views on what defines the kiwi style. given i’m not a trained designer or artist, there is a good chance my views are well wide of the mark. i can only tell you what i see and feel.


like many, i’m of the view that a country’s approach to the creative arts is a strong reflection of its culture. australian and american creativity is broadly bright, loud and confident, very much like the cultures of those nations. scandinavian design is minimalist, considered and efficient. french design is sensual, with flair and individualism.

it follows then that kiwi design is like us: understated, individual, complex and extremely grounded in nature and reality. we seek to tell stories by creating moods and feelings, crediting our audiences with a level of intellect, rather than always stating the obvious. it doesn’t mean that it’s all dark, brooding and intellectual, in fact, it is often the complete opposite, as we rarely take ourselves too seriously. the hunt for the wilderpeople may be one of the best expressions of the kiwi creative mindset with its complex relationships showcased through off-beat humour.

much of our graphic design style comes from our colonial heritage but, whether we like to admit it or not, our graphic palette also has a strong pacific flavor to it. we see this often in simple two-dimensional shapes made to stand out against flat colours. similar to the japanese aesthetic, we prefer design to not be overly perfect and crafted but to feel natural. we favour flowing forms over straight lines, again a reflection of our surroundings.

the tone of our work is often muted and dark with a heavy dose of realism. we use a lot of natural and rustic colours such as greys, greens and browns to express the world around us. we prefer real life over presenting places and scenarios in idealistic ways. and reality is also the driver for depicting people, staying away from over emphasising an individual’s positive assets, preferring to highlight their imperfections.

what i love most about the kiwi aesthetic is our use of language. there’s always that cheeky, sarcasm-loaded, sense of irreverence that reflects kiwi humour and our ‘she’ll be right’ approach to life. i think it’s what makes our work, particularly in advertising, stand out from work from around the world.

the nz design aesthetic will continue to evolve as the diverse tapestry that makes up our nation broadens and as we become more regional and global. to some degree i welcome this, but i do worry that our style will become less our own. i’d like to see us embrace more of the maori and pacific flavours that make our design voice unique, while also working hard to ensure our kiwi tone of voice never loses its cutting edge.

what do you think defines the kiwi design aesthetic?

image from

new zealand design style

Human trends - not design fad

17 Apr 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

This article appeared in the Autum 2018 edition of Idealog magazine It might surprise you to know that, even though I run a design agency, I loathe the notion of latest design trends. In my view, they promote a...

human trends - not design fad steven giannoulis

this article appeared in the autum 2018 edition of idealog magazine

it might surprise you to know that, even though i run a design agency, i loathe the notion of latest design trends. in my view, they promote a distorted view of what effective design is and unnecessarily emphasise the tactical components of design rather than the outcomes they deliver. i am particularly frustrated when (mostly junior) creatives suggest a design that is a blatant homage to the look our industry is currently obsessed with. this leads to lazy, unoriginal design not driven by the needs of the client or the audience we are trying to engage.

i therefore hesitated when asked to write a ‘latest design trends’ article. so often these articles just represent the writer’s opinions and preferences on what is “hot right now.” i just couldn’t bring myself to do this, so if you’re expecting recommendations on a particular shade of beetroot red or a kerning style then this isn’t the article for you.

good design is as much a study of human psychology as it is a technical skill. for me, design trends represent shifts in consumer preferences and behaviours. they are driven by cultural and social changes, technology, new channels and mediums and changing consumer demographics. so my design trends aren’t the hot new thing but fundamental consumer shifts that inform the way we should be approaching all design communications.

think human. seek engagement. be authentic and responsible. tell stories. go simple.

think human. based on a number of well known design-thinking philosophies, human centric design has grown as an idea thanks largely to the user experience (ux/ui) emphasis in web design. the core idea though extends to all design – put the needs of your audience at the forefront of the design.

start with the underlying human need that the design is looking to address, both physical and emotional. this immediately gives you a sense of the tone and feel needed. then think about the user’s journey. what leads them to your communication and why? is this the communication piece that creates that desire to buy or the rational follow-up that convinces the head that it’s okay to buy what the heart wants? and finally, think about how the end audience will interact with your communication. always work with audience expectations, creating an easy, intuitive and natural interaction. 

seek engagement. in the last decade, we’ve seen a huge drive to digital. it’s reshaped advertising, direct marketing and pr and the way we think about design and branding. digital offers reach and cost-efficiency but often it’s at the expense of audience engagement. and that’s why in some areas we’ve seen a shift back to using more physical mediums to connect with audience. this manifests in simple things like a handwritten note, a clever direct mail piece or sending a printed newsletter rather than firing another email into a crowded inbox.

at the more complex end, it’s about creating experiences that audiences can interact with, immersing themselves in your brand. this trend is influencing the design of physical spaces like office and shop fit outs. it’s also driving the growth of temporary spaces, like containers, as experience centres that utilise both physical and virtual reality (vr) to create full-sensory experiences. with vr spanning the digital and physical worlds, and its growing accessibility, we see this becoming a leading force for delivering more meaningful audience engagements.

be authentic and responsible. there are some significant social trends that are changing expectation of communications and design. first, there is a move against the over-manufactured reality that we were increasingly fed over the last few decades. consumers now want authenticity and that means representing everyday people, in real locations and situations using everyday language. not that there isn’t room for hyperbole, fantasy or escapism, but we can’t keep passing off fake as real.

and there’s a growing sense of responsibility for our actions and those of others. catalysts like #metoo, global migration and environmental change have consumers looking at communicator’s social purpose, credentials and actions. we must reflect this in design application, through the responsible depiction of gender, race and environment and with more considered application of language and humour.

tell stories. ironically, social media with its short word counts has driven growth in story-telling. as instagram shows us, a picture (and a few words) can tell a powerful, engaging story. it’s facilitated the move from saying things to showing them. audience’s want organisations to tell stories that demonstrate who they are and what they stand for, allowing audiences to seek alignment with their own beliefs and ideologies.

designers can learn from social media on how good stories engage audiences. this means capturing those real moments, and the feelings they evoke, as well as finding ways for audiences to become part of the story.

go simple. our lives are busy. email, news and social feeds bombard us constantly across multiple channels and devices. in this cluttered world, getting cut-through and resonance with communications is increasingly difficult. design can help bring calm and order to this chaotic world and that’s why we are seeing a rise of simpler design approaches. make it as easy for audiences to engage with less visual clutter, clean colour palettes and typography, good navigation and sign-posting, fewer words and meaningful icons and graphics.

applying all the above won’t necessarily make your designs more effective in driving audience perceptions or behaviours. as i said earlier, good communication design is about understanding the human psyche and this changes from audience to audience, situation to situation, and brief to brief. however, considering how to apply these (so-called) trends will go a long way to helping solve any design challenge from a consumer-led perspective.

design trends, design fads, effective design

Angels and devils

09 Apr 2018 by Paul Saris

  ' Angels and devils ' is how one of my clients organises her stakeholders.   She’d prefer everyone to be an angel, a person that supports the cause, has bought into the process, actively engages....

angels and devils paul saris
'angels and devils' is how one of my clients organises her stakeholders.

she’d prefer everyone to be an angel, a person that supports the cause, has bought into the process, actively engages. these are the champions that make a brand project go a long way, smoothly. how does the saying go again? "you go faster alone but further together". enter the devil. you guessed it, the devil is the kind that goes faster alone (or nowhere at all). the devil tends to be a roadblock to new initiatives that break the routine, are different from bau, and given the opportunity, actively hinders the move forward, any move.

in my experience, devils don’t typically set out to work the furnaces. in fact, they often have relevant ideas, interesting observations, useful insights, and a surprising amount of energy to get things done. sadly, due to lack of support, direction and isolation the furnaces get stoked and the devil comes out.

devils have a lot of knowledge about their realm, how things work around here.

devils don’t like crowds and do love a little attention, to be taken seriously, listened to, and involved for their knowledge and experience.

devils are valuable stakeholders. devils can make the most fabulous angels. devils are worth spending a bit of time with. get to know them. offer support and be rewarded. the furnaces may continue to burn but with a soothing warmth rather than a charring heat.  

and, who knows, you may uncover another angel.  
blog post, angels and devils, project champions, managing stakeholders

SIT & Innovate

04 Apr 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we innovate and how we help our clients do the same. In an industry where much of what we do has been commoditised, our most valuable skill is our ability to think creatively in...

sit & innovate steven giannoulis

i’ve been thinking a lot about how we innovate and how we help our clients do the same. in an industry where much of what we do has been commoditised, our most valuable skill is our ability to think creatively in helping our clients solve the problems that matter most to them. i’d heard of strategic inventive thinking (sit) but had never taken the time to really understand it. thanks to a course on, now i’m a big fan.

sit uses a number of tricks and techniques that require you to look ‘inside the box’ to unlock ‘outside the box’ thinking. it starts with the existing solution rather than the problem itself. (now that’s innovative in its own right.) and it’s a technique many successful firms, like apple and 3m,­­ have been using for ages.

"sit uses a number of tricks and techniques that require you to look ‘inside the box’ to unlock ‘outside the box’ thinking."

for each existing solution to a particular problem, you identify its key components and attributes and then use the following techniques to think differently about them:

  1. subtraction – what if we take away certain features and functions? apparently, the idea for the ipad came by applying this technique to the laptop.
  2. task unification – what if we associated relationships in different ways. rather than having its own cooling motor, what if your fridge was kept cool by your home’s air conditioning system? no motor and suddenly the fridge has more capacity for food, is cheaper and quicker to manufacture. and you have more possibilities for shape and size!
  3. multiplication – what if there were more that one of these components? what if your laptop had more than one screen? what if your phone had a screen on the front and the back?
  4. division – what if rather than having one big feature we have lots of small ones? the development of the dish draw dishwasher is a good example of this thinking.
  5. attribute dependency – rethinking what a thing is designed to do. what if it did something else instead? what if your light-bulb also heated your room for example? the best example is the mobile phone. someone said what if it wasn’t just for calls but a mini-computer, a camera, a dictaphone, a mini-tv, an audio device, a games console, etc. and now it is.


once you’ve generated lots of ideas using these techniques, they are evaluated against both customer needs and the feasibility to produce.

the two things that i like most about the sit approach are:

(1) it’s driven by customer-led design thinking – it’s not about brainstorming wild ideas but really thinking about the customer experience and how to better meet their underlying needs and wants; and

(2) it targets ‘fixedness’ thinking which stops innovation. fixedness is the pre-set ideas we have that things need to be in a certain place, look or work in a certain way or work in tandem with something else. change your mind-set on these and you open your mind to a whole lot of possibilities.

innovation leads to new, useful and surprising outcomes that allow our customers, and their customers, to better have their needs met. i’m a firm believer that innovation comes from within – changing your perspective – and that’s why strategic inventive thinking really appeals. the next step is for us to give sit a go. what if…..?

sit, strategic inventive thinking, innovation, creative thinking

Wider opening jaws: it’s what clients really want.

26 Mar 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

  A hang-up from my client-side days is that I expect my agency to be all about delivering on my goals. After all, business results – not big ideas and clever design - are what I’m paying for. Agency...

wider opening jaws: it’s what clients really want. steven giannoulis


a hang-up from my client-side days is that i expect my agency to be all about delivering on my goals. after all, business results – not big ideas and clever design - are what i’m paying for. agency leaders have a responsibility to ensure their teams understand the basics of business so they work on solving the problems that really matter to clients.

we recently launched a series of staff training presentations to ensure all staff have the skills to live our client-first value. the first two sessions were run by actual clients. now that was cool. the first session focused on the client/agency relationship and what clients value. the importance of strategy, transparency and accountability came through very strongly. the second looked at the client decision-making process from business planning, budgeting, business case development right through to sign-offs and how the effectiveness of our work is measured. 

for the third session, i went back to my uni days to cover the fundamentals of business strategy. clients often tell us that they want a brochure, a website or something similar without explaining the why. it’s this why that tells us what they really want, how best to approach the challenge and what results we need to deliver.

"the importance of strategy, transparency and accountability came through very strongly"

we started the session with milton friedman’s free-market theories and gordon gecko’s ‘greed is good’ philosophy before easing into triple-bottom line thinking. this sparked lively debate on the real purpose of business, with few siding with a pure capitalist mindset. we have a variety of clients from small, medium and big business, government agencies and ngos, so the discussion quickly identified that long-term value (both real and perceived) means something different for each of them.

we then focused on profit using the old-fashioned ‘opening the profit-jaws’ analogy to understand the decisions our clients might make around profit. we boiled it down to three basic drivers: (1) make more profit today; (2) make more tomorrow; or (3) create more certainty of making profit. broadly, all decisions are about more revenue, less costs and/or less risk. economic theorists are no-doubt horrified by this naivety but simplicity was crucial here.

for revenue, we used the classic pie metaphor to address market share, share of wallet and new market segments. for cost drivers, we first discussed productivity and efficiency and how companies try to do more with less. we then talked quality and how it helps reduce wastage, rework and ultimately cost. we related this back to how we approached our own work.

"we spent time pondering what some of our clients cared about most by considering their value chain, their sustainable advantage and competitive strategies"

and we talked about the reward maximisation vs risk minimisation trade-off companies face, the competitive forces they operate within and the various factors that add to their uncertainty. we considered some of the client briefs we work on and how they drive profit by managing risk.

we spent some time pondering what some of our clients cared about most by considering their value chain, their sustainable advantage and competitive strategies. 

we finished by discussing some of the key work we do – brand, websites, campaigns, staff engagement programmes and annual reports – and how we might approach each one differently if the client driver is revenue, cost or risk management.

to provide effective client solutions agencies need to understand the real business problems they are trying to solve for their clients. design people don’t naturally take to numbers and business concepts but it’s knowledge that all design agency leaders need to invest in if we are going to elevate our industry from ‘making things pretty’ to true business enablers.

design, business, creative investment, creative agencies

Not everything that shines is gold in the world of branding

14 Mar 2018 by Brian Slade

Your brand needs an evolution or a revolution. But how the heck do you choose the right people to work with to develop, evolve and roll out you brand identity? There’s a fine balance to be struck between...

not everything that shines is gold in the world of branding brian slade

your brand needs an evolution or a revolution.

but how the heck do you choose the right people to work with to develop, evolve and roll out you brand identity? there’s a fine balance to be struck between ‘contemporary’, ‘trendy’ and something that’s going to 'last the test of time’. 

with regards to trends, by nature they come and go, right? some stick around and morph from one thing to next. 

the contemporary ‘now’ creative air is filled with minimalist logos, geometric shapes, bold and playful typography, a touch of whimsical illustration and digital movement. not too much but just enough: to catch the eye, keep the file size down and not distract you from the content. the 'test of time’ approach though, may take a little more time, funnily enough, but will be worth it. 

"your creative partner will need to start each project like they’re fresh out of art school… but with at least 10 years solid experience."

each creative brand project should be approached as a unique challenge, so your creative partner will need to have the dexterity to constantly evolve and start each project like they’re fresh out of art school… with at least 10 years solid experience. otherwise you run the risk of buying a ‘style’ without substance and working with a bunch of ‘cool’ people just going through the motions but not quite 'getting' business and strategy. 

so what do you need to be looking for when you go ’surfing’ for a branding consultancy?

the first and most obvious thing to ask before you start, is what kind of partner are you looking for? strategic creative, visual guide or somewhere in between? get this right and your path will be a lot easier. then stay alert, watch, listen and be an active partner in the process.

"what kind of partner are you looking for? strategic creative, visual guide or somewhere in between?"

online, what does their website tell you about their view of user experience or customer journey? did they think about you or themselves when designing their site? are you being forced to read 9pt text? a trend where designers tried to force readers to squint through the pain barrier has surely been and gone. what about navigating from project to project. clear and seamless?

what’s their site's work section telling you about their design approach? can you see a strong 'house' style repeating through their work? or are you seeing unique solutions in their identity work that closely reflects the characteristics of their client rather than themselves? is there a focus on the executions with lots of energy put into the business cards they’ve created or is it clear what the client challenge was and how they solved the communications challenge? 

have you spotted an overuse of drop shadows or gradient effects, typography that’s gratuitously stretched or squeezed or work that is simply unclear? any swoosh in their identities? … great in the late 1990s and keeps on giving for nike.

designers solve problems and very few problems are exactly the same, so it follows the solutions you should expect to see would be different. there’s nothing at all wrong with developing stylistic elements to our work, but if it doesn’t distinguish the client from its peers and represent them individually, then 'bad move'.

"designers solve problems and very few problems are exactly the same, so it follows the solutions should be different."

to sum up… as communicators our job is to walk a fine line in brand communications that create individual, strong, distinct voices for our clients that allow them to evolve over time.

brand, design, choosing a designer

Designing for Diversity

19 Dec 2017 by Suzy Amon

User-Centered Design exists to reduce the gaps between people. Because more often than not the person designing the product and the person using it are very different.   Our users ( customers, visitors,...

designing for diversity suzy amon

user-centered design exists to reduce the gaps between people. because more often than not the person designing the product and the person using it are very different.


our users ( customers, visitors, friends ) have different ages, genders, cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, political views. they come from different places, but most importantly – they think differently than you.

research has shown that we do the majority of our thinking in our subconscious mind. this is where we store our habitual or unconscious biases.

did you know – if your brain was given a choice it would like to do the same things over and over again to conserve decision-making energy?

as creators, we have great power and therefore a great responsibility to be aware of our natural biases.

because of our design decisions, our audience will have a pleasurable or frustrating experience with a product. as a flow-on effect, that shapes how they feel about the brand and sometimes themselves.

here are some strategies we can use to start closing the gaps and combating bias:

  1. incorporating user research into our process: take the time to really know your audience, so you can have empathy for them.
  2. by hiring a diverse team: no surprises here, we need more unique perspectives to see what we don’t.
  3. building emotional intelligence: some people naturally have more than others but it can be learned. it assists in problem-solving and inspiring others.

so how will we bridge the gap in diversity so that our design captures a wider audience, making the experience more positive for a larger proportion of the population?

diversity, design, ux, effective design


18 Dec 2017 by Mason Smith

Te Papa asked us to put together a campaign to drive visitation during the summer period, focusing on the Wellington market, particularly families with kids. This summer, say 'Hi'...

big mason smith

te papa asked us to put together a campaign to drive visitation during the summer period, focusing on the wellington market, particularly families with kids.

this summer, say 'hi' to moa the big bird, catch a giant squid, feed ice creams to an enormous raptor, see lego at large, and check out the big creative spirit from a small nz iwi, and that’s just the start of it.

you’ve probably guessed it, the theme for the campaign is ‘it’s bigger than summer’.

the idea behind this campaign is to recreate all the things we love doing as a family over the summer holidays – going to the beach, fishing, water fights, ice creams, bbqs, etc., whilst giving them a larger than life spin that ties back to the exhibitions showing at te papa this summer.

we’ve created a campaign that encapsulates a sense of fun, awe and wonder. but ultimately, how exciting a day at te papa with the family, can be.

great outcome in a mere four weeks.



Getting married at first sight

18 Dec 2017 by Suzy Amon

Getting married at first sight is a dumb idea, but a surprisingly good TV show. You go blindly into a massive commitment, things get ugly but you come away having learned a lot about what you really want. In many ways,...

getting married at first sight suzy amon

getting married at first sight is a dumb idea, but a surprisingly good tv show. you go blindly into a massive commitment, things get ugly but you come away having learned a lot about what you really want. in many ways, this is exactly like a design sprint.

we don’t know what we don’t know, and as much as we think we’re good at envisioning what our audience want we can’t really know without asking them.

so, when it comes to investing big money it’s a good idea to do a rehearsal.

recently we conducted a sprint to validate a few big questions we had before leaping into building the margaret mahy website. the website would be a place to house margaret’s legacy, with around 160 pieces of work, and a range of audience groups young and old. it needed to be magical, easy to search through large amounts of content and also have the potential to win awards.

a lot to ask for with a small budget and a lot of investment by insight creative.

"when it comes to investing big money it’s a good idea to do a rehearsal."

to start with we took one week to validate if we even liked the idea enough to invest, and to explore how practically it would work from a functionality point of view.

then with week two, we prototyped the key functionality so we could see if it would work and if it was going to be as cool as we’d built it up to be in our minds.

what we learned from this experiment was there is some key functionality that needs to be invested in, that quality content will be very important, and that overall it is an exciting opportunity to make an award-winning site but we’re going to need to invest a lot of our time.

the great thing about a sprint is having all these key learnings at the beginning so we can make better decisions and have a clearer expectation of what’s to come.

What's going on under there?

24 Oct 2017 by Brian Slade

  Say the word 'strategy' to a lot of designers and a shudder runs up their spine leading to a slightly glazed look. It won’t be because they don’t like to think about what they’re doing or necessarily...

what's going on under there? brian slade
say the word 'strategy' to a lot of designers and a shudder runs up their spine leading to a slightly glazed look. it won’t be because they don’t like to think about what they’re doing or necessarily identifying the long term objectives of their client.
what it could be is that some designers identify strategy being more closely aligned to sales and marketing than creativity. they may also believe that they’re not really part of the sales process, doing everything possible to avoid that reality - the ‘creative heart’ believing 'selling' means 'selling out'. for some this could be code for 'fear of rejection' - a very natural human feeling that cuts across all walks of life. we are all biologically wired with a desire to belong. design and the creative process can be messy as we try new things out, have conflicting ideas to other people and inevitably sometimes fail.
more clearly structured, goal-oriented, process and 'routine’ oriented work requires quite different skills that more often than not require different exposures to this emotional fear. if a designer can overcome this fear or even get it into perspective, you can begin to get a picture of what the strategic creative designer looks like:
  • they have a mind set on understanding the bigger picture; working with strategic territories, insights and research to inform assured bolder design decisions. strategic work helps to channel the client thinking and form a springboard to launch from.
  • they're inquisitive, asking tough questions and looking at the answers from different points of view, which moves their thinking to openly see different possibilities, approaches and potential outcomes. not simply what they personally see.
  • they prioritise and then sequence their thoughts, using design to help the target audience focus on the core message.
  • they keep things simple and succinct, separating the overarching idea from the tactical detail.
  • they try different ways to present background thinking and creative ideas that relate to who they’re talking to.
  • they listen and seek out constructive feedback, first making sure what they're working on is aligned to the brief and strategy but is also powerful, impactful, meaningful, and making a difference for clients and their audiences. engaging hearts and minds, changing perceptions and driving actions. side stepping personal fears and ego.
  • they're openly team focused. ultimately responsible for the solution's visual expression and how it behaves, but recognising that this only happens successfully when the whole team is focused on working hard for each other's success.
  • they understand context, trends, business drivers, organised thinking, planning and have innate creative prowess.
the strategic creative designer never looked better. 
strategic designer, business design,

Where are all your photos and logos when you want them?

17 Oct 2017 by Rainer Leisky

We’ve all been there. You’re racing through ten major projects and you need to get through them as efficiently as humanly possible. And for this one, you need some images from your company’s photo library and...

where are all your photos and logos when you want them? rainer leisky

we’ve all been there. you’re racing through ten major projects and you need to get through them as efficiently as humanly possible. and for this one, you need some images from your company’s photo library and the right logo. where are they? how do you get them quickly and easily? are they the right resolution and size for the purpose?

and then you spend the next two hours asking all sorts of colleagues whether they have them in their folders, are they on an external hard drive somewhere, which hard drive would they be on, where are those hard drives? or are they on some dvd somewhere in someone’s drawer? or maybe they’re with the agency, but who would know? who organised the shoot? who has the agency relationship? and then you don’t know whether you need a jpeg, a tif, and eps or a png.

most clients with a medium to large image library experience frustration in managing their digital asset files.

most clients with a medium to large image library experience frustration in managing their digital asset files. if that all seems too common an experience, then dam is the answer. dam software that is: digital asset management software.

a good solution can change your life:

  • centralise all assets in the cloud and make them readily available to everyone in the business and selected external stakeholder
  • shift dependence from any one individual’s knowledge of the whereabouts of resource
  • save a lot of time, frustration and money when searching for assets
  • provide clear visibility of assets
  • easy for anyone in the business to find and distribute files
  • make collaboration much easier
  • manage non-compliant use of licensed content or stop use of out of date (unapproved) assets.
  • encourage reuse and repurposing of assets rather than recreating them
  • help with ‘brand guardianship’
  • assets are backed up
  • more agility (get that asset out there quicker) 

but the right system needs to:

  • be easy to use and provide great support
  • be secure and offer various users appropriate user permissions
  • be scalable
  • support any type of digital asset, including logos and videos
  • help you identify just what file format you should use for your project
  • allow easy exit from the service i.e. be simple and low cost to change the solution

is a dam worth the investment?

international data corporation (idc), a market research, analysis and advisory firm specialising in information technology, published a paper titled “proving the value of digital asset management for digital marketers and creative teams” in june 2015. idc surveyed 123 companies. their executive summary claims that the roi realised is as follows:

a) 79% have increased revenue by 10% or more

b) 97% have reduced asset creation costs by 10% or more

c) 86% have reduced risk by 10% or more

d) 97% have increased productivity by 10% or more. 

choosing the right option

there are hundreds of dam solutions on the market, ranging from complex, feature-rich enterprise solutions to mid-range solutions with fewer features but still offering appropriate asset management features. and at the low end there are community image sharing and hosting solutions - basically online photo galleries. so, choosing the right one for your needs can be time-consuming exercise. let’s see if we can help.

your ‘right’ solution will depend largely on the number of assets you have. ranging from 100s or 1000s to 10s of millions of assets. most of insight creative’s clients are in the 1000s of assets bracket, but you should still expect the solution to be scalable within reason.

feature rich dam solutions can be cost prohibitive for many companies. and feature-poor ‘affordable or free’ solutions lack functionality, offering little advantage to make the change from existing methods. but somewhere below the high-range solutions at exorbitant set up costs and annual licensing fees, there are moderately priced options that have appropriate features for your scale of business.

i’ve assessed many solutions spanning the range above, looking for inherent features that:


  • process
  • collaborate
  • manage duplicates
  • are cloud-based/centralised
  • have searchable meta data
  • repurpose assets on the fly

not to mention:

  • be intuitive and easy to use
  • be easy to train users
  • offer great support
  • be secure
  • manage access and user rights

one of the things i considered incredibly important was ‘ease of extracting assets’ from the service. 

the inconvenient truth is that, to be useful, a digital asset management system needs consistent management.

for me the most important aspect of operating a dam solution is understanding the importance of its management, not so much the solution itself. the inconvenient truth is that, to be useful, a digital asset management system needs consistent management. images need to be uploaded religiously, in the right way, and naming and tagging is critically important for smooth later searchability and usability. it’s the classic ‘garbage in, garbage out’ (‘gigo’) scenario.

if you don’t have someone managing the assets and making them easily available you might as well revert back to using that dusty hard drive that’s stored in the third draw down.

but get the management right, and you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it. productivity will soar.

if you can see that a dam will make your life easier, talk to us. we’ll help fit you into just the right solution for your company’s needs.

dam, digital asset management, photo library

Websites: the end is just the beginning

16 Oct 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

When I visit a website, I typically (and quickly) scan the homepage. I might scroll just beyond the fold to see what content morsels lie just out of sight – and if I don’t find anything to sink my teeth into –...

websites: the end is just the beginning jeremy sweetman

when i visit a website, i typically (and quickly) scan the homepage. i might scroll just beyond the fold to see what content morsels lie just out of sight – and if i don’t find anything to sink my teeth into – i check out the menu. if it’s a burger, i open it.

every website has a goal. an intent. whether measurable by dollars & cents, subscription or shares, or likes or engagements. in an ideal situation, users would all view a website in the same way, they would understand the intent and participate – consciously or sub-consciously. the problem is, that even with the clearest of journeys, the user will always do what the user always does. the challenge then becomes one of designing a better user experience. one that marries the user’s needs with the business objectives.

when we develop a website, we factor in that people engage differently. they navigate differently; some consume content, others snack; some anchor themselves to desktops, others view things on the go. the one truism is that people engage differently.

so, given that people engage differently, how do you build the perfect website to cater for all the differences? the answer is, you don’t.

when you start defining an experience, you research, and plan, and interview and develop and trial all of the ideas and possibilities you think will solve the challenge. at some point, you have to put it out there and watch. and learn. and then refine and evolve.

knowledge, creativity, and experience provide a perfect starting point, but ultimately your users define how they will engage with you and your brand.

"at some point, you have to put it out there and watch. and learn.

and then refine and evolve."

through observation of user behaviour, you can refine your service and offer more meaningful choices. you can cater for better engagement. ultimately, you aim to aid your users to achieve your goals by delivering a better experience. to assist in your quest for clarity, a wealth of knowledge, tools and analysis is on offer to help you maximise the online experience of your users.

don’t be afraid to not know all the answers when you go live with a website. be galvanised in the notion that you’ll learn, and refine, and improve with each user interaction. your goals will be more achievable, fuelled by an increase in your understanding. your platform will become more resilient to change the more you know about how your users engage – regardless of browser, device or time of day etc.

to create meaningful online experiences that ebb & flow based on user needs and business objectives – don’t ever see the ‘going live’ of your website as the end of your project – but instead, the beginning. be prepared to learn more about your users, beyond what you thought you knew. and don’t shy away from changing your direction off the back of analysis of your users’ behaviours.

websites, user experience, ux, incremental improvement

Space to think and do.

16 Oct 2017 by Brian Slade

To unlock creative ideas most of us need to make space and time to ‘unplug’. To some extent ideas can come from anywhere but in reality a significant factor in unlocking ideas is allowing our subconscious to...

space to think and do. brian slade
to unlock creative ideas most of us need to make space and time to ‘unplug’. to some extent ideas can come from anywhere but in reality a significant factor in unlocking ideas is allowing our subconscious to takeover!
"big ideas come from the unconscious... but your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. you can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath... suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.” david ogilvy.
the most creative people i’ve worked with have a voracious appetite to ‘digest' an eclectic array of information. this then allows their subconscious the opportunity to mix, match and mingle. percolating ideas and merging seemingly unrelated concepts. then through their rational thought process they order, disorder, construct and deconstruct.
so how does it work? the creative process isn't a linear activity. it works through aptitude, attitude and a desire to be inquisitive about information and solving problems. ideas can and do pop up in the middle of a walk, driving or thinking about something completely unrelated to a brief or problem: our subconscious at work, but it can only get creative once we’ve put in a problem, a challenge and information - both related and unrelated. 
in an increasingly ‘plugged in' world, it can feel like an impossible task to ‘unplug’, especially when the meter's running in a commercial environment. it takes a bit of mental effort and sometimes courage when others around you may not immediately appreciate you taking off for another walk or hot bath!
as a designer, when i’ve been briefed on a project i try to get started as soon as i can. not physically 'designing' but reading, researching, thinking and debating the challenge with the rest of the team; clarifying the challenge and testing out thinking - way before i eventually start scratching out some visual thoughts and ‘designing’. 
depending on the scale of the project this can range from a few short conversations to a few hours mulling things over. then i’m keen to leave it for a bit if i can and ‘unplug'. if i need to have something for the next day i'll try short sprints — fail fast style — and try to put a bit of space between the sprints. 'unplugging' but coming back to the problem fresh each time.
for most creative people it's never a 9-5 occupation, you never switch off thinking creatively but in reality you may need to make space to ‘unplug’. for me this means scheduling time in my diary ahead of time when i know a job needs to be looked at, and honour this time like any other meeting time. 
i make daily lists of priorities, each day moving tasks across to a fresh list. post it notes, printouts, note books - basically what ever it takes to make space to ‘unplug’, think and do.
creativity, space to think, big ideas

Bitchin' about Pitching

03 Oct 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

New business pitches are a fact of life and I’d be concerned if we weren’t involved in them on a regular basis. All I ask is that clients play fair. Here’s some things that annoy me most about pitching. ...

bitchin' about pitching steven giannoulis

new business pitches are a fact of life and i’d be concerned if we weren’t involved in them on a regular basis. all i ask is that clients play fair. here’s some things that annoy me most about pitching.

invite the world / ask for the world.
clients have a responsibility to do a little bit of work themselves to determine what they need and who could potentially do their work, rather than just putting open tenders out there or inviting lots of agencies. if they genuinely don’t know who’s available, and can’t get recommendations from others, then they should put a simple and quick eoi (expression of interest) out there. use the responses to shortlist a handful and invite only those to pitch.

worse than a big invite list is a huge list of requirements. often it means answering fifty plus questions to get to round two, only to have further requirements to complete, followed by a presentation. many pitches take thirty plus hours to prepare, some more than double that. ask us for what you really need, not everything you can possibly think of.

asking for free stuff.
our general rule is that we’ll never pitch for anything that requires us to present work. it’s just rude to ask a specialist to do work and not expect to pay for it. we’re happy to demonstrate our capability with some general thinking or direction but we draw the line at being asked to present a specific strategy or creative concept.

if you want to test us, give us a small brief and pay us to deliver the work. if you like it then it’s win/win. and if don’t want to keep working with us, then don't, but the work is yours to keep.

be transparent.
just recently we did a pitch where we went through a number of stages only to be told they had a small fixed budget. it would have been good to have been told the budget upfront as we may have not gone for it. more likely we would have presented two quotes. the first based on their requirements. the second, showing what they’d get for the money they have.

worse still is where there is an agency the client wants to work with but they’re required to do a competitive pitch. i’ve been on both sides and having to pitch for work you’ve already won is just as frustrating as pitching for work you’re never going to win.

always tell us honestly what the evaluation criteria are and if you have specific requirements about where we are located, the type of agency we need to be or the level of sexual or ethnic diversity we must display to win the pitch.

let’s talk about the price.
earlier this year we pitched for an account and apparently outscored in all areas other than price. the prospective client rang us and was upfront about their dilemma. they wanted to work with us but were struggling to get it over the line with their board. after some discussion, we agreed on a new approach to pricing that was palatable to all.

so, if price is the only issue that’s stopping you from picking us, let’s have a conversation. but don’t do it just to screw our price down. in the long-term we’ll find a way to get the value we need. generally, it’s by having no flexibility with scope and charging you for absolutely everything.

give us feedback.
providing open, honest and constructive feedback to all parties at the end of a pitch process is mandatory. i often ask up front if feedback will be available and this helps me decide whether to go for a pitch or not. no feedback tells me something about the one-way relationship we'd be in for.

we have a criteria for what we pitch for and how much we’ll invest to get it. we only go for stuff we genuinely want to do and know we can do well. in return, we ask for a similar level of respect from anyone who invites us to pitch for their work.

pitching, new business

The 2017 NZSO Season hits the streets with an ‘expected, unexpected’ conviction

21 Aug 2017 by Brian Slade

Creating a campaign months ahead of it appearing in public is always an interesting exercise. Not only is there the delayed creative gratification but also trying to gauge how effective the idea will be in reality....

the 2017 nzso season hits the streets with an ‘expected, unexpected’ conviction brian slade

creating a campaign months ahead of it appearing in public is always an interesting exercise. not only is there the delayed creative gratification but also trying to gauge how effective the idea will be in reality. this year, it’s been exciting watching our new zealand symphony orchestra (nzso) ‘expect the unexpected’ creative platform gradually unfold. the cumulative impact of the visually distinctive campaign has definitely been building momentum as it has hit the streets with our striking posters and social media alignment.

we're now midway through the 2017 nzso season and are now starting to see some of the stronger campaign images popping up across our main centres.

this time last year we did a three day shoot of the some of the orchestra members dressed in ‘civvies’ to strategically break down a few barriers and challenge misconceptions about the orchestra. one in particular is bridget douglas, section principal - flute. our ‘expect the unexpected’ theme was totally reinforced at the shoot when bridget stepped in front of the camera. she needed little art direction to physically embody the idea and like a true professional got straight into the right head space. she’s perfectly paired with hector berlioz’s fantastical metaphysical drama ‘the damnation of faust’ concert (wellington 25 august, auckland 27 august) and so creates great alignment to the concept.

malaviya gopal, 1st violinist, was also great to work with. paired with the schuman and barber concert, she really breaks down preconceptions that orchestra music isn’t relevant and could actually be worth a go. in her leather jacket she’s very natural, real and very much aligned to the target audience of the arts crowd.

nzso, 2017 season, marketing campaign, insight creative

How much is design worth to the NZ economy?

02 Aug 2017 by Mike Tisdall

A new study by PWC released last week calculates design's economic contribution to New Zealand is $10.1 billion - yes, that's BILLION. Approximately 4.2 % of the country's total GDP. The research reveals that if...

how much is design worth to the nz economy? mike tisdall

a new study by pwc released last week calculates design's economic contribution to new zealand is $10.1 billion - yes, that's billion. approximately 4.2 % of the country's total gdp. the research reveals that if design were treated as an individual industry its contribution to the new zealand economy would be larger than agriculture and on a par with retail trade ($10.6 billion), and food, beverage and tobacco product manufacturing. the sector also provides approximately 94,200 fte design positions in new zealand, roughly 4.4 per cent of employment.

the value of design report was commissioned by designco, a consortium which comprises massey university’s college of creative arts, the designers institute of new zealand, otago polytechnic school of design, nzte, aut’s school of art and design, the auckland co-design lab, callaghan innovation and victoria university’s school of design. 

finance minister stephen joyce expressed his excitement in his forward to the report: “design is a powerful tool of the modern, interconnected world,” he said. “it is a key component of innovation, turning great ideas into services and products that consumers want to buy and use, it can help ensure that public services are user-friendly and more efficient, and it can help make cities more attractive places for citizens and skilled migrants to live and work. in short, these design-led firms are contributing to new zealand’s success as a diversified, resilient and growing economy.”

professor claire robinson, pro vice chancellor at massey's college of creative arts and convener of designco, was even more succinct. “there is a strong correlation between national prosperity, economic growth and a thriving design sector,” she said. “international evidence confirms that design leads to more competitive firms making and selling higher value products and services."

among designco’s recommendations for future actions are:

  • treasury to develop a national design strategy in collaboration with the new zealand design sector.
  • establish and fund a body similar to the uk design council responsible for the strategic coordination of design in new zealand, bringing together the design industry, research and education.
  • establish a programme of business support for the use of design by smes, similar to the nzte better by design programme.
  • increase targeted funding support for design-led service transformation in the public sector.
  • widen the current conceptualisation of stem to include creative arts subjects such as design and creative media production, and increase the efts funding for these subject areas.
  • establish a dedicated research fund for design researchers to access, and infrastructure to support the allocation of funds (separate from science, health or arts funding).

you can see the value of design report in full here.




design, economic contribution

Big Ideas start small

24 Jul 2017 by Mike Tisdall

In the June issue, CEO, Steven Giannoulis, tells NZMarketing magazine that 'good design should always deliver business results for the client'. In NZMarketing's research for the prior issue of the magazine, marketers...

big ideas start small mike tisdall

in the june issue, ceo, steven giannoulis, tells nzmarketing magazine that 'good design should always deliver business results for the client'. in nzmarketing's research for the prior issue of the magazine, marketers expressed their frustration at an industry generally more interested in winning creative awards than truly helping the client - something steven had been on the receiving end of when he worked client-side. this is part of the reason he does everything he can to ensure that the work that insight develops actually drives value for the client.

click the image to read the full article.


ideas, driving value

Can you resist?

03 Apr 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

Over the weekend, I read a great book called  Hidden Persuasion  (Andrews, van Leeuwen & van Baaren). It’s a book about the persuasive techniques used by clever marketers to get us to buy or do...

can you resist? steven giannoulis

over the weekend, i read a great book called hidden persuasion (andrews, van leeuwen & van baaren). it’s a book about the persuasive techniques used by clever marketers to get us to buy or do stuff.

every day we are bombarded by hundreds of messages designed to persuade us how to feel, act, do and be. most of the time we lack the conscious awareness to process them. but some of these really get through, changing our perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. often we don’t even know it’s happened.

so what is that hidden persuasion technique that creates this cut-through?

the book outlines 33 persuasion techniques (many i know and use already) including metaphor, humour, scarcity, attraction, authority, fear, disruption, self-persuasion, social proof, promised land and of course, sex appeal. these techniques have been proven again and again and the authors give us lots of examples of results delivered in advertising.

i particularly like ideas like decoy: where consumers are choosing between two options, and a third option is introduced to create a bias. you often see this in cafés with a small, medium and large coffee offered. the large option costs just 50 cents more that medium, making the medium the decoy designed to make the large look like the best value. end result, we end up upsizing (just as the café wanted us to).

what strikes me about these techniques is that they’re not just gimmicks but rooted in psychology and social influence. as you read through them you can practically hear maslow saying “see, i was right about people’s basic needs and the priority they come in!”  these techniques work because they operate at three levels:

  1. they appeal to our hardwired responses, such as the fight or flight response, which are core to what makes us human;
  2. our deep social needs like love, respect, popularity and belonging; and
  3. our self-needs like self-worth, identity, pain avoidance, wealth, safety and survival.

when marketers use imagery and language that taps into these fundamental needs, resistance is futile. and our unconscious bias for attractive faces, symmetrical design or humourous copy means we don’t resist because we don’t even know we’re being persuaded.

the other thing that i like about these techniques is how they still apply today, even though the way we reach and engage audiences has changed. they work on websites, in video, on social media pages, in smm and sem campaigns, e-marketing and they still work just as well across traditional marketing and communications mediums.

persuasion, marketing

The Clash of Data and Design.

30 May 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

Now, you may already know this, but the digital landscape harbours a polarised community of data-driven practitioners and their design counterparts. This tension is (typically) born from perceptions that data driven...

the clash of data and design. jeremy sweetman

now, you may already know this, but the digital landscape harbours a polarised community of data-driven practitioners and their design counterparts. this tension is (typically) born from perceptions that data driven design diminishes – if not eliminates – creativity. really!?

let’s be clear, what is data-driven design?

(for simplicity) we can define data-driven-design as the use of quantitative data to inform the design deliverable.


without doubt, there are large companies that live & die by their data-centric approach to design – i’m looking at you google & facebook. but this focus is equally balanced by successful counterparts like apple – who are particularly anti-data – and who openly express a heavily design-centric process. so, who’s right? both? neither?

could it be that both are wrong? with the answer lying within a blend of both? now before ‘heresy’ is suggested from the respective camps – let me explain.

data creates opportunity. delivering opportunity to gain user empathy and inspiration. it pulls back the cover on what people say they do and displays what they ‘actually’ do. remember that numbers represent people, behaviours and engagement; then this intelligence allows design to drive innovation and fuels informed improvement.

as a tool, data then allows for better designed experiences, elevating the human-centred design process.

as the world becomes increasingly more digital, we’ll need to continue to embrace the ‘data by-product’ of user engagement to continually craft better outcomes. by leveraging analytics, we enrich our understanding of amazing (or awful) experiences and, therefore, can iterate in more meaningful ways. this, ultimately, will lead to better products. increased user engagement.

bear-hugs all round.

perceptions aside, it's time to hug an analyst and/or high-five a designer, then wield the power of data & design in pursuit of crafting more meaningful digital experiences.

data+design=amazing experiences <3

data, design

Early morning rise, a reality for me

10 Jun 2016 by Chloe Litchfield

I’m really not a morning person, my circadian clock cringes whenever it’s forced to rise before 7am. However, the promise of a freshly brewed, extra strong, double shot of morning inspo was enough to lure me out of...

early morning rise, a reality for me chloe litchfield

i’m really not a morning person, my circadian clock cringes whenever it’s forced to rise before 7am. however, the promise of a freshly brewed, extra strong, double shot of morning inspo was enough to lure me out of bed last friday.

creative mornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community, and this month, the theme was reality. reality on the surface feels so tangible, so concrete. but… in reality, it isn’t quite that simple. after catching up with a few familiar faces and eating roughly my weight in free mini bagels and croissants, i sat down to listen to this month’s guest speaker, anna jackson, spin some truths.

anna is a lecturer at colab, the ‘collaboratory’ for design and creative technologies at aut. she also co-founded the documentary initiative loading docs (a launchpad for new zealand documentary shorts, if you have 3 minutes spare, check one out! my favourite is ‘dancing in the dark’). here’s what i took away from the talk, so i thought i’d share it with you guys!


“if we want to change reality, we need to see it.”

much of what we do as designers is creating a reality. we set the context for how content will be perceived by people. a viewer will start forming judgements about a piece of design within a few milliseconds. long before they’ve read a single word, they’ve formed opinions based solely on the design created to hold the all important message. if you wish to change the way people see reality, you need to show them. they need to see it to believe it. it’s all about influencing perception.    

here at insight we work on awesome projects every day that visually portray a reality in one way or another. we find ourselves in quite a powerful position because we can choose how to best show these in engaging, insightful, entertaining ways that can have a real impact on people, make them think or feel a certain way and effect change.

there was also a sweet-as virtual reality demonstration, i had a turn on “the green fairy”, a story-driven experience by master of creative technologies student alejandro davila. lovely, lots of fairies and mushrooms, see the pics of me enjoying it way too much below.



creative, design, colab, virtual reality

Communication design trends 2016

01 Jun 2016 by Brian Slade

Creative Director, Brian Slade, looks forward to see what we’re likely to see emerging in our industry in the next 12 months. “A trend never simply emerges for a single year and then disappears in a puff of...

communication design trends 2016 brian slade

creative director, brian slade, looks forward to see what we’re likely to see emerging in our industry in the next 12 months.

“a trend never simply emerges for a single year and then disappears in a puff of smoke. instead, an aesthetic becomes popular gradually, even mysteriously, over time before fizzling out slowly without much notice at all.”  madeleine morley, the american institute for graphic arts.

forecasting trends with any certainty is tricky but here are ten possible aesthetic design trends to keep an eye out for and a few trends that may particularly impact us through this busier part of the year. given that brands are about creating and maintaining competitive differential, following trends that dilute competitive distance can be counter-productive. the trick for a design agency like ours, is knowing when following such trends is ‘right’ for our clients. as usual, being true to the brand essence is the first priority. at the same time, being relevant, contemporary and appropriate to the business communication imperative is also at the top of our list. a healthy tension . . .

01. “modern” retro style. stylistic influences from more recent decades, the late 1970s through the 90s. think early pcs and video games, pixel art, and space themes.

02. material (flat) design. bold flat, graphic look.

03. bright, bold colors. fitting in with both 80s/90s styles, vibrant hues should continue to prove popular picks into 2016. colors that transport us to a happier, sunnier place where we feel free to express a wittier version of our real selves.

04. geometric shapes. geometric shapes, stipes and patterns applied in all sorts of ways. also keep an eye out for a style known as “low poly,” which got its start as a 3d modeling technique for video games.

05. negative space negative and/or white space is an essential part of any good design. but used strategically, negative space can be a clever way to add deeper or double meaning to designs, particularly for logo and branding projects.

06. grids. modular, card-based (grid) layouts have been adopted by some of the biggest brands for their websites and mobile apps.

07. dramatic typography. according to this trend, typography isn’t just for reading, the message is the medium. look out for big, bold type that’s the center of attention.

08. abstract, minimalistic style. this trend relies on less being more and deconstructing or distorting recognizable forms. elements are picked apart and put back together in a unique way and a seemingly random layout.

09. serifs get their due. while sans serif designs continually dominate the lists of top-selling typefaces in popular font marketplaces the serif can more than ever be reproduced with dignity and not degraded. higher resolution screens becoming more prevalent increasingly they can handle the more delicate, refined nuances of serif typefaces and smaller sizes.

10. prominent custom type and type awareness continue. whether consciously or unconsciously, everybody knows type is everywhere. the san francisco typeface, a design that debuted first for the apple watch, and subsequently rolled out for ios and os x el capitan, continues the trend of the public becoming more aware of the importance (and, indeed, fashionability) of type.

design, trends

Yes. But why?

03 May 2016 by Brian Slade

Clients ostensibly hire creative agencies to produce creative solutions. You think? We prefer to believe that they hire us for effective creative solutions. And effectiveness is what gets us going. It powers up...

yes. but why? brian slade

clients ostensibly hire creative agencies to produce creative solutions.

you think?

we prefer to believe that they hire us for effective creative solutions. and effectiveness is what gets us going. it powers up our brains, focuses our minds and provides purpose for our cerebral wanderings.

however, both in our internal project progress reviews and when clients give us feedback, inevitably a strong element of subjectivity sneaks in.

with any project, once we’ve gone through our internal creative process and filters, powered through those stretch creative visuals and presented sketched ideas or well-honed creative concepts, most clients come back with some version of . . .  ‘can you move this?’, ‘change that’ and (obviously) ‘make the logo bigger’.

faced with this, i’ve learnt that both creativity – and effectiveness - can be really enhanced with a simple question: after a slight pause i’ve found. “yes… but why?” really helpful.

i like to say “yes” because it’s simply a client-focused view. it acknowledges their role and reinforces our service ethic. i’ve always appreciated that we are commercial artists, not bohemian artisans living on the beach with delusions of grandeur. our salaries, after all, come from clients asking for these changes, right? “yes” helps build empathy and understanding, allowing us to remain both informed and professional.

“yes”, is also an exercise in remaining open minded. and when we’re open minded we’re more likely to see opportunities. after all, just because we’ve done it that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid for some reason that we’re not fully equipped to see. the client is a key part of the team. they know their environment, product or service infinitely better than we can ever do.

passion and belief in our work is great, but sometimes we can all be guilty of a touch of pride, so i try to apply a little perspective here and respect each individual’s view and consider its merit. the client’s request can often be implemented easily enough. it’s not too hard to move something, change a colour or even make the logo bigger . . .

so “yes, but why?”   

what’s behind the “why?” fundamental to being an effective designer is ownership and understanding. if it’s not obvious and i don’t ask, i’ll never be in a position to understand what the client is thinking.  it’s simply part of being clear about what we’re all doing. if we’ve done our job well internally we will have explained the solution and how it directly solves the client’s problems as understood and expressed in the brief. staying calm, taking ownership and being positive usually helps here – as does not taking it personally!

leading the creative is our job. if, as designers, we abdicate decision-making and responsibility, we’re never going to get the best creative outcome for our client. designing is, in part, being inquisitive, actively engaged and problem solving. it’s impossible to solve problems if you don’t have enough input or knowledge. so by asking “why?”, we leverage views and thoughts that we can then work with to make informed decisions and lead effectively.

finally, there are efficiencies and budgets we all need to consider. by asking “but why?” we can collectively make a call on any scope change or debate whether the change enhances or dilutes the effectiveness or the integrity of the creative.  

clients and agencies enjoy a relationship that, in the best circumstances, creates a positive and focused tension that can result in awesome and effective results. designer, sabo tercero, put it like this, “we are all designers, the difference is that only a few of us do it full time.”  

making the tension healthy and constructive relies on understanding where people are coming from so we can work together, always looking for that win/win to get the most effective creative outcome for everyone.


brian slade
creative director

design, effectiveness, better creative

05. Imagery

04 Apr 2016 by Brian Slade

Creative Director, Brian Slade, concludes his review of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. In the last in this series, we take a look at how a picture can say quite a bit. As designers, we...

05. imagery brian slade

creative director, brian slade, concludes his review of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.

in the last in this series, we take a look at how a picture can say quite a bit.

as designers, we use imagery a lot right? it obviously ranges from the well considered, art-directed, idea-based to the sometimes not so much! personally i like to encourage clients to allow us to generate their own imagery, but image libraries have come a long way and definitely can play their part.

precinct decided to go very low key with their report this year, but all it took was the inclusion of one hero image to set the document up to be more than the simple mandatory regulatory document. 


fletcher building fully embraced our art-directed, direct-to-camera approach to show the scale and scope of their operations. with a good mix of detailed ambient imagery and site specific images the reports are high impact and engaging.


a clever use of metaphor imagery was used in this spread for auckland international airport… simple but effective integration and play with the type and messaging.


stock photography that worked well in my view was used on the vital healthcare property trust investor newsletter update. a touch of humour, and it mixed well with the overall graphic direction of this year's report.


the final word goes to the sanford team, the last of this season's reports. with a theme of ‘salt in our veins’ connecting sanford's genuine passion and resolve to achieve a sustainable future, we worked with lush and beauftifully executed ‘brand’ imagery supplied by a third party.


thanks for reading this far… let me know what you think of these creative projects and this review of our reports.

2015 annual reporting season review - imagery

04. Graphics

15 Mar 2016 by Brian Slade

Creative Director, Brian Slade, reviews aspects of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. As designers, it’s what we do. The definition of graphics, from the Greek graphikos, is ‘something...

04. graphics brian slade

creative director, brian slade, reviews aspects of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.

as designers, it’s what we do. the definition of graphics, from the greek graphikos, is ‘something written e.g. autograph, visual images or designs on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, screen, paper or stone to inform, illustrate, or entertain…'

vital is a great example of the use of graphics combined with the overall message to communicate with a very positive effect. the target device works well to keep on giving, used on a few spreads and as a cover for the shareholder newsletter - simple, clear and effective.

nati whatua o orakei has this delightful spread in it: a timeline that is a real pleasure to look at. aesthetics are crucial in delivering strong graphics and this spread is confident, bold and assured. giving me a sense that what i’m looking at is controlled and purposeful. i think this is a real win for the report.

in a previous post in this series, we looked at the deconstructed typography in stand children’s services report this year. however this report also illustrates how type can be treated as a graphic element to help tell the story. each deconstructed typo’graphic’ element was balanced and considered in relationship to the image on the spread and the accompanying text.

a strong part of our ports of auckland identity tool kit is the set of icons we use to illustrate the volumes and diversity that come across its wharves each year… 28,349 tonnes of tractors… and how many tonnes of bananas do you think?

steadfast threw up its challenges this year. we were required to explore a very high number of cover options. it was finally resolved with this well-executed graphic cover that draws from the logo shape to house a diverse range of staff and customers linked through the client's logo.

we’ve been working with transpower to graphically illustrate how they are connecting new zealanders through the use of an illustrative image. we’ve been able to use this graphic flexibly across the reports to give the appearance of change without the base document elements changing. this has  allowed for economic production and efficiencies.

if you’ve read this far congratulations… let me know what you think of these creative projects and keep an eye out for the last powerful annual reporting results 05. imagery.

2015 annual reporting season review - graphics

03. Colour

26 Feb 2016 by Brian Slade

Creative Director, Brian Slade, reviews aspects of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. A highly emotive aspect to all graphic communications and subject to trends and association, colour...

03. colour brian slade

creative director, brian slade, reviews aspects of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.

a highly emotive aspect to all graphic communications and subject to trends and association, colour throws up challenges that can scare even the most battle-hardened of designers and be an ‘aladdin’s cave’ for others.

ngati whatua’s three reports rely on strong colours to distinguish between them, ochre, blood red and green with a healthy dollop of black. this primary colour palette supported by desaturated and well graded full colour imagery has developed over the past three years, creating a very solid and consistent look and feel.


if you're after a colour fest, stand children’s services' report takes it to the next level. the first 27 pages are uncompromisingly full-on colour, multiplied over full colour images that were delicately image-worked to create subtle depth. a brand full of colour, this document is colour central.


soft and muted tones support nz super fund's visual identity. excellently executed, this year's report creates a sense of calm, organisation and thoughtfulness. colour tabbing is cleverly used on the leading edges of the pages to aid navigation between the multitude of financials.


vital’s two primary support colours are used really well in this report to focus the viewer on the graphic message. strong use of ‘controlled’ white space guides you and helps focus the eye on the target. this report feels clean, fresh and clinical.


there are generally two ways to ‘own’ colour in a visual identity. either minimise its use within a communication, using supportive neutral colours for it to be projected off, or minimise the use of other colours in the palette and use it boldly. this year for ports of auckland, we pulled back on the colour usage with a few notable exceptions on the infographics pages, restraining the report to only a couple of colours.

if you’ve read this far, congratulations… let us know what you think of these creative projects and keep an eye out for powerful annual reporting results 04. graphics, coming soon.

2015 annual reporting season review - colour

02. Typography

22 Feb 2016 by Brian Slade

Creative Director, Brian Slade, reviews aspects of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. Typography remains a powerful weapon for any designer to wield in their creative work. In the last few...

02. typography brian slade

creative director, brian slade, reviews aspects of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.

typography remains a powerful weapon for any designer to wield in their creative work. in the last few months of 2015, the design team showed their skills and passions to good effect.

david storey and natalie moinfar created a new headline font for nati whatua’s three reports. completely bespoke, this hand crafted font has an authenticity and freshness that uses three parallel lines working in harmony to depict the three areas the iwi are focussed on: governance through the trust; social wellbeing for whai maia; and commercial profitability for whai rawa.


building on the strong visual identity we created for esr, we had the opportunity to showcase its flexibility by creating a type face for their internal team to implement across their report. robust and strong it is powerfully used on the cover and used as initial caps within the document. it seamlessly ties esr’s graphic language to this year's core message.


deconstructed type was used to communicate this year's message in stand children’s services report. fragmentation within the sector is tackled head on with the typography building to the rally cry of ’stand up’. secondary messages of stand strong, stand with purpose, stand with courage, stand as one etc… complement this narrative.


without introducing anything new to the identity guidelines, we created an adaptation of transpower’s corporate font trade gothic. a simple outlining and inlaid chevron created a contemporary and lighter weight version of the typeface that is used as a display face on high level communications.


finally, it’s not all simply about adding more to create impact. edwin hooper’s mastery of white space, scale and expert detailing in fletcher building's report this year showcased the very best of balance. he has managed to create a compelling and engaging feel with the use of font weights and the introduction of a stencil display font fit for purpose.


if you’ve read this far, congratulations… let us know what you think of these creative projects and keep an eye out for powerful annual reporting results 03. colour, coming soon.

2015 annual reporting season review - typography

01. Messaging

19 Jan 2016 by Brian Slade

Creative Director, Brian Slade , reviews aspects of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. Meet Lulu and Rufus/  Over the past six months, in one of our busiest periods, we’ve managed...

01. messaging brian slade

creative director, brian slade, reviews aspects of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.

meet lulu and rufus/ over the past six months, in one of our busiest periods, we’ve managed to create some really powerful work. one of the key aspects for the reports we do is the messages they communicate.

some of the highlights for me this year included the very ‘real family’ used to illustrate the human reason for being for nz super fund. beautifully balanced in this massive document is the narrative of lulu, rufus (the dog), dean and tamara that we created. large format imagery powerfully punctuates the document and pullouts help substantiate the long game perspective that epitomises the very ethos of nz super fund.
vector boldly used their electric vehicle (evs) initiative to illustrate their strategic aim of transforming the business by creating a new energy future, by leveraging new technologies. the message was directly extracted from their new vision. each initiative that feeds into this overarching concept is supported by ‘pop up’ iconography and short hand messaging. easy to skim read and extract key messages.

we created ‘we are here’ to cleverly play on mighty river power’s maturing and ‘arrival’ as a publicly listed company, while also clearly positioning them in the heartland of new zealand, focusing on our natural renewable energy resources. this message of ‘we are…’ was picked up for the chairperson’s message to deliver an affirming foundational message and also followed up through focusing on sponsorship and evs.

the creative for new client, fletcher building, built on a values and messaging initiative that they had implemented internally. the messaging idea was given extra authenticity by having the workforce themselves articulate fletcher's values and proposition. delicately executed, this report and review is deep and rich.

finally, spark took three spreads and the cover to mark their territory and clearly inform the reader what they are about. human benefits and warm fuzzies are depicted as technologies expand into every corner of our lives, accompanied by an affirmingly positive ‘on track’ message.

if you’ve read this far, congratulations… and keep an eye out for powerful annual reporting results 02. typography.
messaging, annual report

User journeys - more than a web thing

27 Oct 2015 by Steven Giannoulis

A great article by Steven Giannoulis in the November/December issue of Idealog. This one explores UX (User Experience), and tracks the notion beyond the website to its application to any customer experience in any,...

user journeys - more than a web thing steven giannoulis

a great article by steven giannoulis in the november/december issue of idealog. this one explores ux (user experience), and tracks the notion beyond the website to its application to any customer experience in any, and across many, channels.


design, user journeys, user experience

A buyers guide to our national flag

22 Oct 2015 by Dan Collins

Recently it feels as if the flag debate has taken a chill pill and decided to calm down for a wee while. In this calm there has been an interesting article written called ‘ A buyers guide to flag design’  ...

a buyers guide to our national flag dan collins
recently it feels as if the flag debate has taken a chill pill and decided to calm down for a wee while. in this calm there has been an interesting article written called ‘ a buyers guide to flag design’
this article takes the 5 criteria for flag design that the designers institute of new zealand provided for the flag design process and tries to rate them as objectively as possible.
check it out here.
do you agree with the articles winner?
design, new zealand, flag

Why design is more than meets the eye

21 Oct 2015 by Mike Tisdall

From NBR, Friday 16 October Design was never about making products more attractive. It’s now treated as a way of thinking: a creative process that spans entire organisations, driven by the desire to better...

why design is more than meets the eye mike tisdall

from nbr, friday 16 october

design was never about making products more attractive.

it’s now treated as a way of thinking: a creative process that spans entire organisations, driven by the desire to better understand and meet consumer needs.

last week’s design institute awards attracted around 1000 industry participants yet the dominant impression was that their potential is being wasted. noel brown, an awards judge and a director of design firm dna, says the majority of companies still use design only as a tactic.

“not many and very few really big businesses are joining all the dots and using design strategically,” he says. “at the heart of being better is really understanding your customers, understanding them so deeply you can predict what they will value, respond to and, of course, buy. gaining this insight and then imaginatively delivering on it is design.”

mr brown speaks for many who say strategic use of design means organising the business around the goal. “they have to alter the way they control risks, the way they invest and the way they manage,” he says. “the design process doesn’t fit neatly within corporate lines of control and the design mind-set doesn’t run on straight lines. it is always challenging – and uncomfortable.”

mr brown co-convened the best effect category, which was judged for the impact of design on the business. the winner, menswear chain barkers, was a standout example. “in some commercial difficulty they radically redesigned the way they do business, with the wants, needs, dreams and whims of their customers firmly in mind,” mr brown says. “their clothing, stores, communication and more have been reimagined to win and hold the heart, heads and wallets of their customers.”

another example is powershop, a winner at previous awards. a start-up launched by meridian energy, it set out to make people care about the energy they used, how it was generated and where they bought it. “they started by really understanding what would move people from their indifference,” mr brown says. “several years down the track they have a strong, loyal and growing base of customers who go so far as to monitor their power usage regularly on their mobile app and change when and how they buy to optimise financial and environmental savings.”

design stories always mention steve jobs, who created the world’s most valuable company with what he called “magical design.” when he died, “people wanted to know what this design thing he did was,” says kleiner perkins caufield & byers design partner john maeda, who was interviewed by mckinsey for a recent research paper. “how is that the advent of mobile is fundamentally changing the need to think about design, the interaction and the experience in a substantive way?” he asks, adding somewhat cryptically: “if you think about design adding value, a lot of what people don’t understand is that sometimes the best design consultants will tell you not to design it.”

design, as you will have gathered, can be hard to define. but an evening spent with a thousand others seeing hundreds of examples provides one answer: you know when you see it.


nevil gibson, nbr

oragnisation design,

The power of the strong visual continuum

13 Oct 2015 by Brian Slade

Line of sight When you're talking to customers, community groups, suppliers and shareholders the length and breadth of the country, and an internal audience the size of a small town, the best...

the power of the strong visual continuum brian slade

line of sight

when you're talking to customers, community groups, suppliers and shareholders the length and breadth of the country, and an internal audience the size of a small town, the best advice your design company can give you is create a ‘line of sight’ into your visual identity.

i always enjoy working through the challenges of an identity system that is segmented by key audience groups. it helps you really focus on each identity element and its flexibility to communicate in different ways to different audiences. a ‘line of sight’ is an approach where you create a visual set of cues that you can dial up or down to pre-determined levels dependent on the audience you are talking to. it allows the viewer to get a sense of who you are, with enough rigidity to maintain the integrity of the visual identity but with enough flexibility to allow for agile interpretation. on the flip side, if left until ‘later’ to organically evolve, you can end up leaving budget-shy aspects of the business or under represented areas lagging behind, playing brand and visual identity catch up.

it takes a bit of focus and commitment, with the biggest hurdle getting everyone holistically appreciating the value in creating a line of sight. so who should consider this and why? first, think about the various audiences who interact with your organisation. typically this could be staff, contractors, suppliers, customers, investors, government, media and community groups. they’re all after something slightly different. chances are you’ll want to speak to them in the most relevant way that resonates with them. the next consideration is consistency. you may operate in a marketing or communications team where interpretation may be an issue, and if you're looking to guide a consistent approach, think ‘line of sight’.

we’ve worked with mighty river power (mrp) for a good few years now and when we first started the relationship we realised creating a strong visual line of sight was going to help us. fundamentally we stripped the visual identity back to simply the logo and began to build from there. first we developed their brand positioning and then their visual identity in order to tell an integrated story from generation to supply. our brief was initially focused around a corporate audience, however we knew their audiences were more far reaching. this is where the line of sight kicked in.

without a visual or brand audit or strategically mapping out the full landscape, we could quickly have come unstuck as the relationship evolved. we created three core landing stages that looked, respectively, at a corporate, community and an internal audience. each landing stage has unique elements that build into one visual identity palette. there’s a strong visual continuum that allows for responsive and agile creative design, creating really positive results and continuity.

we defined the tone of voice and personality of mrp. then agreed a framework for managing different types of communications to different audiences. the primary colours used in all communications are the same regardless of audience, although we do use a broader and more vibrant colour palette for internal communications. community communications use a variety of clear cut imagery that reflect the human aspects of mrp, supported by an additional typographic treatment. corporate communications that focus on assets and process have more solid, confident, bold features in the palette.

the internal palette has helped unite all employees as ‘one team’ with a common voice and clear understanding of the company’s external brand story. within the line of sight, the strong overlapping visual elements express unity and collaboration.

this simple but effective approach has allowed us to create a cohesive visual language that clearly speaks to all of mrp’s audiences. the rollout of the identity has been an exercise in logistics management, from environmental experiences in their corporate offices to hard working hydro facilities. internal communications, health and safety programmes, shareholder reports, sponsorships, electric car initiatives, online, profiles, presentations… the list goes on, as do the benefits of the early decision to develop the flexibility of a ‘line of sight’ and not rely on ‘she’ll be right’ or ‘later’.

design, visual identity, mighty river power

Type design to make a point

12 Oct 2015 by Brian Slade

What the type? The familiar quote that the pen is mightier than the sword has endured for generations and defended, with rightful eloquence, the intellectual ‘content is king’ premise. However when it comes to the...

type design to make a point brian slade

what the type?

the familiar quote that the pen is mightier than the sword has endured for generations and defended, with rightful eloquence, the intellectual ‘content is king’ premise. however when it comes to the question of what typeface it should be in, the debate between client and designer can often be surprisingly subjective.

for some, if it’s not available in powerpoint, part of the system fonts or in the identity guidelines, it’s simply design affectation. others stand back, open the floodgates and try a whole bunch of things… just because. so why do we have this hotly debated issue?

if we go back to basics we start to get some clues. the four building blocks of virtually all visual communications are typography, colour, imagery (photography/illustration) and the intellectual content. these obviously also form a significant part of any visual identity guidelines and by their very nature these tend to be about creating consistency, ruling out any debate or subjectivity. but should it?

as all things evolve and tastes change, advertising agencies often refer to the need to speak specifically to a need or audience. think about furniture, architecture or fashion. even the classic black dress or jeans are reinterpreted time and time again to keep up with contemporary and evolving tastes. typography is subject to these same forces of fashion, evolution and purpose – but should always be considered in the widest spectrum of impact and implications on the visual identity and extended communications. never in isolation as a one off or just because.

working with type is quite an art form. the mere fact that it’s on the page doesn’t mean it’s easy to read (assuming that’s what you want to happen) or that it effectively connects with the overall idea of the communication. it’s often undervalued, but if ignored it can be horribly hard on the eye - forming an obstructive barrier between you and your audience. whether it’s basic layout that is easily digested or headlines that capture the essence of the communication, having a client that appreciates typography is really liberating and allows it to be a powerful feature of their communications.

we’ve worked with stand children’s services, tū māia whānau, over a number of years. last year they commissioned us to work on a communication aimed at funders (government agencies), staff, and key partner organisations as a positioning and marketing tool. the messaging theme was ‘renew.’

to clearly connect with the concept, we introduced a bespoke display typeface that visually captured and expressed the lead statement ‘wave upon wave of evidence tells us that one of the most crucial ways of changing the end result is address the main cause - child poverty.’

we referenced all aspects of their visual identity in the communication. however, to ensure the strongest possible connection to the overall concept, we identified the communication need to introduce a bespoke display typeface that also acts as a metaphoric and illustrative element.

drawing on waveforms in a graphic and linear way, we abstracted these ‘waves’ that appear relentless in their endeavors. as these waves hit the beach there is a ‘reflected wave’ that is also picked up within the type forms, creating light yet bonded characters. there is a meshed quality in the overlaps yet each strand appears independent.

stand support and lead collaborative inter-agency work to find the best solutions for children, whānau and families. agencies have to interlink and this purpose-specific typeface captured this notion of working together for the same end goal.

the client’s feedback was incredibly positive. ”it’s fabulously beautiful, very classy, sophisticated and grown up!” feedback from key audiences suggests the overall design delivered strong cut through for the powerful messages that underline this work. this simply wouldn’t have been achieved without the introduction of a display typeface that connected directly to the business purpose of the communication.

as one of the building blocks of visual communications, typography should be considered a powerful tool to not only deliver the intellectual content but if used well, capture more emotive qualities that connect the reader to aspects of the overall idea that ultimately gain cut through and enhance communication.

this article appeared in the november/december issue of nz marketing magazine


design, typography

Our views sought on the new bank notes

12 Oct 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Insight's Creative Director, Brian Slade, was recently asked by StopPress for his erudite views on the design of New Zealand's new bank notes. See what he had to say here .  ...

our views sought on the new bank notes mike tisdall

insight's creative director, brian slade, was recently asked by stoppress for his erudite views on the design of new zealand's new bank notes. see what he had to say here.


design, bank notes

Getting Customers - by design

12 Oct 2015 by Steven Giannoulis

The September/October issue of Idealog magazine features an article by our CEO, Steven Giannoulis. It canvasses the user journey from Awareness and onto the pathway towards a sale - and the important role that design...

getting customers - by design steven giannoulis

the september/october issue of idealog magazine features an article by our ceo, steven giannoulis. it canvasses the user journey from awareness and onto the pathway towards a sale - and the important role that design plays. the primary out take is the need to design the whole journey, not just one component of it. definitely worth a click and a read.

deisgn, idealog, insight creative

Insight scores five of the Best

19 Aug 2015 by Mike Tisdall

The 2015 Best Awards finalists have been announced and we’re thrilled to have scored five finalists in five different categories: Business Communication: 2014 Stand Children’s Services Annual Report Small...

insight scores five of the best mike tisdall

the 2015 best awards finalists have been announced and we’re thrilled to have scored five finalists in five different categories:

business communication: 2014 stand children’s services annual report

small brand identity: ibby 2016 international congress

design communication: new zealand symphony orchestra 2015 season marketing collateral

colour award: new zealand symphony orchestra 2015 season marketing collateral

self-promotion: ‘pause’ christmas video


design, awards, best awards

Investment in design

26 Jun 2015 by Steven Giannoulis

Or more accurately, 'Design in investment'. Steven Giannoulis' latest article in Idealog magazine that hit subscribers today, canvasses the role that design plays in making complex information clear and understandable...

investment in design steven giannoulis

or more accurately, 'design in investment'. steven giannoulis' latest article in idealog magazine that hit subscribers today, canvasses the role that design plays in making complex information clear and understandable for investors - from the start up, through the private business and right on to the ipo or listed company capital raising. no matter what stage in the business lifecycle, the principles of clear communication are much the same. click to enlarge and read:

deisgn, idealog, insight creative

Design as a business enabler

20 Feb 2015 by Steven Giannoulis

The first of our six double page spreads in Idealog Magazine for the year has just hit the bookshelves. The theme of our articles is the role of design as a valuable business enabler and accelerator. Have a read of...

design as a business enabler steven giannoulis

the first of our six double page spreads in idealog magazine for the year has just hit the bookshelves. the theme of our articles is the role of design as a valuable business enabler and accelerator. have a read of the first one:

Human interest

03 Feb 2015 by Brian Slade

You can take all the technology you like but at the end of the day the human interest angle always seems to be a key focus for us… and I think that's a good thing. This was clearly demonstrated earlier this month...

human interest brian slade

you can take all the technology you like but at the end of the day the human interest angle always seems to be a key focus for us… and i think that's a good thing. this was clearly demonstrated earlier this month when the stamps we designed for new zealand post/air new zealand were released and immediately the two stamps that got the focus were the ones that had children on them and the search was on to find them now. personally my favourite was the teal one, what about you?

nz post, postage stamp design

Two spaces after a period: Why you should never, ever do it.

16 Aug 2014 by Mike Tisdall

This Slate article unpacks why typography states that everyone needs to quit with the two spaces to begin a new sentence. The dreaded double space was an advent for the  typewriter age, two spaces were required...

two spaces after a period: why you should never, ever do it. mike tisdall

this slate article unpacks why typography states that everyone needs to quit with the two spaces to begin a new sentence. the dreaded double space was an advent for the  typewriter age, two spaces were required as the font used was always a monospace font, which meant words  l o o k  l i k e  t h i s . monospace fonts are exactly as the name describes, uniformly spaced letters. while a wide letter like an m fit in the allowed space comfortably, an i will have a lot of room on either side. because of this, an extra space was necessary to indicate that a new sentence was beginning. which is totally reasonable, typewriters.

but we don’t use them now. people put a lot of effort into making sure that the kerning (the spacing allowed between individual letters) is perfect. the computer age has allowed for highly dynamic kerning, some letters interact well with other letters and poorly with some. take for example “lt”. see that the top of the t hangs over the bottom of the l? compare that with “le”. even though the t should create an awkward space between it and the l, it knows to come closer together to allow for visual consistency.

and when you double space after a full-stop you’re thumbing your nose to all that wonderful innovation.

plus it looks ugly as all hell.

sorry if that’s all super nerdy, but really i’m not sorry. typewriters were a blip on the radar, and they adapted the double space for legibility. now everyone needs to drop the double space for legibility.

read aaaaaall about it right here:

Design as a business enabler

30 Jun 2014 by Brian Slade

Good design thinking brings a great idea to life and increases the chance of a start-up’s success says Brian Slade. I think deep within all of us is a desire to make a difference. It creates a sense of purpose,...

design as a business enabler brian slade

good design thinking brings a great idea to life and increases the chance of a start-up’s success says brian slade.

i think deep within all of us is a desire to make a difference. it creates a sense of purpose, personal pride and self worth when we can reflect on a situation and believe, “i made a difference.” this happens almost every time we work with an individual or small group who have a great idea that establishes a new, or redefines an existing, product or service.

our role as a designer is to bring the great idea to life with passion and focus. it’s a big responsibility. you are acutely aware that often your client is investing everything they have into you getting it right. invariably you invest something of yourself into these projects. i've seen this over the years with the start-ups we’ve been involved with like ecostore,1above and ponoko.

when you consider the huge fail rate of start-ups, and the financial outlay required to get things going, it's no surprise that some cut corners when it comes to design communications. but the right design thinking helps audiences understand an idea and its application to them. this is achieved through a combination of messaging and design working together to bring to life the benefits of the idea for key audiences.

through the design development process, clarity is achieved on the audiences, messages and the sales process. this allows the right communication platform to be established using the channels that are right for each audience at each stage of the purchasing decision. this initial work also sets the tone for the brand and expresses what the start-up wants to stand for. and even if everything isn’t applied on day one, there is value in developing the communication platform with an understanding of where it will go as the business takes off.

done right, a great idea partnered with the right design thinking will help start-ups communicate their idea effectively to attract the right backers, suppliers, distributors, employees and ultimately customers. worth investing in, i think.

over the last few months we’ve been working with the team at savii to launch a new kind of employee benefits programme that delivers savings on everyday living expenses such as power, insurance and mortgage repayments. through an initial workshop, we got a good understanding of the vision for savii and why employees and employers would be attracted to it. we developed a communication plan that defined the messages, by audience, in the awareness, interest, desire and action stages of the sales process.

the next step was to create a communication platform that bought the savii promise to life. we put the emphasis, not on what savii was but, on what audiences could do with it. this strong benefit-focused approach invites audiences to emotional connect with the brand by personalising what savii could mean for them.

through a strong visual application, bold colours and emotive headlines, the concept of ‘more money for living’ emphasises that everyday savings can be used to enjoy everyday living. real life images of surfing, dinner parties, shopping and family time, express savii’s offer of more out of life. 

the positive ‘more’ idea translates to other savii audiences as well. for employers, it encourages them to offer savii to their staff to achieve more staff engagement and retention. for sales consultant, it offers more client leads and engagement and of course more income potential.

the launch programme included employer and employee collateral, sales consultants presentations, website and member’s portal, launch video and a series of environmental graphics for the savii offices. further elements are planned and will be rolled out as required.

it’s still early days but the signs are good for savii, having already started to attract a nationwide network of sales consultants. next step, employers and their staff.   

find out more about savii at

this article appeared in marketing magazine, march 2014


design in business, marketing magazine

Life changing design

01 Jun 2014 by Brian Slade

Design has the power to make a tangible difference to those who really need it writes Brian Slade. I enjoy being a designer and sometimes I love it even more. Intuitively I know that the work we do changes how...

life changing design brian slade

design has the power to make a tangible difference to those who really need it writes brian slade.

i enjoy being a designer and sometimes i love it even more. intuitively i know that the work we do changes how people feel about products, services, companies and even issues. however most of our clients are businesses which means we don’t often get to see the real impact our work has on the end consumer. every so often though you get the chance to work on something so truly transformational that it literally changes lives and reignites your passion for effective design. this recently happened to me.

children’s health camps (chc) work to improve the lives of children, aged 5-12, who are at significant risk of harm as a consequence of the environment they are being raised in and their own complex needs. driven by stakeholder feedback, chc felt their existing name and identity reflected an organisation that may not be so relevant in today’s world. our brief was to develop a name and visual identity that “captures the transformational difference they perform with new zealand’s most vulnerable children and to express the passion and urgency they bring to their work.”

the inspiration for the new name, stand, was tane mahuta, the mighty kauri, which stands tall and proud. standing together, its canopy protects and nurtures its seedlings to grow and reach their full potential. the creative idea for the visual identity ‘a brand of colour’ depicts the journey stand takes children on, from darkness to light. colour transition is a metaphor for bringing hope.

bold colour along with a strong word mark, expressive typography, photography and graphic treatments form the basis of an open and adaptable visual identity framework. this flexibility is highlighted by the multitude of launch executions including a new website, social media pages, stationery, banners, brochures, signage, presentation material and much more.

more recently we developed a series of scalable environmental graphics the stand team could rollout across their seven regional villages. the graphics allow an environment to be created where children and their families can interact in a nourishing, welcoming and safe way. the style is fun and uplifting using a combination of direct and intimate language with playfully but engaging illustrations. the messaging celebrates the children, their families, the staff and the social workers who come into contact with each village. 

we knew this work had the potential to inspire a change in the organisation but none of us foresaw the extent by which the new identity would unite people. the positioning statements ‘stand for children’ and ‘a world strong for children’ have become rallying cries for change, uniting politicians, funders and other child-support agencies. but the most significant change is happening on the ground in the villages themselves.  

last week i was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening of the new facility in christchurch, purpose built following the destruction of the previous facility in the earthquakes. it was incredible to see the reaction of the children as they saw the new environment for the first time. they were surprised and delighted as they engaged with the graphics, joyfully laughing as they followed the characters and the stories around the walls of their new home. the atmosphere quickly manifested itself in an overwhelming sense of optimism. for kids that come from a rough upbringing, hope and pride are some of the best gifts we can give them. 

staff were very quick to thank us for our work and they openly expressed what a difference the new visual identity and environment was making on their lives. i feel immensely proud knowing that our design work has helped to transform an organisation which itself transforms the lives of thousands of children each and every year.

this article appeared in marketing magazine, may/june 2014

design in business, marketing magazine


28 May 2014 by David Bedggood

In the same way that you can never have too many bicycles, you can never have too many typefaces. So I made another one. currently available here and on myfonts in coming weeks.  ...

lunar david bedggood

in the same way that you can never have too many bicycles, you can never have too many typefaces. so i made another one. currently available here and on myfonts in coming weeks.


More Savii

29 Apr 2014 by Brian Slade

Neat little project for an innovative crowd who run an employee benefit programme with a difference. Harnessing collective purchasing power Savii provide big savings on core household items allowing everyone to get...

more savii brian slade

neat little project for an innovative crowd who run an employee benefit programme with a difference. harnessing collective purchasing power savii provide big savings on core household items allowing everyone to get more out of life…


What is the egg all about?

27 Feb 2014 by Jason O'Hara

OK so the giant box marked “Fragile Egg” that was sitting at reception was raising lots of questions in the Welly office so here is the broadcast explanation: I was approached (along with a bunch of other artists)...

what is the egg all about? jason o'hara

ok so the giant box marked “fragile egg” that was sitting at reception was raising lots of questions in the welly office so here is the broadcast explanation:

i was approached (along with a bunch of other artists) late last year by starship hospital and asked if i would decorate a giant fibreglass egg which would be auctioned off to raise money for the hospital. at easter they are going to be put on public display up and down the country to drum up some media hype.

i agreed and just after christmas my egg was delivered to insight where the boys and i immediately started playing dress-ups

then i took it home and of course being me, i just had to photograph it…

before i started to paint it…

and so here is a sneak peek at the finished thing

if you want the full rational (they asked us to supply one) here it is:

stranded in paradise
i interpreted the egg as a symbol of the start of a life – full of promise. taking that as a start point, i turned my thoughts to my own birth and childhood growing up in palmerston north – a small town in a small and isolated country during the 70s. during my teenage years i felt our isolation as a double edged sword – feeling the urge to travel and experience the world but trapped in the relative paradise of nz.

in the design i am represented by a fantail (common in palmerston north) yearning to take flight and explore the world (represented by the compass rose) but being held back by the isolation and conservatism of 70s life in nz (the tendrils of paisley wrapping themselves around the bird). the title is a reference to the book of the same name released in 1988, the title of which struck a chord with me as a youth.

Designing for multiple audiences

01 Feb 2014 by Brian Slade

Communications need to be dressed differently to communicate effectively to different audiences however they should clearly come from the same source, writes Brian Slade. Coming into a project with a new client, it...

designing for multiple audiences brian slade

communications need to be dressed differently to communicate effectively to different audiences however they should clearly come from the same source, writes brian slade.

coming into a project with a new client, it can be disarming how ‘off’ you can be with your perceptions of what they do and the people they talk to. i first met ross bell, ceo of the new zealand drug foundation in 2006 at the top of some slightly suspect stairs leading to a mismatched office space in a slightly tired part of wellington. he was dynamic and engaging.

i had headed into our discussions with a somewhat simplistic viewpoint: ‘the law’s the law’. in time, i came to recognise that the drug foundation is a complex and multi faceted organisation with a raft of stakeholders, including government, investors, lobby and interest groups, corporate funders, sponsors, the medical profession, drug users and their families – all of whom must be successfully engaged. even within these groups there are sub-groups. for example, drug users include pot, pill and meth users.

whether we like it or not, new zealanders use drugs and drug use causes social, health and economic harms and costs individuals, families and communities dearly. preventing and reducing harm is a big challenge; one the new zealand drug foundation has successfully taken on.

we knew we needed to get some order and clarity into their brand visual identity and structure. a core strategic intent of the new zealand drug foundation’s brand identity was to establish an authentic voice and position for the foundation as the single authority in evidence based national drug and alcohol policy. this was articulated in a series of ways, including the positioning line ‘at the heart of the matter’.

at the same time, we recognised that we needed an identity that was flexible enough to reach people of very different backgrounds. the politically ‘neutral’ but highly visible colour combination of orange and black formed a solid visual platform for a consistent and considered ‘brand language’ that was bold, clear and single minded with flexibility created in secondary visual executions. for example, it can be combined with evocative textural graphics and typography for conversations with users, or used with restraint for communications targeted at politicians, policy makers and health educators such as the ‘matters of substance’ magazine, website, social media and corporate communications.

“businesses have multiple stakeholders. design applications that appeal to customers may not be right for investors, community groups or other stakeholders.”

understanding audiences, who they are, what they think, what we’d like them to think and what it will take to change their minds and actions is critical to successful design. we often hear of the importance of applying a brand consistently but this can be very difficult when audiences are so varied. what resonates with one audience may not with another. by getting to know the different audiences well you can develop a tool kit of design elements that can be ‘dialed-up or down’ to appeal to specific audiences whilst allowing the brand itself to have consistency.

i love the idea of personas in online design and it has a place with offline design as well. they turn nameless, faceless audience segments into real people, making it easier to keep the audience in mind as you design. we can consider an organisation like a person. we have values and principles and a core visual appearance yet we dress differently for a business meeting, for cheering on the children at saturday morning sports or going out for drinks with friends.

well thought through brands will have audience considerations as part of their dna. their brand guidelines have been designed to allow different core elements to be introduced, removed or applied somewhat differently to allow the design communication to match the audience need.

ross bell says our thinking on how to best apply their brand positioning across the various audiences has helped establish the foundation at the forefront of drug and alcohol policy nationally and internationally. 

this article appeared in marketing magazine, january /february2014

design in business, marketing magazine

The language of feeling

02 Dec 2013 by Brian Slade

Design is a powerful language with a unique ability to convey feelings and to bring words to life writes Brian Slade Design is considered a visual discipline. But what excites me most about being a designer is the...

the language of feeling brian slade

design is a powerful language with a unique ability to convey feelings and to bring words to life writes brian slade

design is considered a visual discipline. but what excites me most about being a designer is the ability to speak to audiences at both a rational and emotional level, appealing to senses way beyond just sight.

individuals engage with information in quite different ways, creating a real need for the designer to understand the answer to the question what do we want the audience to feel?

but ask two people how they feel about something and you'll get very different answers.  whatever creative executions we put in front of our intended audiences we will undoubtedly provoke a feeling. the challenge is conjure up the intended feeling. align this feeling with a desired action and you have a potent formula for successful design.

a combination of colour, graphics, imagery and messaging are the main ingredients we have at our disposal to paint the right picture and evoke the desired feeling. 

at the heart of many design communications is colour. the thing i love about colour is the way it sets a mood. dark colours generally express a more sombre, serious tone; here in new zealand black is obviously a symbol of national pride, mana and quality; bright colours evoke fun and optimism. but i particularly enjoy the transitions: the ways that movement of colours, say from dark to light, can be used to symbolise transformation, direction or the emergence of hope.

a distinctive visual language should render a complete impression. choice of fonts makes a message feel architectural or expressive. photography and other visual graphics can be used to depict literal messages, display concepts or to capture a tone or mood. the growing popularity of infographics helps communicate numbers, proportions and relativity in a highly accessible way. page layout too can be used to change the pace of a communication, further informing a reader’s experience.

add this visual language to powerful words and the right tone of voice and you’ll have a very effective communication.

over the years some of the most enjoyable design projects i've been involved with have looked to express the messages and feelings evoked by music, art or writing. the tamaki project began for us with a poem – and it’s a great example of how design and words complement each other to appeal to audience’s heads and hearts.

tāmaki transformation is the first urban regeneration programme of its kind in new zealand. it aims to transform auckland’s tamaki region by working with the community to improve lives through housing, education, employment, transport and social infrastructure initiatives. imperative to the programme’s success is ensuring a connection by key audiences with the vision for the area.

the poem, “we are tamaki” was created by leading pr firm senateshj to express tamaki’s history, culture and pride in the place and its people. on first hearing it, i immediately felt the power of the words and was able to create a picture in my mind of what the area stood for. our visit to tamaki soon confirmed that image - a community that is strong, vibrant, diverse and proud.

the first step was to develop an overarching visual language that would bring the vision for tamaki to life. the real challenge however was to use this language to speak to a very broad audience set - ranging from the youthful community itself right through to outside partners and politicians. the other challenge was to ensure the vision for tamaki wasn’t lost, buried amongst the high volume of detailed information that needed to be communicated.

our design language says we are tamaki in a similar way to that expressed in the poem. the visual identity focuses heavily on the people of tamaki and the pride they carry. it reflects the colour and energy that cultural diversity brings to the area and is supported by imagery of the area’s natural, historic and cultural assets. a lively colour palette with specific emphasis on yellow seeks to engage with maori and pacific island communities. photography is deliberately eclectic – focused on people and the community. typography is solid and bold, almost icon like, and icons themselves are also used as a positive visual shorthand.

combining the language of words and design has allowed a strong tamaki regeneration story to be communicated to all audiences. did the feeling we created resonate with audiences? the community feedback is clear, with many using the word proud to describe how they felt. i guess the answer is a resounding yes.


this article appeared in marketing magazine, november/december 2013

design in business, marketing magazine

Branding 'Not-for-Profits'

01 Dec 2013 by Brian Slade

What is the role of brand in the not for profit sector? In summary, a good NFP brand: Promotes the Cause/Raises awareness of the issue Attracts funders Attracts the right sort of funders with aligned values ...

branding 'not-for-profits' brian slade

what is the role of brand in the not for profit sector?

in summary, a good nfp brand:

  • promotes the cause/raises awareness of the issue
  • attracts funders
  • attracts the right sort of funders with aligned values
  • attracts partners, suppliers and community engagement allowing better results to be achieved and costs to be managed.
  • ensures those the nfp works to help trust they will get the right sort of assistance from the nfp so fully engage with the organisation. fuller engagement leads to better outcomes.
  • drives a positive internal culture where staff are engaged by the cause and the good the organisation does and are motivated to do more. a positive value aligned culture leads to increased productivity.
  • drives efficiency in decision-making.  a clearly articulated brand which is strongly aligned with the organisations mission and values lays a platform for quicker and better decision-making.  this leads to increased results and reduced costs.

why is branding important in the nfp sector? is it more than simply a tool to improve fundraising power or raise profile?  in what way? how does a strong brand work in the nfp sector?  what can it achieve?

branding is important to all organisations because it represents who they are and what they stand for. 

a brand allows an organisation to make an emotional connection with its key audiences, who develop a level of expectation of their brand experience based on their perceptions of the brand.  effectively, a strong brand builds a level of trust in an organisation.

this is idea applies acutely in the npf sector where the usual market-forces don’t apply in the same way. 

those making a financial contribution (funders) aren’t the ones who will experience the npf’s core brand promise. they aren’t necessarily looking for the ‘what’s in for me?’ that consumers consider when looking at brands. therefore funding is significantly influenced by a belief in the cause and in an emotional connection with a brand’s ability to deliver. a strong, well-considered brand appeals to funders because it is closely linked to a cause they feel connected with and instills a high level of trust that their money will be used well to help the cause.

in many ways the npf and the cause are interchangeable and therefore a npf’s brand must be closely aligned with promoting the cause.

but it’s not just about attracting funders, but the right sort of funders. for many funders the decisions is also about brand equity exchange - what does the npf’s brand add to my own brand. an organisation which is positioning itself as being community-minded, action-orientated and progressive would look to support organisations with similar brand attributes. having a brand which showcases what you stand for attracts the right sort of funders who believe in what you do and how you do it. 

a similar line of thinking applies for npf’s partners. npf’s heavily rely on the support and goodwill of other partner organisations and the community. a clearly-articulated brand attracts partners with similar brand values, making irt easier to work effectively together.

those who receive the benefit from npf often don’t have to pay a consideration for it and therefore don’t make the brand value decision consumers often have to make. their perception of value comes from a belief that the npf will deliver the benefits they need.  for example, families need to trust that stand can help them get out of the situation they are in. if they have a level of trust and fully engage with stand’s programmes then they are more likely to achieve the results. therefore a good brand leads for better outcomes for those a nfp is trying to assist.

an organisation’s culture is an extension of it’s brand and is often called the internal brand. a strong external brand drives a positive internal culture where staff are engaged by the cause and the good the organisation does and are therefore motivated to do more. a brand aligned culture delivers increased productivity and can also drive innovative thinking as staff actively look for new ways to do more.

most not-for-profits operate on tight budgets and therefore have to be very considered in how they spend money. a clearly articulated brand, strongly aligned with the organisations mission and values, lays a platform for quicker and better decision-making. this leads to increased results and reduced costs.

how does the process for creating a nfp sector brand differ from a more commercial proposition?

the process of developing a brand is largely the same across the commercial and nfp sector. it starts with a clear understanding of the organisation’s mission, vision, values and positioning.

the strongest brands are developed in a customer-centric way, telling the organisation’s story with the needs and wants of the end-user in mind. nfp brands need to do the same but at the same time they must appeal to funders. these two audiences often have conflicting needs and, because of their differing profile, have a different way they want to be communicated with.  

all good brands have a strong framework which allow the visual identity to be tailored for the specific audiences. for example, how the brand is applied at corporate level vs at product level or as an employment, community or investor brand. this leads to a structured brand architecture with certain elements ‘dialed’ up or down for specific audiences or markets.

nfps don’t tend to have the same level of layers or clarity between brand functions (nor do they have the funding to develop complex brand architecture) which means that the framework needs to be more fluid. the cause, the organisation and the offering are often synonomis meaning the visual identity elements must be adaptable to allow tailoring the needs of audiences and the specific messaging.  for most corporate brands, the visual and written message is generally made to fit into the brand architecture, allowing a consistent brand identity to be presented. for nfps, the brand framework needs to be developed to be more fluid to adapt to the messages, and its audiences, while still instilling a level of brand consistency.

for nfps, surely the need is simply for a great, attention grabbing visual identity/logo? if not, why not?

a brand is more than just its logo. its visual identity also includes elements like colour, typography, photography, graphics and tone of voice. most brand perceptions are however formed by experience rather than the carefully constructed visual identity. our views of a brand are formed by what we read in the paper, see on tv, hear from our friends and family and from our own experience when we deal direcly with the organisation.

therefore developing a great brand is about thinking about the entire brand experience and in particulr those moment of truth which shape people’s perception of an organisation.

nfp are not exempt from this. the need isn’t only for an identity which grabs the attention of the audiences they are trying to attract but also one which conveys the right brand promise. an effective brand sets the expectations for the brand experience.  expectations are then delivered (and exceeded) leaving the audience with a positive brand experience.

in what ways will the rebrand to stand children’s services help children’s health camps?   how does insight believe the rebrand will help the organisation achieve its mission?

children’s health camp felt their name and identity conjured up images of an organisation not so relevant in today’s world and this hindered their ability to attract funders, discouraged families from fully engaging with them and didn’t get children excited at the prospect of being part of one of their programmes.

the brief was to develop a name and visual identity that “captures the magic we perform with new zealand’s most vulnerable children and to express the passion and urgency we bring to our work.”

the rebrand is very direct in the way it has addressed chc’s concerns and objective.  stand is a brand which is very clear in who it is and what it stands for. it is modern, relevant, engaging to all stakeholders and places its cause – the wellbeing of children- at the heart of its brand promise. these elements combined will attract the right funders and partners and will fully engage staff, parents and children to achieve the best outcomes possible.

what are the risks of rebranding a venerable organisation like children’s health camps? e.g. heritage/reputation vested in the existing brand etc.

children’s health camps have been around for 94 years and have built considerable equity in their name and brand. for their existing funders, partners, parents and children the brand holds meaning and history. change creates the risk that these audiences feel less connected to the brand and therefore may not want to continue their association, or lessen their engagement, with it.

the challenge is to bring the trusted brand elements of chc across to the new identity and to take audiences along on the brand journey. the stand rebrand was initiated by stakeholder feedback. stakeholders were clear in their feedback about what they liked and didn’t like about chc’s brand. the positive elements form the attributes of the new stand identity. 

a key feature of the development of the stand brand was the consultation process. the name and basic visual identity was developed late last year.chc actively engaged in discussing the change with all their key stakeholders and feedback has been critical in shaping the final visual identity. this process has allowed stakeholders to understand the need for change and has allowed them to feel engaged in the new brand by being part of the development process.

design in business, marketing magazine

Storytelling across mediums

01 Oct 2013 by Brian Slade

Good design tells stories that excite, engage and resonate with their audiences – regardless if it’s on or offline, writes Brian Slade. I must admit I am a relative novice when it comes to the digital...

storytelling across mediums brian slade

good design tells stories that excite, engage and resonate with their audiences – regardless if it’s on or offline, writes brian slade.

i must admit i am a relative novice when it comes to the digital environment but always looking to grow and learn, building on my strengths. in the past, i’ve left that to our digital designers. however the world is changing and the line between when to communicate by digital or non-digital means is much less clear. these days, reaching your audiences typically involves an integrated approach that incorporates both on and offline mediums.

everyone says that print and digital design are very different – and they are. what has struck me isn’t the difference but the similarities. essentially, what designers are trying to achieve is the same thing – to tell a clear and compelling story that resonates with their audiences. in both digital and print design we think about how the audiences will interact with our communication and how we can utilise this user experience to tell the most engaging story.

with print, this can seem easier. we think about a page plan and how we pace the story through the document.  we work on the assumption that audiences will interact with the story in a linear way, starting from the cover and working their way sequentially to the end. the story is told largely the way we want to tell it. the story-telling challenge online is a little more complex. each user can start at a different place and their journey through the site will vary based on their own needs and interests or what catches their eye.  on the other hand, you have a whole host of additional tools - like animation, video, audio and social devices - to help you tell a richer story.

i have a lot of respect for information architecture (ia) and those who are expert at it. while fundamentally it’s about making it easy for audiences to navigate through your site, it is also one of the essentials for telling a good story online. firstly, it allows audiences to make the story relevant to them and a relevant story is a more engaging one. secondly, it allows you to direct, or at least encourage, a typical user path ensuring those elements of your story that you want to tell get in front of the user.

telling your story in an online environment can seem more challenging but, done right, it can lead to a much more rewarding experience for both you and your audiences.

many of our clients’ audiences will first experience the organisation through their website and therefore how a brand story will work online is critical in our design thinking. our work in developing maven’s website is a great example of using ia to tailor a brand story to the needs of different audience groups.

maven international is an independent strategy and operations consultancy that helps its clients improve organisational and business performance. they have developed a strong brand reputation for innovative thinking and delivering transformative results. their business has changed significantly in recent years as they’ve expanded across the uk, the middle east and the pacific. they asked us to tell their story online while reflecting the different needs of both their new zealand and international audiences.

maven’s new zealand work provides a perfect starting point for international clients wanting to innovate and transform. we needed to showcase this work in a way that was relevant to how their international clients do business. effectively, we built two views of the same site, driven by a combined base of information. each view of the site was designed with tonal differences to reflect the marketplace and audience while still remaining a true reflection of the maven brand.

the site makes it easy for audience to self-select the journey relevant to them. the interface is different from anything else out there and this further reinforces maven’s innovative positioning. 

maven’s business continues to thrive and they are actively looking at opportunities to expand into new areas. it seems, further tailored on-line perspectives of their story are on the cards.

this article appeared in marketing magazine, september/october 2013

design in business, marketing magazine

It's clear what makes for good design

01 Sep 2013 by Brian Slade

As the media we work with become more sophisticated and diverse, the need to design clearly and deliberately is subject to multiple distractions, writes Brian Slade. Few issues are as simple as they first appear,...

it's clear what makes for good design brian slade

as the media we work with become more sophisticated and diverse, the need to design clearly and deliberately is subject to multiple distractions, writes brian slade.

few issues are as simple as they first appear, and the temptation is always to layer message upon message, visually or verbally, in a bid to provide greater and greater explanation. growing up with dyslexia has given me ultimate respect for the power and the pitfalls of working with the written word, and for what can be accomplished through well-managed design. it continues to drive my passion for clarity in what is said, to whom, how and, most of all, why.

the discipline of effective design lies in being able to sift everything that’s provided down to communications that are clear and compelling to the reader. work we’ve completed for the christchurch central development unit exemplifies this challenge well.

to help attract young people back into the city, we were briefed to develop a competition that asked younger children to develop their vision for the world’s best inner city playground and involved older children working in groups to develop key recovery projects such as the stadium, the convention centre, the avon river precinct and the library.

building clarity into the design process starts with a dissection of the brief. i’ve learnt over the years to take very little at face value – indeed a key contribution that a design agency should make to any project is the ability to objectively and systematically filter fact from opinion, research from impression, realistic goal from unrealistic desire.

at first glance, this particular task seemed straightforward enough. however, on closer examination, there were challenging aspects around pride, ownership and connection. how do you make a competition that is fun for three year olds and hip for teenagers up to 18? how do you ask children to reimagine a place to grow up in that wasn't accessible to them?

we started by determining the name. “the amazing place” captures the aspirations for christchurch and invokes the competitive element through its subtle reference to a well-known reality show. the visual identity was correspondingly flexible: designed to speak to students of all ages and to teachers and school principals whose engagement was critical for incorporating the competition into the school curriculum.

next challenge: does everyone understand exactly what’s required and will they feel excited to be involved? we kept distilling the delivery mechanism … until it was a simple yellow brick. this brick symbolised the building blocks for the city’s recovery while evoking the fun and adventure associated with the ‘yellow brick road’. within the brick were brochures, banners, posters, ‘thinking caps’ and giveaways that schools could use to understand and promote the competition to students. 

the website provided further interest and excitement in the competition and the future vision for the city. it also served a practical function, delivering detailed information for teachers, students and their parents and acting as a cost-effective portal for schools to register and order further materials. facebook and twitter helped generate discussion, encourage collaboration and build ‘buzz’.

the competition has now been running since late january and continues over the first two terms of the school year. ccdu has been delighted with the feedback and support from the local community and the take up from schools and students. my hope is that an amazing place has inspired the children of christchurch to articulate a clear vision for the city they hope to grow up in. through this competition, and all the work going on around christchurch right now, perhaps it will indeed be everything they imagined.

this article appeared in marketing magazine, july/august 2013

design in business, marketing magazine

Anyone can be complex,
clarity is harder

30 Jul 2013 by Brian Slade

Clarity in thinking and design can help unravel the most complex of organisations and aid in cut through communication, writes Brian Slade. I get a real buzz from coaching young designers as they are full of...

anyone can be complex,
clarity is harder brian slade

clarity in thinking and design can help unravel the most complex of organisations and aid in cut through communication, writes brian slade.

i get a real buzz from coaching young designers as they are full of enthusiasm and fresh perspectives. many approach design challenges in ways i would never have thought of which is great for my own learning and development. a common lesson i often have to impart is the importance of simplicity and clarity. often, young designers can over-think a design brief and/or try to apply too many of their newly acquired design skills in one execution.

anyone can use a plethora of bells and whistles to present something eye-catching but rarely does this approach deliver the clarity that one simple and cohesive design idea can achieve. our recent work with wynyard group is a great example of using design to present complex information and tell a compelling and clear organisational story.

wynyard group are specialists in advanced crime analytics and critical threat assessment software that protects companies and countries from global threat, crime and corruption.  it's all very james bond!  they have a strong brand identity within their business circles but very little public recognition.  as part of their 2013 listing on the nzx they needed to create a broader understanding of who they are and what they offer.  prospective investors and media needed to be quickly guided through the complexities of this 'quiet,' under the radar, new zealand global company.

our fascination with international crime, double agents, counter intelligence and the like have been bread and butter for creative authors for decades. the likes of arthur conan doyle, john le carre and agatha christie (my favourite is wilkie collins’ moonstone) have guided us through this mysterious world but even they would struggle to navigate the complex regulation requirement that govern ipos and often result in long, jargon-filled and legalistic offer documents. 

using wynyard’s business as a metaphor, we sought to cut through the prescribed investment information to get to the true wynyard story in a compelling and positive way.

a 3mm hole finely drilled from the cover through the mandatory legal information, takes the reader to the core brand story on page 13. this simple device speaks to the accuracy and precision of wynyard work, cutting through complex information to get to the crux of the matter. the singular black and white colour palette mimics the binary nature of data with small highlights of fluorescent orange drawing attention to a critical piece of information contained in the detail.

reader understanding is heightened through engagement and we challenged readers to explore his or her own perceptions of where crime is being committed.  strong positive and negative photography reinforces that circumstances are not always what you think they are – behind an innocent everyday setting there could be a complex security situation at play. compelling human photography was deliberately used to illustrate the real people behind the data. 

the executive team portraits were shot individually around the world where wynyard has a presence.

a strong visual hierarchy is utilised to structure and connect information, aiding the reader on their journey. within this hierarchy a number of linking devices, such as linear thread lines and elongated em dashes, represent the possible causal relationship between information, people and events.

assurance of stability is expressed in a timeline that again strips any 'noise' to a clear direct path.

to help the document stand out in a crowded investment market, a non-conventional format was used - again positioning wynyard as not simply another organisation. this strong visual story approach extended from the printed document to a dedicated microsite.

wynyard’s listing has been a success with the initial ipo exceeding subscription targets and the ongoing demand for shares seeing the price go from strength to strength.  market feedback suggests the clarity of their communications has been the true hero of this modern day crime story.


this article appeared in marketing magazine, march/april 2013

design in business, marketing magazine
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