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Integrated Reporting Insights – The connectivity principle

23 Jun 2020 by Mike Tisdall

This video in our series on integrated reporting looks at the guiding principle of ‘Connectivity of Information’. This is the bit where <IR> asks you to join the dots between the various things that are...

integrated reporting insights – the connectivity principle mike tisdall

this video in our series on integrated reporting looks at the guiding principle of ‘connectivity of information’.

this is the bit where <ir> asks you to join the dots between the various things that are happening because looking at things in silos isn’t particularly useful. it’s systems thinking really, where there are interdependencies whether they’re immediately obvious or not. if you can clearly see the trade-offs, you can understand how they affect each other. and that might have you making different decisions.

so how do you go about identifying these connections? and then how do you articulate them in your report?

this video provides a couple of tips . . .

, integrated reporting, value creation model

Integrated Reporting Insights - How important is hard data?

16 Jun 2020 by Mike Tisdall

This video in our series on integrated reporting takes a look at the roles of qualitative vs quantitative information. We often come across clients who know they need to embrace Integrated Reporting but feel...

integrated reporting insights - how important is hard data? mike tisdall

this video in our series on integrated reporting takes a look at the roles of qualitative vs quantitative information.

we often come across clients who know they need to embrace integrated reporting but feel they’re not ready to go there because of a lack of hard data. our response to that is two-fold: 

  1. starting on the journey towards integrated reporting is more important than producing the ideal report. this is not a game you can master overnight. just get started with a report that has the right spirit and improve over time.
  2. hard data is only part of the story. your genuine stories and exposing the soul of your beliefs in action are just as important. the <ir> framework spells this out: “the ability of the organization to create value can best be reported on through a combination of quantitative and qualitative information".

so, if your organisation has a conscious intent, and is deliberately dealing with activities that affect your people, your product and the planet in a cohesive way, you can definitely start on the integrated reporting journey. it will be the quality and genuineness of your thinking and actions that will set the scene in your early reports.

in the accompanying video, i show you how effective this can be.

, integrated reporting,

Integrated Reporting Insights - the Value Creation Model

09 Jun 2020 by Mike Tisdall

In this, the first of our video series on aspects of integrated reporting, we take an in-depth look at the Value Creation model. Value Creation (or depletion, as the case may be) is probably the most fundamental core...

integrated reporting insights - the value creation model mike tisdall

in this, the first of our video series on aspects of integrated reporting, we take an in-depth look at the value creation model.

value creation (or depletion, as the case may be) is probably the most fundamental core principle of integrated reporting – the ability of an organisation to create value for itself and other stakeholders and society over time.

and the value creation model is the flow diagram in virtually every integrated report that illustrates how a company’s operations adds value to the various financial and non-financial capitals that it utilises.

as companies globally are adding more and more information into their value creation models, insight creative’s mike tisdall is observing them drowning in so much complexity that they’re ceasing to communicate effectively.

this video is for viewers who already have a reasonable understanding of the principles of the value creation model and are ready to dig deeper into the nuances. it takes a brief overview of the anatomy of the vcm, as outlined by the <ir> framework, and then focuses on some of the components that routinely cause confusion or get overlooked.

we take a close look at the important difference between outputs and outcomes; the role of risks, external operating environment, the company’s strategy, and how much detail the business model itself should attempt to incorporate. 

and we pose the questions: how much is too much? and what’s more important – content or reader engagement?

, integrated reporting, value creation model


03 Jun 2020 by Steven Giannoulis

As more businesses move out of lockdown and back into operating from their premises again, there’s a lot of talk about adapting, firing up much-needed revenue and managing cashflow. Much of this discussion is...

thrive steven giannoulis

as more businesses move out of lockdown and back into operating from their premises again, there’s a lot of talk about adapting, firing up much-needed revenue and managing cashflow.

much of this discussion is about survival, avoiding falling over and allowing the business to get out of this crisis to keep fighting for another day. in the longer-term, business needs to do more than just survive, it needs to thrive.

in the current world focused on short-term survival, the businesses who will emerge most ready to thrive over the long term, are those who’ve also kept an eye on what matters most. their focus and actions are building a more resilient and sustainable business, ready to succeed again in the not-too-distant future.

and that’s the topic of this week’s blog. what makes your business thrive? and what are you doing today to foster your future success?

some call them your strengths, others your competitive advantage. no matter what you call them, they are the things that drive existing customers to stay and new customers to choose you. effectively they’re the reasons for your success. in our new world, historic success drivers may not necessarily drive your future success, or you may need to adapt them to accommodate changing customer expectations.

so consider what has driven your past success and how that may change going forward. many business leaders cite one of the following as critical success drivers:

a team environment where people care about each other and do whatever it takes to support the business to succeed. in return the business treats them well, offering them rewards, benefits and opportunities and a sense of belonging. what would happen to service, productivity, quality, staff retention and other organisational performance measures if you didn’t have these people or this culture? how do you ensure you still do?

it doesn’t matter what industry you are in, service is one of the key reasons customers come back again and again. what drives the quality of your service - people, systems, processes, rewards or something else? with changing servicing requirements, what changes do you need to make to keep service levels up and to manage customers’ new expectations?

your operating model represents how your business is geared up. it could be to deliver volume or the lowest price possible, to ensure quality, to minimise waste, to maximise speed to market and/or to adapt to changing volume or bespoke customer requirements. as the world changes, and customers’ expectations evolve, what changes do you need to make to the model to ensure it remains fit for purpose?

for many businesses, what makes them strong is that ability to understand what drives their customers and to keep coming up with innovative ideas to meet their need. it takes more than just good ideas but the skills, mindset and processes to take these ideas and to turn them into viable new products. is now the time for innovative ideas to meet new customer needs?

for many, what makes them strong is the external relationships they foster with suppliers, industry bodies and influencers, with distributors and with their community. in a world where everyone’s priorities and situation have changed, how do you keep building these critical relationships?


the natural tendency is to cut back spending and non-revenue generating activities, but the truth is, now is the time to invest in the future of your business. concentrate your spend and energy on the things that really matter – the thing that makes your business succeed is surely something worth concentrating on.

start by getting clarity on what will drive your success going forward. engage your team in the discussion and, if need be, engage your key customers as well.

with this new clarity, put all your focus and efforts on fostering this. develop an action plan of who will do what and by when. if your success is people and culture, look at initiatives to re-engage the team on the business goals. if it’s service, re-establish your clients’ expectations before refining your service model. alternatively, set up a new ideas think tank, change or adapt your operating model or reconnect with your key stakeholders.

create real urgency in achieving this. have clarity of roles and deliverables for all involved. meet regularly to review progress and to find ways around roadblocks. most importantly, communicate the vision, the action plan and progress, drawing everyone into achieving the desired result together.

at insight creative our success comes from helping you succeed. give us one hour to learn more about what your business needs to thrive. in return, we’ll give you three strategic-creative ideas to help you achieve it. no charge. no obligation. get your boss, your peers and your team together and let’s talk about how you’ll adapt, grow and thrive in your new new zealand.


27 May 2020 by Steven Giannoulis

Unless you are a courier company, supermarket, hand sanitiser manufacturer or a similar business that prospered under Covid-19, at Level 2 your business is back up and running but facing reduced revenue. You’ve...

grow steven giannoulis

unless you are a courier company, supermarket, hand sanitiser manufacturer or a similar business that prospered under covid-19, at level 2 your business is back up and running but facing reduced revenue.

you’ve survived lockdown but the revenue reduction over the last two months will be more noticeable in your bank account this month. the business might be okay for a while but it can’t maintain reduced revenue forever. without getting sales levels back up, the only alternative will be cost cutting. the challenge is many of your customers are also cutting back to deal with their own new situation.

in this blog we explore ideas to help you grow revenue by engaging with existing customers and using your learnings to attract new customers. we also offer you a unique opportunity to engage us, for free, in any issue your business is currently facing.

your b2c customers are more than likely re-evaluating their priorities as they work out how to adjust to a new reality. changes in their and their family’s work and financial situations, plus the fear of what may be ahead, will be driving their priorities. disruption in their routine may also be contributing to changing preferences and spending behaviours.

your b2b customers are likely to be going through similar circumstances to you. they’re facing uncertainty and disruption and looking for ways to kickstart their business and cashflow. work out how you can best help them. often this is as simple as a quick call or email asking them how.

actively supporting their business to get going again will provide both short- and long-term benefits for your business. offer existing customers any support you can, even if it’s for free or at heavily reduced rates. support them with advice, tools and initiatives that allow them to generate revenue, to engage their customers, or to make savings. what you invest now in your customers will be repaid in loyalty. and customer loyalty is the foundation for your long-term growth plans.

while your customers are thinking about their current situation, they also have one eye on the longer term, considering how covid will change their business forever and what they need to do to adapt. this may mean a different range of products and services, new price points and distribution channels, a new operating model or new marketing strategies. help them plot the future by being a sounding board, providing ideas and helping them advance their thinking. re-establish your role as a trusted partner in their new value chain as soon as possible, by offering new and modified products, services and support packages.

one of the benefits of starting with existing customers is understanding them gives you some insights into what similar customers may need. the process of attracting new customers starts right here.

like existing customers, uncertain times will see new business prospects needing to take action but unsure of how to go about it. this opens the door for new suppliers who can show an appreciation of the situation and can provide accessible answers that give a customer a sense of moving forward.

what your existing customers are thinking, saying and doing is a start but don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone is in the same boat. take a wide view and consider how the last few months may have changed consumer preferences, shopping patterns and behaviours, communication channels, or preferred ways of interaction. who do these changes benefit? ask and answer these questions in the prospecting process to gain understanding, to add value and to uncover new business opportunities. 

all change reveals opportunities but it may take time for prospects to take their eyes off what they’re missing and to focus on what’s ahead. as with existing customers, invest in helping them get there quicker.

at insight creative we're adapting how we work with our clients to better understand and respond to what’s changed for them. as a result we’re listening and offering strategic and creative ideas that will help them adapt to life in in their new world.

give us one hour to learn more about the new challenges and opportunities facing your business in level 2 and beyond. in return, we’ll give you three strategic-creative ideas to help you address them.

no charge. no obligation. get your boss, your peers and your team together and let’s talk about how you’ll adapt, grow and thrive in your new new zealand.




20 May 2020 by Steven Giannoulis

ADAPT [uh-dapt] (verb). To adjust to the conditions or a new environment. To fit, change or modify something to make it suitable for a new use, purpose or situation.   For many of us, we’ve now...

adapt steven giannoulis

adapt [uh-dapt]

(verb). to adjust to the conditions or a new environment. to fit, change or modify something to make it suitable for a new use, purpose or situation.
for many of us, we’ve now returned to the workplace and have a new set of behaviours we need to adjust to. some customers are returning and we’re starting to appreciate how different the new business environment is. it’s time to figure out what the changed world means for us and how we can best acclimatise to it.
in a rapidly changing environment, with tough financial conditions, we advocate a proactive approach, actively seeking to anticipate change and to take action. in uncertain times, the easy option is to wait for more information before acting, but this may be too late for some businesses. in this blog, we explore four directions to help you consider ways to adapt to the new world we live in.
start with you. what have you learnt about yourself over the lockdown? were you more productive working in isolation? or did you find yourself missing the energy of those around you? did you rethink your priorities and form new habits that improved your effectiveness and wellbeing? think about the things that worked for you in lockdown and now consider how you carry them forward to the new ‘outside’ world. maybe it’s working from home more often or making time every day to exercise or connect with the people around you. what stopped you doing these things before? many of these ‘barriers’ were your own mindset but the situation led you to overcome them. resolve to make permanent change and then set up the structures that let these changes become your new norm.
lockdown came suddenly and we responded with quick decisions and actions. some worked and others didn’t. use these three questions to lead a ‘lessons from lockdown’ discussion with your team, capturing the learnings to bring back to the workplace:
what new things did we introduce during lockdown that worked well? for example, zoom or teams collaboration, cross-team initiatives or cross-office online drinks. are any of these worth carrying on with?
what did we do differently during lockdown that we should keep doing? working effectively from home for example, or reducing travel through online client and team meetings.
what did we stop doing during lockdown and shouldn’t restart? many of our regular processes and routines were sidelined during lockdown. these could be tasks we normally did, reports we produced or approvals we obtained. why re-introduce them?
take a moment to think about your customers and their world. what’s changed for them and how will that change their mindsets, priorities and actions. firstly, consider volume. will they do the same, more or less business with you and what will this mean for your resource levels? will their priorities change, leading to a new product set or a changing emphasis on quality, price or service? will they want to interact with you in different ways? form a view on what future business may look like. how you can modify your operating model to accommodate.
but what if you’re not sure how your customers will react? reach out and show them you understand their world has changed. ask them how you can help. there’ll never better time to engage your customers in these conversations.
many things in the world around us have changed – some temporary and some for good. consider how they’ll impact you and your business. as a society, it will take some time to feel safe again, especially in mass gatherings and close contact situations. will this change how consumers engage with you, or your customers, and the products and services they’ll demand? over recent years consumers have looked to business to take an active role in making the world a better place. this is likely to escalate. how will you respond? a surge in kiwi pride should see more kiwis supporting local business, especially those businesses that are themselves supporting locals. what opportunities and challenges does this offer your business?
at insight creative we're adapting how we work with our clients to better understand and respond to what’s changed for them. as a result we’re listening and offering strategic and creative ideas that will help them adapt to life in in their new world.

give us one hour to learn more about the new challenges and opportunities facing your business in level 2 and beyond. in return, we’ll give you three strategic-creative ideas to help you address them.

no charge. no obligation. get your boss, your peers and your team together and let’s talk about how you’ll adapt, grow and thrive in your new new zealand.


Adapt, Grow, Thrive

14 May 2020 by Steven Giannoulis

  Today we move into Level 2  and begin the process of resuming life, and business, post the Covid crisis. With so much disruption and uncertainty, how do you begin to make sense of the road ahead to...

adapt, grow, thrive steven giannoulis

today we move into level 2 and begin the process of resuming life, and business, post the covid crisis. with so much disruption and uncertainty, how do you begin to make sense of the road ahead to prosperity? 

what we can be certain of is that a post covid-19 new zealand will be a very different world to what we knew before lockdown. a kinder and more caring place, maybe. a much harsher economic reality, definitely. many things will never go back to where they were. the way we interact with each other. our priorities. our definition of success.

in this new world, the companies who’ll prosper are those who focus, not on going back to where they were, but on embracing the new future ahead.
as a creative-thinking business, our success has always been driven by helping our clients succeed.
in an uncertain world, the road ahead still remains clear. we’ll succeed if we help our clients adapt, grow and thrive in new new zealand. over the next three weeks we’ll explore each of these topics fully, providing insights and ideas to help our clients think about what their new reality is and how they make the most of it. for today, we outline the context and framework we’ll use to facilitate that thinking.
positive adaptation requires reflection and lessons to be learnt. start internally by thinking about lockdown. what things did you put in place, or do differently, that worked well? should these become the new norm? what did you stop doing, that previously seemed important, but wasn’t missed during lockdown? answering questions like these will give you a sense how everyday life could, and should, be different going forward.
apply the same thinking to the world outside your business. what have you learnt about your customers? how has their world changed and how will this change their mindset, focus and actions? not sure? ask them. as a society, will we remain wary of crowds and continue to prefer online? will we become even more safety and family orientated and pro-kiwi? take a view on the future and the impact it will have on your business. use this to frame your thinking and operations. in rapidly changing times, the worst thing you can do is wait and see – it may be too late. adapt what you can now and then keep refining as you learn more.

unless you are one of the few that prospered under covid-19, your business will be now be focused on revenue growth. we survived lockdown but the reduction in revenue will be most noticeable in the months ahead as cashflow slows but the costs remain. without increased revenue, the alternative is cutting costs.

restoring revenue starts with existing customers. retaining them should be priority and that means listening to what’s now important to them. be ready to adapt your offer, your service, your communication and whatever it takes to keep them. engage them positively, support them and you’ll build trust and loyalty, important cornerstones to longer term growth. understanding your current customers’ needs will help you achieve growth through other customers who value the same thing.


survival is the focus now, but for the longer-term, businesses need to do more than just survive. they need to thrive. what makes your business thrive? your people and culture? your service? your operating model? your innovation? your community? something else? look back at what’s driven your success in the past. now consider the future - will this be as important to your customers and to your business going forward? if not, what is it that will allow your business to thrive again? with this clarity, put your focus and efforts on good times business can focus on many things. in tougher times they need to concentrate their spend and energy on the things that really matter – and this matters. make a plan to foster it. invest in it. communicate it, painting a picture of how it will lead to a better future for the business and your people. get everyone acting as one towards achieving it.

read the three individual posts which explore these aspects of business recovery in detail:





for our business, we thrive when we deliver creative and clever solutions to the problems and opportunities our clients face. so that’s exactly what we’re focusing on. along with this blog series of insights, we’ll work closely with each of our clients to identify strategic and creative ideas that will help them adapt, grow and thrive in their new new zealand.

give us one hour to hear about the challenges and opportunities facing your business in level 2 and beyond. in return, we’ll give you three ideas to help you address charge. no obligation. get your boss, your peers and your team together and let’s talk about how you’ll adapt, grow and thrive in your new new zealand.

Get action-ready for Alert Level 3

22 Apr 2020 by Mike Tisdall

From Tuesday 28 April we are moving to Alert Level 3. While many things will be the same – like working and learning from home - there are some significant changes. The week ahead is about ‘getting ready’ for the...

get action-ready for alert level 3 mike tisdall
from tuesday 28 april we are moving to alert level 3. while many things will be the same – like working and learning from home - there are some significant changes. the week ahead is about ‘getting ready’ for the move to level 3.
over the last month, we’ve done a good thing in new zealand, something that few countries around the world have achieved. before getting fixated on more restrictions and further hardships, take a moment to pat yourself on the back for keeping you and your family safe. you’ve helped new zealand get covid-19 under control – we should all feel very proud.
we’ve been home for four weeks now, and many of us have been hanging out for the end of lockdown. but the move to level 3 will mean little change for most of us. we’ll be spending most of our time at home, and in our bubble, for at least three more weeks. prepare yourself for it. talk to your family about it. think about what has worked well over the last month and how can you do more of this? what new things do you need to keep everyone active, engaged and motivated?
and with at least three more weeks to go, what new skills can you learn?
the exploring rules are relaxed a little allowing us to go ‘regional.’ the ability to go for a walk or run at the local beach or park will be a relief for many. for others, just going for a drive will be a relief. (start the car this week – making sure it’s ready to go for next week!) make a plan of the local places you’ll visit and what you’ll do while you are there. how will you get there safely and maintain your social distancing while you’re there? planning will help build up the anticipation.
the biggest change at level 3 is the wider economic activity in which we can engage. what will that mean for you? are you happy to go back to the supermarket or other stores that were closed during lockdown or would you rather keep getting things delivered? what are the non-essentials you’ve been hanging out for? order them this week to be delivered as soon as your favourite retailers are up and running again. getting in there early will reinforce that things have changed.
while the move to level 3 helps business in general, for many it will bring little change. for forestry, construction and retailers with online shopping, the move will be a welcome relief. think about your clients that will potentially be better off at level 3. what support can your business give them to help the transition and rebuilding processes? what about businesses, like restaurants and takeaways that are still restricted? are there ideas, products, services or support you can help them with?
while level 3 still excludes socialising, there is now an ability to extend your bubble a little. neighbours, close friends and family are the obvious first consideration. if you’re living alone, create a bubble of people in a similar position. agree to catch-up regularly (and exclusively!). think about the kids. can you include one of their friends in your wider bubble so they’ll be able to have play dates at each other’s houses? what a difference that would make to both kids and to parents!
while we are getting ready to make some changes, we can’t forget the importance of staying safe. in fact, with more contact we need to be even more vigilant. don’t forget to wash your hands regularly, check for symptoms and above all, get tested early if there is even the slightest chance you’ve been exposed to covid-19.
this time will pass and it will be over before you know it. the key thing is to look after yourself and your family and to stay connected with your friends and colleagues.

Planning for Level 3

15 Apr 2020 by Mike Tisdall

As we move into the tail end of the 4-week Covid-19 lockdown, with many promising signs, we start to think about what happens next and how we’ll adapt to it.   The four alert levels help us with our...

planning for level 3 mike tisdall
as we move into the tail end of the 4-week covid-19 lockdown, with many promising signs, we start to think about what happens next and how we’ll adapt to it.
the four alert levels help us with our planning. we know what an extended level 4 looks like but what would you need to do to stay in lockdown for longer? what if we went back to level 3, or level 2? what would change and how would you cope? this could see you, or some of your family, back at work or at school but maybe not everyone. how would you manage this? use the alert levels to work through the likely scenarios. make a plan of how you’ll approach each of them. this process will help you feel more in control and be prepared when the government announces what’s next.
while we have some hope that the end is in sight, it’s important to remember that many people are still feeling stressed. now isn’t the time to stop communicating. in fact, it’s the time to step it up. stay in touch regularly and keep offering all the support you can. and that applies to you as well. if you’re feeling the stress of isolation and the impact of the wider crisis, keep reaching out to friends, family and for professional support.
lockdown hasn’t been all bad, has it? we’ve learned to work from home more effectively and to connect with each other in new ways. there’s is no reason to not keep going with some of our new practices. make a plan for what the ‘new normal’ could look like. for example, keep having regular virtual catchups (and drinks) with colleagues and friends. keep buying groceries online. zoom your customers rather than flying or driving to see them. work from home more regularly.
it’s only natural to worry about what happens next. you’ll have many questions and concerns. will it be safe to go back to the office, to the supermarket, the mall or to get back on public transport? don’t let the volume of your fears consume you. write them down and talk to your family and friends about them. as the government announces what’s next and how we’ll get there, tick your concerns off. then only deal with the one or two you don’t have satisfactory answers for. make a plan for them.
this crisis has impacted businesses in different ways and will create uncertain times ahead for many. for some, the focus will shift from long-term growth to short-term survival mode. think about your work and how priorities may change. most businesses will be focused on getting their revenue back up as soon as possible, reducing unnecessary expenses and ensuring they have cashflow to keep paying their rent, their staff and their suppliers.
how can you think differently about what you do, and how you do it, to help your employer and your own job security?
while you’re thinking about your work and how priorities will change, think about your customers as well. what is likely to be different for them going forward? how can you help them recover faster? if need be, just ask them – they’ll thank you for thinking of them. supporting their success will help your business succeed and this will help you get through as well.
one of the positives to come out of the covid-19 crisis is the way we’ve united and supported each other. many of your friends, families and colleagues will be facing the same uncertainties as you about this next phase. some will be worse-off, looking to re-establish their business, their health, their employment and their finances. how can you help? it could be as simple as giving them advice and contacts, assisting with jobs around the house, carpooling to reduce the need to use public transport or taking the kids for a bit so they can focus on rebuilding their business or finding work. start by asking them how you can help.
this time will pass and it will be over before you know it. the key thing is to look after yourself and your family and to stay connected with your friends and colleagues.

#Insight Easter

09 Apr 2020 by Mike Tisdall

Easter this year will be like no other. Let’s celebrate it in a uniquely creative way. Unleash your creativity and the kid within. Here’s some cool ideas and links with instructions and recipes.    Give...

#insight easter mike tisdall
easter this year will be like no other. let’s celebrate it in a uniquely creative way. unleash your creativity and the kid within. here’s some cool ideas and links with instructions and recipes. 
give them a go and then share them on social media using #insighteaster so we can see them too.
1. paint easter eggs: you can keep it really simple and draw easter eggs and then make them multi-coloured or you can decorate real eggs. easy to follow painting egg instructions can be found right here
2. bake your own hot cross buns: hot cross buns are delicious and it’s a shame we only have them once a year. learn how to make them with the kids and have them all year round. here’s a great recipe from one of our favourite kiwi cooks, chelsea winter.
3. make a collage bunny: you’ll need a bunny shape – draw this on cardboard or paper and cut it out; tape; glue and things to decorate with – pens, paint, colouring papers, glitter, coloured papers, tissue paper, old wrapping paper and anything you have around the house.
once the bunny shape is ready, start decorating. use a mix of colours, textures, bits of material and stick them on. then use pens and paint to add more colour. what’s most important is that you have lots of creative fun.
4. plan an  easter treasure hunt: a great way to keep kids (and adults) entertained over easter is to create a scavenger hunt – with easter eggs or any other treasure. here’s how:
• plan your route – start inside and then get everyone outside before bringing them back home with the last clue.  
• decide on the items you want people to find on the hunt.
• write and number the clues for each location:
   - use hints or riddles to identify the next location.
   - the clue could be a picture, like a tree in the garden or the letterbox.
   - create puzzles to solve to find the next location including word search clues, scrambled letters and general knowledge questions.
• add in some surprise rewards to keep everyone excited and engaged.
and here’s a whole lot of other fun ideas to get you creative over easter
• make fairy-bread.
• dress up a pet (or yourself) as the easter bunny.
• use old socks to make bunnies puppets.
• make chocolate in the shape of bunnies.
• sing oma rapeti:
         oma rāpeti, oma rāpeti
         oma, oma, oma
         oma rāpeti, oma rāpeti
         oma, oma, oma
         piko, piko, piko, piko, piko, piko
         toro, piko
         toro, toro, toro, toro, toro, toro
         piko, toro
and finally check out this page on the good housekeeping site for 44 more ideas.

Keeping up the momentum

07 Apr 2020 by Mike Tisdall

Last week we focused on getting your routine up and running. As the third week of working from home kicks off, the focus is keeping the momentum going through to Easter. Here are some more practical tips and tricks...

keeping up the momentum mike tisdall
last week we focused on getting your routine up and running. as the third week of working from home kicks off, the focus is keeping the momentum going through to easter. here are some more practical tips and tricks to help you remain focused and engaged.
you may be starting to go a bit stir crazy and, at times, be feeling overwhelmed by the stream of bad news. there are lots of online blogs from qualified mental health professionals with some good ideas on how to look after yourself. the key recommendations coming through are to exercise daily, stay connected with your loved ones, switch off the noise and misinformation of social media and to focus on things you can control. one of the best recommendations is to ‘give yourself a break’. don’t put too much pressure and unrealistic expectation on yourself. these are stressful times, very few people will perform at the level they did before.
as we are less busy during this third week, time will become one of our big challenges. it will seem to pass slower and a sense of monotony may set in. make sure you keep yourself busy with a mixture of work, home and personal things. develop a list of things you can do and refer to it whenever you’re not sure what to do next. rather than thinking about how to get through the day, break the day into chunks and just focus on getting through the next few hours.
most businesses are finding things are slowing down as their customers and clients are doing, and spending, less. whether it’s external or internal customers, make sure you’re keeping in touch with them. actively look for ways to add value to their activities. think about the sorts of things you can do that will help make their life easier – things you would have done for them in the past if only you’d had the time. the way we support our customers over this period will shape our relationship when things return to normal.
you’ll find many in your team are feeling the same and are facing many of the same challenges as you. touch base, compare notes and give each other suggestions on supporting customers, looking after your health and other work and personal matters. keep in touch with your customers, suppliers and regular work contacts. ask how you can help and help where you can.
it’s only natural to think about the health of the business and whether your job is safe. cashflow and revenue are the biggest challenges facing business at the moment. think about the things you can do to help. this could be ideas to save money, new product or service ideas, ways to help out customers in troubled times or ideas to get customers to spend more or to pay quicker. helping the business get through these troubled times will make you feel you’re doing something positive to achieve a good outcome for the business and for you.
easter is nearly upon us and there’s no doubt it will be very different from any easter we’ve experienced before. make celebrating it a focus for the week. a positive celebration will do you good. this could be easter activities with the family like painting eggs or making hot cross buns together. think about your colleagues as well. what can you do to wish them a happy easter in a novel way? and this extends to your customers and suppliers: send them an email or ecard wishing them a good easter.
while it’s too early to know exactly when the lockdown will end, it’s not too early to start thinking about what will happen when it does. when you go back to the office what will the priorities be? what will you do differently? are there things – such as sales tools, procedures, job descriptions, promotions, diversity and inclusiveness or values initiatives - that would help you hit the ground running? get started now so you are ready to go when the time comes.
this time will pass and it will be over before you know it. the key thing is to look after yourself and your family and to stay connected with your friends and colleagues.

Let’s Keep Talking

07 Apr 2020 by Steven Giannoulis

The value of communicating in uncertain times It’s human nature. It’s how we cope with uncertainty. In the absence of real information we use our judgement to fill in the missing gaps. And we look for...

let’s keep talking steven giannoulis

the value of communicating in uncertain times

it’s human nature. it’s how we cope with uncertainty. in the absence of real information we use our judgement to fill in the missing gaps. and we look for clues that help us feel comfortable to make these judgement calls.

this is exaggerated in heightened uncertainty, like we have now. we’re all struggling to process what is happening and to see a way forward. in the absence of the concrete information, we look for clues that can act as proxies. unfortunately, the loudest sources are most often family, friends and colleagues, social media and the news sources. often these are inaccurate, one-sided or highly influenced by their own circumstances. the news at the moment is mostly negative which means that our ability to come to conclusions, other than negative ones, is limited. 

in the absence of any other reliable information, our staff, our customers and our investors are using the news and social media to shape their perceptions, their judgement and their actions.

so why aren’t good leaders stepping up their communications in tough times? they leave the rhetoric to others and in doing so, allow others to influence how their staff, customers and investors see them.  

i’ve been a marketer for over 30 years including the ’87 crash, the middle-east wars, the gfc and now this. it still surprises me how little we learn. in all those situations my managers cut back on communication activity. i know the reduce discretionary spend argument well. but good connecting doesn’t need to cost big money. in fact, a simple but authentic personal call or email beats any expensive, yet impersonal, mass campaign any day.

good leaders show their leadership qualities in uncertain times more than ever. most often it’s through their ability to communicate openly and honestly and with real empathy. in the absence of real information, this is often all the reassurance and clarity our audiences need. 

i suppose the cutting back on communicating reflects a leader's own uncertainty. yes, our audiences would love you to give them more certainty if you can, but they also understand when you can’t. in current times, everything is uncertain except your ability to listen, to empathise, to reassure and to demonstrate you’re doing all you can. your audiences aren’t necessarily looking to you for answers, just a reliable source of truth and a sense that you are doing all you can.

my adage is, whatever is happening around us, let’s just keep talking.


keep talking to staff.

you're working hard to reduce expenses and to manage revenue and cashflow. stop for a moment and think about it from your staff’s perspective. what are the messages you are sending about the survival of the business? they are not only worried about the business but also their mortgage, their family and their future. they're looking to you for understanding and for reassurance. 

all it takes is a meeting, an email or a phone call to openly and honestly outline where things are at and what you are doing about it. acknowledge the situation and how they (and you) are feeling. be honest about the uncertainty, the future options and how you’ll go about making decisions. provide reassure where you can, for example, “if we have to take action, we’ll give you as much notice as we can.”

find ways to connect with your staff regularly and open yourself up for them to contact you. create channels for them to support each other and actively promote the support channels available to them.

communicate regularly, even if it’s small developments or “no change.” over time you will build trust, which helps reduce uncertainty. it also makes it easier if you have to deliver worse news later.


keep talking to customers.

many of us have seen our customers pull back on spending – either by choice or because circumstances don’t allow them to spend. don’t push for sales but communicate gently and often. acknowledge the circumstances, empathise with them and the challenges they are facing. add value to them any way you can through regular information, advice, support and alternatives that meet their needs.

again, communicate regularly and in a supportive way and focus on what they need. if you operate in b2b environments, go further by finding ways to support your customers to connect with their customers.  

how you engage with your customers over this period will determine how quickly you bounce back when things return to normal, whatever that new version normal is.


keep talking to investors.

investment decisions have always been driven by sentiment. yes, there are facts and figures but they all look backwards. we invest based on what we think the future looks like.

in the current environment, it’s not unrealistic for investors to feel they’ll never see their money again. or if they do, it will take many years until its back at the value it had before. 

without counter-information to what’s in the news and on their social feed, many will panic and pull out of their investment. every day of further bad economic news makes this more likely.

so don’t wait till the next annual report to let them know how you are going. find ways to proactively get in touch with them. be open about the impact of what’s happening on the business. more importantly show them what you're doing to help the business survive, to support your staff and customers and to protect their investment. 

good leaders shine in these tough times. they communicate effectively, build trust and help their staff, customers and investors manage their uncertainty.  

while i don’t fully agree with all the actions of our government over the current situation, i do think our prime minister has shown her leadership qualities. she, more than any of us, is dealing with uncertainty and a mountain of conflicting information. throughout, she’s communicated openly, with clarity, and always with authenticity and empathy. even as things are changing, jacinda is the communication example we should all be aspiring to.

communicating, communicating in uncertain times, uncertain times

Establishing a routine when working from home

02 Apr 2020 by Mike Tisdall

As week two of working from home settles in, it’s time for a few more practical tips and tricks to help you remain effective while still balancing the many demands on your time and wellbeing. While last week was...

establishing a routine when working from home mike tisdall
as week two of working from home settles in, it’s time for a few more practical tips and tricks to help you remain effective while still balancing the many demands on your time and wellbeing. while last week was focused on getting everything sorted – your workspace, technology, access to files, etc – this week is more about establishing your routine.
decide what time you’ll start and stop work each day and when you’ll take breaks. chances are the family are home as well and the kids are possibly on their school holidays. they all need, and deserve, time with you too. schedule this in. a good schedule will help with your mental wellbeing, frees up guilt-free time with the family, and ensures everyone understands when you’re ‘at work’ and when you’re ‘at home.’
think about how much time you spent getting to and from work every day. how can you use this time in more rewarding ways over the next few weeks? exercise? write? paint? make music? learn a new language? bake? master a new hobby? watch all eight seasons of game of thrones?
start with all the meetings you would normally have with your clients and your team. set them up as zoom, microsoft teams or skype meetings and invite everyone so it’s in their diary as well. then think about adding in some extra meetings to make up for the usual face-to-face interactions that happen in a typical week. keeping your meetings going helps to maintain a sense of normality, ensures you stay connected with your key people and breaks up the monotony of your day.
one of the things you’ll miss most about the office is that regular social interaction with your colleagues. discussions at the photocopier, in the kitchen and just around the office every day. to ensure this still happens, schedule coffee breaks to catch up over zoom and chat and keep friday drinks going – get everyone to grab their own drink before ‘hanging-out’ virtually to end the week’s work.
for many, last week was the first time they did zoom or microsoft teams meetings. for others, it was the first time on a facebook hangout. now you know how it works and how easy it is, find out what more you can do with it. have a play. change your settings and backgrounds, set up alerts and set up groups. all these platforms have help functions and there are many youtube tutorials.
make a list of all the people you interact with on a normal week. this includes your team, your clients, your partners, your suppliers and your stakeholders. make a point of checking in with each of them at least once over the week. in times of isolation we all need to talk and connect more, definitely not less.
we all have stuff at work (and at home) that we’ve been meaning to get around to but just never found the time. clean out your desktop and directories of old files. write up those procedures you’ve been meaning to for a while. set up mailing lists. sit down and make a list and over the next few weeks, as you’re wondering what to do next, go back to the list and pick one. better still, try and tick one off a day.
this time will pass and it will be over before you know it. the key thing is to look after yourself and your family and to stay connected with your friends and colleagues.

Integrated Reporting: Connectivity of Information

02 Apr 2020 by Mike Tisdall

It’s one of the core principles of an Integrated Report (<IR>). But many clients seem to think it’s one of the hardest. We’ll get to that in a minute – but spoiler alert: it isn’t really. First,...

integrated reporting: connectivity of information mike tisdall

it’s one of the core principles of an integrated report (<ir>). but many clients seem to think it’s one of the hardest. we’ll get to that in a minute – but spoiler alert: it isn’t really.

first, let’s consider why the <ir> framework considers it an important principle. basically, it’s because it’s really not that useful to look at material issues in isolation. there are interdependencies there whether you’ve noticed them consciously or not. and if you can surface these connections and the trade-offs between issues, it becomes easier to understand just how they affect each other. which in turn influences decision-making.

and here’s that easy way to get started that i alluded to above: in my experience, even if an organisation hasn’t been through a formal integrated thinking process, threads naturally occur and it’s just a matter of using fresh eyes to look at the tapestry to find the sometimes not-so-obvious synergies. because – credit to your leadership - there’s usually a strategy at play and you can join the dots if you look closely enough. 

and while this isn’t as good as being crisply intentional in strategy activation, at least it gives you a place to start if you’re embarking on an integrated reporting journey in an organisation that hasn’t yet got a level of maturity in its integrated thinking.

most annual reports contain some form of case studies these days. they’re used to illustrate a strategy in action and provide proof points for directional statements. analyse your case studies. you may be surprised at how many of them tick more than one of your strategy boxes, and impact more than one of your stakeholder groups or desired outcomes.

once you’ve identified them, surface them and actively join the dots. explain how the examples deliver on your strategies or help you towards a stated kpi goal. different case studies can deliver to different goals of course, but you will probably find that some actually deliver to more than one.

here are a couple of examples from watercare and vector which illustrate how we’ve actively helped the reader connect case studies to more than one of the business’s goals and strategies.


note how each of these case studies reports back to watercare’s stated strategic goals (highlighted by the red boxes):


so, look closely at your in-market activities. you may be surprised that they meet more than just commercial objectives. and take another look at your stories about your people, the environment and the community – you may well find that each meets more than one of your stated strategies.

having got to this point, you can now start to be more intentional in your non-financial planning, goal setting and kpi measurements. before you know it, integrated thinking will be happening in your organisation.

integrated reporting, connectivity, joining the dots, non-financial reporting

Home is where the . . . office is!

28 Mar 2020 by Mike Tisdall

  So here we are in lockdown while we wait out the Covid-19 uncertainty. While the concept of working from home is nothing new, implementing it nationwide for an extended period of time is, and it may take...

home is where the . . . office is! mike tisdall

so here we are in lockdown while we wait out the covid-19 uncertainty. while the concept of working from home is nothing new, implementing it nationwide for an extended period of time is, and it may take some time to adjust to this new normal. 

this is the first in a series of posts to help you settle in to your new routine.

find a workspace away from distractions. rather than setting up on your bed or the sofa, get a good supportive chair and flat table surface at the correct heightforearms and thighs parallel to the floor, etc.

without your usual morning commute, the transition from your pillow to your computer can be difficult. set your alarm to the regular time, make (or go get) coffee, and regular work clothes. routines help us adapt to being productive at home.

without the usual in-office routine it’s easy to lose focus or burn out. sort your next day schedule the afternoon before. this will help you dive straight in the following morning.
be flexible if you need to, but commit to an agenda outlining every task and stick to it.
include breaks in your schedule. it can be easy to get distracted and forget them. use your breaks to get away from your desk. go for a walk outside or spend time with others who might also be in the house. also pick a finishing time each day and stick to it as if you have a bus or train to catch.
working from home might help you focus in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off from your co-workers. use instant messaging and video conferencing tools to stay connected with the team. however, avoid social media. while important to stay in touch, it can also be a distraction especially now! switch off alerts and resist the temptation to check in during the day.

your motivation will naturally ebb and flow throughout the day. when you’re working from home, it’s all the more important to recognise when you’re at your best and plan your schedule accordingly. do creative tasks when you’re ‘hot’ and save admin for those times when you’re feeling less energetic. if you’re slow to get started in the morning, use that time for solitary tasks. save phone calls, online meetings, and other collaborative work for when you’ve officially 'woken up'.

many of us will have limited workspace that we’ll need to share. if others are at home such as roommates, kids, siblings, parents, spouses, and dogs (well, maybe not dogs) make sure they respect that just because you’re working from home it doesn’t mean you’re free to socialise. let them know your scheduled break times and make it clear you are not to be disturbed inbetween. however, human contact is important so make sure you take the time to talk to someone during your breaks especially if your work is mostly solitary.
when you’re in your own home, it can be tempting to spend time preparing a nice breakfast and lunch for yourself, chopping and cooking included. don’t use precious minutes making your food during the day; cook it the night before. preparing food ahead of time ensures you can use your meal times to eat, and that you aren’t performing non-work tasks that spend energy better used at your desk.
this season will pass, take care of yourself and check in with your team mates regularly to make sure you can have fun, sound off, and stay on task!

10 things to consider when creating engaging office environments.

17 Mar 2020 by Mike Tisdall

Moving into a new space is a fantastic opportunity to consider how to use the environment to engage key audiences like customers and important stakeholders. Their experience at your office will help reinforce what...

10 things to consider when creating engaging office environments. mike tisdall

moving into a new space is a fantastic opportunity to consider how to use the environment to engage key audiences like customers and important stakeholders. their experience at your office will help reinforce what they know about you and how they feel about your brand. just as importantly, office environments play an important role in shaping culture, strategic alignment and effective communication with your people. the environment becomes the canvas for working more effectively as an organisation.

the following are 10 starters we often talk about with clients when planning the brand and staff engagement layer of their office fit-out.


1.     user journey

start by identifying the key journeys through your space. where will visitors enter? what will they see first? do they go to reception and then a waiting area before being taken to a meeting room? what are the opportunities along this journey to tell your story?  

the same questions apply to staff. when they come out of the lift, where will they go? lockers? kitchen? their desk?  what will they walk past? what are the places they will visit during the day? most people will visit the photocopier, the kitchen, the watercooler and the toilets. these spaces are all opportunities to tell and reinforce your story.


2.     your brand story

for external audiences the public facing side of your office environment is a great place to tell your story. this could be information about your history and evolution, your business, your purpose, your brand promise, your products, your customers and your service proposition. use the journey identified above to layer your story so that each one builds and reinforces the earlier one.


3.     strategy & culture

the office space is also a great way to engage your staff in the business. visually express key culture messages that reflect what matters around here. demonstrate and reinforce your values in bold and proud ways. reinforce diversity, inclusiveness and other elements that are core to who you are. use the environment to reinforce who the customer is, key products and customer touchpoints. demonstrate the important things everyone needs to do to deliver to customers. show your people in action, especially when your team is located in many places and/or where the core business is conducted elsewhere. 


4.     navigation & safety

don’t forget the importance of helping everyone in the business know where to find things – bathrooms, kitchens, elevators and exits. create a system around naming meeting rooms and congregation spaces that make it easy for people to find and remember them. use the environment to communicate core health and safety messages in ways that relate to how people use the space. for example, wellbeing messages about looking out for each other in spaces where people meet. 


5.     multi-experience

some messages are about reminding people about the things that matter and we use the space for regular repetition. other messages require more engagement. these may require digital experiences – like video and animation - where sound and movement help increase engagement and memorability. others involve audiences doing and experiencing things to become more involved. this is where interactive displays, ar and vr could come into play. and while you’re at it, think about places for staff to engage back – things to comment on; places to write, draw and express themselves; even places for them to take photos to post on instagram. an engaging office environment will have a mix of these.


6.     personality

most office fit-outs use neutral colours generally for hard (and expensive) surfaces like walls and floors. use colour, texture, movement, typography, photography, art, plants, soft furnishings and interesting objects to bring the space to life. the office environment should reflect your personality, your energy and the people who work there. while there is an overall personality, also think about zones where the tone may need to change; for example, quiet reading and working areas vs active socialising spaces.


7.     use what’s available

most modern office spaces are open plan and are surrounded by a bank of glass. the available walls for communicating are limited. you have to use what you have and this includes ceilings, floors, stairwells, pillars, lockers, partitions, meeting rooms and even the bathrooms. there’s always a clever way to hang or project something where other options don’t exist. lighting and sound also become important storytelling dimensions in these spaces.


8.     design consistency

you can usually see far into the distance with most open plan offices meaning they can become visually cluttered. have a clear – and single-minded – design idea, supported by a cohesive tone and feel. be clear on your colour palette, fonts, graphic and photographic styles and stick to them. otherwise you could be adding to the noise.


9.     noticeboards

build-in ways to keep people updated about the everyday things that are happening in the business. electronic noticeboards in and/or by lifts, in kitchens, bathrooms and by photocopiers are great (and cost effective) ways to tell people about an upcoming event and to celebrate international women’s day, maori language week and other similar milestones. they reduce the cost, clutter and ugliness of lots of posters stuck up all over the office.


10.  durability

offices spaces are living environments. make sure that all materials are hard-wearing and can be changed out or updated in an easy and cost-efficient way, when necessary. think about portability as well - moving things around provides opportunities to freshen things up and to keep staff engaged with your space.

office fitout, brand alignment, work environment, environmental experience,

RealVirus or IdeaVirus? What do you think?

12 Mar 2020 by Steven Giannoulis

  Coronavirus is a phenomenon in two parts. The actual virus, I’m still in two minds about how big a deal it is, given how its numbers so dwarf annual flu statistics. Yes, we need to be cautious, especially...

realvirus or ideavirus? what do you think? steven giannoulis

coronavirus is a phenomenon in two parts. the actual virus, i’m still in two minds about how big a deal it is, given how its numbers so dwarf annual flu statistics. yes, we need to be cautious, especially if we have reason to be, but i do sometimes wonder if we are making more of it than what it is. i’m sure those people stuck on an infested cruise ship, with no port to go to, disagree with my assessment.

and then there is the phenomenon some are calling the ideavirus. it’s this nasty virus that might end up causing more damage than the actual virus. just about every business person i’ve spoken to has their business affected by it. worse still, billions got wiped off global markets this week and many economies, like ours, suddenly move from mild growth to recession. 

as i read social media (just stop it, i hear you say!) i get the sense we are in a bit of a cultural shift that’s driving behaviours: people are not shaking hands, not hugging, buying toilet paper in crazy quantities, paying stupid prices for hand sanitiser and face masks, refusing to touch door handles, fly places, go to large meetings, press exit buttons, drink corona beer or use sign-in screens. we’ve suddenly all very aware of germs that have probably always been there. 

i found myself on the plane last night wondering about the people in the seats next to me. their duty free bags made it clear they’d been overseas, which got me thinking where they might have been. any other time i would have been thinking ‘you lucky bastards'. this time, i’m worried that they’re about to give me a little souvenir from italy, china or iran. to be fair, they looked more like london backpackers.

mindsets are changing, beliefs are being challenged and, sad to say, some of nz’s natural racist tendencies are coming out. the virus (real and ideas) has the potential to change how we live for ever. 

did you know that the early rapid rise of online shopping is directly linked to sars, that last big hysterical virus we experienced. once it become habit, many people didn’t go back to ‘normal shopping’ and online shopping grew and grew. and given how empty malls are these days, the thinking is that online shopping (and toilet paper sales) are about to have yet another huge boost as people avoid contact with other people. 

it does makes me wonder if this is yet another internet phenomenon? not like gangnam style, dancing babies and cats doing cute things, but a self-fulfilling panic we’re perpetuating ourselves through too much information – much of it half truths, speculations and uninformed opinion? if this was the days before the internet, would we be going this crazy? would it just be 'i hear there’s a particularly nasty flu going around this year'?

food for thought? what do you think? 

ideas virus, ideavirus, corona virus, hysteria

What will improve integrated reporting?

27 Feb 2020 by Mike Tisdall

For those companies seeing the benefit of structuring their annual report along ‘integrated reporting’ lines, the latest move by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) is interesting. The...

what will improve integrated reporting? mike tisdall

for those companies seeing the benefit of structuring their annual report along ‘integrated reporting’ lines, the latest move by the international integrated reporting council (iirc) is interesting.

the <ir> framework was published eight years ago. and it has stood the test of time so well that it hasn’t been updated in that time, despite constant reviews. but that’s about to change.

there’s no doubt that reporting systems have evolved since then, along with perceptions of what businesses should be doing and saying. there is some strong consensus now around the importance of capitals beyond the purely financial. as a result, most companies can see the wisdom of the thinking behind integrated reporting. within this context, <ir> has solidified its role in changing the way companies think, plan and communicate their value creation.

the revisons being mooted in no way conflict with the intent and philsophy inherent from the beginning. and by ‘mooted’ i really mean three key themes around which market feedback is being sought. as lisa french, the iirc’s chief technical officer, has said:

“the iirc has learned a great deal from the application of the <ir> framework by around 2,000 businesses in over 70 countries. while the feedback is that the <ir> framework is a robust tool that has stood the test of time, our <ir> business network participants and others in the corporate reporting system have been clear about where they believe minor modifications and clarifications will enhance the effectiveness of the <ir> framework.”

if you’ve ever grappled with a value-creation business model, or struggled with the difference between outputs and outcomes, for example, then your views will be valuable. 

have a read of the questions and submit your answers here

iirc, integrated report, , framework

Celebrating creative thinking - week 10

01 Oct 2019 by Alice McKeown

How do you create work that resonates with someone? What is it about the work that affects or appeals to someone in a personal or emotional way? We asked the wider Insight team these burning questions and asked them to...

celebrating creative thinking - week 10 alice mckeown

how do you create work that resonates with someone? what is it about the work that affects or appeals to someone in a personal or emotional way? we asked the wider insight team these burning questions and asked them to talk about what insight work has achieved this.

insight ar wall

it’s hard to imagine modern strategic creative without the technology involved. incorporating an emerging technology into creative experience assists users in getting a personalised experience and engaging with the brand through a new creative way. insight ar wall is a bright example of how augmented reality helps storytelling, gives a different perspective on usual things and brings customers closer to the brand.

— anna spreys



i think the addition of the cat in this app is not only fun and playful but judging on the popularity of all things cat on the ‘net’ – strategically it is a nice move too. the colour (our colour), linking directly to insight is also strategically smooth. the name alone, (magenta) is strong and punchy. fresh and solid. pretty and powerful. a brand new insight design and ‘thing’ that we can be very proud of. i love it.

— megan fowlds



i have a few favourites from the last year, but the blake rebrand really appealed to me. i’m old enough to know much of sir peter’s legacy and his environmental ambitions and was really impressed with the team's rebrand solution here – especially when requested to keep the albatross. it’s sharp, strong, young and impactful (as the brief was to focus on younger people), with clever design in regard to placement of the text and the bird. it’s also very versatile, working well with sub-brands and colourful uplifting imagery.

— jo otto

the blake rebrand is not only exceptionally lovely, and very clever by incorporating the albatross in the word, but manages to incorporate the various other sub-brands in a way that makes them look unique but also part of a group.

— kirsty drummond

design, creative celebration, insight creative, strategic creative

Celebrating creative thinking - week 9

13 Sep 2019 by Alice McKeown

Strategic creative is the sum of two parts, strategy and design coming together. This week we asked our strategy and client service teams to discuss their pick of Insight work that does this successfully.   ...

celebrating creative thinking - week 9 alice mckeown

strategic creative is the sum of two parts, strategy and design coming together. this week we asked our strategy and client service teams to discuss their pick of insight work that does this successfully.



argosy annual report 2019

earlier this year argosy did some work around formalising and refreshing their business strategy to ‘create. manage. own.’. the strategy was launched publicly with the annual report so this needed to communicate the reset in their approach clearly to shareholders. on the cover, we used a triangle constructed from three coloured dots to create a sense of intrigue. the opening spread of the report then reveals the association of the dots (and colours) to create, manage and own. on the following pages this is explained in even greater detail, with proof points to show how they are delivering on their strategy across the business.

— claire evans



blake identity

it solved a generational change issue but with a super-smart nod to its legacy. it has the versatility to accommodate multiple “products” with strong evocative design. finally, the creative retained what the organisation and it’s founder have always been about – clear, environmental focus. plus the use of the albatross into the word is just genius.

— jason linnell


this is an exceptional example of clever strategic creative work. we successfully managed to navigate tricky waters (excuse the pun) to restructure their product offering and deliver a world-class wordmark/visual identity that has propelled their organisation forward, while still maintaining important ties to the legacy of their past.

— gabe graham



nz post — the full download

my pick for a good strategic-creative example is nz post the full download. as it says in the case study, “our first strategic recommendation was to move to a digital-first approach, with print as the supporting medium”. sounds obvious, right! it took insight, lucid thinking and thinking big to make it happen. we could’ve done just another printed report, but where is the strategic-creative in that? how’s the client helped by that?

— paul saris





meredith connell

the meredith connell rebrand. i felt it was the perfect example of strategy and design coming together to make a major change for a client. it hit the brief and is still going strong 4 years later. we’ve recently done the wellington office fit-out and are currently working on updating some of the auckland office graphics. it is a fun brand, full of attitude. projects like this don’t come across too often and it is always one which brings me joy.

— monique wallace

design, creative celebration, insight creative, strategic creative

Designing the Future

20 Aug 2019 by Steven Giannoulis

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend day one of Semi-Permanent –  The Future of the Future . I do like going to these things and often walk away inspired by an idea or two. Mostly I find design events are...

designing the future steven giannoulis

last week i was fortunate enough to attend day one of semi-permanent – the future of the future. i do like going to these things and often walk away inspired by an idea or two. mostly i find design events are about the design community showing off how clever they are while trying to convince their peers that we make the world a better place. this time though, it was actually about design saving the world. 

the day started with ivy ross, head of hardware design at google. she opened with “designers are problem-solvers” which was always going to appeal to me. my philosophy is design isn’t what we do but how we do it. what we do is help our clients address the challenges and opportunities facing their businesses, and their audiences. ivy then went on to talk about how google’s hardware was designed to address the deep human needs that only a latecomer to the device market can fully appreciate. who needs another black plastic box she said – and i agree. everything about the design was thoughtful and human, led by natural shapes, textures and colours that drive feelings. better still, it was made with innovative, environmentally friendly, natural materials.

and then there was google’s a space for being exhibition at milan design week. wow! i’ve always known design is about how it makes you feel but now we know that your body physically reacts to it as well. design can help with stress, anxiety and happiness. lesson learnt: surround yourself with stuff that makes you feel good. 

 “i’ve always known design is about how it makes you feel but now we know that your body physically reacts to it as well”


the kickstarter guy – charles adler– was interesting in showing the pace of change and illustrating the idea of technology bringing us closer together. the outtake: with so much rapid change, the rules are always temporary, just waiting for someone to break them. 

“the rules are always temporary, just waiting for someone to break them”


bruce mau from massive change network blew my mind. after all, he’s redesigning the holy city of mecca and making beautiful furniture from coke bottles. he talked about the rapid pace of change and the problems we humans have created. he felt, as designers, we have a responsibility to redesign everything to find answers to the biggest challenges we face as a race. he invited us to ‘imagineer’ in order to create solutions that last, solutions that deliver to the needs of a world double the current population and to deliver open systems solutions that could adapt and evolve in a world of rapid change. he cited nature and indigenous cultures as sources of inspiration who’ve mastered this thinking. so next time, you’re redesigning mecca think about solutions that could still be relevant in a thousand years not just the next 20!

“think about solutions that could still be relevant in a thousand years not just the next 20!”


ana arriola from microsoft leads their ai capability. i was expecting a sci-fi talk about advances in technology and what the robots will do in the years to come. instead we got a very human-led talk about the biases we as humans have and how we are in danger of introducing these into a discriminating ai world. she delivered strong message about inclusivity, ubiety and asking why and not just how. you come to these events to have your mind expanded and your perceptions challenged – ana did just that.

“we are in danger of introducing human biases into a discriminating ai world”


we finished up with carla hjort from space10, ikea’s innovation lab. i always worry when speakers kick off with nietzche and the meaning of existence but carla’s story also featured lsd, numerous dance festivals, a cult in india and a catchy-tune about ‘feeding the horse’. the outtake for me was that she thinks differently about ikea and their contribution to the world because she’s experienced the world in such a different way. ikea’s change is driven by a clarity of purpose and a big and long-term perspective. carla, too, advocated a licence to rethink everything and, like our kickstarter guy, taking a rebellious approach.


my takeaways

so what do i take back to the office from this? firstly, i was struck that the bad guys – microsoft, coke, google, etc – are potentially also the good guys in disguise. on a more personal level: know your purpose, have principles, think bigger and bolder, think longer-term, challenge convention and always use our design superpower for good. the world’s got big problems – environmental, scarcity of resources, the pressure of time and change, inclusiveness and many more. everything we do every day should be part of a bigger solution, or at the very least not add to the problem. ivy said it best “as people trained to design solutions, it would be remiss of us not to help solve the biggest problems facing our planet.”  

insight is going to need to add a ‘saving the world from itself’ work stream to our project taxonomy.

semi permanent, future of the future,

Reviving and Revising Moments of Truth

20 Aug 2019 by Mike Tisdall

Moments of Truth  is one of my go-to strategic tools when advising clients on customer-centricity, or more grimly, when trying to analyse and attempting to reverse a company’s fading fortunes. What...

reviving and revising moments of truth mike tisdall

moments of truth is one of my go-to strategic tools when advising clients on customer-centricity, or more grimly, when trying to analyse and attempting to reverse a company’s fading fortunes.

what surprises me almost every time, though, is that most business managers haven’t heard of it. 

so, first, a brief history

the concept is most associated with jan carlzon, a former ceo of sas (scandinavian air services). he became leader of the airline at a time of deep recession and identified that the only differentiator he could call on to succeed was an impeccable customer experience. he calculated that in a single flight of a few hours, a traveller would only experience a few short minutes that would affect their emotional response to the whole experience. these were the moments in the customer journey that made or broke brand perceptions. from memory, they were check-in, boarding, meal service, disembarking and luggage retrieval. each of these contact points was a defining moment – a ‘moment of truth’ – because it is in the moment and at the point of this ‘snapshot’ that a traveller decides whether to use the service again. carlzon did all he could to develop staff management of these moments, with astonishing success for his airline, which eventually became one of the most admired in the industry.

the concept has, of course, been used across many industries since. 

how do you apply the thinking?

it’s such a sound and powerful concept that it has as much value today as ever. as most marketers know, no matter what marketing fads and new technologies come along to seduce and distract us (and gobble increasing shares of our marketing budget), the fundamentals of human nature and core marketing principles are still critically relevant.

the process involves detailed analysis of your customer journey, and insightful mapping of those points along the journey that are your company's moments of truth. of course, different businesses and business models may well have a longer list of moments, and many businesses may have more than one customer journey to trace and map. but the principle remains.

thirty years on, what are the new opportunities?

well, the principle hasn’t stood still. twenty years after carlzon, in 2005, proctor & gamble chair, president and ceo, a. g. lafley, opined that that there were three different types of moments of truth: 1. pre-sale, when the customer is looking at and researching the product; 2. when the customer actually purchases the product and uses it; and 3. post-sale, when customers provide feedback to the company, and their friends, colleagues and family members etc. and in the era of social media, we all know how influential that can be.

and in the digital age?

enter amit sharma. sharma started working with walmart in 2006, designing the next generation multi-channel supply chain network, then joined apple in 2010 where he drove all aspects of the shipping and delivery experience. eventually, he left apple to start his own company, narvar, which focuses on the after experiencethe period of time from when the customer buys a product online to when he receives it. that can be as short as two hours with amazon’s new expedited delivery program, or several days, or even longer. it is that gap which is where this new moment of truth lives.

from here, i’ll let forbes writer, shep hyken, take up sharma’s story (edited for brevity):


in the online world, retailers drop the ball after customers click “buy.” customers don’t know when they’re going to receive their package. they might be able to track it on the fedex page, but there’s no branded moment or cohesive experience. this creates a gap in the experience.

once the customer hits the “buy” button on a website, the company may send an ‘order received’ or ‘order shipped’ notification but most companies now turn the order over to a carrier like fedex or ups. not only is there the lack of a branded experience, there’s no control over the outcome.

if the shipment shows up late, whose fault is it? it may the shipper’s fault, but who does the customer call? not the shipping company. the retailer usually steps up and apologises, and then works to right what went wrong, even though it was totally out of their control.

that gap is sharma’s concern. the company loses control over the process. but, more importantly, there is nothing to control the customer’s emotions during that time. what can you do to reinforce that the customer made the right decision to buy the product and do business with you? how can you boost customer confidence and avoid buyer’s remorse?

this is an opportunity to add value with a branded moment.

for example, a customer buys shaving cream through an online retailer. in addition to the notice that the product has shipped, the company can now provide suggestions on how to best use the product. maybe it’s the middle of winter and the company sends a link to a video on how to protect your skin against dry and windy weather.

or perhaps the customer just bought a workbench from a specialist online hardware retailer. shortly after the purchase, the customer would welcome a video on how to put the workbench together, the space needed, the tools required, etc.

both of these are examples of a branded experience that happens while the customer waits for the merchandise to show up. innovative companies such as nordstrom, sephora and rei, who really understand customer journeys, are now capitalising on this new moment of truth.


carlzon’s original principle of finding and perfecting the moments of truth in the customer journey is as sound and useful today as it ever was. and extending the concept to today’s more holistic full user journey is the intelligent new iteration.

for me, it’s a concept that i still use today as much as i ever have. and reading how sharma has extended the theory to the online shopping age, i have now sharpened one of the better implements in my toolkit.

strategic marketing tools, marketing, moments of truth

Branding a political party

23 Jul 2019 by Jason Linnell

“Change we can believe in…Yes We Can” Very few people will forget Barak Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008. Regardless of your political leanings, he electrified the world and heightened political...

branding a political party jason linnell

“change we can believe in…yes we can”

very few people will forget barak obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008. regardless of your political leanings, he electrified the world and heightened political awareness to levels not seen since john f kennedy’s campaign.

and it was all about the brand. arguably one of the most successful political brands in history. it was simple, reassuring and centred on a clear message of ‘hope’. supported by a sophisticated marketing campaign that was straight out of the business playbook, obama became one of the world’s most recognised people. seemingly overnight. 

last year, i remembered all this watching the television news one evening. act’s mp and party leader, david seymour, was giving a speech saying that his party was rebranding. as a voter who sits in the middle of the political spectrum, it got me wondering about what was the act brand? what did they stand for and why, with polls having them at 1%, was this twenty-year plus old party not resonating with the electorate?

naturally, this curiosity led me to call david and so insight creative’s association with rebranding act began. 

as i suspected, act had found themselves in a position where the electorate was indeed not sure what act stood for. and even if they did, people were just not listening to the messages. our challenge was pretty clear and not dissimilar to the business and government agency challenges we regularly worked on. it was about discovering a clear expression of what act stood for, define who that would appeal to (and why) and then finally, work out how that would translate to electoral success. 

much like any brand to succeed, we knew that act had to be genuine. without that, it couldn’t be trusted. our research uncovered consistent messages and actions over their entire political existence. nearly all of those originated from a position of profoundly caring about new zealand and its people. the findings were also at odds with the perception that act was a party ‘for grumpy old white, rich men’. 

the overarching message though, was that act stood for personal freedom. this was the founding principle that their brand promise was built upon, but had been lost at some stage. it was also a position that would resonate with people who wanted less government intrusion in their lives and who took responsibility for their futures – in their family, their workplace and communities. 

knowing that, we also considered changing the party’s name. but this is as sensitive a debate in political branding as in any commercial activity. would the new name get enough recognition widely and quickly enough? will the party lose all the brand equity it had built up over 20-plus years? would a new name isolate those faithful to the brand, causing them to move elsewhere?

these were all considered questions as we then designed the options that would bring the act brand promise of freedom back to the fore. each iteration was then sense-checked against our criteria for a what a successful political brand had to do:

was the message simple and clear?

was the brand promise unique?

would the electorate be reassured by the brand?

does the brand create aspiration among voters?

would the brand be credible and genuine by delivering?

the end result was a modern, impactful reiteration of what act have always stood for. we were also able to shift ‘act’ from being an acronym to a dynamic verb able to carry a myriad of policy positions. again, in a simple, unique way that would be credible with their brand promise. 

in a time when political deliverables and transparency were promised but are absent, it will be intriguing to see how act’s brand promise will resonate with the electorate in 2020.

act, act party, political branding, insight creative

Is authenticity real?

18 Jul 2019 by Steven Giannoulis

I recently attended the Digital Day Out (DDO) and noted that pretty much every speaker spoke about the need to be authentic. Speakers included a Google exec, a panel of social influencers, an AR/VR specialist and an...

is authenticity real? steven giannoulis

i recently attended the digital day out (ddo) and noted that pretty much every speaker spoke about the need to be authentic. speakers included a google exec, a panel of social influencers, an ar/vr specialist and an online e-sports gaming marketer. i couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of a whole bunch of people making money by distorting reality espousing the virtues of authenticity. it made me question my own interpretation of what authenticity is. 

i’d forgotten all about it until a couple of days ago when i saw ecostore was awarded nz’s most authentic brand. they are a company i admire – and genuinely think are authentic. and that’s not just because we were part of the team that launched the brand from niche category to mass marketing.


for me, being authentic is about being clear about what you stand for (beyond making money) and consistently speaking and acting in a way that reinforces this position. i find brands like whitaker’s, kathmandu and air new zealand highly authentic because every experience i have with them reinforces what i know they believe in. it’s not just about supporting good causes but delivering consistent brand experiences.

when dove began its campaign for real beauty in 2004 it transformed from a commercial soap-seller to a company with a strong social vision - “beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety.” by consistently aligning its marketing efforts with this vision, dove has truly championed women’s empowerment. the sustained effort and resources dove have consistently put into changing the advertising industry’s view of beauty has made them genuine and credible. as a result, people listen, believe and buy from them with confidence.



one of the ddo speakers referenced patagonia, a company i’d heard of but wasn’t fully up to speed with. patagonia is committed to building the best products, causing no unnecessary harm, using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. this informs everything they do. it comes through in their product design, manufacturing practices, culture, company fleet, energy choices, labour policies and their communications. so when we see it in their ad campaigns we know they really mean it. they’ve become my new favourite company to follow.

i’ve worked with the mercury team for about seven years now and they are another company who said the right things but didn’t always act in a consistent way. the rebrand three years ago created a new mission and a shared vision. we see it in everything they do now. from the focus on renewable generation, to the promotion of electric vehicles, to customer offers, to staff engagement programmes, right through to their new office environment and creating wonderful experiences for their customers. they’re a company who are quickly moving up my list of authentic brands and will, without a doubt, be up with ecostore in the awards in the next year or two.

on the other side, while everyone is pointing to nike’s applauded colin kaepernick ad as an example of authentic, i find it somewhat disingenuous (though i support colin’s stand). firstly, because they are using the cause so blatantly for commercial gain and secondly because it still doesn’t align with my perception of their global practices. i know the underage child sweatshops are gone but i still need to see a string of ‘good behaviour’ stories before i start believing in a genuine social purpose behind their messages.

'authentic' is fundamentally walking the talk. so if this is all about being true to what you stand for, then the ddo influencers, the kardashians and even donald trump can be as authentic as ecostore, dove and patagonia. who cares how manufactured what they stand for is, as long as they do it consistently! i get that but i also suspect that it’s more than just my interpretation of authenticity that is a little bit fake here.


so if this is all about being true to what you stand for, then the ddo influencers, the kardashians and even donald trump can be as authentic as ecostore, dove and patagonia.


is authenticity just about being true to yourself, consistently? or is it about genuinely thinking good thoughts and being true to that in your behaviour and communication? 

can you manufacture authenticity and call that authenticity?

is authenticity an admirable quality when you really think about it?

authenticity, authentic brands

A celebration of creative thinking - week 8

12 Jul 2019 by Alice McKeown

How do you create strategically creative ideas that capture the imagination? This week we asked the team to choose examples of our work that demonstrated this successfully.   Education New Zealand An...

a celebration of creative thinking - week 8 alice mckeown

how do you create strategically creative ideas that capture the imagination? this week we asked the team to choose examples of our work that demonstrated this successfully.


education new zealand

an identity for education new zealand and their international recognised agent. requiring distinct new zealand attributes and qualities. we’ve utilised a strong proprietary ‘label’ shape for visual cut-through in a busy and competitive international environment that also controls the hierarchy of elements. the graphic koru has strong new zealand associations, this as an unfurling fern frond. made up of two elements moving in the same direction, it emphasises the ‘e’ for education and a subtle tick.

brian slade


insight creative tote bag

strategic creative idea: taking action

the creative idea for our promotional tote bag is as engaging as it is simple. it plays on the larger idea of taking action against climate change, to the more basic action of defacing a bag. it shows that even small steps can make a change. the punk styling of the bag reinforces this somewhat irreverent style of activism and also brings a smile to your face as you read it. job well done!

sarah turner



a more agile use of our strategic creative process. i quickly developed the idea of ‘yours’, steven added his strategic view to expand and make this more fully realised.

showing the hnz tenant portal as an easy, faster way to manage your home. in your time, at yours, your choice etc…. approachable, lively typography with considered supportive imagery. a quick, campaign style approach informed by strategic thinking.

edwin hooper



ravensdown integrated report was a strategic idea that captured my attention because of its distinct and unique approach to an annual report. this was designed in a newspaper format which cleverly displays content in a down to earth, everyday, no fuss way. the design presents key arguments upfront in a bold typographic approach which speaks to their transparency as a business.

jo ross


napier port

the degree symbol (taken from the logo) is used as a graphic device throughout the document at varying scales. it is used in an abstract form to communicate a range of key brand values including growth from a central point. this symbol is used well to highlight key information and links it clearly back to the brand, as well as adding really nice detail to the document.

alice mckeown

design, creative celebration, insight creative, strategic creative

A celebration of creative thinking - week 7

05 Jul 2019 by Alice McKeown

Like it or not emotions will drive many of the decisions we make. Even the most analytical of us will respond emotionally to stimulus. This week, the creative team chooses their favourite recent examples of  ideas...

a celebration of creative thinking - week 7 alice mckeown

like it or not emotions will drive many of the decisions we make. even the most analytical of us will respond emotionally to stimulus. this week, the creative team chooses their favourite recent examples of ideas driven by emotional connection.


this is us – symbol

insight created this symbol in the wake of the christchurch terror attack and was supercharged with emotion. what i liked about this is that it embodied positive emotions of love, support and empathy to showcase strong values held by new zealand as a nation.

— alice mckeown


vector 2018 annual report

working to the theme of empowerment, we developed our creative thinking around the emotion and joy individuals are likely to feel when ‘empowered’ within an environment of the ‘new energy future’. vectors vision for its customers.

— brian slade



insight creative auckland fit-out.

the clever placement of simple vinyl graphics turn everyday elements within the auckland office into detailed and surprising interactions of joy and delight, over and above their obvious application to enhance and liven-up the office environment as part of the bigger insight office fit-out. my favourite, and perfect example, is also the smallest artwork; the wee hamster running on its wheel just above the light switch – positioned for those who get to work first, or last to leave – a smile-in-the mind and emotional connection for when it’s needed most.

— chris gough palmer


st john retail network – identity

from the position ‘all good in the community’ to the lively execution, this project brings a positive, optimistic, feel-good feeling to the ‘recycled goods shop’ experience. repurposing things to help the planet, helping those in need and the wider community that st john supports and helps. all good, all round.

— edwin hooper


nz drug foundation catalyst room illustration

the illustration for the nz drug foundation catalyst room tells an emotional story of how drugs can effect people’s lives and loved ones. the illustration allows the story to interweave many different people, roles and outcomes combining both positive, triumphant messages and sad stories of struggle and despair.

— jo ross

design, creative celebration, insight creative, emotional connection

A celebration of creative thinking - week 6

28 Jun 2019 by Alice McKeown

This week, from the macro to the micro, the team looked at  design detail, detail, detail  and how it enhanced the idea and experience for users. Fisher & Paykel AR – 2019 Fisher and Paykel...

a celebration of creative thinking - week 6 alice mckeown

this week, from the macro to the micro, the team looked at design detail, detail, detail and how it enhanced the idea and experience for users.

fisher & paykel ar – 2019

fisher and paykel are renowned for their innovative products. this dosen’t just happen by chance and this year we were able to successfully communicated their core idea of ; culture of innovation that drives the business. through simplified thoughtful design layout we tell a big idea story that links thoughts and narrative. from idea, sketch to patient.

— brian slade



sanford ar – 2018

a report with significant data and reporting, its effectiveness seeing it as a recent award winner at the ara awards. the design idea, ‘the elements’, related to their relationship with weather, embracing the wild seas as they catch, and changing farming methods with effects of climate change. subtle isobar elements are used selectively through the report, linking messages on opening pages, to background use on key sections. like good design detail, should it provides an ‘element’ that can be used in different ways to thread the thinking throughout, to an enhanced result.

— edwin hooper


information is in the detail.

the kea learning centre wordmark is a great example of design detail supporting and uplifting an overall idea. the clean wordmark features a beautifully integrated ‘i’ – and weather you’re aware of the ‘i’ standing for ‘information’ or not, it demands a sense of curiosity from the viewer, creating that enquiry, that overt need for information. the wordmark is therefore a perfect representation of the very essence of the product – the learning management system.

— chris gough palmer


heartland bank symbols - internal brand

detailed graphic elements are taken from whare tukutuku panels to represent heartland's values in a very intimate and engaging way. using these graphic components to support other text and imagery they drive home heartland's positive brand messaging to strong effect.

— alice mckeown


nz post icon suite

we’ve been developing an icon library for new zealand post over the last few months (just a snapshot seen here) to support the e-commerce report. a visual tool to communicate some of the more technical areas of their business. exercising an exacting eye to ensure consistency across hundreds of line weights and adding unique details to make them ‘ownable’ and recognisable for the business.

— jo ross

design, creative celebration, insight creative, design detailing

A celebration of creative thinking - week 5

21 Jun 2019 by Alice McKeown

At the heart of our strategic creative thinking are single minded ideas. This week the team explores a few examples of  design execution that enhances the idea  and brings it to life: Auckland Airport...

a celebration of creative thinking - week 5 alice mckeown

at the heart of our strategic creative thinking are single minded ideas. this week the team explores a few examples of design execution that enhances the idea and brings it to life:

auckland airport website 

love the simple parallax movement in this site. the message is clearly embedded in the medium. a well-considered shift from previous years that utilises subtle movement to really good effect. the effective use of the diagonal appropriately enhances the brand ownership wherever you are on the site.

— brian slade 



nz post ecommerce 

using the landscape format and with selective use of larger, full page imagery this report presents a lot of information with clarity. with the wider strategic-creative thinking informing this, the online report and the flow through to the sales team, the report presents ‘the full download’ feeling very much like a product of the digital environment it’s reporting on.

— edwin hooper 



the main idea behind our end of year gift last year, mashmaster, played a huge part in informing the layout design. the concept of ‘combinations’ was strongly executed through a half/half layout arrangement across the whole project – from the playing cards, logo marque, brochure insert and packaging, to the mallington itself, a bespoke cake combination of two coming together as one! without reading the rules you can get a pretty good idea of what the game is about from the design – a great example of design communicating a message. 

— jo ross

ravensdown ar 2018 

data-rich content is presented with an ambitious and positive tone on and offline, with clear and straight up comparisons. the theme ‘expect more’ is expressed thoroughly with the continuous use of the plus symbol as an intimate detail – that detail is then echoed on a larger scale becoming the document’s flexible grid presenting the content through the contrasting panelling of messaging, colour and imagery.

— chris gough palmer 


strategic notebook 2019 

strategy and creative are the words we live by at insight. this notebook combines great, thought-provoking imagery, bold colour and clever printing techniques, augmented reality experiences and practical user experiences to create a strong layout design that reinforces these key ideas at every touchpoint.

— alice mckeown 

design, creative celebration, insight creative, single-minded idea

Clients have their own internal clients

19 Jun 2019 by Jason Linnell

“ Well, you marketing people would think that ”. The workshop we were running for our clients had not started well. We were working with our marketing client to deliver an internal programme that had many moving...

clients have their own internal clients jason linnell

well, you marketing people would think that”.

the workshop we were running for our clients had not started well. we were working with our marketing client to deliver an internal programme that had many moving parts across their entire business. to deliver it successfully we needed input from their sales teams, distribution people, finance and, it – whom the head of made his opinion about marketers quite clear. as representatives from each division sat around the large boardroom table, the silos were clear from the get-go. 

as we let the conversation run around the table, i realised we were witnessing something agencies don't see enough of each day – our client's internal client relationships. 

so often the world with our direct client becomes quite insulated. we form strong relationships with them, deliver great work and often provide an outlet for them to off-load their frustrations. but the question is, how well do agencies know their clients' internal clients? how deeply do we understand what it takes to make their business succeed? not to mention, be aware of the pressures that fill our clients' days. 


"i realised we were witnessing something agencies don't see enough of each day – our client's internal client relationships"


what's essential is to not just recognise your client’s pressure, but understand why it happens. the best way to do that is to get to know your client's clients. this can be as simple as asking your client if you can meet different people within the organisation. ideally together, so that you can watch and listen to how they talk about their business. the different perspectives are often startling and can lead to unveiling critical insights. it will also help you ask questions about your client's business that they may have forgotten to brief the agency about.

this invariably leads to stronger results for your clients. because once you're back in the agency, you can use this knowledge to deliver the right solutions. that great packaging the team are designing may just not fit with what you know sue in manufacturing said about the conveyor struggling to pack anything that isn't rectangular. 

the above is just a small example. your client needs to be aware of every issue that makes up their final offer. so based on that, how can we make sure that offer is enhanced – not disrupted – by us? 


"the different perspectives are often startling and can lead to unveiling critical insights"


ultimately, the answer for that is to pave the way for our marketing client to easily sell our ideas and solutions to the broader organisation. that takes a deep understanding of what’s essential to the wider business. we also need to give clear direction on how we got to where we did, so our client can readily answer any internal questions. 

creating every-day tools is also a must for smooth internal client relationships. developing comprehensive approval and sign-off processes must be in place. tight adherence to internal deadlines and providing well-managed asset libraries, template systems and the like, all help our client work well with all of theirs.


clients, your client's clients, client relationships

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...

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

Interim Reports – the unintended consequences

28 May 2019 by Mike Tisdall

So, listed companies no longer need to publish an Interim Report. Great: less work, less cost. But if that means you’re communicating with your retail shareholders and other stakeholders at only 12 month intervals,...

interim reports – the unintended consequences mike tisdall

so, listed companies no longer need to publish an interim report. great: less work, less cost.

but if that means you’re communicating with your retail shareholders and other stakeholders at only 12 month intervals, then houston, i think we have a problem.

how big the problem is depends a bit on your share register: instos vs retail shareholders. you’re no doubt talking to your institutional shareholders regularly – they’re probably making sure you are. but for retail shareholders, a year’s gulf can be very wide. absence probably does the very opposite of making the heart grow fonder.

radio silence equates to ‘don’t really care’. it disengages. it risks halting loyalty. they may not back you when you suddenly need their support. or they may not hold their shares.

it can lead to ignorance - your shareholders not keeping up with the exciting things you’re doing. and if they don’t keep up, the share price may not either.

if those are the unintended consequence of dropping the interim report, what can be done to mitigate the downsides?

find another way to talk to them mid year or more often . . .

keep the communication lines open in one way or another: keep sending the interim report is one option. but others include sending the report without financials. or a newsletter. or a newsy magazine. and those are the physical ways if you don’t care for trees that much.

but an email newsletter is probably your best avenue. that way you can communicate to all selected stakeholders, not just shareholders. and you get to talk to all your shareholders, not just those very few who have opted in to receive your report in the past. an email newsletter can engage pretty well if it’s crafted by someone who knows about messaging and design. the trick is to get your headline messages across in the email directly, and provide secondary and support messages with links to fuller stories on your website for those whose curiosity you’ve managed to pique.

can’t really do the above without a quality email database of course, so you may need to negotiate hard with your share registry to obtain what you need. or they may offer to organise the mailing for you. but in that case, i strongly recommend you take strict control of the messaging, design and html building rather than leave it to them . . . horses for courses.

interim reports, investor communication, stakeholder communication

Making AR real for clients

28 May 2019 by Steven Giannoulis

Like many design agencies we’ve spent many years working across both print and digital mediums. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses and therefore often play different, but complementary, roles in any...

making ar real for clients steven giannoulis

like many design agencies we’ve spent many years working across both print and digital mediums. they each have their own strengths and weaknesses and therefore often play different, but complementary, roles in any communication programme. augmented reality (ar) provides a cool way to integrate the two together in a seamless way. we see ar as the future of effective communications and that’s exactly why we’re working hard to help our clients embrace its business potential.

augmented reality uses every day technology - like your phone or ipad - to superimpose sounds, images and text to the reality you see. whereas virtual reality (vr) is about a made-up-world, ar is about enhancing the real world.

and what that means for business is that we can take a real thing like a product, an image, a postcard, a document or a graphic on a wall, and make it into a trigger for a more immersive and engaging communication experience. a good example is our recent ar work with mercury, taking a stylised map of the waikato river as the kick-off point to tell a visually rich story about the area and the power stations they have there. photos, video, real stories, sounds and a host of moving animations like water, steam, birds, clouds and cyclists bring a static display alive in a fun, informative, immersive and three-dimensional way.

but it’s not all fun and cool gimmicks, the business opportunities are endless. here’s just a few:

  • sales – customers use ar to see themselves interacting with your product. for example, walking around the house you are trying to sell them, or wearing the dress or driving that car they are interested in. if they can see themselves in it, they are well on the way to buying it.
  • design thinking – ar allows flat designs to be created in 3d spaces, providing a real sense of how things work together. visualising the finished product allows greater opportunities for teams to work together to address potential issues before the costly process of manufacture begins.
  • training – ar allows richer learning in environments that are just like the real thing. and that extends to customer training as well – imagine being able to add video or audio to your product manual and customers can access it on their phone.
  • customer experience – ar has the potential to add rich information, games and other interactions that your customers can tailor to what they want. this makes their engagement with you richer, more personalised and a whole lot more fun – all the time adding to their perception of you.

these example are already in play today, changing how companies are communicating with their customers to achieve better results. despite this, we’re still finding that many clients see ar (and to a greater extent, vr) as an emerging future technology – the stuff of blade runner, not of the shop floor in 2019. and we’re keen to address this.

last month we launched our own ar experience to help our clients understand, and visualise, the potential of ar. nellie the astronaut is a great piece of wall art (and a printed document) that highlights a multitude of ar techniques from video, to games, to user interaction and response. clients think it’s cool and enjoy playing with it, providing us with the perfect platform to discuss potential applications for them. already this has seen us develop client specific ideas to demonstrate key issues to investors, improve property selling and to enhance the effectiveness of destination marketing activities.

along with the medium being unfamiliar to most of our clients, cost remains the biggest barrier to client take up. and that’s the next big challenge for us – making ar cost accessible enough for clients to trial it. and we are not far off from making this a reality as well.


you can experience our ar demonstration for yourself right here, right now. simply download the free scopex app from app store or google play, open the app and hit the top square: 'scan an ar image', point the phone at the above image of nellie the astronaut and wait a few seconds. each of the spinning artefacts takes you down its own fun rabbit hole.
augmented reality, ar

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

6 insights on Integrated Reporting from Ravensdown

16 May 2019 by Mike Tisdall

Guest post on Ravensdown’s Integrated Reporting journey by Gareth Richards, Group Communications Manager To listen is to learn  Every human being can recognise is when they’re being listened to. ...

6 insights on integrated reporting from ravensdown mike tisdall

guest post on ravensdown’s integrated reporting journey by gareth richards, group communications manager

to listen is to learn 

every human being can recognise is when they’re being listened to. 

for me, having been involved on a three-year journey with ravensdown, i think that’s the place to start. and perhaps can be summed up with a question: how much does the process of listening form your strategy?  

not just listening to people like our neighbours who are concerned with dust, noise and their property values. but listening to the signals that alert any business to opportunity and risk. listening to the sceptics and antagonists who may have a grain of truth in what they are saying. listening to the story your own people tell when they are asked what your company does and why they are here.  

so let’s talk about our integrated reporting journey and the ravensdown’s story . . .


the changing role of ravensdown

founded in 1977 as a buying co-operative, the company was set up by farmers to scour the globe looking for mineral fertilisers and nutrients to import and manufacture. for 40 years, this enabled farmers to grow food for animals and humans that became the envy of the world. 

but in 2017, it was clear that the co-operative was much more complex than a simple import-and-process model. it had adapted to its environment. its advisors were seen as critical parts of the farm teams  - fertiliser is farming’s second largest expense. and our highly qualified consultants advising on environmental mitigation became the fastest growing part of the business. new technology was bringing new precision and traceability so the right amount of the right nutrient went in the right place. 

instead of being seen only as a fertiliser manufacturer, we needed to be seen as the farm nutrient and environmental experts. that was who we really were. but like all integrated reporting journeys, ravensdown’s started with “why we are here”.  

and through the normal, maze-like process with lots of blind corners that most companies go through, we found our way out of the maze and with a sharply focused purpose:

enabling smarter farming for a better new zealand 


the integrated reporting journey

for the past three years, i’ve worked with the cfo, internal auditor, leadership team and board, and our design agency, insight creative, as we’ve moved closer to integrated reporting. i thought i’d share six insights about the experience with you today. 

as a comms guy, stories are my meat and drink. i started doing this job before corporate social responsibility became a thing, but i knew things had really changed when the head of our audit and risk committee told me that the stories in our integrated report had to be punchy and relatable. it felt like all the advice i’d been giving corporate finance people for 20 years was being played back to me!   

so… six insights. good news. we’ve already covered one of them!  

1.    the power of listening 


2.    starting with why  

starting with why (simon sinek) means thinking broadly about the intersection and combination of capitals that you impact and that impact you. we look for connectiona joining of the dots.  

for example:  profit becomes an outcome not a purpose. value becomes the lens with which to view the entire business. risks become more specific and manageable. the forward view comes into focus. 

it takes time! and it’s hard. we must have changed our business model diagram 25 different times and that in the first year alone! 

in terms of reporting, instead of listing every concern a stakeholder has, we share how we’re going about learning what matters. 

instead of listing every action we’ve taken, we highlight which aspects of our strategy relate to those things that matter. 

once you’re understanding what’s important to your stakeholders and business, are clear on your purpose and ideas on how to progress towards that, now you come to the question of how are you going to demonstrate progress?  what are you going to be reporting on? 


3.   choose the right targets

we all know the phrase “what gets measured gets managed.” that’s a lot more catchy than my version: “what gets publicly disclosed as a target that is comparable over time, receives sustained focus”.  

this has proved a challenge across the three years we’ve been trying - board and leadership team need to understand the implications and possible unforeseen consequences of declaring a target to the world. it would be easy to do badly. 

closely related to number 3 is…  


4.    get the right data

most of our targets and data sets were by functional silos where specialist managers report upward. but the data that’s easiest to find is not often the right data. we had a lot of financial data but nowhere near enough non-financial data. the holy grail is the integrated thinking that’s needed as you consider integrated reporting and the report itself. 

an integrated measure is harder to conceptualise and but worth persevering with… 

in our case, an example is the strength of a superphosphate granule. this is impacted by operational or procurement choices, by training and handling protocols, by capital investment in processing machinery and storage sheds. we report on this as a material indicator (its value relates to reputation and environmental impacts – a dusty granule is bad for neighbours and for farmers spreading near waterways). 

we started with the rear view mirror approach to quality and then we could move on to the forward view of targets around improvements. 

5.    look to leverage

  • in the first two years, our online report went from a pdf on our website to our own microsite, that’s also a link at the bottom of all staff’s email signatures: a good way to encourage staff to read and understand! 
  • managers go through the print document with their teams and every employee gets a copy with a personal letter from the ceo.  
  • the website is optimised for phones and contains videos and other animations you can’t get from the paper document. 
  • this year much of the compliance related information will be on the website, so the document doesn’t blow out to a hundred pages. in fact, the digital domain frees up the printed format, so it can break conventions of a typical looking annual report. this year we will also be sharing the site a lot more via linkedin, twitter and facebook and we will be making the site more sophisticated in terms of structure.  


i’ve saved the most important for the end. and that is all about how you make a start…

6.    just make a start!

there are 19 parts of an integrated reporting framework so it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  

but the key thing is to make a start and build momentum. it’s like getting on a roundabout. doesn’t matter where you get on or where you are on the ride, but that you’re actually on board and have changed your perspective.  

we knew that we weren’t aiming for a fully-fledged, quality assured integrated report from year one. it was more the spirit of integrated reporting we were going after. we called them stakeholder reviews for the two years. this year we will call it an integrated report. but like any good journey, we’re still learning and gaining clarity. 


one thing we are clear on. our reporting is a process of establishing trust. through transparency, disclosure and frankness. 

we can’t be scared of a bad result. better that performance gaps are identified than accusations of cherry picking or green washing. 


the benefits of <ir> to ravensdown that we've already seen

  • increased understanding of value creation
  • created opportunities 
  • reduced silo thinking in the business
  • great morale – especially ahead of criticism e.g. from activists…  
  • longer term and aspirational thinking
  • innovative
  • improving what is measured – better reporting


gareth richards, ravensdown







integrated reporting, getting started on integrated reporting, , insight creative, ravensdown, gareth richards

Understanding the new

14 Mar 2019 by Steven Giannoulis

A number of recent new business wins have reminded me how much I love working on new clients. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of the sorts of guys who are attracted by the ‘newest and shiniest thing’ but...

understanding the new steven giannoulis

a number of recent new business wins have reminded me how much i love working on new clients. don’t get me wrong, i’m not one of the sorts of guys who are attracted by the ‘newest and shiniest thing’ but i love the learning and discovery that comes from building your understanding of a business and an industry. 

new clients, especially those in industries you’ve not worked in before, deliver a level of stimulation and curiosity that you don’t get with clients you know inside and out.

as a strategist, i get to work with many of our new clients helping to deliver the ‘insights’ bit of insight creative. that means a mix of business, communication and channel strategy to ensure that the work we do delivers the results clients need.

i start most new client relationships by reading their annual report. some are better than others but all give me a sense of who the organisation is and what they see as important. the good ones give you a clear sense of the direction they are driving the business and an appreciation of their strengths and opportunities. the style of the report tells me something about the tone of the organisation and their focus on the needs of their stakeholders.

i tend to follow this up with a bit of online research, starting with a media search for the category. this helps me understand external pressures – like consumer trends, politics, supply issues, technology, etc - that drive company decisions.

by now, i have learnt a whole lot of stuff i didn’t know about the industry and the business. chances are that i also have a whole lot of questions so catching up with some of the client’s leadership team helps round out the picture. in these discussions i generally focus in on three areas:

  • the value chain to understand how they make money and where growth will come from. after all, our work will be part of how they drive that growth;
  • the audiences they are aiming for, what drives them and the unique value proposition they offer each audience; and
  • the culture of the organisation particularly around decision-making, change, risks and innovation. this gives me a good sense of how far we’ll be able to push our ideas and design.

this process isn’t just about what i enjoy and my learning. the output is a session with everyone who will work on this new client to talk through what we’ve learnt and what that means in terms of how we best work with them.

learning, discovery, learning, new business, business wins, business strategy

Integrated Reporting: Don’t aim for perfection. Just get in the mood and go.

19 Feb 2019 by Mike Tisdall

I see too many clients hesitating to get on the integrated reporting bus. Often because they perceive that there’s a lot of internal change needing to happen before this is possible. Sometimes it’s because...

integrated reporting: don’t aim for perfection. just get in the mood and go. mike tisdall

i see too many clients hesitating to get on the integrated reporting bus. often because they perceive that there’s a lot of internal change needing to happen before this is possible. sometimes it’s because they’re waiting for leadership and board to make such a far-reaching decision. but equally often it’s because they don’t know quite where to start. this article is designed to help you conquer all of the above and get started on the journey anyway.

certainly, if the aim is for a fully-fledged, assurance-quality integrated report, then a lot of ducks need to be lined up, and the board needs to make an active and mindful decision.

but here’s the thing: the <ir> report is not an absolute. so you don’t need to tick all their boxes to get started. even if you use the framework as it is intended – as a framework – to guide your approach, you’ll be on the bus. personally, i spent too long thinking of the <ir> principles as ‘must haves’ in total. i’ve since learnt that while this comprehensiveness is an end-game goal, it’s the ‘notion’ that has the most power. and the iirc (international integrated reporting council) themselves will applaud you for just starting on the journey, because they know you’ll only get better from there, over time.

i have <ir> clients that don’t call their report an integrated report but are starting to apply some of the core principles to their approach. they know that when they grow up they want to be a ‘real’ integrated report. but they also know that this is a game that you can’t master overnight.

so think about starting the integrated reporting journey as <ir> on trainer wheels. perhaps you can’t yet join all the dots between the various action streams to cross-credit cause and effect. perhaps you haven’t quite got the board across the line yet. but those things aren’t a barrier to applying the integrated reporting lens to your report.

so, where to start

the following are very subjective views on what principles you should include in order to start on the journey. a purist may well disagree – after all there are a whole 19 requirements in the <ir> framework, and some are more onerous than others. but what’s important here is the spirit - and in the spirit of ‘extended external reporting’ and using some the framework ideas in <ir>, here’s where i’d be thinking:

  1. tell the story of how you create value over time. this shows you understand your business drivers, how your business model makes money and has the right impacts on people and planet. if you do that right, the story should be unique, separating your company from others you’re competing with – for capital, for talent, for distribution, for consumers.
  2. purpose beyond profit. as soon as you start thinking about the impacts you’re having beyond money-making, somehow the ground shifts and you start thinking differently about business. the really strange thing is that the research shows that companies that think more broadly and apply systems thinking to their entire operation, end up making more money and lowering their cost of capital. go figure, but the facts speak for themselves.
  3. risk. being aware of future, potential, latent risk is the first step towards resilience to it. that’s making your business sustainable. and that’s my definition of ‘sustainability’. whether that’s competition risk, supply chain risk, talent risk, climate change risk – if you’ve got a plan to mitigate it, you’re more likely to survive. your capital providers, talent pool, suppliers and consumers tend to like survival.
  4. future focus. closely linked with risk, but also looping in opportunities, looking ahead and having clear strategies to optimise on both provides comfort and trust.
  5. strategy. lay out your core plan. what activations are you planning to achieve your purpose, mitigate risk, minimise harm, assure future sustainability, meet your stakeholders most important needs, and make the desired profit. belief equals trust.
  6. materiality. i have a far too simplistic view of materiality, i acknowledge. but where possible, i like to keep things simple. the big benefit of knowing what your stakeholders hold as most important means that you can focus your strategic plan around those – and here’s the free set of steak knives: you only need to report on those, keeping your report concise.
  7. connectivity. now we start to get a bit more woolly, and some things you do over there may be hard to prove affect what happens over here. but others are much easier to connect. if sanford don’t look after the ocean environment and fish stocks, for example, they may have trouble with their product volumes in a few years with kick-on risks in talent acquisition and regulatory controls among other fatal problems. so where you can show multiple impacts on your business strategy from a particular stance, initiative or policy, join the dots in your report.
  8. frank and balanced. openness and transparency is what’s expected now, whether it’s an integrated report or not. the whole notion of ‘extended external reporting’ is to build trust in the organisation through disclosure and transparency.

if you believe you can tell a story around most of the above eight points, then you’re well on your way to being able produce a report that’s in the right spirit. over the years, your company’s thinking will mature, the performance data will become available, your thinking and reporting will become more sophisticated, and one day you may feel comfortable to label your report an integrated report.

don’t wait until you can tick all 19 boxes before you start. use the <ir> framework as a principles touchstone and to shift your mindset, and get going at whatever level is right for your company.

integrated reporting, getting started on integrated reporting, , insight creative

Principled brand decisions

19 Feb 2019 by Steven Giannoulis

Developing a brand strategy means making a number of significant decisions that drive multiple aspects of an organisation. Working with clients, my aim is to agree brand principles upfront that help leadership teams...

principled brand decisions steven giannoulis

developing a brand strategy means making a number of significant decisions that drive multiple aspects of an organisation. working with clients, my aim is to agree brand principles upfront that help leadership teams and boards make sound, and consistent, business decisions.

developing a brand strategy is often seen as developing the brand model – sometimes called the brand pyramid or brand onion. the model defines what you want to stand for and it includes things like brand essence, proposition, personality and the customer value proposition. being clear on what you stand for informs your visual identity, marketing and communication strategies, product and service, culture programme and customer experience design.

but the brand model isn’t all of brand strategy. it’s just one of a number of significant decisions that will define the success of your branding programme. and that’s a good starting point for decision making. what will brand success look like and how will it be measured? being clear on this will inform many of your later decisions.  

a key starting decision is whether to take a single brand or multiple brand approach. both have pros and cons and work better in different markets and circumstances. because an approach can’t be perfect for all situations, many companies start with one approach and then adapt it over time, sometimes resulting in a confused hybrid. 

and of course, if you make the decision to go single brand – which brand will it be? which of the current ones or something new? if you are going multi-brand, what are the brand lines?

and then there’s brand architecture. these are decisions about how your brands are organised under an overarching approach. getting this right impacts brand equity, brand confusion and the cost effectiveness of your marketing activities. there are a number of organising approaches to consider from pure single masterbrand, to brand extensions, sub-branding, co-branding and brand endorser requirements. at this level we are also making decisions about language and naming conventions.

as one decision often informs the next, where possible i look to develop a decision tree to help drive the process. brand decisions often involve many decision-makers with their own business needs to fulfil. to help make consistent decisions, i always look to establish and agree a series of principles that can become the foundations for decision-making. these principles say something like “our brand must…” and generally come about by examining six key areas:

  • business strategy– where will future growth come from? what’s the strategy for realising  growth? the vision and purpose of the organisation and market forces.
  • audiences– who are the audiences and what are their physical and emotional needs the brand must appeal to?
  • competitive differentiation– how differentiated is the market and what are the opportunities to create a unique proposition?
  • strategic strengths– what competitive advantage does the organisation have that can be leveraged?
  • customer experience– what’s the experience customers expect and you want to create for them?
  • culture– what does the organisation value and what behaviours does it encourage?

often we end up with 10 – 12 principles. the trick is getting decision-makers to buy into these, and then stick to them. when we achieve this, everyone is aligned in their thinking and complex brand decisions can become pretty straight forward.

branding, business strategy, brand strategy, brand architecture, clear brand thinking

The future of learning

13 Nov 2018 by Jeremy Sweetman

On a recent visit to Melbourne, I was privileged enough to visit  Wooranna Park Primary  in Dandenong. Privileged!? A visit to a primary school isn’t typically wrapped with the word ‘privileged’ –...

the future of learning jeremy sweetman

on a recent visit to melbourne, i was privileged enough to visit wooranna park primary in dandenong. privileged!? a visit to a primary school isn’t typically wrapped with the word ‘privileged’ – particularly if (as a parent) you make daily trips to your own – so let me explain.

on visiting the primary school, our group was welcomed by the principal (ray trotter) and tech-educator (kieran nolan). our welcome provided the most ‘ordinary’ thing about this school, because as we stepped through the doors it was clear that the school was anything but ordinary.

very quickly i realised this school is unlike most others. firstly, traditional classrooms don’t exist; instead, the learning spaces are rich and engaging in their own right. instead of rows of desks, you’re presented with learning spaces offering a real difference.

most of the spaces have been crafted to provide engaging and immersive environments designed to spark the imagination. in one area, you’re met with a giant spaceship, complete with a flight simulator. walking into another, you’re met by an impressive red dragon boat, designed to provide students with sea-faring adventures using google earth to guide them across (actual) oceans. 


the area where we started our journey was fully decked out with a green screen studio and supported a large array of technology and tools to provide students with a seemingly unlimited canvas of possibilities. fun fact: this technological space – officially named the ‘enigma portal’ – was democratically voted upon by students using blockchain voting – that the students set up.


to date, the school has been likened to disneyland rather than a typical learning space – a comparison that ray is obviously proud of. from where i sit, i can see three large flat-screen tvs – one of which is connected 24/7 to schools located in both new zealand and korea. in one corner, the school is creating an augmented reality sandbox (of particular interest to me as we’re undertaking a similar project); whilst in another, a cisco network suite allows students to design and build their own computer networks.


the technological toys didn’t stop there. we experienced 3d printing, robotics, minecraft virtual reality (vr) which they were programming, google earth experiences; and heard stories surrounding various bitcoin endeavours and the success of their mentoring programme – in which it pairs students with industry experts (recently pairing a student interested in black holes with an expert at nasa). that said, not everything was driven by technology. for the non-technical, we received invitations to stroke a selection of bearded dragons housed within their impressive nature classroom. 

remember, this is a primary school!

interestingly, despite all the technology, ray is a self-proclaimed technophobe and cites his level of technical prowess as (almost) mastering his mobile. however, this mismatch of technical savviness is quickly forgotten when you listen to him speak and hear his passion for teaching, his vision, and ultimately, why he’s expanding his students’ minds.

what about the educational value?

this is where it gets interesting.

firstly, let me start by saying i’m not (at any level) an expert on the australian educational system. in fact, my knowledge has been gained primarily by anecdotal means and in large, through the honesty offered up by ray and kieran and my interpretation of their stories.

educationally, wooranna park primary is duty bound to deliver the same educational curriculum as every other australian primary school – which they do. the primary tenets (as outlined by the government and as i understand them) are numeracy, literacy and student attendance. it’s here where ray believes the system is failing the next generation; in doing so, passionately reminding us that the world is full of learning opportunities beyond this outlined framework.


he goes on to reference buckminster fuller’s ‘knowledge doubling curve’ which (currently) suggests that human knowledge is doubling (roughly) every 12-months. but according to ibm the development of the ‘internet of things’ (iot) will lead to a doubling of knowledge every 12-hours. ray suggests that focusing primarily on numeracy and literacy (not forgetting attendance of course) won’t come close to preparing our children for the future.

however, this stance has come at a cost. ray uncomfortably and honestly shares that wooranna park is below-average through assessment by the national assessment program – literacy and numeracy (naplan). although, through this discomfort, his passion and pride surface again when you hear the long-list the other results & accolades the school has achieved. some of which could be argued rival the set curriculum.  

honestly, as his story unfolded, i initially perceived ray as a bit of a ‘bad-boy’, riding down the educational highway, offering up two fingers to an educational system that he felt was failing to prepare the minds of the future. a rebel born through a long career in teaching. however, by the end of our tour, i believe him more a visionary, with both his heart and head in the right place – although still carrying a smattering of bad-boy, but only insofar as to ensure he can continue to colour outside the lines and deliver a learning environment that continues to expand his students’ minds.

don’t get me wrong, numeracy and literacy will (obviously) remain core subjects, but our world continues to evolve. with the exponential momentum of augmented/virtual reality (ar/vr), artificial intelligence (ai), crypto-currencies and robotics (to name just a few), and the unprecedented access to new knowledge through the developing iot – why wouldn’t we want to prepare our children? why shouldn’t we be more prepared?

i wish ray and kieran all the luck in the world. they’ve inspired me. in our industry, technology changes… quickly. the solutions we deliver today won’t be the ones we provide tomorrow, and that’s exciting. it’s also encouraging to know that more digital natives are on their way, thanks to the efforts of schools like wooranna park.

i know this innovative approach to education won’t be for everyone. there may be flaws in the vision, glitches in the plan that are still yet to surface. from my perspective, i can’t see any –  can you? 

ps. i know wooranna park welcomes visitors to their school, so don’t be shy if you’re knocking about melbourne and looking for something different – reach out. 

innovation, technology, innovation

Brand perspectives

13 Nov 2018 by Brian Slade

An early brand project risk analysis on all possible perspectives can save a bunch of rework, awkward pauses and electrical appliance analogies! (Keep reading and all that will make sense!) Working with a regional...

brand perspectives brian slade

an early brand project risk analysis on all possible perspectives can save a bunch of rework, awkward pauses and electrical appliance analogies! (keep reading and all that will make sense!)

working with a regional council a few years ago, we were commissioned to develop an inbound tourism and economic development identity. as part of this we were asked to reconsider the existing council identity that had been untouched for quite a few years.

after appropriate due diligence, briefing, creative exploration on multiple perspectives, and consultation, we arrived at a solution that was ready to present back to an array of councillors in their regional chambers. in slightly unfamiliar surroundings i pitched the concepts, with the occasional side-ways glance to our direct client to ensure i was on the right path and when finished, opened the floor up for questions.

there was general agreement that the conceptual thinking and ideas were a great leap forward, moving them from a decade or two ago into the future. they could clearly understand and see the visual improvements to a rather dated identity. however one rather mature gentleman took us all back to my opening rationale and challenged the ‘why’?

thinking on my feet and after an awkward pause, i used the analogy of progressively upgrading an electrical appliance that’s been reasonably reliable but some of the functions have started to not perform at 100%. the once white lustre had gone a bit yellow and the seal had started to go around the doors. what was once top of the line was now not so flash. the councillor didn’t quite grasp the concept and still disagreed. his perspective was fixed and firm.

the updated visual identity was by no means a radical solution in my eyes. it aligned to the desired outcomes in the brief, yet still this gentleman objects. yes, it was a departure from the existing identity. but while i saw evolution, he saw something of a revolution.

his objections were dutifully heard and considered, worked through at length within the consultation process and we ended up with something ever so slightly modified. so, what was the issue? 

so, what was the issue?


regardless of how strong or positive the new visual identity was; regardless of how well it was embraced by local iwi, hapu and the wider community, this gentleman’s perspective was fixed on fiscal responsibility, roi value and ‘why fix what isn’t broken’ (in his view).

what i had failed to do in my opening address was answer his deep-rooted question of value and benefit. and to be honest, i’m not sure i should have had to. not at this stage in the process. this should have been addressed a lot earlier by the management team. if this councillor had been engaged enough in the earlier consultations or identified as a potential risk and spoken to one-on-one, his comments may well have been cut off at the pass and less of a distraction to the rest of the presentation.  

at the post presentation debrief, our client informed us that the gentleman in questioned drove a car that was pretty much clapped out, bought decades earlier and was likely to drive it until it collapsed on him! his ‘why?’ question was clearly less about the council identity and more about his own very deep rooted and personal perspectives on the world in general. valid, but not identified early enough.

with both the council identity and the new economic/inbound tourism identity still hard at work for the council today, the lesson i’ve had reinforced by this experience is that it pays to scope all risks and listen to all perspectives to form appropriate responses as early as possible - saving a bunch of rework, awkward pauses and electrical appliance analogies!

branding, stakeholder perspectives, insight creative

Taming the HiPPO

06 Nov 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

OK, so I’ve put on a bit of weight lately but I still took exception to the recent description of me as a Hippo. Turns out they were right – I have been throwing a bit too much weight around when it comes to...

taming the hippo steven giannoulis

ok, so i’ve put on a bit of weight lately but i still took exception to the recent description of me as a hippo. turns out they were right – i have been throwing a bit too much weight around when it comes to generating ideas. so i’ve put myself on a tight leash and i’m learning to tame my natural instincts.

let’s be honest, the best ideas aren’t always the ones that get chosen. how many times during my career have i been in this scenario: a roomful of managers listen to a strong pitch from the most senior person in the room. after the spiel, one or two people agree. the rest say nothing, reluctant to disagree or suggest better ideas. it’s the idea we end up going with even though, more often than not, it’s not even the best idea we’ve got.

and that’s the downside of involving hippos (highest-paid-person's opinion) in the early stages of idea generation. 

we hippos aren’t all bad

don’t get me wrong, we hippos aren’t all bad. teams often need us to lead the charge and to keep them focused on the goal. and not all our ideas are bad ideas. but hippos can stifle the creative process. the challenge is to not let them dominate creativity and innovative thinking. if you do, you may end up with very narrow ideas, based on one or two people's experiences and gut feel. worse still, you end up going with bad ideas that everyone’s afraid to challenge. in other words, how do you tame the hippo in the ideation process?

i’m the hippo in most brainstorms at work. i often feel that everyone is waiting for me to come up with the ideas or when ideas are presented, everyone looks to me to decide whether they are good or not. for ages this has frustrated me, but thinking about it now it says more about me, and the culture i’ve created, than it does about the team. and that’s why i’ve been trying some new things to self-silence my inner hippo and to help us generate better ideas. some approaches worked better than others and i definitely found some easier to do.

silencing the inner hippo

  • co-creation – incorporating clients and wider groups into the brainstorming process. this introduces more people interested in the best outcomes rather than the politics of seniority. of course, the client becomes the most important person in the room. 
  • silent brainstorming – using sticky notes and getting everyone to put all their ideas down first before coming up to present them one by one. every sticky note has equal value. this stops the first and loudest dominating the brainstorming. i’ve found this approach to be successful.
  • using a voting system – where everyone gets to vote on ideas. every vote is equal and we focus on only the ideas with the most votes, regardless of whose they are. in these scenarios, i try and vote last to stop influencing what others may think.
  • holding back - i’ve tried in a couple of brainstorms to actively stop myself from contributing ideas. i found this hard and wasn’t as successful at it as i needed to be! this puts the emphasis on others to generate the first ideas. in both cases there was awkward silence at the start but once they got into it, the team came up with some great ideas. 
  • building on other’s ideas only – in another session, i set myself a goal to not generate any new ideas but to only build on other people's ideas. i enjoyed this and there were some good collective outcomes.
  • playing a different role – rather than contributing ideas, i sometimes look to play a facilitator role, asking questions or offering insights that allow others to generate ideas. this approach lets me influence the direction without dominating the ideas.
  • agreeing an ‘objective’ criteria – establishing the criteria for assessing ideas upfront allows all ideas to be considered on the same basis regardless of who came up with them. it also gives others a legitimate basis to challenge the hippo’s ideas. 

for most of my career i haven’t been the most senior person in the room, so i know what it feels like to not have your good ideas heard. it therefore horrifies me that i might be the one holding us back when it comes to the new ideas and approaches. so if, like me, you’re the hippo in the room, fight your natural instincts and actively seek ways to help the team come up with the best ideas collectively. after all you, that’s how you got to be the hippo in the first place.

innovation, idea generation, brainstorm

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

Flying high

25 Oct 2018 by Mike Tisdall

Taking a deep dive into understanding our client’s businesses is always one of the most fascinating part of our jobs. Last Thursday Gabe and Holly were lucky enough to spend the morning with our lovely clients at...

flying high mike tisdall

taking a deep dive into understanding our client’s businesses is always one of the most fascinating part of our jobs.

last thursday gabe and holly were lucky enough to spend the morning with our lovely clients at airways. for those of you who don’t know a lot about airways, they provide our air navigation service and are responsible for monitoring and controlling the air traffic to ensure all aircrafts are travelling safely between airports in new zealand domestic and oceanic regions. their air traffic controllers are constantly in contact with the pilots arriving and departing new zealand.

after a work in progress meeting they headed over to the operations centre where their enculturation started.

as holly tells it, they were given a comprehensive overview: “did you know the airspace they control covers 26 million square kilometres  including the pacific and tasman oceans which extends from the south pole to 5 degrees south of the equator?!“

they learnt about the ins and outs of air traffic control, flight path management, the different stages of flight and procedures that follow each. they were tutored in the different flight maps and charts and got a solid understanding of what’s involved in air traffic control training.

“these were all demonstrated to us when we visited the operations centre. no work station can be left unattended and a full handover must be given before a team member can be dismissed.”

here’s one person from the team monitoring the aircrafts flying into auckland. 

holly continues: “from there we ventured up into the control tower where we had a full view of the runway and where three air traffic controllers were stationed. each controller was managing a different stage of flight and were busy chatting with the pilots. typically the training to be an air traffic controller takes 12 months, but with my 2 hours of training, the team felt i was qualified to at least put on the headphones and listen to the conversations!"


airways, client enculturation, insight creative

What exactly is 'brand'?

09 Oct 2018 by Mike Tisdall

It’s just one of those words, isn’t it? So open to interpretation. So dependent upon the predisposition of the listener or reader. Even after all these years in the branding and communication game, there are...

what exactly is 'brand'? mike tisdall

it’s just one of those words, isn’t it? so open to interpretation. so dependent upon the predisposition of the listener or reader. even after all these years in the branding and communication game, there are still plenty of client folk out there who hear ‘brand’ and think ‘logo’.

in my blog post on brand lingo, i talked about all the branding terms that get bandied about and attempted to lock down some logical definitions the help differentiate one from the other. but even the word ‘brand’ itself means different things to different people at different times. i alluded to that in the opening paragraphs of that earlier post, where i let slip my most favourite of definitions, jeff bezos’ “a brand is what people say about you after you leave the room.”

but over the years, i’ve actually quietly been collecting quite a hoard of definitions of the word. some of them are actually really good, others not so much. and from my select few favourites, i tend to pick the one most relevant to the client discussion at hand that will help them move their thinking forward in the most appropriate context.

the best ones, like bezos’ ‘after you leave the room’, have a go at deflecting thoughts of ‘logo’ and ‘visual identity’ to something a lot broader that captures the total sum of parts ethos.

here are a few more that i can find myself nodding to:

“a brand is a promise. it’s a promise that your company can keep. and you make and keep that promise in every marketing activity, every action, every corporate decision, every customer interaction.”

“a brand is an authentic reflection of the company’s true vision.” 

“a brand is the organising principle of how a company operates and communicates.”

“part art, part science, ‘brand’ is the difference between a bottle of soda and a bottle of coke.”


“a brand is really a way of remembering what something is like for future reference. something you value. something you feel attracted to.”


beyond the above succinct one-liners, i’ve also collected a few slightly more fulsome narratives that help give boundaries to the word ‘brand’.

“the brand is the character, style and purpose that serves as the foundation for your business, like the roots of a tree. you have to stop thinking of ‘the brand’ as a layer of polish that makes your brand pretty.”

“businesses often think about branding after they’ve built the core of their business, when the branding should have been the core of the business.”

and a series of sage phrases from brand strategist, matthew fenton, out of chicago:

“think ‘experience’ not ‘branding’, and your branding will get better.”

“branding is not about logos, taglines or heartstring-tugging ads – they are merely coats of paint.” 

“brands are built in the doing, not the saying.”


what’s your favourite definition of the ‘brand’ word? 

if we can narrow the frame of reference, individual words can actually mean what we think we’re saying. just don’t get me started on ‘sustainability’!

brand, branding, brand definition

What makes good client service?

02 Oct 2018 by Paul Saris

It’s the strangest experience when you’re climbing Mt Ngauruhoe on your way to reach the most beautiful coned top, when every step you take makes you slide further backwards. Strangely, somehow you do reach the...

what makes good client service? paul saris

it’s the strangest experience when you’re climbing mt ngauruhoe on your way to reach the most beautiful coned top, when every step you take makes you slide further backwards. strangely, somehow you do reach the top. it’s a lot later in the day though and you’re tired and scratched all over, but what an amazing feeling to finally stand up and look around. few vistas compare, and an especially good feeling when you’re standing next to your newlywed wife and best mate to take in the expansive landscape. that was almost 30 years ago…

i've lost count of the number of times i have thought back to that moment. when i do think back i’m usually reflecting on where we’re at with a project. the stage where the client indicates their brand project is on hold, the marcomms project is changing direction, that digital project requires more (…), etc.

we recently had a high-profile marcomms project change its course. the project was slowed down whilst many aspects are being reconsidered. this is a tough time for one of our key contacts who has given the project a lot of their energy and is emotionally invested too. a phone call with the client, a chat that was reflective but also forward looking, proved to be a worthwhile opportunity to lend support. we agreed that, although the track had gotten a little more tricky, we’d find a way to continue our way to the top together. 

the promise of success is pretty powerful, if you believe in it. often, we’re the ones who have the opportunity to motivate our clients, keep them going, support or guide them. it can be during these times that the client needs us most. and when we start climbing again, it somehow seems to get a little easier. 

partnering clients, supporting and motivating clients, the supporting role of creative agencies, keeping clients motivated

Open up your communications

25 Sep 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

If we accept that the best communications are heard and understood, then it follows that as internal communication practitioners we should create opportunities for staff to be heard and to better understand what’s...

open up your communications steven giannoulis

if we accept that the best communications are heard and understood, then it follows that as internal communication practitioners we should create opportunities for staff to be heard and to better understand what’s been said to them. why then, is there still such a resistance to opening up two-way communication channels?

as part of the internal engagement work we do, i talk to many companies about their intranet and its role in their communication programme. for most, it’s about one-way communication, letting staff know the rules, procedures, policies and other fact-based information; a repository of history and knowledge to help people do their job better, or at least in the right way. many have a ‘news’ element, allowing the latest achievements to be shared with staff. its function is to reinforce the right messages, stories and behaviours that support the desired culture. 

unfortunately, there’s still not many companies that have an open forum where staff can just say what’s on their mind, ask questions, seek clarity and share ideas. word of mouth has always been the most effective communication tool and social media has found a way to utilise its power. why then are internal communicators so scared of applying social chat approaches to their craft? is it a fear of the tough questions? being open to criticism? inappropriate behaviour? or is it just being exposed for not knowing?

questions, comments and views are already being expressed by staff around the water-cooler, in the lunch room and right round the business. because we can’t hear them doesn’t make them any less legitimate. in fact, going uncorrected and unchallenged allows them to grow from an isolated opinion to the accepted company-wide grass roots position. why not then bring them out into the light where you can hear them and make them part of your communication programme? 

i’ve heard many reasons why and my response is always the same ‘what rubbish!” if you’ve got an intranet, add blog and comments functionality and invite staff to share whatever’s on their mind. at first staff may be nervous of the consequences but they’ll quickly catch on when they see that they can say anything. go one step further and implement social-style platforms, like yammer or facebook for business, specifically designed to encourage collaboration and sharing of thoughts, ideas and answers. 

word of mouth has always been the most effective communication tool

as communication managers our primary function moves from creators of content to facilitators of discussion. our key goal is to listen and provide information on what’s important to our staff and to address any areas of confusion. this may go against our instinct where, rather than creating more communications, we encourage the discussion to take its natural course. you do have to get involved, however, when the facts are wrong or the opinions are detrimental to the company or individuals. 

encourage senior leadership to participate in the discussion on an equal basis to staff, sharing thoughts and opinions. they also have a role to play in facilitating discussion by liking, commenting and encouraging what others are saying. often it means acknowledging that they don’t know all the answers and asking staff to tell them what they think they should do.

i’ve heard many reasons why and my response is always the same "what rubbish!”

as we see from social media, most people know what’s acceptable discussion etiquette and play by the rules. forums and discussions are self-governing, with groups quickly letting individuals know when their language, opinion or behaviour isn’t acceptable. trust that this works and avoid introducing vetting, censorship or controls, as this discourages open sharing.

the beauty of this open communication environment is that staff are heard, know what’s happening around the business, have a place to get clarity and feel more engaged with the wider business. they participate in the communication process on an equal basis with leadership, leading to more open and honest dialogue. for the company, it means a much better handle on what really matters to their people and what the gaps in knowledge and understanding are. 

i’ve focused on the intranet here, but you should open up your communications across the business. add feedback loops and discussion options to all communications when you can, favouring two-way discussion over one-way telling every time.

internal engagement, staff engagement, two way internal communication, internal communication

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

When is a prescribed solution not the right answer?

17 Sep 2018 by Jason Linnell

The client briefing at their office had not felt right from the start. We had enjoyed working with this client for some time and had always thought we were in a partnership. However, today was different.  There...

when is a prescribed solution not the right answer? jason linnell

the client briefing at their office had not felt right from the start. we had enjoyed working with this client for some time and had always thought we were in a partnership. however, today was different. 

there were none of the preambles chat about how the weekend was, and the client team looked like they needed to be elsewhere. the brief that was handed out was a tome. it felt as dense as the atmosphere in the room and was filled with pages of technical jargon. 

after being given a cursory review of the opportunity and why the brief had been written, i asked for more details. it was clear at a glance the proposition was vague, and the brief hadn’t defined what success looked like at the end. it was also prescriptive and telling us what the solution had to be. 

“this needs to be done. just get on with it please.”

so with that, the client looked at her watch, stood up and said she had to go. 

as i suspected, the client had other significant issues on her plate and that day’s briefing was an anomaly. however, knowing that later didn’t help me in the ride back to the agency that day.  

the tricky part was being told to deliver a prescribed solution.

reading the brief in the back of the uber, i surmised we could live without clear goals. they could be drawn out in the reverse brief stage. i also knew we could tighten the proposition. 

the tricky part though was being told to deliver a prescribed solution. agencies and clients work best when they start at the beginning of an opportunity or problem with an agnostic approach to the solution. it invariably never works when a client says we must have ‘one of these, one of those and two of them’. it also restricts us producing what we’re paid to deliver – the best insight-led solutions that make people sit up, take notice and act.

besides, if the parameters are too tight, the breadth of thinking becomes restricted and real creativity risks being suffocated. 

however, it’s not just clients who can prescribe solutions. every client service person has been guilty of rushing a brief, ‘banging out a solution’ and handing it over to the creative team without really thinking about what needs to be solved.  

before writing a brief, i always recall one of my favourite lines ‘i apologise for the length of this letter, but i did not have time to write a shorter one’. by making a brief sharper, tighter and more focused, invariably the creative work that comes out is sharper, tighter and more focused. instead of confining the work, tighter briefs will have the opposite effect. they instead have a liberating impact on creatives who can more easily explore in and around the direction the brief provides. 

which also means not being prescriptive with a solution. 

but how to address this with the client?

agencies produce their best work through collaboration. not just within their own walls, but with their clients. no matter how well we think we know our client’s business, they bring a unique point of view to the process. at the beginning of each relationship, agencies should always stress that they want their clients actively involved in the work. this particular client was usually a more than willing participant, and i knew that by asking her more questions – in a day or so – that her experience working with us would come to the fore. 

which it eventually did. based on the original brief it was clear our client hadn’t taken the time to ‘write a shorter letter’. instead of pushing on we went back and asked three clarification questions; 1) what exactly was the business problem and why was solving it was so important 2) what did we want our target audience to feel, think and do as a result of our work and finally, 3) what did success look like and how were we going to measure it.

by being open, not rushing the reverse brief process and helping our busy client ‘write that shorter letter’, we got her to realise her first brief wasn’t going to deliver the results she wanted. 

the eventual result exceeded the expectations of everyone involved.

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

Does glitter work on everything?

28 Aug 2018 by Jeremy Sweetman

Recently, my daughter had a eureka moment when she realised that by copying her project from Google Docs into a website template, it would invoke a completely different response or level of engagement from her...

does glitter work on everything? jeremy sweetman

recently, my daughter had a eureka moment when she realised that by copying her project from google docs into a website template, it would invoke a completely different response or level of engagement from her audience. same copy, different outcome. excited by her breakthrough, she’s now an advocate of delivering her work by all sorts of varied means.

from this initial discovery, she’s also realised that sometimes a straight copy-and-paste just isn’t enough. sometimes additional crafting is needed depending on where her story is being told. now she’s graduated to adding pictures, quotes, videos and (of course) glitter to engage her audience.

this revelation isn’t new, but it is a reminder that we should continually look to craft our content to maintain its effectiveness – regardless of channel. but do we?

too often the focus becomes central to one channel. one output. all the thinking, crafting and love get poured into a single delivery. then, with what’s left, we make it work for the other channels. the risk is that the story can be diluted. lose its shine. or worse, its effectiveness.

as storytellers, this is on us.

so, whether you're a client, a strategist, marketer, creative or copywriter; if you’re planning, creating or delivering a multi-channel story, then (please) pause. think about how you craft your content. think about its effectiveness for every one of the channels you’ve identified. explore and understand all the opportunities; be aware of the challenges and limitations. in short, work towards telling the clearest story you can – for every channel.

multi-channel communication, crafting content

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

Brand Lingo – let’s speak the same language

07 Aug 2018 by Mike Tisdall

Despite the fact that I deal with the term ‘brand’ on a daily basis, the irony is that I have a love/hate relationship with the word. And that’s because whenever a client uses the word, I have to stop them and...

brand lingo – let’s speak the same language mike tisdall

despite the fact that i deal with the term ‘brand’ on a daily basis, the irony is that i have a love/hate relationship with the word. and that’s because whenever a client uses the word, i have to stop them and ask them what they mean when using it because it means so many things to so many people. do they mean their logo? do they mean the brand colour? do they mean the customer experience? or are they using the word in the fullest sense of what i like to think the word really means – in jeff bezos’ words: “what people say about you after you leave the room”. 

and there are so many nuances within all that. so let’s have a look at some of the branding terms that get bandied about and define what they mean, how they describe slightly different things, and where they sometimes overlap:

brand equity
this is the commercial value of all associations and expectations that people have of a brand based on all their experiences with, and perceptions of, the brand over time. that sounds very academic, but think of it as the reservoir of goodwill that a brand can rely on, as long as the reservoir remains full. if people think highly of a brand, it enjoys positive brand equity, but when a brand consistently disappoints enough for people to talk about avoiding it, then it has negative brand equity.

the great thing about positive brand equity is that a company can charge more for a product under that brand; or introduce brand extensions so that the company can sell a wider range of products under that brand.

brand image
brand image is the sum total of perceptions resulting from all the experiences and knowledge someone has had of the brand. it is the impression of the brand in a consumer’s mind.

brand associations
anything a consumer brings to mind, consciously or unconsciously, when presented with the brand. these associations could be organisational, product related, symbolic or personified. they can include awareness, accessibility, value, relevance, differentiation, emotional connection, preference, usage, loyalty and vitality. for example, when somebody says kfc to me, i think of the colour red and an old southern american dude.

brand positioning
this is the way the brand is perceived comparatively within a given competitive set in the consumer’s mind. so it's all relative - a relevant differentiation is the most important aspect of brand positioning because it allows your brand to ‘own’ a distinctive position within your target customer's head. 

the brand’s brand position should be a function of the brand promise, and may relate to quality, innovation, leadership, value, prestige, trust, safety, reliability, performance, convenience, concern for customers, social responsibility, technological superiority etc.

brand essence
this is the heart and soul of the brand – a brand’s fundamental nature or quality, usually stated in two to three words. it’s often emotional and intangible and so speaks to the heart more than the head. examples include nike (‘innovation and inspiration’), southwest airlines (‘freedom’) and volvo (‘safety’). this is powerful stuff!

brand promise
sometimes called a brand value proposition, a brand promise is your brand telling the world what to expect from it. it states the differentiated benefits that are relevant and compelling to your consumer – they can be functional, experiential, emotional or self-expressive.

brand personality
basically, it’s a bunch of adjectives that describe the brand, such as fun, kind, safe, sincere, sophisticated, cheerful, old fashioned, reliable, progressive etc. it’s something to which the consumer can relate because, more often than not, it’s a set of human characteristics attributed to a brand name.

brand identity
this is where we get a bit closer to the stereotypical 'brand = logo' ignorance. your brand identity is a combination of sensory components that create recognition and represent the brand promise, such as what it looks like, what it sounds like, and sometimes, even what it smells like (think peter alexander or lush retail stores).

brand portfolio
the mix of brands and sub-brands owned by an organisation. these brands can sometimes be related in a ‘branded house’ configuration with overt connections to each other, and, conversely, they can be part of a ‘house of brands’ where the various brands aren’t obviously related to each other at all. basically, when you’ve got a handful of different brands or sub-brands, you need to start thinking about how they relate to each other or not. and most likley what you’ve currently got is some degree of chaos brought about by the legacy of past management decisions, some acquisitions along the way and some competitive realities involving strong brand equity situations that you dare not meddle with. and that’s where some ‘brand architecture’ planning can prove life-changing. see below.

brand architecture
brand architecture is a system that organises how a family of brands relate to one another. it indicates how many levels of hierarchy there are, which brands sit at which level in the hierarchy, which relate as brand/sub-brand, and which remain independent of each other.


and that's a good place to end, as brand architecture opens the door on another whole raft of branding jargon which we can perhaps take a look at when we’ve all had a lie down and a cup of tea. in the meantime, hopefully the above list and descriptions will help you separate the different notions in your mind, so that when we talk, we're talking the same lingo.

branding, brand essence, brand architecture, brand promise, brand identity, brand personality, brand portfolio, brand positioning

Sticking to your annual report timetable

03 Aug 2018 by Mike Tisdall

I’ve just spent two full days with about 20 annual report preparers on an integrated reporting training course. In amongst the learning and sharing experiences about preparing content for integrated reports, it...

sticking to your annual report timetable mike tisdall

i’ve just spent two full days with about 20 annual report preparers on an integrated reporting training course.

in amongst the learning and sharing experiences about preparing content for integrated reports, it became very clear that the internal process of herding the various cats within the organisation who are responsible for their own pieces of content can be a harrowing experience.

as annual report producers, we feel it hugely when clients don’t meet the contract that is the agreed timetable. currently we have 15 annual reports progressing their way through our artwork studio, and managing the logistics of typesetting and design turnarounds and checking all the changes accurately is an enormous challenge at the best of times. but when the client is late with their content – and more than one coincides in that regard – the pressure goes on us to catch the timetable up, and that’s usually physically impossible (although we always try our damnedest!).

"it became very clear that the internal process of herding the various cats within the organisation can be a harrowing experience."

and so i couldn’t help but have empathy with the individuals on the course. their task is a thankless one, often. and their demands on others in their organisation are often dismissed as less important than their own work and thus ignored. and because these contributors are often many levels senior to the poor content co-ordinator, the imbalance of power plays out very visibly.

occasionally companies will even outsource this co-ordination – and often writing – to a short-term internal or external contractor. well, if an internal employee has no clout, then you can imagine how well demands from some hired help is accepted (or not!). one attendee even told me of last year’s contractor whose contract wasn’t renewed this year because his efforts to deliver to the timeline were not taken at all well by those whose job it was to deliver content but failed to do so on time. and now the internal employee is being treated in much the same way. and this is from a major new zealand company who should, quite frankly, know better.

these projects are a massive undertaking for any organisation. but they’re not a voluntary exercise. companies don’t do this because they want to. they do it because they have to. and they need to do it to the best of their ability because so many critical people will form their views of the company – and make critical decisions on the company – as a result of the stories that are told, the future picture that is painted, the risks and opportunities that are highlighted, and the strategies that management are activating to achieve the company’s goals.

that’s no small thing.


so what’s required to grease the wheels for these projects?

first, leadership. the c-suite needs to send clear messages that the process is important to the business, important to the board, and set clear expectations that those contributing must meet their deadlines. often the target for this message is the members of the leadership team itself, so it falls to the ceo to make his requirements vividly clear.

second, the project co-ordinator. this role needs a loud and strong champion - his/her manager and department head. that manager also needs to set clear expectations and fiercely defend and support the project co-ordinator, taking the internal battles on personally if required to reset the tone. the project co-ordinator also needs a certain personality: dogged, persistent, strong, resilient, and yet always professional and polite. they also need the appropriate level of seniority and maturity to achieve the goals.

and finally, the internal process. there are a host of elements to be brought into play here. perhaps an initial meeting of all contributors where they are educated on the intricate and highly inter-dependent process, where domino effects can easily jeopardise the vital end delivery. perhaps a shared online project management system where every contributor’s role is mapped, tracked and monitored, and visibility is such that peers can see who’s letting the side down, whether it’s in content delivery or meeting their deadlines through the iteration and checking part of the process.

but in the end, it’s about the corporate culture. the working together. the seeing internal clients as ‘clients’ that need to be serviced just like external clients. and culture is established by the company’s senior leader.

it starts and ends right at the top.

image: the japan times / roger dahl
annual reports, timetable

A Good Experience

30 Jul 2018 by Paul Saris

What do clients want? It’s been 25 or so years that I’ve been, in some capacity, in front of clients. In fact, longer if I add the time I’ve been in front of customers: the lovely people that visited our...

a good experience paul saris

what do clients want?

it’s been 25 or so years that i’ve been, in some capacity, in front of clients. in fact, longer if i add the time i’ve been in front of customers: the lovely people that visited our liquor shop back in holland. their needs were rarely a challenge. they would point to a bottle (jenever, whisky, beer, 7up, etc), followed by an exchange of money, and that was that. 

occasionally a wine connoisseur would drop in – my mum loved these people since wines were her passion, her specialty – they described at length, and sometimes rather colourfully, the type of wine they were looking for. 

they loved my mum. she’d talk with great insight and fluidly flick between dutch and french and german to articulate the wine’s properties, its background, etc., making the whole experience rather authentic for the connoisseur. we stocked good and great wines, and some were collectables with prices to match.

once a year, the regulars would be invited into our living room, literally at the other side of the shop’s till, for the first release of the beaujolais primeur or nouveau. we were the first ones in our home town every year to stock the new release (that was my dad’s thing – always wanting to be first with everything. something about differentiation). these were exciting social get togethers. mum and dad would be chatty, hand out cheese and bread with a glass of beaujoulais and in the company of ‘friends’ tipple a few afternoons away (incidentally, i’ve never seen them drunk. some of our customers yes, but not my mum and dad). 

customers loved it, they felt very special. 

"no one created the experience my parents offered, such was our brand."

you could get the wine in most liquor shops within a day or so of the release, but no one created the experience my parents offered, such was our brand.

working with a design agency now, the client doesn’t point to a product. they are much more like the wine connoisseur. like in my mum’s world, these people come to us because we are the specialists, they have a particular need not easily come by. what else do these clients want? 

a rounded, authentic, savvy offering means a lot more to these clients than a clinical transactional exchange of service for money.

my mum was a good listener and took her time with customers. mum always let people finish what they had to say, used pauses for reflection and asked lots of questions to find out more about the customer’s likes and dislikes. being genuinely interested in people’s stories made the whole approach a lot easier.

mum was excellent at talking the customer’s ‘language’. she would pick up on people’s jargon and use it back to them in a respectful manner. so much so that wannabe connoisseurs (the odd wine dabbler deserving of an education) would be suitably advised in their own ‘language’, leaving a whole lot smarter, only to come back for more another day. she also managed to elevate conversations so it all felt a bit more special. she would use words like 'chique' (french for elegant) and kostbaar instead of prijzig (prijzig = costly, kostbaar = valuable), simply adding a bit of panache which reflected the wine on offer. you could say that she used her own tone of voice.

and mum was and is a gezellig mens (a cozy person, inviting, engaging, warm and appreciative - words fail to explain it properly), with a slightly dark wit that keeps you tuned in, in a good way.

what do clients want?

let’s rephrase. how do we make our clients feel when they come looking for what they want?


clients, design agency, service experience, insight creative

Tribe Behaviour

16 Jul 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

Spark has announced it's adopting an agile way of working across its business. I applaud them for so tangibly demonstrating their commitment to breaking down silos, improving speed to market, innovation and achieving...

tribe behaviour steven giannoulis

spark has announced it's adopting an agile way of working across its business. i applaud them for so tangibly demonstrating their commitment to breaking down silos, improving speed to market, innovation and achieving more customer focused solutions.

i’ll follow their progress with great interest, knowing that what they’re proposing challenges almost everything we know about organisational behaviour.


an agile spark transforms from a traditional hierarchical structure, with large business units, to small self-managing teams (squads), each with clear accountabilities. they collaborate with one another to deliver specific products and service projects for customers and for the good of the organisation. it’s no longer about people working in a particular business unit or function. in this model, senior leaders act as catalysts, setting direction and establishing systems for people to do their jobs effectively. and they assemble the right mix of skills, talent and experience to collectively make decisions about the what, how and when of each project.

i worked in a self-managing operational team 20 plus years ago (an experimental team within a bigger traditional structure) and my experience was mostly positive, especially at the start. some of us embraced the freedom self-managing teams offered and the opportunity to contribute ideas, to learn, to step up and have a voice beyond our title. for others, the transition from what they knew was a step too far. eventually, as we settled into bau, my enthusiasm waned and i got frustrated at the inability to just get on and do stuff without needing a whole team involved. over a year, people naturally settled into a more specialist division of labour. as far as i can remember, the experiment never ended, it just naturally devolved back to the old way.

maybe this experience is driving my slight nervousness about how spark’s tribes approach will work for the people who work there.

"people at work are largely driven by fundamental motivators closely aligned with maslow’s hierarchy of needs."

history has taught us that people, and groups, at work are largely driven by fundamental motivators – closely aligned with maslow’s hierarchy of needs - like survival, recognition, reward, progression, belonging and identity. spark’s new approach delivers a number of challenges on many of these fronts. 

with more emphasis on the team’s deliverables over an individual's, how do people know they are achieving? team success is one thing but we all still want to be recognised for our own contribution. and without a clear and recognisable hierarchy how do people plan for progress and feel that their career is going somewhere? no doubt, as you deliver more and more successful outcomes you’ll get to work on more complex and wide reaching projects. maybe this represents your growth and progress but people may still want the visible symbols of progress that titles, responsibility and hierarchy offer. 

our jobs are a big part of our identity and therefore more fluidity in what i do has the potential to lead to less clarity in what i stand for. without a defined work identity there is a danger that people struggle to see themselves in their jobs and this could lead to some dissatisfaction for some.

traditional functions, teams and divisions also provide a sense of belonging that this team collective may not be able to replicate. i’ve worked with a number of clients who’ve moved to open plan, hot desk approaches only to find that people end up all sitting together in the same place and same desks every day. apart from the functional benefit, the clear lesson here is that people need to feel that they belong to something. as you move from project to project where do you actually belong? who are your people?

"as you move from project to project where do you actually belong? who are your people?"

organisational behaviour has a strong competitive undertow and this approach plays well to this. short sprint work allows quick results and satisfies our desire to achieve and win. but without that longer term focus, competitiveness may see the good of the project override the longer term good of the organisation. clear measures of success are needed to signal what really is important.

despite my concerns, i love the braveness of what spark are doing here. i really do want it to succeed. i encourage them to invest in a strong company-wide internal communications programme that builds momentum in the core idea behind this initiative. a programme that reinforces key long-term outcomes as well as immediate success stories, keeping people engaged with the entire organisation and its objectives. regular communication that promotes aligned interests and behaviours and helps people feel they belong to the bigger spark team and where the organisation is going.

agile, tribes

Innovation All-sorts

09 Jul 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

We’re on a mission to be more innovative in our work and that means pushing ourselves to think differently and go further with our ideas and our solutions. We’ve committed to building a team culture that fosters...

innovation all-sorts steven giannoulis
we’re on a mission to be more innovative in our work and that means pushing ourselves to think differently and go further with our ideas and our solutions. we’ve committed to building a team culture that fosters this. over the last few weeks i’ve seen first-hand the opportunities and challenges this brings.
we are working on a really big and really cool project for a client where they have expressly asked us to push the boundaries, incorporating out-there ideas and technologies. what better job to test our new-found innovation resolve.
we started with a team brainstorming session to generate ideas that could inform our approach. 
some team members were clearly idea generators, spitting out idea after idea with little consideration of the merits of each one. i fall into this group, finding it really easy to generate the volume of ideas but not always with an associated level of quality. 
others were idea builders, better at taking other people’s ideas and exploring and shaping them further. 
others were idea resolvers. they sat thinking to themselves, not participating in the discussion apart from every so often when they shared the fully formed idea they’d been working through in their heads. 
and then there were the few who added little or nothing to the brainstorming meeting. they seemed to have no ideas. for these more analytical-minded types, brainstorming sessions are just too fast and unstructured. ironically, a few of our best ideas came from one of these people. they went away, thought about it, and then came up with a couple of well-considered ideas that were clearly influenced by the discussions in the brainstorming session.
as the week following the brainstorming progressed, we once again saw a huge difference in attitudes and approaches.
some of us got very excited by the endless possibilities and took the leading ideas, rethinking them, stretching them, adapting them, combining them in different ways and generally just looking to find new ways to apply them. we developed a prototype solution and got the team together to talk this through.
some were happy to take the solution being proposed, adding value by suggesting refinements, ways to sell the ideas into the client or alternative approaches to help the idea become more achievable. i quickly learned that harnessing these groups can help take a solution from good to fantastic.
another small group quickly switched off, feeling little ownership of the proposed solution. they didn’t fight or discourage it, they just disengaged, agreeing to do what needed to be done with little passion or buy-in. they still have a role to play in allowing an innovative outcome but it’s mostly about doing what needs to be done.
and a final group actively found issues with the solution, focusing on the complexity, cost, timeframes and/or highlighting past scenarios where similar solutions had failed. the challenge with this group is to get their focus off the problem and onto solutions. how can we do this cheaper, quicker and simpler? i found challenging them to find alternative ways to achieve the same outcome allowed this group to utilise their skills and feel more involved. 
as we get ready to present the proposed solution to the client, i am excited with what we’ve come up with. it took a mixed bag of ideas to get us here and all-sorts of people to allow us to refine, evaluate and improve the solution. my preconception was that we needed big thinking ideas people but a better outcome was achieved by including a more diverse team of personalities and approaches. creating a culture enabling innovation to thrive means finding a way for everyone to contribute in a way that makes the most of their particular skillsets.
innovation, workplace, diversity, idea generators, idea builders, idea resolvers

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

What clients can expect

19 Jun 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

This week a client asked me for a service level agreement. We’ve produced a few of them over the years but for more technical processes such as website management. Given that managing expectations is key to good...

what clients can expect steven giannoulis

this week a client asked me for a service level agreement. we’ve produced a few of them over the years but for more technical processes such as website management.

given that managing expectations is key to good service, i approached the task with a broader client distribution in mind. as a result i’ve been drafting a ‘service promise’ that outlines what clients can expect when they work with us. and – fair’s fair - i’ve also outlined what we expect from them.

what do you think? does this fairly represent what you would expect from us if you were a client?  what else do you think we should expect from clients?


what you can expect from us:

we will

  • listen and ask questions to make sure we are clear about your challenge, your audience and what you need.
  • always deliver creative and innovative ways to engage your audiences and deliver the results you need.
  • base all our recommendations on good insights, research and/or best practice models and frameworks.
  • deliver the best solution across multiple mediums including print, on-line and experiential.
  • give you our best professional advice on what the best course of action may be including challenging you (in a good way) if we think something isn’t right.
  • utilise your expertise as a subject-matter expert.
  • collaborate with you, and other parties you work with, to deliver the best results possible.
  • ensure our work is correct and accurate at all times.
  • assign you a dedicated relationship/project manager who will be your main point of contact for all dealings with us.
  • take the time to understand your industry, your business, your objectives and the way you like to work.
  • celebrate success with you.
  • always allocate the required resource volumes and skills to your projects to ensure we can deliver what you need within the agreed timeframe and budget.
  • return your calls, emails and texts within a reasonable timeframe.
  • provide you with estimates for all work we undertake and outline the assumptions we’ve used in the estimate.
  • never charge you more than the higher range of the estimate, unless the scope of the project has changed.
  • notify you if something is out of scope before taking on the additional work. we’ll provide you with estimates for the additional work as soon as we are able to.
  • deliver detailed project plans for all projects of a significant size, as agreed.
  • use clear project methodology that facilitates the efficient and effective delivery of projects on time and on budget.
  • keep you informed of progress against timeframes and budgets and raise any risks which arise that could compromise quality, budget or timeframe, at the soonest opportunity.
  • work with a network of specialist partners who have the skills and professional practices to help us deliver the outcomes you need.
  • take responsibility for all freelancers or contractors we bring in to help us deliver your work.
  • have the appropriate insurances in place for the nature of the work we do for you.
  • ensure adequate health and safety processes are in place for all work we undertake for you.
  • make all endeavours to keep material, information and other items provided to us confidential and safe.
  • notify you as soon as we become aware of any conflict of interest that may arise and propose a course of action to mitigate and manage the conflict to your satisfaction.
  • have a clear escalation process if you are not happy with some aspect of our work or the way we are working together.
  • comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
  • keep good records of all time we spend on your projects.
  • invoice monthly within eight working days of the end of the month.


what we expect from you in return:

you will:

  • provide us with reasonable notice of work you intend to give us so we can plan the right level and type of resources for what you need.
  • be open and forthright with all aspects of your business so that we can tailor our solutions to what’s right for you.
  • be clear with your objectives and how success will be measured.
  • give us some leeway to explore ideas and solutions that have the potential to deliver better strategic-creative outcomes.
  • be reasonable in your expectations: effectively balancing the budget, time and quality trade-offs to achieve the best result possible.
  • carefully consider all material we provide you before approving it. this helps minimise changes at later stages in the project which may add additional effort.
  • provide us with the necessary information, content and approvals in a timely and orderly manner that allows us to deliver the agreed specifications, budget and timelines.
  • keep us informed of any developments that may impact our ability to deliver the agreed specifications, budget and timelines.
  • give us the opportunity to address any issues or concerns you may have.
  • give us open and constructive feedback on our work and process so that we can continue to learn and grow as an organisation.
  • pay us for all work you commission us to do – whether you progress with it or not.
  • pay our invoices by the 20th of the month following the date of each invoice.

leave a comment below with your thoughts!


sla, service level agreement, client expectations, client satisfaction, design agency performance expectations

SDG Bingo

14 Jun 2018 by Mike Tisdall

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) are great, so why are they making me feel uncomfortable? They set wonderful global targets to ‘ end poverty ,  protect the planet  and  ensure...

sdg bingo mike tisdall

the un sustainable development goals (unsdgs) are great, so why are they making me feel uncomfortable? they set wonderful global targets to ‘end povertyprotect the planet and ensure prosperity for all’ over the next 15 years. they’re resonating with our clients and matching non-financial activities to sdg icons is a highly discernible trend in our recent annual reports.

and so nearly every integrated or sustainability report that we work on today includes a smattering of sdg icons. 

in fact, almost every day i see evidence of an almost exponential ramping up of fervour about the sdgs. only last night i was at a seminar on charity fund-raising and one of the key strategies put forward by the speaker was the sdgs – in this instance by framing a funding application towards a company’s need to tick an sdg box or two.

"nearly every report that we work on today includes a smattering of sdg icons."

so, why do i feel uneasy?

perhaps it’s because i’ve been through the greenwashing era – a time of ‘band-wagon-jumping’ when some companies overstated their environmental credentials to be seen to be doing the right thing.

perhaps it’s because i get the sense that some companies are just being a tad too quick to jump on the sdg bandwagon. it’s actually pretty easy to ‘re-badge’ existing csr efforts to fit the sdg formula at a ‘lip service’ level.

perhaps it’s because i like the intent of the sdgs so much that i’m concerned about them being devalued by cavalier use.

but most of all, i think it’s because i believe that absolute authenticity and transparency works much more effectively than superficiality of badging. both because companies are rewarded for their honesty in the long term, and because in this age of social media, you'll be found out pretty quickly. the integrity of the use of the sdg icons comes when the depth of strategy and activity is genuinely driven towards improving the underlying goals in the lives of the people the company touches.

"i believe that absolute authenticity and transparency works much more effectively than superficiality of badging."

for me, the integrity test is to assess your strategies and operational initiatives against not just the name on the icon, but on the description that accompanies it. take ‘decent work and economic growth’ for example. does providing jobs and offering a wellness programme really ‘promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all’ when roughly half the world’s population still lives on the equivalent of about us$2 a day? read the actual wording around this particular sdg here - particularly the goal 8 targets section part way down the page - and you’ll see what i mean. in reality, are you only taking credit for solving a first world part of the problem? are you addressing the goal right through your supply chain?

and that’s only one example. i encourage you to read the wording accompanying all 17 goals before you tack your colours to these particular masts. you might well find that your association with some of them is trite, trivial and verging on overstatement.

"let’s not play sdg bingo to see how many boxes we can tick."

let’s not play sdg bingo to see how many boxes we can tick. let’s be authentic in our sustainability activities and how we report on them.

unsdgs, sdgs, sustainable development goals, corporate reporting, integrated reporting, sustainability reporting, csr

Learning in disruption

29 May 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

As our first significant piece of work with Victoria University of Wellington – the undergraduate recruitment campaign for 2019 – hits the market, I have a chance to reflect on everything I’ve learnt about the...

learning in disruption steven giannoulis

as our first significant piece of work with victoria university of wellington – the undergraduate recruitment campaign for 2019 – hits the market, i have a chance to reflect on everything i’ve learnt about the higher-education sector in the last six months.

i knew it was a sector in change but hadn’t fully realised the extent of the disruption that universities face and how it will fundamentally change everything they say, do and stand for. building long-lasting communication programmes in this dynamic environment requires bravery, a desire to keep adapting and the on-going questioning of your reason for being. 

the rear view mirror

historically, universities have been the centre of knowledge and exploration. the place for critical thinkers to advance their wisdom and understanding for the benefit of all mankind. like the church and government, universities have held a central role in society as a voice for what is right, and what direction we should take. as a pillar of modern civilisation, it’s not a coincidence that the traditional university is characterised by large, solid, classically inspired buildings erected on stable foundations.

for centuries a university education has been seen as the pinnacle of higher learning. despite being free for many, it’s always been seen as highly valuable. parents worked hard to send their kids to university, believing they were setting them up for life. a degree enhanced your social standing, perception of your worth and desirability and was (almost) a guarantee of employment. 

contextual change

in a rapidly changing world, the role of the university has also evolved. most universities, including those in new zealand, have experienced declining numbers, particularly at undergraduate level. primarily, this is a demographic shift with lower post-baby boomer birth rates and the delay in having children. each year the pool of year 13s available is declining, meaning the competition to attract them is growing. 

there is also a plethora of other higher-learning options available to students. historically, a university degree was the primary option, with polytechnics and other skills-based institutions seen as lesser alternatives. with new accredited learning organisations, and more diverse qualifications being credited as degrees, a world of study possibilities is now available to students.

and affordability has moved to the forefront of student thinking as the cost of a degree, and the university lifestyle, have skyrocketed. without the certainty of gaining employment, coupled with the change in long-term employment patterns, students are questioning the wisdom of taking on student debt. the financial burden of repayment and the impact on lifestyle, has made the roi debatable for many, although the new government's free year of study may readdress this equation.

maybe the single biggest change though is relevance. students don’t see a university education as necessary as it once was. with technology, all the knowledge in the world is at their finger-tips and being lectured on it seems pointless. their perception of success and career also differs from previous generations and today’s students don’t see a degree as the only way to succeed. entrepreneurial mindsets and innovation are the new career currency as students think more about how to change the past than how to apply it.

maybe the single biggest change though is relevance. students don’t see a university education as necessary as it once was

even employers are placing less value on university qualifications. a degree represented a ‘quality mark’ that helped weed out the good prospects. it now signifies an ability to learn knowledge rather than an ability to think and apply. employers are looking for skills that align with the dynamic reality they face. they seek employees ready to challenge convention, adapt, collaborate and work more flexibly.


to be fair, universities haven’t sat back and done nothing. they’ve felt the water heating around them and have looked to change, albeit slowly. local universities have successfully leveraged new zealand’s ‘safe, clean and livable’ reputation and our standing as having many of the world’s top 1% of learning institutions to attract international students. this has helped boost student numbers and helped plug the funding gap.  

reaching a wider and more diverse audience through technology has also seen most universities embrace online learning. massive open online courses (moocs) are now common across the sector, offered by new and traditional players. just last year, coventry university launched 50 online degrees which are equivalent to the courses they offer on campus. harvard launched their remote learning extension school in partnerships with a number of international universities. 

massive open online courses are now common across the sector

universities are also starting to promote the experience of going to university alongside the quality of the programme or the qualifications students can gain. university learning is more than academic, it's a life-changing rite of passage. this is an advantage on-line offerings struggle to compete with and a proposition that appeals to both international and domestic students. this focus on intangible ‘life value’ continues to attract students and has seen a positive impact on student numbers for many universities, otago university being the obvious example.

being ‘employment ready’ is probably the single biggest mind-shift that universities have made. students want this, so do employers, and tertiary institutions have responded. at one extreme this means incorporating technology like google glass, virtual reality and ai into the curriculum to help student learn the tools of their future jobs. at the other end, it means making the learning more hands-on, vocational based, by working with industry to create job-skills and real problem-solving experiences.

digital disruption

the disruption we’ve experienced over the 25 years since i was at university is nothing compared to the changes that will happen in the next 25. universities need to think about how they will continue to adapt and evolve as their role changes. and that’s difficult to do given the rate of change and the uncertainty of what the future holds.

we hear a lot about the acceleration of technology and universities will feel the full impact of this. automation and the rise of artificial intelligence will lead this transformation. a study completed by pwc called how ready is university to embrace the future? highlights the urgency of the situation – raising the possibility that the organisations many see as dinosaurs will end up extinct unless they evolve.

a university of oxford report on the future of employment argued that 50% of us jobs are at risk of technological advancement that will severely impact the need for them. already machines are running production lines, solving complex engineering challenges, providing legal advice and diagnosing medical conditions. universities taught people to do this work, but the future may mean teaching them to intelligent machines or, at the very least, teaching a small number of people how to programme and populate the machines.

this once dominant role of universities will be further depleted as the digital-era further pervades all aspects of life. but technology will also be an enabler for universities by removing the physical and geographic boundaries that once constrained them. those universities that embrace technology can reach anyone, anywhere in the world, not just those who live nearby or have the means and willingness to move to the same location as the university. 

those universities that embrace technology can reach anyone, anywhere in the world

this global reach of education requires universities to think and act more globally, trading on the quality of their programme offer. already we see universities offering course from other universities, creating the possibility of an institution becoming a gateway for students to create their own learning programme and qualifications, choosing from a variety of the best courses and schools offered anywhere in the world. 

a new model

beyond technology there are a number of social, demographic and environment changes expected to further impact the university offer. the traditional university model that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years will become radically different. the obvious move is a shift away from fixed time and process to a ‘fixed outcomes’ approach favoured by our information economy. this will drive new funding models, with ‘pay for performance’ structures already becoming even more prevalent, especially in research. 

institutions will need to become much more agile to appeal to the needs of a hugely diverse target audience wanting a personalised and inclusive experience. this may see many more new courses and support services offered and a more holistic approach to student life and well-being.

the distinction between physical and digital will become blurred as the educational experience incorporates both. students who have the money and access will be able to make active decisions about what, how and when they move between online and physical interaction with a learning institution. this requires a repositioning of the physical offer, delivering a higher-value experience, that incorporates a strong sense of place. 

the distinction between physical and digital will become blurred as the educational experience incorporates both

many large global organisations are already creating their own in-house universities, populating them with courses from some of the best schools in the world. the expectation is that this trend towards skills and vocation will continue, with employers asking universities to tailor specific programmes to them. this requires a significant focus shift, away from supply-side – what we teach – to demand-side outcomes - what students need to learn and be able to do.

another trend that’s already emerging is cross- and inter-disciplinary programmes. traditionally the different faculties within a university didn’t work well together. the new model, tailored to a wider audience who want tailored choices, will see programmes that span across faculties, allowing students to combine the things they are passionate about with the career-learning they require.

up for the challenge

with all these drivers of change, i see the university of the future as being global, 24/7, focused on learning rather than teaching, offering students a completely tailored and holistic experience as and where they want it – on-line, physical and a combination of both.

i love a challenge and the dynamic universities environment definitely offers this. like many organisations, victoria is having to revisit how they position themselves and how they speak to the changing make-up and needs of their audience. they’re ready to adapt and well-placed to do things differently. it’s an exciting time and i am excited to be able to make my small contribution to their thinking, their positioning and their communications.

universities, education, disruption, tertiary education, changes in tertiary education

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

Both sides now

20 Mar 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

The following article by Insight CEO, Steven Giannoulis, was published in the March 2018 issue of NZMarketing magazine. Client-agency partnerships are often love/hate relationships that leave both sides delighted...

both sides now steven giannoulis

the following article by insight ceo, steven giannoulis, was published in the march 2018 issue of nzmarketing magazine.

client-agency partnerships are often love/hate relationships that leave both sides delighted and frustrated all at the same time. insight creative’s ceo, steven giannoulis, shares his experience on both sides and dishes up advice on working better together.  

many agency suits, strategists and even creatives switch from agency to client side at some point in their career. maybe it’s the ability to focus on one thing and do it well or the opportunity to call the shots on what gets done. often, it’s just that greater sense of job stability and structure that corporate life appears to offer.

when i started out as a marketer, the glamour and pace of the agency world really appealed. i envied them having the freedom to come up with clever ideas, every day working on cool and exciting projects, with the latest technology and hanging out in uber-creative environments. i, on the other hand, spent my life writing memos and business cases, analysing research and data, coordinating internal meetings and sign-offs while wrangling suppliers, distributors and sales teams. from my dull grey office-cubicle, the grass definitely looked greener on the other side.

over the next 20 years, as i moved up the ranks (and age brackets), i found myself falling less and less in love with the agency world. having worked with dozens of agencies - across advertising, digital, design, brand and dm - i found myself constantly frustrated at their focus on the coolest, newest and shiniest things. i seemed to be the financier of their obsession to come up with the most out-there ideas, win as many awards as possible, be the first to try the latest technology and to out-do something someone else had done.

it’s not that the work wasn’t great. most of it was brilliant and ultimately very successful, but often it felt like i had to work really hard to make it ‘fit for purpose.’ mostly agencies showed me extremely clever execution ideas and left it up to me to determine whether the ideas would communicate the messages and deliver­ the results needed. if i felt it didn’t (but had potential to), i got actively involved in dictating design and copy changes. this was often a battle of wills, as they focused on preserving the creative idea while i fought to improve roi. no doubt they were just as frustrated with me as i was with them.

"this was often a battle of wills, as they focused on preserving the creative idea while i fought to improve roi"

ironically, though many clients covet agency life, few make the switch across. it’s more common the other way.

in 2011, i had the opportunity to swap my cmo role for life as a strategist in a branding and design agency. i’ve always been a strategic marketer and i liked the idea of being able to work across multiple clients and industries to solve diverse business and communication problems. i was determined to use my own experiences with agencies to drive a client-led approach to delivering effective work.

over seven years, i’ve learnt that there is a lot of grind behind the creative exterior that agencies let clients see. i work just as hard now as i did when i was on the corporate side and (surprise, surprise) the bulk of my work is neither exciting nor glamorous. i’m always blown away at how passionate creatives are about producing amazing work. and they are way more strategic than we give them credit for. they prefer to let the work speak for itself rather than attempt to articulate the logic they followed.

and many clients have unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved, by when, and at what budget. in hindsight, i know i did. often this comes about because account management teams fall over themselves to deliver, constantly raising the expectation that clients have. and clients often expect agencies to just know stuff about their industry, their business or their other marketing activities but they don’t take the time to tell us about it.

“there will always be a tension between clients and agencies and in many ways this is healthy, driving each of us to do more”

there will always be a tension between clients and agencies and in many ways this is healthy, driving each of us to do more. we may think differently and speak a different language but we need what each of us brings to the relationships. understanding just what each party brings – and respecting it – can build a trust that creates powerful work. like the words of a good joni mitchell song, it always comes down to good communications, a little compromise, a whole lot of empathy and a shared vision of what you can do together. 

once you’ve found it, hold onto it so both businesses can prosper.


steven’s advice to agencies on working better with clients

  • take the time to learn the client’s business and their key challenges, opportunities and their strategy. these are the ‘why’ behind every brief and if you can deliver on these clients will always love you for it.
  • invest in training your people on explaining their thinking using the client’s language. give them skills and tools to connect creative ideas with how these will lead to the desired business outcomes clients are paying for.
  • push clients to think beyond what they know. they’ve done things that have worked and often look for you to do the tried and tested. show them why doing something different can deliver something better. 

steven’s advice to clients on working better with agencies.

  • brief in the problem or opportunity, not just the solution you think is needed. this allows the agency to think about all the best possible solutions to achieve the results.
  • invest in the relationship. take time to ensure your agency knows your business, your audiences, your channels, what’s important to you and what you expect from them. let them know about the strategies and bigger picture their works fits into.
  • there’s no point having a dog and barking yourself. trust the experts to do their job but always challenge them to come up with more creative and innovative ideas than you could have come up yourselves. 

Get personal or don’t bother

19 Mar 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

I recently got a ‘Dear Valued Client’ letter from a supplier offering me a discount for the next time I used their services. It’s a supplier we work with lots and have done for a long time. I suspect they’d be...

get personal or don’t bother steven giannoulis

i recently got a ‘dear valued client’ letter from a supplier offering me a discount for the next time i used their services. it’s a supplier we work with lots and have done for a long time. i suspect they’d be horrified to know that their letter was the catalyst that finally led us to look elsewhere.


i’m sure they had good intentions – after all they were trying to reward my loyalty by giving me a discount – but little did they realise that this communication reinforced my niggling feeling that they really didn’t give a shit about me or what i wanted.

the problem started at the top of the letter when they didn’t even bother to use my name. the dear valued client introduction suggested this was a mass-mailing to all their clients, and i was ‘important’ enough to be a line in their spreadsheet. this did nothing to make me feel known, let alone valued.

the truth is they know who i am - they used my name on the address sticker – so how much effort would it have taken to address the letter dear steven?  it’s just an extra field in their mail merge that could have set the communication off in the right way.

secondly, the letter gave me no indication that they understood the nature of our relationship. they talked about how long they’d been offering their services and proceeded to list them all. we use some of these services but most of the stuff on their list had nothing to do with us. i would have liked to see something that acknowledged that we’d been working together for x years and that they partnered us with services x, y and z.

and finally, the simple percentage discount offer failed to acknowledge what was important to me in working with them. they might as well have offered a free set of steak-knives in terms of relevancy for our relationship.

here’s how i think this should have gone. first, i would have chosen a different communication medium. we have a relationship manager and i think something that is designed to make me feel personally valued should have come from them, face-to-face or at the very least by phone. this would also avoid the generic message issue, as the relationship manager can talk about specific things that demonstrates how they value our relationship.

for a while i’ve been talking to this company about a couple of things that were bugging me. they could have easily rewarded me by addressing just one of these things. now that would have told me that they’d listened and understood me (and probably cost them less than the discount).

technology has made communicating much easier but the fundamentals of thinking about your audience and what you want them to think, feel and do hasn’t. relationships are always personal so if you want to tell me i’m valued, show me and make me feel it, otherwise don’t bother.

marketing communication, personalisation, reward loyalty

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

When was the last time you updated your website content?

18 Jan 2018 by Laura Lock

Your website’s live – you worked so well to get all the copy and images looking their best. Everyone’s happy and the champagne is swinging. Fast forward six months. Everyone’s still happy but, the website...

when was the last time you updated your website content? laura lock

your website’s live – you worked so well to get all the copy and images looking their best. everyone’s happy and the champagne is swinging.

fast forward six months. everyone’s still happy but, the website is looking a little tired and the news section hasn’t been updated since it went live. sound familiar? or worse… maybe swap out six months with sixteen months?

once a website goes live, it’s just the beginning. 

i’m sure we’ve all heard that before, so why do we ignore it? time. money. forgot to do it. know-how. motivation. too busy. this list sounds like the reasons why i don’t wash my car! in the end, it comes down to procrastination because there are ‘better’ or more demanding things to get done.

what does this mean for your website? well let’s look at some different scenarios from a client perspective…


the client who never updates/

the website is looking a little bit tired. that one seasonal image is now looking super out of place… but hey! if it was left for another quarter it could be relevant again!

search engines are indifferent to the site. they are ranking the website, but it’s slowly moving down the list because competitor websites have more recent content.

the client is probably happy, thinking that everything is ticking along nicely and that now that the website project is completed they’re ‘done’!


the client who updates weekly/

the website is looking good! a fresh face every week, or new articles in the news section every other day.

this client is signaling to their customers that they are active, relevant, available. newer content is perceived as more trustworthy.

search engines are happy there is new content! new content is improving the website’s ranking. tip: keep in mind that search engines like to have longer and quality posts to index.


updating websites has huge benefits, not only for you, our clients, but for search engine optimisation too.

some of you might be saying “we update our content all the time…”

well done! high five! keep it up, and don’t stop at the website – update your social media too!

can you update more than what you are doing at the moment? remember, constantly and consistently align your content with your website and business strategies to maintain your marketing effectiveness, to stay relevant, topical, fresh, and to keep the search engines constantly ranking you highly.

digital, website, seo, marketing

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.



Writing for Awareness

18 Dec 2017 by Laura Lock

Do you know what type of content our clients should be creating when they’re wanting to: Educate  customers about their new strategic direction for this year? What about  inspiring  their...

writing for awareness laura lock

do you know what type of content our clients should be creating when they’re wanting to:

educate customers about their new strategic direction for this year?

what about inspiring their customers to engage with their product more? 

or convincing their customers that they should lease that new property… 

or perhaps our client’s goal is to entertain their customers

what sort of content should we help them create?

+ + + + + + +

i have a super cool infographic to share with you that will help you answer all of the questions above – the content marketing matrix.

what is it? it’s a content creators dream. it’s a tool that suggests the type of content clients (and therefore us, #clientfirst) should be thinking about creating, depending on what they’re wanting to achieve. 


the content marketing matrix


source: smart insights

as you can see there are four quadrants that categories are split into (entertain, inspire, educate and convince) and along the outside are the overarching type of content you’ll be creating (rational, emotional, awareness, purchase). inside the quadrants are the recommended best type of content to create!

let’s give this some perspective, examples are our friend!


buying a bbq.

last weekend (after years of wanting one) my husband and i bought our first bbq. pretty exciting, right? a lot of thought went into the purchase as we wanted one that would last, but didn’t want to spend money unnecessarily.

i’m sure you can appreciate that if you were in the market to buy a new bbq, you’d want to shop around. compare features, read reviews, compare prices, perhaps even watch videos about how to use them.

if you’re shopping for a bbq then the goal of the marketer/content creator is to convince and inspire you to purchase one. using the matrix above the best types of content you should have are: celebrity endorsements, ratings/reviews, checklists, product feature documents and price lists.

do you agree?


what about an annual report?

the primary goal of an annual report is to tell the corporate story and educate and inform shareholders of the companies activities and financial performance throughout the previous year and propose new goals for the year ahead. shareholders are wanting to be reassured that their money is being spent well, and be convinced to continue to invest in the company. some of the content created is very rational and analytical – very different from buying a bbq - while the storytelling components are very much about painting a bigger picture: inspiring and convincing.

do you agree?

we use these to support our strategy and design to deliver what the client is wanting to achieve.

+ + + + + + +

there has been a huge amount of research poured into this way of thinking – it’s fascinating. you probably looked at the sheet above and thought “well yeah, that’s just common sense” – exactly – it’s all about knowing and creating the right kind of content for our customers, and their customers.


ps. we bought a weber bbq

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.

A day in the life of your truly amazing Account Director

14 Dec 2017 by Monique Peters

I want to share my thoughts about the wonderful world of Account Management. I will admit it has taken me some time to work out what to write, mainly because there are so many parts to our roles in the Account/Project...

a day in the life of your truly amazing account director monique peters

i want to share my thoughts about the wonderful world of account management. i will admit it has taken me some time to work out what to write, mainly because there are so many parts to our roles in the account/project management team. where to start?

i decided to simply relate what a typical day is like for us. our role varies so much depending on the day.

there are days when we have our heads in figures – be it creating estimates, planning projects in detail, tracking project budgets or invoicing. working out how we can deliver the project within the set budget and ensuring the client is getting the best value. we work with the strategy, design, digital and studio teams to ensure the approach is correct and they have enough time to complete the job. we work with suppliers – printers, photographers, production houses etc., negotiating where needed. these days a good calculator is required!

there are days when we are fully in client-focus mode – ensuring they are getting everything they need, multiple phone calls and meetings covering off different elements of the project, talking through the approach, the strategy, why a particular direction has been chosen, talking through any concerns. working out how we can fit in 3 extra pages of copy or how some new imagery can work. we ensure that they are happy and comfortable every step of the way.


"we are the voice of our client in the studio and the face of the agency with the client."



timelines. enough said – these are normally done, redone and then changed at least 3-4 times through a big project. and that's a time-consuming job requiring a lot of juggling to make sure the final deadline can still be met.

there are days when we are trying to solve the weirdest requests – cubes, oar shaped trophies, a sudden request for 200 t-shirts by the following monday. or we are out and about at shoots – watching weeks of planning come to fruition in a studio or office.

most days we are actually doing all of the above. we do a lot of juggling and balancing in our roles – working to ensure people are happy both internally and externally. we are the voice of our client in the studio and the face of the agency with the client. the variety of projects we are exposed to makes it exciting and keeps it interesting with no two days being the same - and often not panning out the way envisaged at the beginning of the day!

The Real Client Treatment

06 Nov 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

Talking to a (hopefully soon to be) client last week about growing staff advocacy for their client service experience, got me thinking about how well we apply our own service ethos to ourselves. This prospective...

the real client treatment steven giannoulis

talking to a (hopefully soon to be) client last week about growing staff advocacy for their client service experience, got me thinking about how well we apply our own service ethos to ourselves.

this prospective client works at one of the big banks and the discussion was about how to give staff a first-hand appreciation of the customer experience. it’s a wonderful idea and it aligns nicely with my desire for us to all see ourselves as our customers do.

client-first is one of our values. we track client satisfaction, monitor net promoter scores and actively look to engage clients in discussions about what we can we do better. these are all good actions and collectively they’ve contributed to making us exponentially more client-centric than we have ever been.

but it seems we still struggle to recognise the internal client as a real client. this manifests itself in numerous ways: from not meeting internal deadlines, not making time to address key internal matters, being late to internal meetings with no ‘heads-up’, or postponing internal meetings last minute because “i’m just too busy.” it shows in the priority given to new business proposals, marketing activities or other similar jobs, which are essential to our survival, but are the first to be put aside when external client work comes in.

mostly i see it in our business plan activities whose importance is somehow always trumped by the ‘urgent.’ it’s this work that will make the biggest difference to us and our clients but doing this work is never as high priority as even the smallest client job.

we wouldn’t dream of saying to a client “sorry, we didn’t do your job because work came in from a more important client.” effectively, that’s what we do every time we don’t deliver on our internal timeframes and promises. if we were our own client, we’d probably sack ourselves!

am i suggesting that we need to give our work priority over paying client work? yeah, maybe. mostly i’m saying that we can’t use clients as the excuse for not doing what we said we would. we must treat ourselves like a real client and manage expectations, agree realistic timeframes, communicate proactively and do everything we can to deliver what we said we would. and it starts by giving external clients realistic timeframes for delivering their work based on our full workload. never assume that we will just drop the internal work.

reality is, things happen and we need to reprioritise. and sometimes we just can’t find a way to do what we promised to do. talk to the client (internal or external) before the due date and agree a new timeframe and deliverables. most clients will be reasonable about it, if they can. and if the scope can’t change then at least they have the option to find alternative ways to achieve what they need. chances are they’ve also made promises and this allows them to manage any expectations they’ve created.

and as we all know, good service experiences are all about expectations being exceeded.

client satisfaction, internal clients

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

Storytelling for the Charities sector

03 Oct 2017 by Mike Tisdall

The charity sector in New Zealand is facing new reporting standards with the gradual adoption of Statement of Service Performance (SSP) in addition to the traditional financial reporting. RSM New Zealand, an...

storytelling for the charities sector mike tisdall

the charity sector in new zealand is facing new reporting standards with the gradual adoption of statement of service performance (ssp) in addition to the traditional financial reporting.

rsm new zealand, an accounting and audit firm with a leadership position in the not-for-profit sector, held a seminar in mid-september to coach management in the skills needed to meet the new requirements, report beyond financials, and optimise the telling of their story.  

insight’s founder and strategist, mike tisdall, outlined some key tools to help these organisations structure their thinking, understand their audiences, plan perception shifts, and simplify and clarify their key messaging. using mainly corporate best practice examples, mike was able to show the audience how storytelling can reach out to both hearts and minds by capturing the soul of the organisation, painting the vision and supporting the big picture with facts and data to indicate progress towards the goals.

examples from the corporate world included mercury, vector, sanford, auckland airport and ravensdown. but insight has also been applying these storytelling principles to selected nfps for a number of years, and shared a series of award winning reports for stand children’s services (previously children’s health camps) to show how the principles can easily make the transition from corporates to charities.

mike tisdall, storytelling, reporting, not-for-profits, charities sector, statements of service performance

The Masters of success

19 Sep 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

I’ve been CEO of Insight Creative for nearly three years now. It’s more than a job I love. It’s an all-consuming passion that drives me to want to do more and to do it better. I give it everything and it gives...

the masters of success steven giannoulis

i’ve been ceo of insight creative for nearly three years now. it’s more than a job i love. it’s an all-consuming passion that drives me to want to do more and to do it better. i give it everything and it gives me a whole lot back. there’s nothing i’d change about it. well almost nothing. i’d really like to redefine success so that i don’t always feel like i’m failing.  

running a creative agency is an interesting business challenge. if we were a corporate then life might be easier when it comes to expected outcomes. i’ve been there and i know how it works. the shareholders (often the parent company) have an expected return number in mind. decision-making then becomes very single-minded, focused on delivering that number each year. you do and there are rewards. you don’t and there are consequences. if roi was the only outcome i needed to achieve with insight then i know exactly how i’d go about it. but this is just one expected outcome. and anyway, i don’t want to work for a company focused only on money – been there, done that, not again.

what really drives people to own and work in a design agency is creativity. we want to deliver clever ideas and creative concepts flawlessly executed. stuff that makes us proud and makes people notice and admire us. project plans, timesheets and processes, all aimed at managing the dollars, don’t exactly endear themselves to creative outcomes. so immediately you’ve got the challenge of balancing the needs of two masters.

at our place, we’ve got a third master. the fulfillment of our people. insight is a family business, owned by the people who work here. we’re not workers, resources, human capital or any other such crude term, designed to remind us that we can easily be swapped out for another fte. we are individuals, all with our own strengths, challenges and aspirations. we see work as an outlet for expression, growth and belonging. our staff engagement score, of close to 90%, says we are doing this well but this comes at the cost of other outcomes.

he with many masters serves none at all. it’s either a chinese proverb or some shit, disguised as wisdom, i just made up. regardless, it’s exactly how i feel. constantly trying to deliver the money, the creativity and the people outcomes seems to be an exercise in endless compromise. at best, we make a couple of masters happy. at worst, we disappoint all three. i’m quickly learning that the trick is to lower everyone’s expectations (including my own) but that’s not how i’m naturally wired. i prefer big challenges, delivering great results even when you fall short of the stated goal.

absurdly, i cope with the schizophrenia of three masters by focusing on a fourth, our clients. my thinking is that if we do what’s right by the client then everything else will look after itself. happy clients will give us more and better work and that will take care of the money, creativity and the opportunities to grow as individuals.

business goals, business plan

5 Secret Sauce ingredients for an authentic annual report

01 Sep 2017 by Mike Tisdall

Telling your story powerfully is central to brand strategy, and when Mercury rebranded last year, their annual report was one of the first vehicles off the rank. Now winning the accolade of ‘Best International Annual...

5 secret sauce ingredients for an authentic annual report mike tisdall

telling your story powerfully is central to brand strategy, and when mercury rebranded last year, their annual report was one of the first vehicles off the rank. now winning the accolade of ‘best international annual report’ in 2017’s global arc awards, the report reinforces our assertion that annual reports are one of a company’s most powerful brand positioning assets.

it is now the key lens we look through when discussing investor communications with clients - because the annual report has become so much more than an investor communication. one ceo briefed me last reporting season that he wanted his annual report to be his new 'international calling card' because he had such a new and different story to tell. we delivered that in august.

when this 'corporate repositioning' trickle trend started to turn into a rapidly flowing river lat year, i asked myself whether the annual report was the right vehicle for this task - wondering whether a corporate profile and website upgrade wasn't the more appropriate approach. and then i realised that the annual report is being seen as the 'ultimate corporate profile' - because it has the gravitas, the stamp of corporate authority, signed by the board itself to send the strongest possible signal that this is who we are.

in august we launched two other reports with perception-shifting goals. the first was for vector - a report that signficantly changes the game in terms of what business they're in. and the second was ravensdown's first integrated annual report - taking a highly authentic approach by lifting the shrouds and exposing their soul. another report that will shift people's perceptions of the company.

we first saw the power of this 'brand soul' expression in the first integrated report we produced for sanford in 2014. the respect for sanford accelerated rapidly over the weeks and months following publication. the perception needle shifted demonstrably and people looked once again at the company and saw it with fresh eyes that matched its fresh leadership. this report too went on to win many awards, locally and internationally.

so what's the secret sauce here that has made these reports really 'work' for the companies behind them?

  • first, it's leadership. like all such things, it starts right at the top.
  • second, it's authenticity. these companies don't try to pull any wool. they embrace the notions of corporate citizenship, shared value creation and 'doing the right thing' and have embedded these values deepy within their company cultures. it ain't ever lip service. it's genuine behaviours, their core belief systems, the way they naturally think. and more and more, it's about transparency - believing that honesty and openness will win out over any concerns about feeding strategies to competitors. they've come to realise that a competitor might be able to copy a strategy, but they can't copy the 'package' of authenticity that gives it true differentiation. the companies are simply organised this way, from the top down. and they hire the right people who think incredibly responsibly. at the end of the day, it's about 'trust'.
  • third, the companies' strategies and visions are exceptionally well conceived and thoroughly thought through. they're elegant in their cohesion, with no hint of hedging bets, commercial dilution or dissonance.
  • fourth, the visions, values and implementation strategies have utter clarity and are very simply articulated - internally (critically important) as well as externally.
  • fifth, they work with us to clarify and amplify that articulation and adopt powerful storytelling techniques - both visual and voice.

we've shared our stories about vector, ravensdown and this year's mercury reports elsewhere on this website, but by way of explaining the above theories in practice, here's a little background about how we went about last year's mercury report that has just been judged last year's best international annual report by arc. 

the 2016 annual report was the first major publication following their rebrand from mighty river power, expressing everything the new brand stands for. it set the tone for how they wanted to be perceived from that day forward.

because the brand shift from mighty river power to mercury was so visually striking, our challenge was to not spook investors about the change but to clearly show continuity while boldly illustrating everything had changed under the new brand. no easy ask.

we made the new brand the hero, unfolding the brand story over the opening three spreads. showcasing the visual identity and positioning the brand as a new expression of their ongoing customer-led business strategy was key. 

a new strategy spread and business model diagram were introduced to tell the continuing investor story in a fresh way, more aligned with a more dynamic retail-led brand. magazine style case studies were used to showcase the brand story in action, highlighting how the core aspects of the brand manifest themselves every day in 'what matter most.' 

see our full case study in our work section

arc awards, best international annual report 2017, mercury 2016 annual report, insight creative

Awards. Who cares?

29 Aug 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

Having recently announced a whole string of national and international awards for our work, it’s strange to be sitting here wondering, who really cares? Obviously, we do. The question is, who else cares and why? ...

awards. who cares? steven giannoulis

having recently announced a whole string of national and international awards for our work, it’s strange to be sitting here wondering, who really cares? obviously, we do. the question is, who else cares and why?

our design team cares about awards. for them, they represent recognition from their peers: people they admire, aspire to be like and whose work they covet. it’s recognition of a designer’s creativity and therefore, it’s a source of both self-satisfaction and motivation.

for the wider team, awards are about meaning. they’ve worked hard to manage a project to time and on budget, to lay out all the various elements and to produce the different components. award recognition says it was worth it and that their hard work contributed to something that mattered.

as a business leader and a strategist, awards are a measure of quality and effectiveness. they say we are doing something right in the way that we run the business, the people we hire and the way we structure our processes to deliver great ideas, executed beautifully. effectiveness awards, in particular, acknowledge that we are doing the right thing by our clients, delivering results that justify their investment.

we often think about awards in terms of reputation. last year we undertook research with prospective clients and it was clear that a ‘pool room’ of awards didn’t drive them to pick an agency. i think about my own experiences on the client side, selecting new agencies. awards were never a consideration. they came more into play after deciding, providing a post-decision reinforcement that i had made the right choice.

but clients sure love it when you win awards with their work. it reinforces their individual self-worth as marketers and communicators, telling them they are doing a good job. and it gives them a tool to go back to the accountants and other peers who struggle to see the full value they deliver to their business. and of course, it reminds them they are working with the right agency partner.

our industry really cares. awards represent best practice and a celebration of what we collectively contribute to our economy. i am often frustrated (and vocal) about how creative awards are handed out. we celebrate the latest, the weirdest and the boldest, often ignoring a work’s obvious failure to communicate effectively or to deliver the results the client commissioned it for.

despite all this gusto, i still get an immense sense of pride for me, our team and our clients, when we win an award. and it’s this pride that makes us all care about winning awards.


awards, insight creative, best awards, arc awards

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

The Value of Reporting Bad News

06 Jul 2017 by Mike Tisdall

Guest Columnist: Craig Fisher of RSM Hayes Audit   "Funders want to see failure" This may initially seem like a strange statement from people who on behalf of their organisations have invested considerable...

the value of reporting bad news mike tisdall
guest columnist: craig fisher of rsm hayes audit


"funders want to see failure"

this may initially seem like a strange statement from people who on behalf of their organisations have invested considerable sums of money with an express desire to achieve successful outcomes. and even more so when you learn and appreciate the very detailed assessment and due diligence processes that these particular funders undertake before making any decision to fund a charitable initiative.

hence the statement appeared worthy of pondering and some unpicking. the rationale behind my enlightened funder friends' statement is that theyare realists. by virtue of being human and part of the world we all get to "enjoy" a range of experiences every day. any experience is intrinsically valuable, and especially negative ones. but only as long as one is aware of it, and then able to objectively analyse it to seek to understand what happened and why.  and then most importantly; to take some remedial, corrective, or different action in the future as a result.



we learn more from our mistakes than our successes

this is a life lesson well worth learning. we would all like a life where everything progressed smoothly and to plan. but sadly that is just not realistic. (or at least not in the world i and all the organisations i deal with live in!). mistakes or failures can often be painful, soul destroying experiences. as with most painful things it is generally human nature to do our utmost to avoid them. and this includes trying to not even think about them to avoid re-living the pain mentally. but such avoidance (and let's be honest; some of us have got very good through years of practice and experience at avoiding confronting painful things) is actually a lost opportunity. 

our failures, mistakes and other challenges in life when things haven't gone to plan are actually a gift. if they haven't killed us and our organisations, then they represent a fantastic opportunity for learning. 

modern start-ups and software development also provide useful learning with the concept of "fast failure". recognition that you are likely to need to try lots of different things before you succeed. hence, it is best you do this as quickly and inexpensively as possible. 

how does all this apply to organisational reporting?

i've also been thinking about the value of reporting bad news in the context of the requirement for service performance reporting. this new requirement for registered charities in new zealand is already impacting tier 3 & 4 charities and will be impacting tier 1 & 2 in the not too distant future. the service performance reporting essentially requires them to report what they set out to achieve, and what they actually achieved. 

when you consider that this reporting is intended to, and i believe will, become a key communication vehicle to stakeholders, there is a natural tendency to want to present one's organisation and its experiences in the best possible light. after all, who doesn’t like to get dressed up when they go out in public.

but have you ever read what you were expecting to be an informational report, whether it be from a corporate or a charitable organisation, that just read like a marketing or promotional tool? i'm sure you have and i am equally sure that your reaction to it was fairly similar to most people - our natural scepticism tends to kick in, and we often quickly discount the truth, or the value of the information. 

for this reason one of the qualitative characteristic requirements for service performance reporting is "faithful representation".  this is attained when information is complete, neutral, and free from material error. neutrality is the absence of bias. hence for service performance information to be neutral it needs to report on both favourable and unfavourable aspects of the entity's service performance in an unbiased manner. 

so back to my enlightened funder friends; they are realists and hence they want to see the real story. they will not "mark organisations down" just because they show some bad news as well as the good - as long as it is clear that the organisation has got value from their negative lesson and hopefully can improve their future experiences as a result. 

so don't be afraid of bad news. there is nothing wrong with it as long as it can be explained and contextualised, and the organisation can show what it has learned and hopefully will do differently as a result in future. 

interesting resources

if you want to explore this topic further, the following link from a coffee chat with a be accessible team member and founding member of the fail club may assist you in further peeling the onion of failure: 


learn more about craig fisher here.
transparency, reputation, trust building, reporting, bad news

More international awards

22 Jun 2017 by Mike Tisdall

At the Australasian Reporting Awards held in Melbourne on 21 June, two of Insight's clients were recognised for their successes. Sanford The  2016 Sanford Annual Report  won the Integrated Reporting...

more international awards mike tisdall

at the australasian reporting awards held in melbourne on 21 june, two of insight's clients were recognised for their successes.


the 2016 sanford annual report won the integrated reporting category and a gold award. it was also a finalist for both the sustainability reporting award, and the supreme report of the year.

here are a few of the judges’ comments:

“an excellent, well rounded application of the integrated reporting framework, with a good balance of narrative, tables, graphs and stories making the content reader friendly.” integrated report award

“for such a large complex organisation organisation, this report presents a picture of simplicity.  the coverage of areas of material interest to sanford stakeholders is exemplary.” gold award


nz super fund

the 2016 nz superannuation fund annual report won a gold award and the public sector governance category. the supporting annual review microsite was also a finalist in the online reporting category. this repeats their success at the 2016 awards.

ara, awards, annual report, integrated report,

Digital Strategy – old magic, new tricks

19 Jun 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

I'm currently documenting my 'methodology' for creating sound digital strategy, and what strikes me is that there’s no ‘special digital strategy sauce’ that makes me more special, more current and more in the...

digital strategy – old magic, new tricks steven giannoulis

i'm currently documenting my 'methodology' for creating sound digital strategy, and what strikes me is that there’s no ‘special digital strategy sauce’ that makes me more special, more current and more in the know than non-digital strategists. i’d like to position what i do in digital projects as a superpower, a dark art or a magical calling bestowed on us chosen few. reality is, i’m doing the same sh*% that has underpinned good marketing strategy since eve promoted her ‘apple’ to adam.

as more things change –  technology advances, consumer expectations sky-rocket and sources of information explode – the fundamentals that make a good marketing and communication strategy remain even more relevant. it’s not to say there aren’t some things that apply specifically to digital, but we can say the same about every communication medium.

when developing a strategy for a digital project like a website, we must carefully balance the needs of the client and the user. it’s easy when they perfectly align but, frankly, that just never happens.

let’s start with the client. a digital project always starts with understanding what we are doing and why. what’s the business objective? a good strategist gets to the heart of a brief – the why – rather than just focusing on just capturing the what and how. in my experience, the why will always come down to delivering revenue or cost-savings, enhancing reputation, driving efficiency or quality and/or managing risk. the quicker you can determine which of these is the primary driver, the quicker you can work out what success looks like and how to deliver it.

then we move to the communication strategy. where does the project sit in the client’s wider communication programme? how does it integrate with other activities, offline and online? these days a website can be both the fulfilment piece at the end of a promotional chain and/or the gateway to starting two-way dialogue with customers via social media. understanding where it sits in the wider sales or engagement process influences how we design and structure a site and its content. and of course, there’s the wider industry and competitive context your online presence co-exists in.

and then there’s our target audiences. who are they? why do they come to the site? what do they want to know, do and feel?  what content is important and why? what engages them and what turns them off?  when do they come? not just time of day but where in the decision-cycle? where do they come from and how do they get here – desktop, tablet, phone or cross-device? lots of questions, many which clients can answer, some we understand with research and others we observe through analytics and testing.

digital strategy is an exercise in balancing the needs of clients and audiences.

there’s lots of talk about good ux, and you can’t deny its importance, but a good user experience won’t necessarily drive the outcomes the client needs.

i may be the odd-one out here but i always start with the client need first. after all, they’ll judge our success (and they’re the ones paying!) i develop a small number of high-level approaches that i think will deliver the result the client needs. these usually come from a combination of experience, research and on-going reading and learning. i run these through a top-down checklist in my head. how would this strategy manifest itself in site architecture, navigation, content, story-telling, interaction, experience, integration, seo, tracking, sign-up/fulfilment, etc? talking myself through these answers eliminates some options and ensures the remaining ones are better considered.

the final step is to apply a bottom-up client-led review of the remaining strategies. audience by audience. will this strategy drive this audience to the site? will it give them what they need in a way that will engage them? what’s the primary user journey? what would make them dive deeper into the site, stay longer or explore more pages? will it drive them to buy, call, email, subscribe, like, comment, watch, or whatever other action we need them to take?

most strategies fail in execution which is why i see clarity as the single most important aspect of a good strategy, digital or otherwise. the more-single-minded the strategy is the easier it is for clients to understand it and for designers, developers, content creators and others to work out how to best apply their expertise to implement it effectively.

so, there it is, a glimpse behind the digital strategy curtain. disappointed that it’s not exactly magic and more science than a dark art? and as mysterious as i try to make it, i’m just an old dog doing the same old tricks, in a new medium, that strategic marketers have done forever.

digital, strategy. user experience, effectiveness

Airways appoints Insight Creative as their design agency

12 Jun 2017 by Mike Tisdall

We're excited to have been appointed as Airways Corporation's design & digital agency after a rigorous competitive pitch. Airways controls all domestic and international air traffic across 30 million square...

airways appoints insight creative as their design agency mike tisdall

we're excited to have been appointed as airways corporation's design & digital agency after a rigorous competitive pitch.

airways controls all domestic and international air traffic across 30 million square kilometres of airspace in new zealand and over the pacific, handling over 1 million air traffic movements a year.

but what's a little less known in nz is that they are renowned globally for leading innovation and development in the aviation sector, with 780 staff delivering air navigation and air traffic management consultancy and training services in over 65 countries!

it's going to be a fascinating and fun journey . . .

airways, insight creative

The Reign of Content

12 Jun 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

The continued reign of content online is undisputed. It remains central to any online patronage. It motivates engagement, drives purchases and creates connections between individuals and brands. Think about it. When...

the reign of content jeremy sweetman

the continued reign of content online is undisputed. it remains central to any online patronage. it motivates engagement, drives purchases and creates connections between individuals and brands. think about it. when was the last time you visited a site because they used a certain cms or technical infrastructure? i’m guessing, never! although if you’re more technically inclined <cough>geek</cough> like me, maybe you do on occasion. 

arguably, sites are visited because of an article, or video, an animation, a meme, or a blog… etc. etc. etc. don’t get me wrong, the platform or the container is important. just not important to the people visiting your site.

clearly, content matters! this is not a new concept by any stretch. not even one i can lay claim too. in 1996, bill gates coined the phrase ‘content is king’. he predicted that the internet would eventually make money via content, as it does in broadcasting. fast forward 20+ years, and many notable individuals have gone on to endorse bill’s sentiment. arguably, his predictions not only hold true today but are central to developing rich user engagements and loyalty.

"good content allows us to tell the clearest stories."

good content allows us to tell the clearest stories. we use video to make the complex simple. we deliver interactions that engage and surprise. we contextualise to add meaning. and we wrap it in brand to create a connection and deliver an experience.

the digital landscape continues to change – with new technologies, frameworks, tools and methodologies to enable us to maximise how we engage with our users. through this transformation, the value of content has been a constant, and with new tools & technologies, we’re able to create (and deliver) even better content than ever before.

however, given this transformation, we must now balance a new set of challenges. challenges like understanding how people navigate, search, scan and engage with content. these components must then be reflected against supported devices (i.e. mobile vs desktop), with consideration placed on the content pace & structure - potentially offering things like a tiered content structure to allow users to drill deeper – where relevant/interested.

"users visit sites because content has meaning. but they can also leave, due to lack of it."

by wielding these new tools, we can create more meaningful and engaging online experiences. we can contextualise content based on location, device and/or previous user engagement. we create intimacy by providing relevance and conversation. we use functionality to amplify (the content) – because we understand that people don’t visit our sites because we’re using wordpress or drupal or {insert cms here}. they visit because our content has meaning. and (sometimes) they leave, due to lack of it. content truly is still king.

so, if content is king, how do you encourage engagement, drive purchases and create connections with both your users and brand? how do you deliver a memorable experience?

website, content

Designing client agencies

23 May 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

As a senior corporate marketer I worked with numerous design and advertising agencies before moving to the agency dark-side. I remember sitting through a number of creative pitches wondering “how will this...

designing client agencies steven giannoulis

as a senior corporate marketer i worked with numerous design and advertising agencies before moving to the agency dark-side. i remember sitting through a number of creative pitches wondering “how will this actually drive the sales i need?” often it was a case that it would, but the agency just needed to get better at presenting it to me in terms that met our business objectives. the sooner agencies learn to speak the language of business, the sooner they’ll be seen as professional partners and not just suppliers.

in many cases, the agency hadn’t thought beyond the self-perceived brilliance of their big creative idea to what me, or my audiences, actually needed. when i took on the ceo role at insight, i was keen to use this experience to make us a client-led, rather than design-led, agency.

at first it seems a radical step for a design agency to not drive the business from their core expertise. reality is that most big industries have already moved from production-led to customer-led. changing customer expectations and technology have necessitated this. the design industry, as a professional services provider, has been slow to realise the need to change.

we are into the third year of our client-first programme and while we have come a long way we still have further to go to be fully transformed. a philosophical shake-up of this proportion takes time.

the first year was about the basics. for example, making sure we’re asking the right questions at the briefing stage and really hearing, and understanding, what clients want and why. we redesigned our processes to drive our design thinking from tangible audience insights and to put steps in place to check the effectiveness of the work along the way.

we also gave all our client facing teams training on how to listen and read clients, how to get answers to the key questions and also how to sell in ideas (and not just designs) in ways that engage the client need.

in year two we ran ‘what clients want’ sessions where we invited clients to talk to our teams directly about the expectations and frustrations they have with agencies, how they measure value and the challenges they face getting things accomplished within their business. staff really engaged with this and enjoyed hearing it first-hand.

we also ran basic marketing strategy sessions for staff explaining the business drivers behind client briefs - such as growth, efficiency and risk management – and how each of these influence the channels, messages and design approaches we select.

you can’t be client focused if you don’t know what clients need, want or think. over the last two years we’ve run an annual client satisfaction monitor to track how well we are meeting client needs but also how the initiatives we are implementing are changing their perceptions. we supplement this with in-depth qualitative interviews to understand the why behind the monitor results and to get ourselves across the business challenges our clients face.

the year ahead has a strong client intimacy theme to it, designed to build a deep understanding of each client and the ways we can better deliver value to them. we’ll use this understanding to proactively address the problems and opportunities they face with tailored thinking and solutions. 

we’ve started and, not surprisingly, we’re finding clients are very receptive to their agency proactively designing solutions that help them achieve their goals.  

design agency, client-led

The engagement game

19 Apr 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

We regularly work with clients on internal communications projects, helping them engage their staff, drive behaviour and performance, embed change and continuous improvement programmes and align their internal...

the engagement game steven giannoulis

we regularly work with clients on internal communications projects, helping them engage their staff, drive behaviour and performance, embed change and continuous improvement programmes and align their internal and external brands. as a business, we face the same challenges our clients ask for our help with. we too work hard to engage a diverse group of talented individuals to create an aligned team approach that spans multiple locations and disciplines.

i was delighted to see the results of our latest annual staff perception survey. it was the first project i instigated as ceo in order to identify the key issues staff perceive and to track our progress in addressing them. each year we’ve moved forward in leaps and bounds and this year we achieved a staff engagement score of 88.8%. there’s no doubt our team is now (mostly) happy and this comes through clearly in the many positive and constructive comments made.

so how did we do it?  many clients tell us they need a campaign to drive culture change, embed value and to improve performance. my answer is always the same. staff engagement isn’t a campaign but an on-going embedding process achieved over time across multiple channels and touchpoints. it requires consistent messages and actions that move the team seamlessly through awareness, understanding, acceptance and adoption. and that’s simply what we did. here are some of the key initiatives from our own staff engagement programme:

  • improved regular communications including a monthly staff newsletter (now a video blog) covering results, work-in-progress updates, people and client stories and fun competitions. this is supported by a blog-based intranet for regular cross-office discussion and managers running regular team meetings. communication, transparency and trust were areas we scored particularly well in the survey.
  • line of sight – our annual strategy day allows us to walk the entire team through our vision, purpose, strategy and key plans for the year ahead. this enables them to make a direct connection between what they do and the results we need to achieve. we also use this session to review the year just passed, directly linking our performance against goals with any staff profit share.
  • last year we established an internal team to develop our values from the ground up. this ensured that the values reflected what is important to both staff and the business. we made a big deal around the launch, facilitating better recall and understanding. and now we are working on embedding them further into our every day vernacular and actions. see our values launch case study.
  • our staff benefits/wellbeing programme is an on-going labour of love. we regularly add new benefits such as medical check-ups, access to financial advisers, flexible working arrangements, community days and healthy living advice.
  • establishing a structured performance and development framework has meant all staff are clear on what they need to do and how their performance is measured. everyone has a development plan which is executed through regular individual and group development activities.
  • our new recruitment framework ensures that that we hire people that are aligned with, and add to, the culture we have created.
  • the physical environment also plays a role in culture and engagement. we moved offices in auckland, creating an environment more conducive to collaboration, creativity and good communication. we’ve made progress with the wellington office too and will go further with a new fit-out.
  • we do lots of fun activities together as a team (but we still need to do more). some are little things like shared lunches or morning teas to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, project success and individual ‘gold star’ performance. others are much bigger, like getting the whole team together for a day of eating, drinking and fun at my place or our masterchef-styled christmas function. getting together regularly in a relaxed, non-work environment helps with unity and creating a sense of belonging.

for me the key to achieving our outcomes is embedding our goals, values and culture into our everyday actions. the leadership team have led this charge, modelling the sort of culture we want as well as reinforcing it with their teams. and if you’ve been in a meeting with any of us, you’ll see we all carry our designer notebooks. these house our vision, one purpose, our brand story, our strategy and business plans, values and kpis. effectively, the team engages with them every time they take notes at meetings (which for most, is every day). see our strategy book case study.

yes, but has it worked? being personally fulfilled at work is one of our goals. but our engagement programme isn’t only about soft benefits. it’s also helping us deliver the hard results shareholders need. in the last three years, our revenue has remained relatively consistent but our bottom line has moved steadily upwards. a more engaged team manifests itself in greater productivity and a willingness to find and adopt new and better ways to do what we do. what do they say? “happy staff equals happy clients and happy clients means a happy bank manager.”

could we do more? without a doubt. we’ll take a few moments to reflect on how far we’ve come and then get back to going further. we’ve got some exciting plans for the year ahead. suddenly 90% engagement doesn’t seem that impossible.

internal engagement, internal communication, staff engagement

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

Thank you for being late (Thomas L. Friedman)

04 Apr 2017 by Paul Saris

I don’t like arriving late but what if, as Mr Friedman suggests in his book, it can create value.  Being late, early in the process, can create time to reflect and, above all, clarity. Clarity we so often...

thank you for being late (thomas l. friedman) paul saris

i don’t like arriving late but what if, as mr friedman suggests in his book, it can create value. 

being late, early in the process, can create time to reflect and, above all, clarity. clarity we so often lack. clarity we don’t seek because there’s no time. clarity.

like you, i acutely feel this pressure to meet deadlines. and often the pressure to meet these deadlines has a canny way of overshadowing the opportunity. 

there’ve been too many days when anxiety kicked in, when i just wanted to get things underway as soon as humanly possible, so not to lose any precious time. dragging those around me into the doing, somehow trying to get on with the job. 

until i noticed someone much wiser than me ask a client a few well-chosen questions. at face value, asking these questions seemed to challenge the deadline (we were supposed to be all go, right!), but instead it helped to achieve three things:

1/ brought more clarity around what’s required and why

2/ made everyone feel more confident doing their task, and

3/ culminated in better results, delivered on time

on reflection, my best work comes from having sound client insights. a few good questions, suitably put, go a long way. 


btw, friedman’s book is a good read if you'd like to find out more about how we must learn to be fast (innovative and quick to adapt), fair (prepared to help the casualties of change), and slow (adept at shutting out the noise and accessing their (our clients) deepest values) – all in the age of acceleration.

meeting deadlines, slow down, clarity

When you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails (H Jackson Brown Jr)

28 Mar 2017 by Paul Saris

  A little over 20 years ago I became a father of two pretty fabulous daughters. Every year, most days I got to figure out how to be a father. Books don’t tell you everything there is to know. My own parents...

when you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails (h jackson brown jr) paul saris


a little over 20 years ago i became a father of two pretty fabulous daughters. every year, most days i got to figure out how to be a father. books don’t tell you everything there is to know. my own parents turned out to be right more often than i’ve given them credit for (something i figured out much later in life). 

kids are kids are kids are kids. they learn to crawl just when you get used to them sitting up (all precious things soon move 6 feet off the floor). they learn to talk and before you know they talk back. let them play dress-ups in the garden and hey presto they’re dressed up and off to the ball. it seems one direction only for my daughters, called independence - all the way. i (alongside my amazing wife) figured the best i can do is to give them some good values, something to fall back on when i’m not around.

as the girls grew up and years flew passed i learned to adjust my sails, whilst staying on course, doing my best to instill these values. i think i did pretty ok, but let my girls be the better judge of that. 

likewise, most days our clients look to resolve a challenge they have. i give them process, feed them information, let them run with an idea. but adjusting my sails again, i figured i could do better, to modify how i interact with them whenever necessary, to make the overall experience worth their while. we can’t presume that they will do as we would like them to do with their brand & comms once they’re out of sight, but sure hope that through their experience working with us they truly value what we’ve taught them.

client guidance. instilling values

Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems. (Sun Tzu)

22 Mar 2017 by Paul Saris

Some years ago, as I gradually moved into a client service role, my biggest anxiety became the fear of failing our clients and letting down the people I represent. Worried to be found out, to be not quite good...

victory comes from finding opportunities in problems. (sun tzu) paul saris

some years ago, as i gradually moved into a client service role, my biggest anxiety became the fear of failing our clients and letting down the people i represent. worried to be found out, to be not quite good enough for the job.

i was working at another design agency at that time, where people talked about opportunities and were actively discouraged from seeing things as problems. it all just sounded like hollow words, until it became clear to me it was ‘attitude’ they were talking about. 

dealing with clients became less tricky when i started to look at them as people just like me. using my insecurity helped me level with clients. turns out some of them were also a bit worried about being found out. others were smart and in areas very different from me. some were actually quite funny but not everyone around me thought they were funny (i get that all the time). best of all, opportunities to relate proved omnipresent. changing discussions to conversations, shifting business topics to personal. making these connections created stronger relationships where all of us became more open, until there was nothing left to be ‘found out’.


Giving a little back

08 May 2017 by Brian Slade

Time’s precious right? So getting the ‘opportunity’ to be part of Massey’s CoCA (College of Creative Arts) image and identity class yesterday was both a thrill and a challenge, in amongst meetings,...

giving a little back brian slade
time’s precious right? so getting the ‘opportunity’ to be part of massey’s coca (college of creative arts) image and identity class yesterday was both a thrill and a challenge, in amongst meetings, presentations and the general business of studio life.
but worth every minute and the feedback was great from the passionate note taking students as we waded through campaigns, identities, environmental installations and thoughts that were part-boiled and well formed.
steve jobs said “it’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time”. i’d be keen to add to that and suggest it’s not only time but the next generation. that’s one of the primary reasons we’ve been running our designer internship programme and making sure we give a little back.
brian slade, coca

That Like feeling

23 Mar 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

  Lately I’ve been recruiting for a New Business person and I had an experience with one candidate that made me think about the importance of brand feelings. Yes, feelings. Brace yourself, I am going to talk...

that like feeling steven giannoulis


lately i’ve been recruiting for a new business person and i had an experience with one candidate that made me think about the importance of brand feelings. yes, feelings. brace yourself, i am going to talk about them.

for the first time i didn’t use a recruiting agency but posted my role on social media. i had 33 applicants, and once i got through the obligatory bunch of those kidding themselves about their suitability, i had a dozen or so really good applicants.

one particular applicant had a strong cv and i checked him out on linkedin, found he had some good endorsements and a number of connections i knew. all looked promising so i arranged an initial chat to get a feel for him and whether he’d be good for the role and our company.

after 20 minutes or so we hung up and i reflected on the discussion. he gave the absolute perfect textbook answers to every question – i couldn’t have scripted them better myself. but i walked away feeling something was off about this guy. he shared nothing personal, no stories, experiences or views that would have allowed me to like him. he was siri responding to my questions with programmatic accuracy and robotic warmth.

as you do in this ‘everything’s public’ age, i looked him up on facebook and instagram. he was into sports, did lots of community stuff, looked like a great dad and had a wide circle of friends. and we appeared to share some common musical interests. was i wrong about him? i invited him to meet to find out.

within 10 minutes of more of the same, i stopped listening. i have no doubt his remaining answers were great but i just didn’t care. he may have promised to do the job 24/7 and for free but i still wouldn’t hire him. i ended the meeting and promised to let him know as soon as i’d made up my mind. i lied, i had already made up my mind.

like people, brands have to appeal at an emotive level as well as a logical one. we have to trust a brand, and like (or at least not hugely dislike) it, before we’ll even consider getting into bed with it. this liking-heuristic is well proven in brand psychology. connect emotionally and it’s glass half full. don’t and it can never be anything more than near empty.

the guy i hired maybe on paper wasn’t the natural choice, but within 10 minutes we were talking like old-mates. within 30, i felt i knew him and within an hour i was ready to pick him. and that’s exactly what i think potential clients will feel when he’s talking to them.

feelings, brand, likeability

Leading a positive work culture

16 Mar 2017 by Brian Slade

Ask most New Zealanders “what sort of culture does our capital city have?” or "describe our teenage drinking culture” and you’ll probably get pretty clear answers. Cafe and binge. However, ask many...

leading a positive work culture brian slade

ask most new zealanders “what sort of culture does our capital city have?” or "describe our teenage drinking culture” and you’ll probably get pretty clear answers. cafe and binge. however, ask many businesses what sort of culture they have and the answers can get a bit vague, woolly and glib.

why is this? and why are we only now starting to be aware of the value of a healthy and positive working culture?

usually because of a lack of appreciation of the value of workplace culture.

in an age when companies are experiencing growing competition for both employees and customers, we’re realising that retaining and attracting the best people – and ensuring they’re focused on being the best they can be – is a key competitive advantage.

employee retention is a significant challenge facing all businesses today. as the economy continues to look up, employees, who are connected like never before with the linkedin and social media networks, have more opportunity to ‘shop’. if you’re a great place to work with a healthy culture, everyone can find that out pretty quickly - and vice versa.

and gaining a competitive advantage from a positive culture is born of clarity and congruity – having everybody rowing in the same direction with clarity of purpose; and in perfect synchronicity, everybody behaving consistently from the top down.

with so much to gain, no company can really afford to be vague and woolly about its culture.

think about what the value proposition is here: when you have a positive work culture, it follows that you have a higher performing and strongly productive, engaged team. for longer.

what to do?

recognising the value to be unlocked is key to embarking on a positive work culture journey.

organisations need to move past the ‘vague and woolly’ gut feel assessment of their culture and systematically and objectively research the groundswell of opinion on the ‘shop floor’. the immediate value to you will be an increased sense of understanding and appreciation of real perceptions. actively value this feedback. this, in itself, has to become part of your culture if you are to really move into a new gear.  

but be careful not to simply paper over the cracks of what your internal study finds. authenticity is the only way to succeed in today’s environment. and don’t think of ‘culture’ as a programme, but more a way of being - your way of being. embed and amplify your genuine positive qualities, and create systems and environments that say "it’s the way we do things around here”. don’t simply put up a few words on some walls, put in a new kitchen and go back to business as usual. 

culture is the sum total of the embodied behaviors, values, environments, reward systems, and rituals that make up your organisation. you can "feel” culture, through the enthusiasm that people exhibit and in a workspace itself.

we often have to say to a client “until you get this part of the organisation sorted, sure we can implement this internal fitout or leadership programme, but what has really changed?” it’s most likely going to feel like spin. we’ll only be solving part of the picture.

it’s up to the organisation to know clearly what it wants to be. yes, we can help you discover, distill and articulate that. and we can help you identify what needs to change internally. but we can’t impose a culture from the outside. if it’s not genuine and embedded in reality, it will never be believable nor effective, to your people or your customers.

leadership is key

once you’ve implemented the changes collectively agreed and that make sense to your business, leaders need to lead and this is defiantly an area where the implementation of any changes needs to be strongly led.

so, look closely at yourself as potentially someone who sets the tone. measure how strong your culture is by getting to grips with understanding how things are working or not. be consistent. lead the relevant changes. simple, right?

Tamaki Regeneration drop in a big box

16 Mar 2017 by Mike Tisdall

Our client, Tāmaki  Regeneration Company, really want people to know what's happening in the Tāmaki , Glen Innes and Panmure area. So they've dropped a big box into the neighbourhood that opens next Monday. ...

tamaki regeneration drop in a big box mike tisdall

our client, tāmaki regeneration company, really want people to know what's happening in the tāmaki, glen innes and panmure area. so they've dropped a big box into the neighbourhood that opens next monday.

the container will move around within the tāmaki community - to community events or neighbourhoods breaking new ground. when open, the box will be manned by tāmaki representatives and the inside features detailed information regarding new housing developments, the story of tāmaki and what regeneration means, as well as a timeline, progress and future projects. and a touchscreen featuring interactive maps.

the container is powered by solar panels and includes a retractable awning to ensure it can operate in all weather conditions. our design is bold and bright, and on message: tāmaki is an awesome place to be!


tamaki regeneration, marketing, community engagement

You have to think anyway, so why not think big? (Trump)

14 Mar 2017 by Paul Saris

When I was a kid my dad told me that I don’t think. It made me very sad that he thought of me that way. Only much later in life did I work out that we were simply seeing and processing things differently and not...

you have to think anyway, so why not think big? (trump) paul saris

when i was a kid my dad told me that i don’t think. it made me very sad that he thought of me that way. only much later in life did i work out that we were simply seeing and processing things differently and not very good at communicating to each other how we see things.

my dad was very analytical, good with numbers, magical with things that follow a logical process. he was a big thinker of many small things. you could see a big picture emerge once you’d added up all the little things he had in his mind. problem was extracting the little things. i seem to have flipped the other way. full of big ideas that often appear random and scattered, missing the detail. dad and i got there in the end though. standing on my own two feet in a foreign country did somehow bring our minds closer together.

most of our clients come for one of two things. they’re either looking for big ideas or need help delivering big ideas. i have come to appreciate that things go a lot smoother once i understand what people are looking for. if i always did what trump suggested i’d be in trouble.

thanks dad.

think big, understanding

It's international women's day . . .

08 Mar 2017 by Mike Tisdall

. . . and we enjoy the talent of a wonderfully diverse - and international - group of women.   ...

it's international women's day . . . mike tisdall

. . . and we enjoy the talent of a wonderfully diverse - and international - group of women.


insight, diversity, international, women

Something special for NZSO’s 70th

07 Mar 2017 by Mike Tisdall

The first ever concert of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) was held on this day in 1947. 70 years on and they are still going strong, attracting the cream of talent from New Zealand and around the world....

something special for nzso’s 70th mike tisdall

the first ever concert of the new zealand symphony orchestra (nzso) was held on this day in 1947. 70 years on and they are still going strong, attracting the cream of talent from new zealand and around the world. globally applauded and grammy-nominated, yet they still put all their passion and energy into entertaining and delighting kiwi audiences right round the country. happy birthday nzso, you make us very proud kiwis.

nzso has been a client of ours for three years and we are delighted to have helped them tell their brand story, grow their ticket sales and attract new audiences. they represent the pinnacle of creative excellence, inspiring us to lift our game to match theirs.

so what do you have on your 70th birthday? cake of course and our team were pleased to be a able to celebrate with them, presenting them with this special hand-made card designed exclusively by our creative director, brian slade.

nzso, 70th birthday, congratulations

I want to understand you, I study your obscure language (Alexander Pushkin)

21 Feb 2017 by Paul Saris

I think it’s about time that I say thanks to all of you who patiently endure my use of the English language.  Using good English but not quite right has had some entertaining effects on people. ‘How goes...

i want to understand you, i study your obscure language (alexander pushkin) paul saris

i think it’s about time that i say thanks to all of you who patiently endure my use of the english language. 

using good english but not quite right has had some entertaining effects on people. ‘how goes it now?’ ‘well pretty good’ was the reply, with a little smile in the corner of his eye. things were a bit more painful after i worked out that ‘let me take him apart when the time is right’ means something completely different from ‘take him aside’.

in the 25 years i’ve been in new zealand, i’ve met many guests like myself who’ve come from another place. the french and german variants, south african, ethiopian, canadian, belgium, italian, russian, a few from back home, and some whose lingo totally confuses me (is manchester classified as a country?).

what we all have in common, most of the time anyway, is that we want to be understood. the same goes for our clients. they also, sometimes, speak in what seems like a foreign tongue when meaning inadvertently takes on a different guise. 

on behalf of these clients, i thank you for your patience and understanding (please keep it up).

language, understanding

Identity in White

20 Feb 2017 by Steven Giannoulis

Immigration and the so-called identity dilution that diversity apparently brings is a hot topic on local and global political agendas. As a brand strategist and a descendent of immigrants I naturally have a strong...

identity in white steven giannoulis

immigration and the so-called identity dilution that diversity apparently brings is a hot topic on local and global political agendas. as a brand strategist and a descendent of immigrants i naturally have a strong view on the subject of identity. 

being from immigrant stock is actually what makes us kiwis. the nz story doesn’t just take in english and maori heritage but also incorporates pacific, indian, italian, dalmation, chinese and many more cultures. this eclectic tapestry of ethnic backgrounds has today fused together forming the unique kiwi identity we have today.

people came here in search of a better life for themselves and their families. this spirit of improving our lot is still alive and well in our culture today. most endured long journeys and tough beginnings to establish a life here and this sense of working hard for self-made success is something we still celebrate. and because of, and not despite of, our distance, we’ve learnt to improvise, think differently and find new ways to create the lifestyle we all enjoy.

immigrant culture is also the lifeblood of what our identity is evolving into. most of us live a life which embraces the best of our parents' heritage and our kiwi upbringing, creating the new cultural norm. let’s encourage and welcome all those who add to our kiwi culture, finding ways to celebrate the richness diversity brings. without it, we’d be a very dull place indeed.

all this diversity talk extends into the workforce and i’m all for it. diversity offers broader experiences and perspectives and therefore leads to better thinking and decision-making, greater creativity and innovation. at insight we have a great mix of nationalities, ages, interests, beliefs and personalities but we still need to do more. so we promote an active policy to encourage diversity in recruitment while not tolerating reverse discrimination.

i grew up in a cultural minority so i get frustrated at being lumped into a generic european majority or being told i don’t understand bi-culturalism or what it’s like to be different. we ‘white folks’ are not homogenous and interchangeable, all expressing one view and a single perspective. my background, growing up greek in new zealand, is very different from my colleagues who are dutch, german, scottish, south african or russian. we may all be white but we all have unique identities and cultures and each one of us brings a distinctive perspective.

so let's encourage, foster and celebrate the diversity we also bring to society and the workplace, remembering that everyone contributes to greater diversity.

diversity, kiwiness

Massive success on the world stage

18 Jan 2017 by Mike Tisdall

When Graphis recognises your work as world class and publishes it in their respected biennial book, you know you're doing quality work. And we've been there a few times before over our 40 years. But to see six of...

massive success on the world stage mike tisdall

when graphis recognises your work as world class and publishes it in their respected biennial book, you know you're doing quality work. and we've been there a few times before over our 40 years.

but to see six of our projects in one book, with five golds and one silver - well, even we were feeling pretty good about what we come to work every day to do!

(with thanks to sanford, ebos, stand children's services and vital healthcare property trust for entrusting us with you communications).


graphic, annual reports, gold winner, insight creative

Inside Out Branding

03 Nov 2016 by Mike Tisdall

The November issue of Idealog magazine features quality branding advice from our CEO, Steven Giannoulis. Some particular gems: "Making the brand rhetoric true has wide-reaching implications, requiring a review of...

inside out branding mike tisdall

the november issue of idealog magazine features quality branding advice from our ceo, steven giannoulis. some particular gems: "making the brand rhetoric true has wide-reaching implications, requiring a review of everything from organisational design, culture, sales practices, products and services and operational processes." and "in many ways, developing an appealing brand and sales story is the easy bit. making them true is how brands go to that next level in creating enduring value."

click the image to read.


Silver for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei

18 Oct 2016 by Mike Tisdall

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei's 2015 Annual Report suite has been awarded Silver in the 2016 Best Awards among an elite field in the Ngā Aho category. Ngā Aho is the Network fo Maori Design professionals who partner with...

silver for ngāti whātua Ōrākei mike tisdall

ngāti whātua Ōrākei's 2015 annual report suite has been awarded silver in the 2016 best awards among an elite field in the ngā aho category.

ngā aho is the network fo maori design professionals who partner with the designers institute of new zealand to award design that reflects a clear understanding of who we are and where we are in our unique corner of moana nui a kiwa, the pacific ocean, and that results from meaningful collaboration. 

a full case study tracing the communication strategy and creative solution for this project can be viewed here.

overall, insight creative achieved four finalists in this year's best awards.


ngati whatua, best awards,

And we win again, and again, and again and again

11 Aug 2016 by Mike Tisdall

NZ may not be doing too well in the Rio Olympics, but Insight is winning golds, slivers and bronzes where it really matters: the New York based international Annual Report Competition (ARC Awards). Gold: ...

and we win again, and again, and again and again mike tisdall

nz may not be doing too well in the rio olympics, but insight is winning golds, slivers and bronzes where it really matters: the new york based international annual report competition (arc awards).

gold: sanford. the best combined annual and sustainability report in the world (they don’t have an integrated report category yet):


silver: nz super fund. with no gold awarded, it's still the best pension fund annual report in the world:


silver: stand children's services. the second best charitable organisation annual report in the world:


bronze: auckland international airport. the third best airport management annual report in the world:

this is effective design that is driven by the collective collaboration of our strategists and creative talents. you can read in depth case studies on the gold and silver winners here on this website. to help you find them easily, we've collected them together for you right here.



arc awards, design awards, annual reports

Awards, awards and more awards

22 Jun 2016 by Mike Tisdall

Last week's Australasian Reporting Awards (ARA) resulted in massive success for every one of our clients who entered (all two of them!) But 100% success is still 100% success. And as Insight is the common denominator,...

awards, awards and more awards mike tisdall

last week's australasian reporting awards (ara) resulted in massive success for every one of our clients who entered (all two of them!) but 100% success is still 100% success. and as insight is the common denominator, let's draw this achievement to your attention.


nz super fund

not only did the 2015 nz super fund annual report receive a gold award (one of only four new zealand companies to receive a gold), it also won best of two categories in the special awards:

winner, governance reporting - public sector, and

winner, online reporting - public sector

and all this on top of last month's win as best annual report in the 2016 asia-pacific excellence awards

view the printed report case study here, and the online version here.


sanford limited

our sanford integrated report also made a big impact at the awards, also winning a gold award, and also taking out a total of three categories in the special awards:

winner, sustainability reporting award - private sector

winner, integrated reporting

winner, ara hong kong sustainability award

view our case study on this integrated report here.


congratulations too, to the only other new zealand company to win a special award: watercare services (sustainability reporting award - other).








ara awards, sanford, nz super, winners

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

Trends in Annual Reporting

06 May 2016 by Mike Tisdall

We often get asked by our clients about what the trends are in annual reporting. Sometimes I wonder why, because most actually stay on their conservative paths. But some brave few follow through and strive to find...

trends in annual reporting mike tisdall

we often get asked by our clients about what the trends are in annual reporting. sometimes i wonder why, because most actually stay on their conservative paths. but some brave few follow through and strive to find more effective ways to communicate with their shareholder base.

some of the trends currently playing out have actually been quietly influencing reporting for a few years now, but others are quite new a little more radical.

the greatest shift is that because the structural rules are now so few, it has become possible to approach every company’s report with a blank sheet of paper and create a unique plan that is bespoke to the company’s situation, needs and philosophies rather than the straightjacket of what most companies still sense that an annual report should be, based on historical tradition.

let’s whip through some of the more notable trends. and then, if you want to know more, you can download the more detailed white paper that explores each of these trends in more detail.



  1. first principles: it's about the investor brand, at its core. the report is merely a component in a much bigger strategic year-long communication plan, which in turn should be designed as part of a longer-term investor brand plan. all annual reporting decisions should align back to this touchstone and not be made in isolation.

  2. anything goes. now that regulations no longer dictate a prescribed format, what each company does for their annual reporting depends on the company, its view of the world, its appetite for best practice communication, its register make-up, its size, what its peer group are doing - and most commonly, the proportion and influence of its retail shareholder base vs its institutional investor base. because the legal requirements really only apply to the financials and compliance components, the opportunity for communicators is to approach how they choose to tell their investment story in many different ways.
  3. integrated reporting (see in-depth blog lost on integrated reporting) is making traction and more new zealand companies are actively exploring this to some degree. it requires a major change in thinking. but transparent reporting of all material issues, and their future effect on the company's longer-term outlook, are factors that will grow in importance and become more and more expected, whether labeled as integrated reporting or not.
  4. storytelling continues to mark the best practice reports - the back stories, the human impact, the strategies, the emotional connection. but not all companies agree that this approach is appropriate to them.
  5. online is important, but there are many ways to skin that cat. but the important point to register is that online is a 'pull' channel: people have to make the effort to go there for it to be effective.
  6. the opt-in gap is a real one. the percentage of shareholders who opt in to receive a copy of the annual report averages around 10% of the shareholder base internationally. the company must decide whether the 'push' channel necessary to plug the 90% gap of unengaged shareholders is a viable one for them (i.e. a printed/mailed shareholder review/ annual report/ newsletter), or whether that investment doesn’t provide a meaningful return.

 for a more detailed explanation of the above brief summaries, download the full white paper here.


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

Insight into Integrated Reporting

28 Apr 2016 by Mike Tisdall

Insight into Integrated Reporting If you’re in the field of investor relations, the jungle drums have probably already informed you of the impending avalanche of ‘Integrated Reporting’ (referred to...

insight into integrated reporting mike tisdall

insight into integrated reporting

if you’re in the field of investor relations, the jungle drums have probably already informed you of the impending avalanche of ‘integrated reporting’ (referred to internationally as <ir>).

it’s early days, but because of the many listed clients we work with, we’re in a pretty good position to watch the trends play out and see where the patterns lie. in fact, we’ve now produced two integrated reports, for sanford. 

because the subject is gaining some buzz, there’s every chance that if your ceo doesn’t raise the question, someone on your board will. the temperature was raised in the last couple of weeks by the visit and speaking rounds of paul druckman, the london-based ceo of iirc (the international integrated reporting council). paul spoke publicly at the university of auckland, a sustainable business council breakfast and met with influential government ministries. i also had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with peter privately.

paul druckman, ceo, international integrated reporting council


how quickly will we see local listed companies diving into producing fully-fledged integrated reports like sanford? it’s hard to tell, because of the mindset shift required, the amount of work to measure what the framework requires you to measure, and boards’ perceived liability over future-focused utterances on value creation. 


just what is an integrated report?

the new <ir> framework urges companies to turn a spotlight on how their strategy and business model creates value over time. 

companies are encouraged to tell a clear, concise story to investors about future prospects, taking into account all the resources and relationships used by the business, not just the financials. this way, investors and other stakeholders will be able to determine if the business model is resilient over the medium and long terms. 

adopting a holistic approach to reporting expects you to report on the connectivity of all these resources, relationships and financials; for example, divining the non-financial impacts in $ terms in the medium and long term - a big challenge for most companies. in this regard, an integrated report differs materially from a siloed triple bottom line report. the <ir> evolution breakthrough comes when you can report on the interdependencies between them and the future likely affect on value.

fundamentally, it flips the question ‘what impacts does your business model make on such things as your people, your community and the environment?’ on its head: to answer the direct opposite question: ‘what impact will those factors have on your business in the short, medium and long term - and therefore, what are you doing now to mitigate or leverage them?’


is it good for business?

there is much to commend the <ir> framework.  

the shift in thinking applied to how you communicate to your stakeholders will improve what you report, making it more meaningful, believable and future focused because it prompts companies to think about their reporting in a ‘joined up’ manner. 

but perhaps the greatest benefit is that it drives board and management to look at their whole business through this much more integrated and holistic lens. they’re finding that this can lead to stronger cross-functional communications, more productive dialogue among employees at all levels across business activities, and more meaningful dialogue with external stakeholders. 

those who think deeply about such things expect that the payoff for companies that do this right will be lower cost of capital.


how does it relate to sustainability reports?

while <ir> is principles-based and provides a good practice framework, sustainability reporting generally abides to the more rules-based and usually audited gri process.

elements of both financial reporting and sustainability reporting would be included in an integrated report if the information is relevant to how your organisation creates and sustains value. this would require assessing the connectivity and interdependencies between your business model, the context in which you operate, and the resources and relationships on which you rely and that you affect. 

companies that are already collecting quality metrics on their environmental and people impacts for csr reports will find it easier to make the step up to integrated reporting because much of the data will be at hand to tell a connected story.

but a separate detailed sustainability report may still be required, depending on the degree of complexity involved in what you report on. 

some companies, such as sanford, have decided that their integrated report should combine all factors and be a single source of transparent information.


what does it all mean for you?

the decision to pursue an integrated report is not for the faint hearted. it requires a major commitment for a total change in internal processes and business view to be meaningful. 

it requires you to really work to identify what’s material to your business in terms of value creation over time. that means consulting stakeholders broadly to ascertain material issues, and having enough information and data to be able to talk clearly about the impacts that your operations have on all your inputs (financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social, relationship, and natural).

it requires an 'integrated thinking' approach to your business before you can realistically report in an integrated way.

it requires a clear explanation of your business model, and how it adds to or subtracts from your various inputs to result in your various outputs.

it requires you to expose your strategies and the expected impacts that these will have on your future value creation. many boards find this challenging.

and it expects you to report on the interdependencies of all your activities, how they interact and how that interaction will affect your performance over time.

our sense is that certain types of companies/sectors will feel more need or pressure than others to move in this direction. companies with the highest sense of responsibility to think about their business in this way tend to come from those industry sectors that rely on or affect natural resources, such as energy companies, mining and resource companies, and food harvestors. however, the degree of difficulty in measuring, reporting and mitigating their impacts also means that the journey takes more time. in reality, we are seeing more integrated reporting activity coming from from entities with less environmental impact, and arguably more people/society impact, such as banks and property companies, probably because the material impacts are easier to identify and measure – or, more cynically perhaps, aren’t as sensitive to negative publicity from their disclosures.

many companies will simply find the process too challenging or will find it hard to find the roi given the lower material impact of their business activities.

but while the hurdles may constrain your ability to produce a bona fide integrated report, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be reporting to your stakeholders about your responsible citizenship and how those initiatives are likely to affect your business in the future. and if you can demonstrate that the initiatives are good business practice that also increase revenue or save cost – or sustain your social licence to operate - then ‘win-win’ is a winning message anyway.


our sense of the immediate future

we’re not convinced that the current ‘hot topic’ buzz will turn into a wholesale shift to integrated reports in the short term. we believe that many will feel the pressure, explore the topic, discuss with their boards, and delay until it makes more sense for the organisation.

however, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and we believe that the thinking processes inherent in the <ir> framework will influence and infiltrate what you report – and over time, more components of the framework will be fulfilled. 


want to know more?

we are always available to help and advise on your stakeholder communication needs. speak to your account director or call me direct on 09 919 6002.

the sanford case studies on our website provide an insight into what these projects entailed. you can also view their 2014 and 2015 reports here and here.


this video inteview with paul druckman does a great job of outlining the principles and purpose of the movement towards integrated reporting.

the <ir> framework guidlines can be downloaded here.



mike tisdall
insight creative founder and strategist


integrated reporting

Spirit of ANZAC

20 Apr 2016 by Mike Tisdall

  This Thursday 21st April and Friday 22nd April, our client the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra continues to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in a special concert of remembrance and...

spirit of anzac mike tisdall
this thursday 21st april and friday 22nd april, our client the new zealand symphony orchestra continues to commemorate the centenary of the first world war in a special concert of remembrance and thanksgiving. inspired by three very different aspects of the conflict: gallipoli, mortality, and the challenging aspect of desertion. three moving pieces feature in this performance that is reflective, stirring, frightening and beautiful. 
the design for this signature event in the orchestra’s calender features a solitary poppy, focused, vulnerable yet resolute. in honour of each individual anzac life lost.
tickets for these concerts are available from ticketek (wellington concert) and ticketmaster (auckland concert).
nzso, anzac, concert

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

Yet more evidence of our effective work

03 Feb 2016 by Mike Tisdall

Our 2015 NZ Super Fund Annual Report has been named winner of the Annual Report category in the Asia-Pacific Excellence Awards 2015.   The Awards honour outstanding achievements in the fields of PR and...

yet more evidence of our effective work mike tisdall
our 2015 nz super fund annual report has been named winner of the annual report category in the asia-pacific excellence awards 2015.
the awards honour outstanding achievements in the fields of pr and communications.
“the annual report of the nz super fund is a best practice example of transparent, comprehensive reporting by a sovereign wealth fund. it features clear explanations of complex financial information; consistent benchmarks; and a strong creative theme that illustrates the fund’s purpose. case studies provide insights into investments and events, and an online microsite complements the full report.”
congratulations to the nz super fund communications team and to our own team who worked on this project.
nz super fund, asia pacific excellence award

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

McKinsey's four elements of design-driven culture

21 Oct 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Building a design-driven culture It’s not enough to just sell a product or service—companies must truly engage with their customers. A recent research paper from McKinsey suggests how experience design can be...

mckinsey's four elements of design-driven culture mike tisdall

building a design-driven culture

it’s not enough to just sell a product or service—companies must truly engage with their customers. a recent research paper from mckinsey suggests how experience design can be embedded in your organization:


really understanding the customer:

this means going well beyond understanding what customers want to truly uncovering why they want it. design-driven companies turn to ethnographers and cultural anthropologists to gain insights on empathy. they want to know exactly what motivates people, what bothers them, and where there are opportunities for creating delightful experiences.

bringing empathy to the organization:

make sure the right people with the right skill set are in the right place. that means a chief design leader is at the table where strategic decisions are made. he or she must bring the customer’s point of view to business decisions, translate business goals into customer-friendly initiatives, and build a culture in which employees think about how what they do affects customers.

designing in real time:

a “braided” approach to business combines design, business strategy, and technology. these functions should work together to make decisions, ensure that the designed journey aligns with the business strategy and is delivering value and keep customer experience a top-of-mind issue.

acting quickly:

good design is fast. that means getting a product to market quickly, which depends on rapid prototyping, frequent iteration and adjustments based on real customer feedback. in a design-driven culture, companies are unafraid to release a product that is not totally perfect. that means going to market with a minimally viable product, the better to learn from customer feedback, incorporate it and then build and release the next version.


see the full mckinsey insights article here

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 definition of what excellent graphic design can do'

13 Oct 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Enlightening article in today's Quartz Daily on logo designer, Michael Bierut, under the headline: 'Michael Bierut is the definition of what excellent graphic design can do' You can read it here . ...

"the definition of what excellent graphic design can do' mike tisdall

enlightening article in today's quartz daily on logo designer, michael bierut, under the headline: 'michael bierut is the definition of what excellent graphic design can do'

you can read it here.

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

IBBY Congress wins Best Award

12 Oct 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Congratulations to our brave client, IBBY Congress 2016, for their Bronze Award in the 2016 Best Awards Small Brand Identity category. They allowed us the creative freedom to develop a cut through brand, website and...

ibby congress wins best award mike tisdall

congratulations to our brave client, ibby congress 2016, for their bronze award in the 2016 best awards small brand identity category.

they allowed us the creative freedom to develop a cut through brand, website and promotional material to attract delegates to the 35th international congress on children’s literature – the first time ever in new zealand and only the second time in the southern hemisphere.

the creative approach recognises that the tyranny of distance dictates that the congress has to sell not only the congress, but also the bucket list chance to visit new zealand.

you can see the marketing case study here. and the website case study here. or visit the full website itself here.

Kermadecs programme results in success

29 Sep 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Today, at the United Nations, John Key announced that the waters around the Kermadec Islands would become one of the largest ocean sanctuaries in the world. Just over 5 years ago we started working with PEW...

kermadecs programme results in success mike tisdall

today, at the united nations, john key announced that the waters around the kermadec islands would become one of the largest ocean sanctuaries in the world.

just over 5 years ago we started working with pew charitable trust to make this happen. we knew that the first step was to raise public and political consciousness around the uniqueness and fragility of the waters above the stunning kermadec trench. 

our goal was to make the invisible visible, bringing the beauty of the kermedecs to the forefront and reinforcing with politicians and other influencers the importance of preserving this naturally beautiful landscape. 

that programme kicked off with a rallying visual identity, an awareness building website and a scientific symposium at te papa - all designed to focus informed attention upon this unique natural cornucopia on our doorstep. the lobbying pressure was kept up with a whole lot of marketing, promotional and lobbying material. and then we developed the next phase of the programme with a view to creating a 'long and enduring tail' to this campaign - working closely with pew, we arranged for a group of new zealand artists to hitch a berth on an nz navy frigate following the kermadec trench up to raoul island. their resulting inspiring works have now travelled the length and breadth of new zealand's leading art galleries, creating more awareness and drawing more attention to this exceptional place and its vulnerability, and are now working their way around the world.

the programme followed the classic aida behaviour change formula: raising awareness of the kermadecs, arousing interest in the area's specialness, stimulating desire to protect it, and finally prompting the action we have seen announced this morning.

we are exceptionally proud of our work and the role it has played to achieving this incredible result. we believe we have made a significant contribution to our client and to our environment.

read more about the work we did on our website case studies:

a place to visit in your imagination - the kermadecs website

visual feast to fuel deep conversation - the kermadecs science symposium




kermadecs, lobbying, design

Christchurch: you can see the momentum now . . .

14 Sep 2015 by Mike Tisdall

We’ve worked with the team at CERA & CCDU for over 4 years now. We've seen first hand how hard they work for the people of Christchurch - and just how tough a challenge the rebuild actually is. They truly are...

christchurch: you can see the momentum now . . . mike tisdall

we’ve worked with the team at cera & ccdu for over 4 years now. we've seen first hand how hard they work for the people of christchurch - and just how tough a challenge the rebuild actually is. they truly are great bunch of people whose efforts mainly go unrecognised or are undervalued, so it's great to see a document like this one that really brings home the huge amount they’ve actually achieved. it's equally great to see some of our work included in this timely milestone document

cera. christchurch rebuild

It's raining Gold!

27 Aug 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Insight has been awarded two Golds in the New-York based ARC Awards – considered the Oscars of the annual report world. World’s Best Airport Management annual report for 2014: Auckland International Airport (...

it's raining gold! mike tisdall

insight has been awarded two golds in the new-york based arc awards – considered the oscars of the annual report world.

world’s best airport management annual report for 2014:
auckland international airport (click for case study)

world’s best pension fund annual report for 2014:
nz super fund (click for case study)

the nz super fund report also won gold in the australasian reporting awards (ara awards).

naturally we're proud as punch of the respective teams that worked on these two projects, including our clients who enabled us to do such winning work!

arc awards, awards, nz super fund, auckland international airport

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

How design impacts sales

19 Aug 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Steven’s latest article in Idealog (August 2015) goes back to the marketing basics of AIDA: attract Attention, arouse Interest, create Desire and inspire Action. Today you’d probably call it a user journey: the...

how design impacts sales mike tisdall

steven’s latest article in idealog (august 2015) goes back to the marketing basics of aida: attract attention, arouse interest, create desire and inspire action. today you’d probably call it a user journey: the path that a person needs to take from the first time they come across your brand if they are ever going to convert to a purchase. steven explains the relevance and role of design to this foundation notion.


Two key websites go live

11 Aug 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Insight launched two important corporate websites on Friday 7 August. Property for Industry’s new website builds solidly on the down to earth brand story, personality and muscular visual identity that we created and...

two key websites go live mike tisdall

insight launched two important corporate websites on friday 7 august.

property for industry’s new website builds solidly on the down to earth brand story, personality and muscular visual identity that we created and launched early last year. it’s a highly complex site made to appear very simple to users, with distinct user journeys for their two separate audience groups. a data rich site, the intelligent back end database makes updating a plethora of property information a one-point-entry, dynamic exercise. the site elevates video to a key role in the communication toolkit of the site.

fletcher building re-work was a timely temporary upgrade while a full site re-vamp is meticulously planned. two quick fixes were employed: the first to make the site responsive and allow the content-duplicate separate mobile site to be retired – now fletcher building only have to update one content management interface; and the second, to redesign the home page completely to move it from static to newsy, topical, interesting and much more dynamic. it allows rapid deployment of important new stories and enables video content as well – all in a much fresher design.


pfi, fletcher building, website

Still carbon neutral after all these years

22 Jul 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Insight Creative has been officially carbon neutral now for seven years. In the last 12 months we reduced our emissions by a further 13.9%, resulting in total emission reductions since 2008 of 37.5%. The purchase of...

still carbon neutral after all these years mike tisdall

insight creative has been officially carbon neutral now for seven years. in the last 12 months we reduced our emissions by a further 13.9%, resulting in total emission reductions since 2008 of 37.5%.
the purchase of carbon credits has offset our largest emission contributor, which is, as always, our air travel to service our clients around new zealand and australia.

carbon neutral, sustainability, environment

Discard the cookie cutter

29 Jun 2015 by Brian Slade

What might at first seem a familiar creative challenge often requires a different solution from the one used before, writes Brian Slade. And that is certainly the case for city identities. You can easily make...

discard the cookie cutter brian slade

what might at first seem a familiar creative challenge often requires a different solution from the one used before, writes brian slade. and that is certainly the case for city identities.

you can easily make the mistake of assuming that once you have solved a particular problem, you have the answer to how to solve it again and again. sure it gives you an insight into potentially how you might tackle it again but be careful of the cookie cutter solution. it can lead you up the expensive, unrewarding or ineffective garden path.

one of the great aspects of being a designer is the insight you get into organisations - quickly needing to assess the problems they face and understanding how you can apply your knowledge. past experience is a great framework for assessing a problem or opportunity but, as our experience with city identities has taught us, it doesn’t instantly provide us with the right solution.

over recent years we’ve worked with a number of local councils and government agencies to create city visual identities, brand tool boxes and communications platforms that fundamentally serve to engage in dialogue with local residents, inbound tourism or investment audiences.

the first question to ask is ‘where is the organisation in its visual identity evolution?’ tararua district council was new, created through boundary changes. i worked with them to develop two identites that were visually linked but quite independent. the first, a council one that residents payed rates to and identified services. the second, a tourism/investment identity that leveraged off the first but was much more expressive. this clear line allowed the two to talk to distinctly different audiences and worked really well. this second identity was later evolved further to include a more regional focus. tamaki, auckland, although very early on in their visual identity development, has a long proud history. this was captured in a poem ‘we are tamaki’ which we used to form a unified voice aimed at getting both local community and government to support the vision for tamaki transformation. this objective meant the approach was quite different from tararua although both had been in a similar stage in the life cycle.

the next question is ‘what equity has the organisation already built?’ albury city in nsw, australia was much more evolved as an identity. they had established their logo some time ago, representing the council but also the city. what they lacked were the tools to communicate, under one identity, to multiple audiences. we achieved this by developing a core brand story and visual idea for the city that was then able to be expressed into a flexible tool kit that could be dialled up or down depending on the audience they were speaking to. this  gave them complete flexibility. quite different from tararua or tamaki because of the much earlier strategic decision to represent the city and council under one identity.

after the 2011 earthquake in christchurch the answer to the question of visual identity life cycle was obviously quite different. the  ‘garden city identity’ was in quite a different place. with so much equity lost and subsequent identity ‘noise’, the question was ‘what do local residents need?’ part of the solution was  the development of a vibrant, optimistic and very much independent vehicle to engage locals about what was happening in their city, quite different from tararua, tamaki or albury city.

we inherited a fledgling future christchurch website and identity. the first thing we did was to develop a strategic framework unique for its purpose, giving the work that followed the foundation it needed. we took the bare essentials of the existing creative and stripped these back to a point where all that was left was the core existing name and the idea of using a broad colour palette - the key attributes that spoke to the strategic intent.

working closely with a very positive client we were able to evolve the name to be more regionally inclusive, and give the identity generous stretch. we consolidated this into a practical design system, adding a typographic set, an independent logotype, new visual language and distinctive tone of voice messaging. the new identity sytem allowed for broader communication and stretch across multiple channels. packaging it up into a set of guidelines, with examples of how it worked, we then shared it with the various internal and external design teams to implement.

we’ve managed this collaborative brand rollout process with a few clients, finding the best way is open honest dialogue, working out strengths and weaknesses early on and being honest about them.

it’s one of the most positive experiences contributing to a city that is grappling with how to visually represent and express itself to its audiences. it’s very tangible and ‘real’. you get to walk around and see your work in action. a uniquely special city required a unique solution that was right for them. obviously having that background knowledge to city identities really helped us offer up, not a cookie cutter solution, but an approach right for christchurch at their stage of the identity life cycle.

- published in nz marketing magazine, july/august 2015







marketing magazine, design, brand, city brand

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

Fletcher Building comes on board

23 Jun 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, joined Insight's enviable portfolio of clients in May 2015. Already, we're well into projects for their corporate website and annual reporting programme. ...

fletcher building comes on board mike tisdall

fletcher building, new zealand's largest listed company, joined insight's enviable portfolio of clients in may 2015. already, we're well into projects for their corporate website and annual reporting programme.

fletcher building

Insight judges the TVNZ Marketing Awards

18 Jun 2015 by Mike Tisdall

CEO, Steven Giannoulis, has been selected as a judge of the prestigious TVNZ Marketing Awards for 2015. He says: "Entries have to describe the business strategy and objectives, the marketing strategy and all the...

insight judges the tvnz marketing awards mike tisdall

ceo, steven giannoulis, has been selected as a judge of the prestigious tvnz marketing awards for 2015.

he says: "entries have to describe the business strategy and objectives, the marketing strategy and all the tactics they put in place. they have to document the insights/research which lead to the campaign approach. and they need to supply tangible results against targets – sales charts, brand awareness monitor scores, click-thru data etc. judges are not provided the creative outputs (and we are encouraged not to refer to them) to stop us judging the quality of a campaign on how much we like the visual execution.

"there’s some amazing work and some incredible thinking which i have found very inspiring.

"two key learnings:  (1) a well written entry makes all the difference – there were some amazing entries but they just didn’t sell what made them great campaigns. i have over 50 campaigns to judge, so don’t make me have to work hard to find out what you did and if it was any good; and (2) they need to have a very clear and direct connection between the business challenge, the insights into the audience, the marketing/comms strategy, the key messages, the channels selected and the big campaign idea.

"votes are in and i have a full day next thursday to review the finalists and hand out the ribbons! i feel like an x-factor judge."


judging, marketing awards

The Evolution of the Ports of Auckland brand

02 Jun 2015 by Mike Tisdall

While the Ports of Auckland are currently embroiled in a public standoff over wharf extension into the Auckland Harbour, there's still no doubt about the short- and long-term economic impact the Port has on our city....

the evolution of the ports of auckland brand mike tisdall

while the ports of auckland are currently embroiled in a public standoff over wharf extension into the auckland harbour, there's still no doubt about the short- and long-term economic impact the port has on our city. and their visual identity needs to operate by the rules of commercial necessity too. and so, in mid-2014, we embarked on an evolutionary update of their logo, colour palette and typography to keep them fresh and contemporary. creative director, brian slade talks about the process and the lessons for other companies looking to refresh their visual identities in this article in the may/june edition of marketing magazine. you can read it online at stoppress here.


ports of auckland, brand refresh

Major law firm gets a rebrand

02 Jun 2015 by Mike Tisdall

May saw two exciting developments for law firm, Meredith Connell. First, government announced that the firm had retained the warrant as Auckland's Crown Prosecutor after a lengthy - and much delayed - assessment...

major law firm gets a rebrand mike tisdall

may saw two exciting developments for law firm, meredith connell. first, government announced that the firm had retained the warrant as auckland's crown prosecutor after a lengthy - and much delayed - assessment process. and second, the firm's bold new brand was launched. it's difficult to be different in the higher echelons of new zealand law firms, but meredith connell were determined to express an explicit point of view and powerfully differentiated personality. you can see a full case study on the 'work' section of this site, and also have a look at the new website we launched as part of the new brand launch:



brand, meredith connell, insight creative

Cross channel communication for Mighty River Power

16 Apr 2015 by Mike Tisdall

Hot off the press . . . this stakeholder newsletter for Mighty River Power was designed for screen and print from the get go. Seamless communication.    ...

cross channel communication for mighty river power mike tisdall

hot off the press . . . this stakeholder newsletter for mighty river power was designed for screen and print from the get go. seamless communication.



mighty river power newsletter, online, print

Workplace graphics to 'live' in the brand

16 Apr 2015 by Mike Tisdall

To design, produce and install signage in Transpower's new Auckland Office in time for their opening day meant we only had 15 days from briefing, through design to installation. By knowing our clients brands intimately...

workplace graphics to 'live' in the brand mike tisdall

to design, produce and install signage in transpower's new auckland office in time for their opening day meant we only had 15 days from briefing, through design to installation. by knowing our clients brands intimately through long working relationships, at least the design part of the project becomes easier . . .

Trending away from Trends

11 Mar 2015 by Brian Slade

A well designed future may be informed by trends but shouldn’t be slavish to them says Brian Slade.   At the start of each year, just as are getting back from that glorious summer break, there seems to be an...

trending away from trends brian slade

a well designed future may be informed by trends but shouldn’t be slavish to them says brian slade.


at the start of each year, just as are getting back from that glorious summer break, there seems to be an ever increasing array of trend predictions - from retail trends, to sports, oscars, careers, celebrities, cars, the work place, sharemarkets, technologies, the list goes on. i find these lists really interesting, as i’m sure half the things on them wouldn’t stand a chance of getting anywhere without these trend predictions and then our own innate human curiosity. interestingly self-fulfilling!

the design industry isn’t without its own predictions. these need to be navigated carefully in order not to simply fall into the trap of being relevant one minute and not the next.

until last year, some marketers had considered cross-device optimisation as a fringe benefit. no more. “mobile first” is the catch cry for online design now. agility marketing (likes and tweets) looks to increase as marketers and audiences talk ‘face to face’ more online than ever before and rich media and video become more commonplace. there’s a growing desire for simplicity and cleanliness in communications with flat simple graphics continuing to lead the way. countering this desire for clarity is a resurgence of crafted typography with an expressive personality and humanity. the colour for the year is apparently masala (pms 18-1438), with pantone claiming it is appealing to both male and female, hearty, yet stylish, universally appealing and translating to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.

i think part of the trick is knowing when a trend is relevant to your communications task and when it’s not, but more importantly understanding what’s behind the trend and relevantly applying this to a project. as a rule of thumb it’s safe to say that if you’re working on a one-off campaign or communication that speaks to a more youthful audience you’ll want to be employing visual elements and language that resonate as being ‘on trend’. having said that, part of a designer’s role is always going to be ensuring that the visual language they are using resonates with their primary audience.

our work on the nz super fund’s website is an example of this. the nz super fund was set up for the government to save now in order to help pay for the future cost of providing national super to kiwis. they have a clear understanding of what their audiences are looking for and speak to them consistently over a long period of time. our design approach needed to be current but, more importantly, be relevant to many audiences and for a number of years to come. 


their primary external audiences include investment managers that follow them closely with strong relationship-based communications, interested members of the public and international and local media. we’ve worked with the fund for a number of years on visual identity streamlining and various offline communications including their annual report which has achieved international recognition.

the website held quite different challenges, speaking primarily to audiences that look to track the fund’s performance and understand its investment approach. working closely with the client and undertaking user testing, we built on their existing website’s good bones by refining the ia (information architecture). we put a lot of focus on the ux (user experience), looking to optimise intuitive site navigation with an enhanced site search to achieve transparent, clear, accurate information. gaining clarity through clear design thinking.

the design solution involved moving the existing abstract imagery to more human imagery of children, parents and grandparents interacting in natural new zealand environments. once again looking to the trend of connectivity and belonging, these give an essential reality to why the fund exists. this approach also delivered on the inter-generational aspect of the fund – saving now to benefit future generations.

rich content such as video was used to explain more complex content, once again on trend but clearly functional and beneficial to the end user, putting a face to the investments.  the design uses a combination of subtle but important humanist design assets such as soft shadowing in the navigation and layered colour tones. while these go against the flat graphics trend, they create a warmer experience that supports the fund’s purpose. 

the nz super website is a well designed site that, although isn’t slavish to a trend, is clearly informed by them. it just takes a bit of courage and judgement.

- published in nz marketing magazine, march/april 2015

IBBY Congress website goes live and gains instant plaudits

06 Mar 2015 by Mike Tisdall

In less than 24 hours, this is the feedback received on the new IBBY Congress website that went live yesterday morning. The following is mostly from NZ so far, but some of this is from countries like Switzerland,...

ibby congress website goes live and gains instant plaudits mike tisdall

in less than 24 hours, this is the feedback received on the new ibby congress website that went live yesterday morning. the following is mostly from nz so far, but some of this is from countries like switzerland, scandinavia and moldova!

see the site here.

feedback re ibby congress website

  • congratulations and huge thanks to mike and his team. we simple could not be at this stage without his patience, ‘insight and creativity’. we, storylines and ibby congress planners, are very fortunate to have had his expertise and willing support.
  • how absolutely wonderful, rosemary. thanks to mike and you for all the work that has made it one of the most wonderful websites for a conference i think i have ever seen!
  • wow
  • looks absolutely great – very clear and easy to access! a huge well done, mike and team. congratulations.
  • fantastic rosemary – a huge milestone! will be sharing a lot – just saw it (and liked it) via frances on facebook!
  • just brilliant!
  • well done to mike and his team. have just cruised and perused the site and it is fabulous indeed.  the look, the feel, ben’s illustrations, the enticing content, relating both to the conference and to nz as a destination.
  • i agree! it looks really wonderful and the initial ideas still stand up superbly well. if i was 24 hours away i would want to come! (and the nz video has given me a great big lump in my throat … true pride! ). thank you rosemary, libby and all. thank you mike, it is brilliant!
  • brilliant! congratulations to mike and his team. very easy to navigate and looks great
  • looks wonderful – congrats to mike and his team. and to rosemary and libby for creating such compelling content.
  • ditto. great job by mike and his team and supported by the committee
  • completely gorgeous! how could anyone resist!
  • beautiful! enticing, one would hope
  • joining chorus of compliments for the website – looks fabulous, clean, user-friendly and very appealing. well done, all folks involved – especially to mike, who i gather has had something to do with it!
  • thought you might like to know that it has gone out internationally. and my facebook post has been picked up by friends in australia and japan so far. amazing job, rosemary
  • i have been exploring the website further and it is really excellent! the information is clear, comprehensive and easy to find, and the design is so clear and fresh. yes, it is fantastic! (ibby international president, lucerne, switzerland)
  • congratulations! on a beautiful, easy to navigate, interesting and fun congress website. (ibby international coo, lucerne, switzerland)
  • the website looks fantastic. the nz page with the 10 must see places looks great.

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:

The 5 day Visionarium

20 Feb 2015 by Brian Slade

The challenge was to dress a travelling container, the Visionarium, for Future Christchurch that was approachable and informative. Turnaround was about 5 working days from start to finish. The creative solution was to...

the 5 day visionarium brian slade

the challenge was to dress a travelling container, the visionarium, for future christchurch that was approachable and informative. turnaround was about 5 working days from start to finish. the creative solution was to stretch the more formal aspects of the visual identity we've created; to go bold and visual and get my paints out to create bespoke eclectic typographic elements; and with positive messages that supported the display board content, fly-throughs and website. job done - in 4.5 days.

Branding 360

10 Feb 2015 by Brian Slade

We’ve been working with the New Zealand Drug Foundation for years. We’ve created core brand identity elements, video, web, symposiums, sub-branded initiatives and a whole lot more, including their quarterly 40 page...

branding 360 brian slade

we’ve been working with the new zealand drug foundation for years. we’ve created core brand identity elements, video, web, symposiums, sub-branded initiatives and a whole lot more, including their quarterly 40 page magazine matters of substance. late last year they moved into new offices and we took a look at their environmental branding application to give their brand a full 360 degree visual and messaging alignment.


branding, environmental graphics, nz drug foundation

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

The many faces of Ngāti Whātua

19 Jan 2015 by Mike Tisdall

In 2013, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei restructured their organisation into three entities: Whai Rawa, the commercial arm; Whai Maia, the community arm; and the Trust, the overarching custodian of the people’s interests...

the many faces of ngāti whātua mike tisdall

in 2013, ngāti whātua Ōrākei restructured their organisation into three entities: whai rawa, the commercial arm; whai maia, the community arm; and the trust, the overarching custodian of the people’s interests today and for generations to come. and we produced the first round of three annual reports to articulate what each of the entities stood for, addressing each distinctive audience while representing the hap's unified story across all touch points.

following on from those inaugural reports, the 2014 reports reflected growth and development within the organisation whilst incorporating the notion of a wind of change. while some new elements have been added, the three new reports strongly maintain a visual language continuity from the design approach established the year before.

Pause all of life's chaos

19 Dec 2014 by Steven Giannoulis

It’s the end of a very full on year for us and our clients, so we wanted to create something which championed the idea of temporarily pausing our hectic lives in order to truly appreciate life’s beauty. We...

pause all of life's chaos steven giannoulis

it’s the end of a very full on year for us and our clients, so we wanted to create something which championed the idea of temporarily pausing our hectic lives in order to truly appreciate life’s beauty. we started working with the nz symphony orchestra for the first time this year and were thrilled that they were open to incorporating the wonderful music they make into our video. the result is a solution that moves from chaotic to a delightful piece of story-telling. a reminder to take a break, re-energise and re-connect with the people and things that are important to all of us. that means you too. have a great xmas and summer break. see you when you are ready to press play again in the new year.

insight, pause, marcomms, nzso, video

Designed to work

19 Dec 2014 by Brian Slade

Design shouldn’t seek to be creative or effective. It should always strive to be both. Earlier this year we secured the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as a client for the first time. The NZSO is well known for...

designed to work brian slade

design shouldn’t seek to be creative or effective. it should always strive to be both.

earlier this year we secured the new zealand symphony orchestra as a client for the first time. the nzso is well known for their artistic excellence and high standards of creativity. it’s always a great pleasure working with creatively inspired organisations and we’ve been lucky enough to work with a few including the arts foundation and the royal new zealand ballet.

over the years, the nzso has produced a number of stunning season brochures that have been recognised with numerous design awards. fair to say we were pretty excited to be working on the season 15 brochure and its extended communications programme.

at the brochure briefing, the client was very clear about the objective: “more bums on seats.” this was followed by an explanation that they didn’t want an ‘over-designed’ brochure that made them look pretentious and inaccessible. they wanted something that represented their artistic excellence and worked hard to sell more tickets to the season’s individual concerts. by their very nature, the client understands the tension between creative integrity and business reality but even they seemed to imply that creativity needed to be grounded in effectiveness.

for many designers this outwardly expressed desire for a more functional approach could be a bit of a let down and they may feel that it compromise their creativity. in my view, if you approach a job with an attitude that it’s not a creative opportunity then chances are, it won’t be.

unfortunately this ‘creative or effective myth’ is one we seem to reinforce as a wider creative communication industry. we hand out creative awards to design ideas even though they fail to deliver the client’s objectives. we have separate awards to recognise communication effectiveness as if to say “it’s ok that it wasn’t that creative”.

i am a firm believer that in our commercial design industry good creative is only as good as the results it delivers. our clients pay us to design communications that inform, create desire, drive actions or change perceptions. if they don’t do these things then how can they be hailed as good design? a beautiful chair that can’t be sat on is a failed design. equally, a highly creative sales brochure that doesn’t sell is just as much a failed design.

fortunately, creative design and effectiveness do go hand in hand. good creative assists with cut through, engagement and storytelling, allowing audiences to effortlessly move through the stages of awareness, interest, desire and action. a strong creative idea balances rational and emotional appeal allowing the heart to want and the head to turn it into action.

to understand the season 15 offering we set ourselves the homework task of listening and watching the music and guest artists that make up the season’s concerts. for each concert we developed a story capturing the essence of what audiences would see, hear and experience. we also attended nzso performances to immerse ourselves in the concert experience we were promoting. (i’ve got to say what an awesome experience it was!)

the brochure’s cover is a key focus of immersion - losing yourself, or indeed finding yourself, through the music and the experience. the opening spreads tell a high level story of the season and what seeing the nzso live will feel like for audiences. these pages draw readers into the more detailed concert pages that follow. concert spreads provide a mixture of expressive and passionate imagery and factual cues to further involve the reader. to capitalise on the emotional engagement, the booking information was redesigned to aid the reader to take immediate action.

if you’ve read this far then the question you may ask is, did the season 15 brochure deliver both increased sales and high standards of creativity? so far, season sales are over a third higher than they were at the same time last year. we can’t claim it’s all because of our design (the season itself features an amazing line-up of compositions and guest artists) but the client feels that our work has definitely made a big difference. feedback on the brochure design is that it is worthy of awards recognition. we will no doubt enter it and let our creative peers be the judge.


nzso, subscription, 2015 season

Insight announces new CEO

24 Nov 2014 by Mike Tisdall

Steven Giannoulis has been appointed CEO of Insight from 1 December 2014. Steven is currently Strategic Development Director. Steven has been with Insight since 2011 but his association with the company, as a...

insight announces new ceo mike tisdall

steven giannoulis has been appointed ceo of insight from 1 december 2014. steven is currently strategic development director.

steven has been with insight since 2011 but his association with the company, as a client, goes back over 12 years. this background has been invaluable in attracting new business, delivering top class business-focused communications strategy and in understanding clients’ expectations from a design agency. steven has over 25 years’ experience leading numerous brand, marketing, product, communications and client service teams for organisations such as tower, nz lotteries, and ing. he has an mba as well as a business degree majoring in both marketing and management. since arriving at insight, steven has constantly displayed his leadership qualities, gaining the trust and respect of his peers, the board and clients.

after 38 years of establishing and leading the business, mike tisdall has decided to step down as insight’s managing director. he will continue to champion the growth of insight as both a member of the board and also as part of steven’s senior leadership team.

mike tisdall founded insight in 1976 and has led its growth to one of new zealand’s leading design agencies. today insight is a multi-national, award-winning design communications agency that works with many of australasia’s largest corporates, government departments, smes and charitable trusts.

with a strong leadership team in place, good governance through the board and a clear vision and strategy to move the business forward he feels now is the right time to introduce new leadership.

mike will remain in the business, managing the company’s financial, reporting and operational functions while also working across a number of key new business, marketing and client strategy initiatives. he also maintains his majority ownership of insight.

24% of New Zealand children are living in poverty

24 Oct 2014 by Brian Slade

Wave upon wave of evidence tells us… 24% of New Zealand children are living in poverty. The longer they live in poverty the greater risk of physical harm, cognitive development and health issues they face. With this...

24% of new zealand children are living in poverty brian slade

wave upon wave of evidence tells us… 24% of new zealand children are living in poverty. the longer they live in poverty the greater risk of physical harm, cognitive development and health issues they face. with this as a background to the brief we approached this years annual report for stand children’s services with a very serious hard hitting visual tone. feedback so far has been very positive, “(i was) very moved by it – loved the theme and the way it was represented with the sea – photographs are amazing and altogether a little gem…” it's good to be making a difference.

How brains process logos

23 Oct 2014 by Jason O'Hara

No major revelations here but it is kind of interesting - and a good summary of the importance of colour and shape to brand recognition. Re-posted from an infographic by Logomaker. ...

how brains process logos jason o'hara

no major revelations here but it is kind of interesting - and a good summary of the importance of colour and shape to brand recognition.

re-posted from an infographic by logomaker.

logos, brand, perception

30-30-30, the EBOS journey

14 Oct 2014 by Brian Slade

EBOS are on a journey that sees them embarking on a very new chapter this year with a change of leadership. Last year's best awards finalist ‘combined’ report was split into two documents this year. The strong...

30-30-30, the ebos journey brian slade

ebos are on a journey that sees them embarking on a very new chapter this year with a change of leadership. last year's best awards finalist ‘combined’ report was split into two documents this year. the strong story-telling shareholder review assures shareholders of sound planning around this leadership tranistion, by looking at 30 years of consistent and diversified growth, 30 months of leadership evolution and how the next 30 years begins. the second document is the 'compliance' annual report that provides full disclosure for the audiences that seek this.

ebos, annual report, shareholder review

Vital/ creating capacity to meet demand

09 Oct 2014 by Brian Slade

With a clear eye on future trends within the healthcare sector, this year's annual report focuses on Vital's effective strategies to meet the demand with a strong clear message: Cause/Effect. In line with their visual...

vital/ creating capacity to meet demand brian slade

with a clear eye on future trends within the healthcare sector, this year's annual report focuses on vital's effective strategies to meet the demand with a strong clear message: cause/effect. in line with their visual identity, the bold graphic execution is a signal of confidence in their strategic direction and top line messaging.

Insight maintains its carbon neutrality

08 Oct 2014 by Mike Tisdall

We have just received our annual Greenhouse Gas Assessment for the financial year ended 31 March 2014 from our auditors, Pangolin & Associates, and have purchased the carbon credits required to ensure we remain a...

insight maintains its carbon neutrality mike tisdall

we have just received our annual greenhouse gas assessment for the financial year ended 31 march 2014 from our auditors, pangolin & associates, and have purchased the carbon credits required to ensure we remain a carbon neutral member of our clients' supply chains.

our total emissions were up 10% on the previous financial year, with the greatest increases coming from our  growth-driven additional computer workstations and flights, but we used a little less power, fewer hotel rooms and taxis and less waste was sent to landfill.

 a better indication of how far we’ve actually come is to compare this result from the 2013/14 year to the year when we started this assessment process: 2007/8: our emissions have dropped 12.6% over that period despite adding the wellington office to our physical footprint:


we continue to actively strive to minimise our footprint, particularly relating to the largest contributor: air travel. where possible, we continue to utilise our video conferencing facilities while always considering the best option for our clients and their projects.


sustainable, carbon neutral

Making it Large

13 Sep 2014 by Brian Slade

Published late last year, Lettering Large, the new book by The Monacelli Press NY features our work for AlburyCity Nexus. Celebrating all things internationally typographic on a large scale there are 240 pages of...

making it large brian slade

published late last year, lettering large, the new book by the monacelli press ny features our work for alburycity nexus. celebrating all things internationally typographic on a large scale there are 240 pages of impressive global text and letter forms.

albury, nexus, signage, environmental graphics

Charming new website for the IBBY Congress

25 Aug 2014 by Mike Tisdall

With New Zealand hosting the 2016 IBBY Congress (International Board on Books for Young People), the oganisers needed to start generating some interest well in advance. With most prospective delegates coming from...

charming new website for the ibby congress mike tisdall

with new zealand hosting the 2016 ibby congress (international board on books for young people), the oganisers needed to start generating some interest well in advance. with most prospective delegates coming from the northern hemisphere, getting the commitment to attend was a potential barrier to financial viability. so leaning on the exotic pull of a visit to new zealand - tugging at the 'bucket list' opportunity - was the decided strategy. future iterations of the site will focus more fully on the attractions on the congress itself. but for now, an engaging and innovative one-page site that focuses on the tourism pull of new zealand has been designed to raise awareness, pique interest and encourage forward planning.

view the site here.

ibby, congress, website

Vista floats

20 Aug 2014 by Mike Tisdall

Vista is the last of a hectic run of seven IPOs we've handled in the past 5 months. A massive push on quite an unprecedented amount of this kind of work saw this project finally come home. A full on and...

vista floats mike tisdall

vista is the last of a hectic run of seven ipos we've handled in the past 5 months. a massive push on quite an unprecedented amount of this kind of work saw this project finally come home. a full on and effective visual document that is smaller than the average a4 finished size.

ipo, vista entertainment group

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:

Scaling new heights

14 Aug 2014 by Brian Slade

Everyone who picks up our recent IPO document for Scales loves the feel. A high build UV overgloss creates a unique sensory experience that separates this document from other offers. A playful ‘apple sticker’...

scaling new heights brian slade

everyone who picks up our recent ipo document for scales loves the feel. a high build uv overgloss creates a unique sensory experience that separates this document from other offers. a playful ‘apple sticker’ is applied to the cover to add to the pick me up and read me appeal. it can be a juggling act when up against crazy deadlines, but we managed to hold onto a number of the crafted elements like the apple pie graphs and neat flow charts.


ipo, scales

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.


Do you need an Investor Brand?

28 May 2014 by Mike Tisdall

If you're a stock exchange listed company, investor perception of you as an investment is crucially important to encourage ownership, and help underpin share price. Well built, an Investor Brand can give your share...

do you need an investor brand? mike tisdall

if you're a stock exchange listed company, investor perception of you as an investment is crucially important to encourage ownership, and help underpin share price.

well built, an investor brand can give your share price resilience

an investor brand won’t stop the market panicking, but it should help investors make more informed and rational decisions about how they perceive your stock, and it should ensure that your stock is more resilient in the face of market panic.

what is a ‘brand’ anyway? and why does the concept apply to investment?

before we go any further, we should perhaps consider what a brand actually is, and why the notion applies to the ‘investor’ part of your business as well as the marketing side. a brand is more than a product, and more than a logo. one of our favourite definitions is: a brand is what people say about you after you’ve left the room.

so, it’s the set of value-associations linked to your name. in the case of marketers, that translates into higher margins. in the case of investors, it translates into stocks that are more accurately valued and that are more likely to be directly associated (by recall) with your strategies. investor brands carry a greater degree of familiarity for investors. people feel they understand them and where they’re going.

a strong brand creates space between you and other stocks competing for the investment

it differentiates the value of what your stock offers from that of your competitors. so it’s about your stock’s overall reputation and profile, and it’s about ensuring that your stock is chosen over another investment options in the same or another asset class. equally, when markets fall, it’s about having the information and awareness in the marketplace that minimises your downside.

to help achieve that, churchill pryce ir suggests that a robust investor brand needs to have associations and present messages to the market that are:

  • meaningful
  • concise

  • comprehensive and

  • compelling

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…


‘Stop Press’ article on our new Stand branding project

28 Apr 2014 by Brian Slade

Stop Press, 5 July 2013 Marketers could be excused for thinking that not-for-profit (NFP) sector brands learn from commercial consumer brands, not the other way around. However, developing a new brand for a...

‘stop press’ article on our new stand branding project brian slade

stop press, 5 july 2013

marketers could be excused for thinking that not-for-profit (nfp) sector brands learn from commercial consumer brands, not the other way around. however, developing a new brand for a long-established nfp organisation has been a salient reminder of the wider, strategic roles that a brand can play.

rebranding is not something that a nfp organisation undertakes easily. there is one school of thought that says not a single dollar raised by the concerned public should be used to build a ‘brand’. whereas anxious nfp chief executives are balancing these concerns with the worry that if they do decide to build their brand, their limited resources won’t cope with increased demand the extra attention could create.

and finally, the commercially-averse nfp leadership team believes that building their brand will diminish their separation from the commercial world, removing the vital essence of the not-for-profit relationship with its sponsors and stakeholders.

for these reasons, when te puna whaiora children’s health camps, one of new zealand’s longest running social services, initiated a brand review, it required complex thinking and an even more intricate process than would potentially be employed for a consumer brand.

first we had to ask “what is the role of brand in the nfp sector?” and the complexity of the answer challenged our consumer brand thinking.

nfp brands are now so much more than fundraising tools. management teams are being asked by their boards how their brand is contributing to their social impact, to their external trust, to partner/sponsorship solidity, to internal unity and to capacity.

an nfp brand also needs to perform numerous roles and appeal to multiple audiences. the brand must help the nfp acquire more financial, human, and social resources, and galvanise and help construct key partnerships.

the visual identity is only the first step in the journey to developing a strong nfp brand. it’s the organisation’s ‘shop front’ and is critical to building its ability to change the world on behalf of their cause. however, it is the brand essence that is the ‘call to action’ and a constant reminder of the nfp organisation’s mandate to do things their way; to be brave, and speak out.

knowing the brand story and buying into it also helps ensure their partners and supporters do things their way too and do nothing to undermine the brand’s integrity. most importantly of all, an nfp brand needs to instill a sense of pride in all who engage with it.

the brand developed for te puna whaiora children’s health camps – stand children’s services (stand) – is no exception. from day one, the rebrand inspired a step change within the organisation. it has given stand the opportunity engage with their stakeholders, tell a fresh story and remind them of how important their work is to the community. in a nutshell, it has reframed their call to action and has reignited passion.

in developing the stand brand, insight had to consider a much larger and more varied group of stakeholders than is usually considered when developing a consumer brand. those making a financial or voluntary contribution (funders) aren’t the ones who will experience the nfp’s core promise. they aren’t necessarily looking for a “what’s in it for me?” and yet, at the same time they have a stake in ensuring the brand represents something they wish to be associated with, is professional and portrays the right image.

secondly, a nfp organisation has to be democratic in its management of its brand; harnessing and providing boundaries for enthusiastic members, volunteers and participants, while ensuring it minimises brand anarchy. te puna whaiora children’s health camps actively engaged with all key stakeholders and their feedback was critical in shaping the final identity.

the response from stand’s stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive. positioning statements “stand for children” and “a world strong for children” have become rallying cries for change. the organisation is reinvigorated, with staff operating with stronger pride and an even greater sense of urgency. politicians, funders and other child-support agencies have also noticed the change and are actively asking “what more can we do to stand for children?”

insight also had to be cognisant of the fact that nfps don’t have the level of clarity between brand functions the commercial world does. managing the brand isn’t simply the responsibility of marketing or ommunications. the entire team have to be custodians of their brand’s identity and be budding brand managers and brand builders.

the brand framework also has to be more fluid as often the cause, the organisation and the offering are synonymous. the visual elements must be adaptable to allow tailoring to the need of the audiences and specific messaging, while instilling a level of brand consistency. such adaptability is also essential for the inevitable use of the brand by social media.

stand’s strong visual image with a bold colour transition, a strong word mark, expressive typography, photography and graphic elements allow for this.

the inspiration for the name was new zealand’s totara. the ‘king of tane’s great forest’ stretches high above the dense canopy of broadleaf trees and protects the other trees from storm damage. the inspiration for the bold colour transition was stand taking the children on a journey from darkness to light.

‘stand’ helps explain the organisation’s unique proposition: they stand together to bring hope to new zealand’s most vulnerable children; they help children and families stand up and be strong; they stand against isolation and fear; they take a stand, acting with urgency to deliver solutions that make a child’s world safer, happier and healthier place. and finally, they nurture dreams and aspirations of our nation’s children, allowing them to find their turangawaewae ‘their place to stand’.

Web apps vs native apps

14 Mar 2014 by Mike Tisdall

For those interested in the debate around whether native or web apps are the best approach, this article is very interesting. It argues in favour of web apps, but gives good insights on strengths and weaknesses of...

web apps vs native apps mike tisdall

for those interested in the debate around whether native or web apps are the best approach, this article is very interesting. it argues in favour of web apps, but gives good insights on strengths and weaknesses of each. worth a read.

trends, design, apps

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

Web design trends for 2014

16 Dec 2013 by Jeremy Sweetman

Everyone tends to like having a stab at predicting the future of… well… anything & everything. So here goes… my top three predictions for web design in 2014 are: 1. More flat design: More and more we are...

web design trends for 2014 jeremy sweetman

everyone tends to like having a stab at predicting the future of… well… anything & everything. so here goes… my top three predictions for web design in 2014 are:

1. more flat design: more and more we are seeing big brands moving away from skeumorphism in favour of a flat design. design that represents a 100% purpose when considering the function of the product. the most obvious examples (that i’m almost certain most have experienced) is the new ios7 from apple or (from the other camp) the windows metro ui and its wonderful array of tiles. flat design tends to focus on flat shapes and indicators that help the user have a more accessible experience.

click here for an interesting article around the battle of flat design versus skeumorphism. or check out this infographic.

2. focus on mobile: a bit of a no-brainer really. mobile is here. with 4.55 billion people expected to use a smart phone in 2014 – it’s no surprise the shift in focus (source. emarketers, jan 14, 2014). but what this figure doesn’t account for are all tablet users or steady flow of wearable gadgets starting to hit the market. mobile is going to be big.

this (obviously) means understanding the nuances of our users and how they consume information across all these devices will be key to mastering the mobile space.

3. endless scrolling: as much as the concept of ‘infinite’ or ‘endless’ scrolling as been around for a little while – i think it will definitely become more prominent within new sites & over new platforms.

i think it (definitely) will start to reign supreme on mobile devices; as it allows users to scroll through content faster & easier than having to click through links and wait for pages to catch up. typically, infinite scrolling pages are not content-cluttered which aligns itself with the new online design techniques quite nicely. this is especially true when overall layout and design can change as a user scrolls – which makes it easy for users to forget they are scrolling through quite a bit of information.

one of my current favorites (for lots of reasons) is – check it out.

of course, other ‘designery‘ stuff which is gaining momentum in popularity at the moment – whether by design, opportunity or necessity has to include:

  • less text, more video: a wall of text versus a 30 second video – no contest.  videos are a great way to effectively communicate with audiences who want to be entertained & engaged.
  • big background videos: as bandwidth has less impact on design, we are starting to see more big background videos; that (if done right) provide a deeper user experience and greater connection to the brand.
  • hidden/slide-out menus: users are becoming more and more savvy in their use of technology. a button to reveal a plethora of menu options is becoming common place on mobile devices. although, some would argue this is a negative from a ux/usability perspective – what do you think?

so, have i missed something important? have i got something completely wrong? be vocal and let me know.

of course, i’d be keen to hear what your web design predictions for 2014? don’t be shy!

website, trends

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

Web Design trends for 2013

07 Feb 2013 by Mike Tisdall

Here’s an interesting and easily skimmable article on where web design is heading. Some ‘design’ stuff and a wee bit of more technical stuff, I reckon there’s something relevant in here for anybody looking at...

web design trends for 2013 mike tisdall

here’s an interesting and easily skimmable article on where web design is heading. some ‘design’ stuff and a wee bit of more technical stuff, i reckon there’s something relevant in here for anybody looking at reviewing their online presence this year.

such things as:

  • mobile first design
  • infinite scrolling
  • whitespace & minimalism
  • natural design elements
  • big photography
  • cleaner source code
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