July 2009

Design Reporter wants your eyes and minds


A herculean effort over the last ten days has seen the amassing of ideas, reviews, notions in and around design, its folly and the 2009 State of Design Festival. In the form of a 20 page newsprint publication – Design Reporter by Ray Edgar, Stuart Geddes, Penny Modra, and Jeremy Wortsman was launched at Iron Designer on Friday evening, just in time for the closing of the 2009 State of Design Festival.

Andrew contributed a piece of the Elwood type tour conducted as part of AGDA’s Back to Basic series, and an illustrated satire of latest logo bashing by the media and the public of the City of Melbourne’s big M by Landor titled – OMG! Wtf?.

The publication is as fresh as they get. There was not time for pushing shapes on white rectangles for weeks, mincing over picture crops, or fussing with type treatments. Greta, the typeface that is, gets a real workout, and the front cover (that doubles as an index) ironically depicts the madness of the last few days of emails, articles, rewrites, pictures, edits and final drafts. Amazing effort guys.

Pick up you copy at The Narrows, Metropolis Books, Lamington Drive and Greville Books – it’s free.

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City of Melbourne finds their new brand in Sydney



Incumbent brands

Incumbent brands by Richard Henderson at FHA

Australians love to bash a new logo, or brand. Often a new design will enjoy a raft of public comments during a brand launch which include: that brands cost too much, we don’t like or understand the design, can’t public money be spent in better ways, designers are fat cats swanning around in black clothes, appartments and cafés.

The new City of Melbourne brand developed by the Sydney office of the global brand megatron Landor, (back in the old days – Andrew Lewis Design, Lewis Kahn, Lewis Kahn Staniford, LKS Landor) and depending what else is in the news, Landor is well in line for a good serve of brand bashing.

The speed of modern communications came into its own. In the case of this new brand – at 2.42 pm today Katie Lahey from the Melbourne Age newspaper posted a piece on the new design, an article was posted at the Herald Sun as well, within twenty minutes the first email came our way looking for comment. At 4.30pm I went into a client meeting. Ten or so emails relating to the big M later, an urgent call was logged from a colleague stating that Ms Lahey would interested in my comment for The Age at 5.52pm. I was out of my meeting till 6.15pm, spoke to Ms Lahey at 6.30pm and I was too late to contribute a comment for the story as it was posted. Wow, news certainly travels fast and the brand bashing process is well under way.

It was interesting gauging comment and compiling my own thoughts of the new City of Melbourne brand. After reading Ms Lahey’s piece the opening paragraphs caught my attention:

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has unveiled a new logo for the city, which will replace the previous M and leaf symbol introduced in the early 1990s.

Cr Doyle said the old logo was “a bit daggy” and Melbourne needed a new design to reflect its cool sophistication on the world stage.

“The world’s changed, the city of Melbourne has changed, this organisation has changed as well, and we’re now playing far more, not just on the national stage but also on the international stage,” Cr Doyle said.

It is alarming to think that main justification for spending millions of public dollars is that the incumbent brand was “a bit daggy” in a changing world. I wondered too what Richard Henderson thought of this comment – being the designer of the “a bit daggy” brand. Along with the public’s poor conception of design communications, it is no wonder the community likes to brand bash – especially in an environment where public figures start the brand bashing process by publically ratting the old brand to justify their new brand at the launch event.

My first thought was to ask –

Why wasn’t the brand developed by any one of the raft of local internationally recognised brand designers? – Emery Studios, Cato Partners, Cornwell, Hoyne Design, R-Co, Fabio Ongarato, Futurebrand, 3 Deep Design, Studio Round, ERD, Fabio Ongarato, Steve Blenheim, David Lancashire Design, to Design by Pidgeon… Why in a political environment where the Victorian state government is so keen to promote the commercial worth, work and merit of Victorian designers, did this brief go to a Sydney based studio, with a recent shingle in Melbourne?

My second thought went to the design itself –

I don’t want to comment on the look, as many will be contributing to this debate in the coming days, except to say it is graphic mark and type treatment that has enjoyed a lot of energy. My main concern lies in the move of many brands to take on a contemporary look that references modern design (abstract, graphic, diverse finishes and effect), yet have no local context or references. Modern brands seem to be hammered out too rapidly and replaced too frequently in contemporary communications. This may explain why so many new brands look the same. In this instance the new symbol could comfortably used for Milan, Manchester, Memphis as it has no sense of location, or place. I just remember that in the old days, ten to twenty years ago, brands were developed with a lot more time factored in process of making concepts, developing finished designs and seeking approvals as they had to be designed to last.

My third though went to the politics of brand design itself and the overall cost of rolling new brands out –

Changing brands is becoming very popular with the captains of industry and politicians, as it is a way demonstrating change and their regime swiftly – within a few weeks a brand brief can be developed, designers appointed, designs conceived, research undertaken, websites banners and business cards made, and re brand launch arrangements made. Changing brand is often a rapid process with the potential of making big impressions – as compared to a piece of architecture, public works programme, or public law.

Once the launch has passed, the real work and real costs take place with the rolling out the new brand across countless applications – from forms to livery, street signs to embossed brands on benches, bins and bulletin boards across the organisation. The news of a new brand makes many suppliers to the communication industry happy, as changing signing systems, vehicle livery and printed communication assets attracts a raft of new fees and costs from the client changing the brand.

In summary –

The new brand I have no problem with it is an interesting mark, however I wonder if this new mark could have been better if it had built into its design a sense of place or location, as the previous brand did – it may have been unique rather than generic.

I am alarmed that a Victorian designer was not asked to respond to this brief, especially when one takes into account the Victorian government’s policy of the value design and creativity as an asset that on sells the state to the rest of the world. One also can’t ignore the fact that Victoria has so many local designers with outstanding international reputations – no excuses can be made in regards to Victoria’s talent pool.

I am also concerned that brands are fast becoming a quick fix tool used for political agendas. One feels that a brand is above agendas and represents the essence of an organisation and in turn has a life that should spans ten to thirty years. The impact of an individual as compared to the essence of a community operate on different time scales. These time scales requires brand managers who foster the bigger picture, rather than the fashion, trends or whims of a time.

As we have said many times on this site – it is not what the brand looks likes that matters, it is what you do with it. A brand that is “a bit daggy” is a thin case from changing a brand and the costs its change brings with it.

In respect to Richard Henderson and his life work, I think Mr Doyle’s cheap shot “a bit daggy” addressed to the incumbent design is uncalled for. Mr Henderson I believe deserves some form of apology and retraction. Mr Henderson, a Victorian designer, has made a significant contribution to branding around the world for nearly 4o years and much of the lip service that Mr Doyle used to promote his new brand was dreamed up by designers like Mr Henderson.

The wheels of time are turning for us all Mr Doyle, and to find the future there has to be some attention and respect paid to the past.

Visit the City of Melbourne’s brand launch statement here

Visit The Age article here

Visit the Heral Sun article here

Visit Landor here


Visit us at the market this Sunday

Meow towel

Meow towel

THIS IS NOT A DESIGN MARKET opens this Sunday 19 July 2009, 9am to 5pm, 500 La Trobe Street, Melbourne as part of the State of Design festival.

The studio has developed a range of new products, including new badges, a limited edition set of tea towels, For Love for Money photography publication, greeting cards, match books, etc,

Drop in and say hi.,

Discover the other stall holders visit the market for details.

Alpha city tea towel

Alpha city tea towel

Artist’s prototypes

Artist’s prototypes




Long live the poster


Edit your future

1/ Edit you future – invites the viewer to piece together their version of future and by default create new hybrids, new ideas. The future seems to have so many to-be-determined factors we felt that what may result, interms of ways of living and outcomes, may be notions that challenge and seem potentially alien.


Now is tomorrow

2/ Now is tomorrow. People have a habit of putting themselves in the middle of every situation, and one wonders with the gloomy mood of the community whether the fundamentals of life will change.


Vision for a new world

3/ Visions of a new future. As the climate and world changes it requires people and communities to embrace the present and see the potential in current circumstances.

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Poster exhibition submissions
Australian Graphic Design Association
2009 Australian Poster Annual

The poster annual invited designers to respond to:

Sampling The Future – Society is in a continual state of flux. We are now dominated by five major global conditions:

* Climate change
* Diminishing fossil fuels
* Globalised economic crisis
* Generational change, and
* New technologies

In response we felt that one could get caught in the negatives of what the future holds, so we were driven to present a positive perspective of the poster annual’s theme. In challenging times we wanted to make visual messages and impressions that empowered the viewer with possibilities rather than hopelessness.

As a first for AGDA all entries are being published online, along withe the judges‘ choices, allowing you to be the judge, assemble your favourites and vote

Visit the poster annual here

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This exert from 9 min short film directed by Jörg Wagner was released in 2006 at the Sundance Film Festival (where it received an honourable mention). A rich dreamy visual, this obscure glimpse into a corner of carnival life, somewhere in Germany, does more than make up for the lack of story line. In crunchy black and white tones three performers, their performance space, their machines with some hot title type steal nine minutes. Well worth tracking down.

Visit Moto-Drom here

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