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Creative round-up August 2019

It may have been holiday season but there has been plenty going on in the world of design. Here are our top picks from the last month’s design and branding news…

Another controversial campaign

Last month we covered Cancer Research’s obesity campaign, and August has seen more hot debate over the Home Office #knifefree campaign placing anti-knife crime messages on chicken shop packaging which has faced widespread criticism from MP’s and the public, with many deeming it racist, crude, offensive and playing on stereotypes. There is no doubt that knife crime is a serious problem among young people and needs tackling on many different levels, but was this campaign completely misjudged?

The Drum ran an interesting article on the case for and against, with David Felton, a London-based freelance copyrighter, pointing out the majority of chicken shop customers are teenagers, for whom they are significant meeting places, so in this respect, the message had great media placement – one of the keys of a successful campaign. Timothy Armoo, CEO of Fanbytes, responded saying although the campaign was well-intentioned, it would have been more effective to use the role the chicken shop plays in youth culture and turn it into something led by influencers who already reach the target audience.

Nothing can be fully effective until the underlying causes of knife crime are tackled, but as with any campaign that gets people debating, we feel that drawing attention to a serious problem has got to be a good thing.

Educational charity Teach First rebrand

Teach First is a charity that recruits graduates and trains them in teaching at schools facing tough challenges. Its visual identity has just been updated by London-based studio Johnson Banks to deliver more “emotional impact” and will be rolled out in the autumn.

The charity has a multiple audience of teachers, graduates, recruiters and career changers. Always a challenge to reach such wide-ranging groups, the old brand was lacking a coherent identity, thus causing confusion about the charity’s purpose and lack of engagement with its communications.

We love the new TF logo, a simple monogram with both letters legible and balanced, the updated colour scheme and the punchy positive statement and answer format which delivers their educational inequality message with great impact.

TV design season ahead

One of the compensations of summer coming to an end is better TV and we are looking forward to getting engrossed in a couple of fascinating design-related series. Netflix has just announced series two of Abstract: The Art of Design which explores creative inspiration and process through the eyes of a diverse range of designers. Series one included New York Pentagram partner Paula Scher, Tinker Hatfield, shoe designer for Nike and illustrator Christopher Niemann amongst others, and according to Netflix, the second series will explore some of the “most inspiring visionaries from a variety of disciplines whose work shapes our culture and future”.

BBC Arts and BBC Four have also launched a six-episode design season, three of which focus on German design to coincide with the Bauhaus 100th anniversary. Lamia Dabboussey, acting director of BBC Arts says design is “often overlooked because it does its job so well it can often feel invisible…we want to get people talking and thinking about design and to start noticing it all around them.” We’re with you there Lamia and are very pleased to see more design programmes on our screens.

Collaborative Comms

Our client Ramblers has recently adopted a successful communications strategy for sharing messaging and working with select key partners who have similar aims and values.

To promote awareness about how walking can improve mental health, wellbeing and combat social isolation, Ramblers teamed up with other charities, CALM, Time to Change and the Jo Cox Foundation to create jointly branded social media posts, website resources, events and activities. These partnerships have increased engagement and reach for all concerned as well as generating plenty of healthy debate about a number of difficult issues. We are genuinely delighted they have had such a positive outcome.

Decline in numbers of art & design students

The end of August sees exam results causing both elation and distress and we were somewhat concerned to learn there has been a 1.6% decline in students taking art and design A-levels and a 2.5% reduction in students being accepted onto creative art and design degrees.

Tuition fees may partly be the reason for this, but Hilary Chittenden of D&AD suggests that designers should do more to showcase their industry and inform young people, parents and carers, teachers and career advisors about opportunities in design-related careers. She thinks that although great design, advertising and communications are visible everywhere, people rarely consider how these products and services got there or the types of jobs done by the people who create them. She advocates investing in the future of the industry by nurturing and supporting new talent with on-the-job training and vocational learning, as demonstrated by D&AD’s New Blood Shift, a free night school for creatives without a degree.

Alegria is everywhere

You may have noticed the flat, minimal illustration style depicting friendly-looking ethnically non-specific people with gangly arms and legs which seems to be taking over the world. Known as “Alegria” (Spanish for “joy”) and developed by US design firm Buck, it has become a ubiquitous trend in web illustration used by Facebook, Google, Airbnb, YouTube along with many start-ups and new apps. According to Rachel Hawley in AIGA Eye on Design it is being used as an image-softening tool, a visual language that signals positivity and trustworthiness, but which in fact is being used to mask underlying social and political harm caused by some of these organisations such as tax evasion issues and private data leaks. Food for thought and a lesson in the power of design to create appearances that may be deceptive!


There is still time to catch the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, on until September 15th, which explores the development of the artist’s work from the mid-1970’s to the present day. An expert at manipulating her own appearance, Sherman deploys material derived from a range of cultural sources including film, advertising and fashion, exploring the tension between façade and identity. The entrance fee may be a bit pricey but the show has attracted 5-star reviews and is well worth a visit.

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