Guest Lecture: Nick Sims, Saffron

Nick Sims from Saffron gave the first years this week’s guest lecture. Nick graduated around eight years ago, and since then has worked internationally before returning to the UK three years ago to take up a position at Saffron. Describing himself as ‘an ideas man’ since leaving college, it was arriving at Saffron that he realised he was a ‘brand designer’. The great thing about being a brand designer is that it allows Nick to get involved in a huge range of different aspects of design, including user experience, user interface design, typography, tone of voice, photography, motion, layout, colour, sound and even smell. Nicks advice for young creatives is to:


At Saffron, Nick is able to continue to follow this advice himself as Saffron have offices and clients throughout the world and designers often work across projects together, so he is very often out of the UK. Nick showcased a range of projects he has worked on, a recent one being the rebrand of Tiger. Also known as Flying Tiger and TGR and originally  established in Copenhagen, the brand’s visual identity and tone of voice wasn’t really communicating their personality, with many people assuming that the shop sold cheap, low quality products. The design team have taken a really playful approach to the rebrand, focusing on the idea of Everyday Magic. They also developed a visual system that enables the three different names to function very clearly under the one brand.

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The logotype was formed by cutting the letterforms out of card, with the outlines then being slightly refined digitally – as Saffron describe, ‘carefully crafted to look uncrafted’. It was great to see that studios still use these hands on methods to think through ideas in a range of ways. The branding now communicates much more of a sense of Tiger as a playful, quirky company – one that conjures up some everyday magic for the customer. The simple satisfied smile that is an integral part of the branding ‘represents the smile Tiger put on customers’ faces as they discover things they need, things they want, and things they didn’t know existed — all at a price that surprises’.



Guest lecture: Anoushka Rodda, Templo

Last week Anoushka Rodda, Managing Director of Templo, came in to give a guest lecture to the second year students. Temple are a really interesting agency, with a strong ethical perspective on design – only working with clients and on projects that reflect their own values and contribute to some form of positive change. Anoushka talked through a range of case studies, including work for the United Nations which enabled the organisation to tell their story in a way that created a more relevant public image.

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She also showed a project for the International Truth & Justice Project that focused on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. The solution here cleverly integrated the two local languages Tamil and Sinhala, along with English, thus resonating within Sri Lanka, but also connecting with a global audience. The two ‘brother and sister’ logos fused the Sinhala and Tamil words for ‘stop’ with English. This enabled them to dual brand everything and create a sense of balance from both perspectives.


The campaign launched in June 2014 and will continue into 2016. It has built momentum online through the main campaign website, the white flag incident website and social media. A celebrity event, chaired by Jenni Murray BBC journalist and presenter, helped raise further global awareness for the #StopTorture campaign. Cara Delevingne, M.I.A., Bianca Jagger and Maryam d’Abo read survivor testimonies from the report.

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The campaign and the report provided a basis for advocacy and lobbying to be carried out in both Geneva and New York. The Stop Torture campaign persuaded United Nation countries to vote for an international, independent inquiry into human rights violations in Sri Lanka. As a result of the campaign William Hague stopped deporting victims of torture back to Sri Lanka. Having a bilingual branding system helped to connect with two distinct audiences and provided both communities with the opportunity to read the campaign in their own language. This a real testament to the power of design.

Alongside the case studies, Anoushka also gave students an insight into the design management side of the business, including areas such as liaising with clients, developing briefs, costing projects and pitching ideas. This gave the students a real insight into how Templo works as a studio, and what else goes into the development of a project beyond the design.

Guest lecture: Priyjah Paramasivam, Rufus Leonard

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Some more great advice for first year’s this week from Priyjah Paramasivam who is a mid-weight brand designer at Rufus Leonard. She shared her journey from graduation to date which included a stint at Beyond, before starting at Rufus Leonard three years ago. The agency describe themselves as creative problem solvers, and it was evident from how Priyjah talked through her case studies, that concepts are key to the Rufus Leonard approach. During her time at Rufus Leonard, Priyjah has worked on a range of high profile accounts, and one she talked through in detail was the Odeon cinemas brand refresh. Whilst the Odeon logotype is a classic on our streetscape, the traditional experience offered from mainstream cinemas has been challenged by smaller brands such as Curzon or Everyman that offer the cinema goer a more bespoke experience. The challenge with Odeon was to retain their diverse audience, but refine their approach to encourage greater engagement with their offering. To do this, the design team focused on the immersive experience of truly great film. They used the iconic O of the Odeon brand as a design motif, positioning it as the ‘portal’ through which viewers’ imaginations are transported.


Priyjah also discussed how the different teams at Rufus Leonard work across projects, so in the course a project that might require a visual identity to be developed across print and screen, the brand designers will work in collaboration with motion graphic designers, UX designers and coders. She also talked about the great studio culture at Rufus Leonard, where designers regularly discuss ongoing projects, share ideas and pin up work in progress for feedback. They also have SIX(!) studio dogs and regularly finish the week with doughnuts and drinks. It sounds like a great place to work to me!



Guest Lecture: Tom Hardy, Manifesto Studios

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The first year students received a really insightful guest lecture this week from Tom Hardy (not that one!) from Manifesto Studios. He gave the students some great advice drawn from his fifteen years in industry working for agencies such as Sea, The Partners, and Radley Yeldar. Five years ago, Tom decided to set up his own agency, Manifesto-Studios, based in East London. He describes his business model as the most naive ever, but basically wanted to work with clients who are passionate about what they do and work with talented creatives who feel the same.


Manifesto have worked on some great projects recently. One of the case studies Tom talked about was for Suya, a Nigerian food brand being launched in London. The brand needed to connect with Nigerians as well as non-Nigerians who knew nothing about the country’s rich culture or food. The brand idea was to ‘Create the bridge between Nigeria and London with a rich food and cultural experience’. The studio used Pidgin English (a hybrid of native language and English spoken across Nigeria) for key statements with Queen’s English translations beneath. These bridged both cultures with playful messaging. Hand drawn signage is common in Nigeria so both a typeface and illustration style were developed to reflect this. The logo has an extended ‘Y’ to represent the skewers the food is cooked on. The colour palette is bold with an accent of gold – a premium colour in both locations.


Another client Manifesto have worked with recently is healthy drink brand Savse. The drinks market is saturated but consumers have lost trust in so-called ‘healthy’ options due to the addition of so much sugar and artificial ingredients. Savse’s offer was counter to that, and genuinely nutritious, but they didn’t have a way of telling people. Manifesto developed a brand idea which built on their authentic story. Nina is the founder’s mother who left a lasting impression on her family by creating fresh smoothies as an alternative to pharmaceutical medication. They drew on this rich heritage by developing ‘Nina’s Story’. The brand identity and marketing materials celebrate the natural imperfection of fruit & veg and spirit of making drinks at home.



Guest Lecture: Kate Bones


As part of their current motion project, the second year received a guest lecture and tutorials from Kate Bones. Since graduating from UAL in 2013, Kate has begun to gain a lot of design press attention as a gif artist. Starting out as a photographer, Kate has really developed an individual style and technique that initially captured the imagination of the alternative music, fashion, festival and queer scene, but is now attracting the attention of some big mainstream brands like Nike, Rimmel and Missguided.


Kate generously shared her experience of leaving college and building a network of collaborators and clients alongside developing her ideas and practice to the point she is at today. Often she’ll just be given a couple of hours working with models and photographers at a shoot to come up with ideas, sometimes she’ll have two weeks. Brands are starting to contact Kate because of her individual style and technique developed through continued experimentation. However, Kate also knows that fashions change and whilst stereoscopic GIFs and cinemagraphs are in vogue now, something else will replace them. So, outside of her commercial work she is continually experimenting with new ideas that will enable her work and approach to remain fresh.


You can read more about Kate’s work in a recent Creative Review feature.

Live second year brief: Walk Elephant

Walk elephant presentation 6Second year students Alex Robertson, Khalid Abdigaheir and Joe Jackson have recently successfully completed a live brief for Southwark Council. Southwark approached us looking to develop an initiative called ‘Walk Elephant’ which will help promote a network of high quality walking trails across the Elephant and Castle. Many think of the Elephant and Castle as a busy traffic junction but it is so much more. There are so many hidden gems and oases in the Elephant and Castle, and the Walk Elephant project seeks to link them all together, to create safe and enjoyable walking routes which people can ramble through on their way to work, the shops or home. The students were asked to develop a brand identity and a series of playful visuals to develop the initiative.

Throughout the project Alex, Khalid and Joe were mentored by the designer Karl Toomey, who was previously head of It’s Nice That’s design studio Anyways. Karl met with the student design team once a week to help them develop their ideas and prepare presentations for the clients. So this was not a only a great opportunity to work on a live brief, but was also one that gave them the opportunity to work in conjunction with a creative director.

Some of the themes the students had to develop specifically were as follows:

  1. To make people realise the Elephant and Castle is an enjoyable and green place to walk through
  2. To discover the hidden gems and rich history
  3. To make people realise the Elephant and Castle is very central and close to the river
  4. To come up with new community ideas to improve walking routes
  5. To open up the Low Line – Southwark’s answer to New York’s High Line!

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Their solution ended up involving an elephant’s foot and colours taken from details within the surrounding environment and architecture. They turned the elephant’s foot into a circular logo mark (see top of page) that can be applied across a range of media – it scales well and can be used in both colour and black and white. It’s a simple, effective and witty solution.

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They addressed many of the specific themes required through a variety of media – gifs, environmental graphics and posters. The clients were very impressed with the concept, the execution and the pitch, so we can look forward to seeing the work implemented in the coming months.



Second year brief: Symbol Design set by Michael Johnson


The second years are lucky enough to be working with Michael Johnson this term as he has set a symbol design brief. More and more in life we communicate using fewer and fewer words – think of memes and emojis – soon perhaps we’ll revert to hieroglyphics! But seriously, designing symbols is deceptively difficult, but incredibly useful if it is done well. Johnson Banks’ recent design for Action Against Hunger (final symbol shown above) not only unified all the different arms of the charity worldwide (original logos shown below), it also meant that anyone can ‘read’ and recognise the symbol regardless of what language they might speak.


There is an art to designing a great symbol—one that really communicates something about the brand. With Action Against Hunger, Johnson Banks have done that in a beautifully simple, yet clever way. Its perhaps no surprise that Johnson Banks started working with the charity three years ago, as communicating so much through such minimal means is deceptively difficult. We’ll see if the second years rise to the challenge…