Endless and taste. Strategy and design.

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Image: from Endless Studios’ case study.

Last week I went to Christmas drinks with Brilliant Noise’s design partners, Endless Studios, in their new Brighton offices.

When I go somewhere like Endless, I realise my own taste is largely of the know-it-when-I-see-it variety, and that the creation of beautiful things – from spaces to typefaces to whole brand schemas – is of a whole order of magnitude beyond mine. I know and like stylish, well-designed things – for them it’s a full time job.

If there’s one thing we need from our partnership with Endless it is their taste – they have it by the barrow-load.

The most cutting remark Steve Jobs ever made about the Apple’s great rival of the time was that they had no taste. Yes, they could produce brilliant technology, code by the milliion-lines, but when it comes to taste, he said, they were nowhere.

Taste happens by seeking out beautiful, brilliant things, said Jobs:

“It comes down to exposing yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring the same things into what you are doing.”

Good design creates beautiful things. Deeply beautiful – beyond the first impressions, beyond the surface, because good design means that someone has thought deeply about the created object, space or experience in every aspect. You feel the outcome, you see some of the outcome of a successful design process, but you may never see or understand all of it. Good design has depth and substance.

I recently finished Leander Kahney’s biography of Jonathan Ive. A recurring theme is the design of the inside of the machines by Ive’s team – sometimes to the consternation of their engineering colleagues – so that the circuit boards and innards of the computers were as elegant, in their own way, as the exteriors. That’s deep attention to detail.

When Endless designed the Brilliant Noise brand a couple of years ago, they made physical stencils of some of the shapes they’d created as part of the brand’s system. The shapes were made from the negative space between the letters of the logo and they began to develop them as a set of abstract icons. They also pored over photos and filters and ways of framing images – the right grid that things should align to, the right weight of Gotham for different documents.

I learned two things from them. First, the way that creating a visual brand is about looking at a system, a “kit of parts” that works with a steady logic – not just something that looks good. Second, that you need to go deep and explore an idea, a system of ideas, until you know you have the right answer.

I think I’d heard these things before, in relation to branding – but it wasn’t until I was part of the process of building a brand with design experts like Colin and Ben, the founders of Endless, that I grasped this as a threshold concept.

There’s a love affair between strategy and design. At least there should be. The processes are in parallel and can teach each other so much.

Our new book for Nokia on teams and flow

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This week Brilliant Noise published the third of the books for Nokia’s Smarter Everyday B2B programme Teams That Flow.

I’m biased, but I think it’s really good – following in the vein of cool stuff about working in the connected age that we explored in Design Your Day and Mobile Mastery books.

As a collection, they are some of my favourite work that we’ve produced so far – with beautiful design from our friends at Endless. It’s practical, useful stuff – and we’ve had brilliant feedback from readers. It’s also frankly stuff that I find really interesting – one of those cases of merging a passion with work.ZZ3335C723

 

Image: One of the lovely illustrations for Teams That Flow. 

It’s free and you can download it as a PDF from Slideshare or take a look at the embedded Scribd thing below…

Teams That Flow – eBook from Nokia by Antony Mayfield

Dan Wieden quotes to cheer small agencies

An AdAge article from a few months ago has a couple of bits of advice from Dan Wieden – founder of the formidable creative ad agency Wieden+Kennedy –  that make me feel a little brighter, a little bolder a little hungrier everytime I read them (like now at the beginning of a long busy day, at the end of a long, hectic week).

In fact I have them written on big yellow Post-its that migrate from desk to wall to my “brown box” (we have a hot-desk system at Brilliant Noise).

In a talk to the Ad Age Small Agency conference he reflected on the massive, rolling disruption of the media, marketing and business worlds there is massive opportunity for us upstarts…

Giant agencies are wobbling like drunkards… the rest of you should be sharpening your knives.

And…

Oh, how I wish this agency was… small once again. Oh how I wish we were you.

Thanks, Mr Wieden – very much appreciated.