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Creative festive round-up December 2020

For the run-up to Christmas, the Ingenious team have had fun choosing and sharing some festive favourites on social media with a focus on design, branding and creativity, taking a look at the history and significance behind each one. Here they are…

Christmas cards

Did you know the first Christmas card in the UK was sent in 1843 by Henry Cole, director of the Victoria & Albert Museum? The introduction of various German Christmas traditions by Prince Albert during the 1840’s, together with development of new printing processes and die-cutting techniques, marked the start of the commercialisation of Christmas. Cards were mass produced and sent in vast numbers during late Victorian times, establishing the now familiar iconography of Christmas with the debut of decorative symbols such as robins, holly, Santa Claus, snowy landscapes and scenes of indoor rituals such as decorating trees and gift giving. Christmas cards are now a multi-million-pound retail phenomenon with around 1 billion bought each year in the UK.

John Lewis Christmas ad

Eagerly anticipated, the iconic John Lewis Christmas advert has become an event in itself. The very first one was in 2007 made with agency Lowe London, before switching to Adam & Eve DDB two years later. Set to covers of well-known songs, the ads use humour as well as pulling at the heart strings, with a mixture of animation and film featuring trampolining dogs, lovelorn penguins, excitable dragons through to Elton John and his piano! 2011 was groundbreaking in that it was the first time the retailer used the ad to tell a whole story without overtly referring to any John Lewis products. This year it has taken a new direction again with nine vignettes by different artists showing people, animals and snowmen engaging in good deeds, inspired by acts of kindness by the public during the pandemic.

Quality Street

No Christmas is complete without a tin of Quality Street chocolates! With their iconic mix of colourful wrappers, shapes and flavours they are one of the UK’s best-loved confectionary brands, made in Halifax, West Yorkshire since 1936. Last year saw a vibrant redesign featuring a colour explosion adorning the traditional purple background, addition of a new flavour – the chocolate caramel brownie – and an extended range with personalised tins, giant versions of individual sweets and advent calendars. In October 2020, a new brand platform was launched by creative agency Wunderman Thompson UK. Their ad, ‘Something we all share’ focuses on connecting with the wider community as well as family, with neighbours looking out for each other at a colourful, communal, socially distanced party. Always a brand that represents joyful sharing and togetherness, it has been successfully revamped to symbolise the vibrancy and diversity of contemporary Britain too.

Ice Hotels

Seasonal if not specifically Christmassy, we love the idea of an ice hotel! Made entirely from snow and ice, these amazing structures are dependent on sub-zero temperatures and are rebuilt each year, lasting until spring when they simply melt away! The first ice hotel was built in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden in 1990 but versions have sprung up in many other countries including Norway, Finland, Lapland, Canada, Romania and Japan.

Generally expensive, they offer rooms, bars, restaurants, chapels and honeymoon suites, saunas, hot tubs and a range of winter sports, with furnishings including beds and drinking glasses all made of ice. Warm furs, blankets and sleeping bags are of course also provided! For many years, Jukkasjärvi has accepted applications from artists to design its world-famous ‘art-suites’ and many ice hotels now feature exhibitions, sculptures, engravings, illuminations and individually decorated rooms with styles and themes changing annually.

A Christmas Carol

There are many brilliant Christmas books but the classic has to be Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser who, after being visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, is transformed into a kinder, gentler man. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a selfish man to redeem himself by becoming a more sympathetic character are the key themes of the story.

Published on 19 December 1843, with illustrations by John Leech, the first edition of A Christmas Carol sold out by Christmas Eve! (facsimile version below). It has never been out of print and has been adapted numerous times for film, TV, stage, opera and other media, including a musical by Dolly Parton last year, set during the 1930s in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with Scrooge as the owner of a mining company town!

Christmas window displays

Bright, beautiful and an obvious way for shops to sell themselves and entice people inside, we absolutely love a Christmas window display! The big names in London really go to town on wonderfully creative displays and this year is no exception. Selfridges has been creating inventive window displays for 111 years and the ‘Once upon a Christmas’ theme for 2020 tells stories of old traditions meeting new ideas. With designs from the likes of Anthony Burrill, Hanna Hansdotter and Helen Bullock, the gorgeous windows represent the store’s greenest-ever array of decorations with just the right amount of festive gaudiness. Liberty’s 2020 campaign, ‘Peace Love Liberty’ is inspired by the historic use of scarves and is both tasteful and beautiful. Harvey Nichols ‘Bah Humbug… Bring on 2021’ successfully channels how many of us are feeling this year. With twinkly lights and sparkly stars, their pared-back displays are nonetheless stunning!

Christmas Jumper Day

Launched in 2012, Christmas Jumper Day is a brilliant charity fundraising campaign. A cheerful and festive way of raising funds and awareness for Save the Children who are a worldwide voice for children’s rights, saving, protecting and educating the poorest and most vulnerable children across the world, as well as those living in poverty in the UK. With straplines ‘Make the world better with a sweater’ and ‘Change the future’, the campaign has adopted a more sustainable focus in recent years. Rather than buying a new jumper, Save the Children encourage participants to upcycle an old one and share plenty of fun and creative ideas for decorating it. The event gets bigger and better each year – last year over 4 million people took part and more than £24 million has been raised since its launch.

Our photo is of the Ingenious team last year… 2020 will obviously be a bit different, but for a donation of just £2 we can still get our jumpers on and take part in socially safe and virtual ways.


No Christmas stocking is complete without Lego! These small, brightly coloured building bricks are an absolute design classic. Kits have become increasingly sophisticated over the years with many successful licensing deals including Star Wars and Harry Potter, and even Lego advent calendars and festive baubles. Founded in 1932 by Danish toymaker, Ole Kirk Christiansen, its name is the amalgamation of Danish words ‘leg godt’ meaning play well and Latin ‘I put together’. Accurately manufactured to two-thousands of a millimetre, Lego is fully compatible irrespective of when it was made, so never becomes obsolete – unlike so many things today. It has successfully followed its brand values from the start, to stimulate creativity and encourage learning through play. Creating Lego worlds develops self-expression, curiosity, conceptual thought and imagination. And the possibilities are endless – there are 102,981,500 ways of combining just six 8-stud bricks of the same colour!

The Snowman

On our screens every Christmas (except one) since 1982 and one of our very favourite Christmas films, The Snowman was adapted from a book of the same name by much-loved local Sussex illustrator and author, Raymond Briggs. The magical story of a snowman who comes to life one winter’s night is narrated entirely through pictures drawn in crayon. The film is also without words, with animations of Briggs’ original drawings set to music by Howard Blake, including the classic ‘Walking in the Air’. With a wonderful eye for detail, the story sees the snowman taking a young boy on a series of unforgettable adventures including flying over nearby Brighton’s Palace Pier and Royal Pavilion. Self-described in a Guardian article as ‘a grumpy old man’, Briggs, now 86, actually hates Christmas and cannot conceal his irritation at the commercialisation of The Snowman which has become a worldwide industry, although he still reserves a reluctant fondness for the character!


Snowball anyone?! Retro cocktail synonymous with Christmas and immensely popular in the 1960s and 70s has seen a revival in recent years. The key ingredient is Advocaat, a traditional Dutch liqueur made from egg yolks, sugar and vanilla and spiked with brandy. The name is short for Dutch word ‘advocatenborrel’ which translates as ‘drink that lubricates the throat of a lawyer’ or ‘lawyer’s drink’.

Dutch brand Warninks are the world’s largest manufacturer of Advocaat and market leader, accounting for 97% of UK sales. Warninks have been making this creamy and indulgent drink since 1616. Their bottle has a lovely festive look – its contents providing a rich yellow background for the red label and lid, decorative scrolls and curlicues. Advocaat can be drunk neat, on the rocks or follow this recipe for a classic festive Snowball:

Shake the Advocaat and lime juice over ice. Strain and pour into a medium-sized glass, top with lemonade and garnish with some grated nutmeg and a slice of lime. Cheers!

Rockefeller Christmas tree

The iconic Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree in New York City is in our opinion one of the best! The lighting ceremony by the Mayor of New York is on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving and broadcast live on NBC. A national tradition since 1933, the 20-30 metre high Norway spruce is usually sourced from upstate New York or surrounding states and transported by truck to the Rockefeller Centre Plaza, where it is clad in thousands of multi-coloured LED lights and a giant star placed on top. In 1936 a skating rink was opened beneath the tree and the plaza is now annually transformed into a stunning Christmas venue visited by millions. The 1971 tree was the first to be recycled for mulch and since 2007 the tree has been milled into lumber and donated for housing construction. This year, a stowaway was found in the tree – a tiny northern saw-whet owl, who was named Rockefeller (what else?!) and nursed to full strength before being released back into the wild.

Coca Cola

We will miss the Coca Cola Truck Tour which has been cancelled due to the pandemic. The seasonal campaign was launched in 1995 with the iconic illuminated trucks created by agency W.B. Doner and special effects by Industrial Light and Magic, the company behind Star Wars. The trucks appear in Coca Cola’s festive ‘Holidays Are Coming’ ad and tour the UK giving out free cans of Coke. 2020 sees instead a Virtual Truck Tour where selfies can be uploaded to a backdrop featuring said truck in suitably winter wonderland setting and shared on social media.

Coca Cola was created in 1886 by Atlanta pharmacist Dr John S. Pemberton, with the trademark swirling serif typography of its logo designed by his bookkeeper Frank M. Robinson. The connection between Coke and Christmas began in 1931 when their concept of an idealised Santa became central to their festive marketing strategy. Artist Haddon Sundblom was commissioned to paint a jolly Santa drinking a bottle of Coke, consolidating the definitive depiction of Santa Claus in red and white – which also happened to be the brand colours!

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