Creative Boom

26 Jan. 2023

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

&Walsh has rebranded Lex, an app designed to help LGBTQ+ people find new friends & local community through conversation and expression.

The brand direction is centred on the idea that Lex is a queer playground with a raw edge: a dynamic, ever-growing space that encourages users to explore authentic relationships with themselves, their city, and their community.

Lex grew from an Instagram account created by founder and CEO Kell Rakowski in 2017. The account mirrored old-school newspaper personal ads where the words folks used to describe themselves and others were more important than any selfie they took. After two years and 10,000 personals, Rakowski launched Lex as a lo-fi, text-centred dating app where queer people could be their unapologetic selves without facing censorship from major social media sites.

Since the app's launch in 2019, Lex has been perceived as a place to find queer romance but has also proven to be an essential tool for community building and friend-making. The rebrand by &Walsh aims to capture this shift in positioning and support Lex's new app features like group messaging.

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

A new whimsical, fluid logo for Lex is the defining factor of the rebrand. &Walsh founder Jessica Walsh told Creative Boom: "The original Lex logo did a great job conveying the app's connection to old-school newspaper personal ads, but as Lex shifts its positioning from a dating app to a social app, it was important to connect the logo to the idea of an ever-growing, queer playground. The whimsical strokes in each logo curve authenticate Lex's joyful personality. We intentionally connected each letter to the other, representing the fluidity and connectedness present in Lex's thriving queer community.

As a whole, the visual identity tells a story of growth, energy, and well-being, all while maintaining a raw edge. These brand attributes can be seen in the distinguishable main brand colour 'Lex Green', its complimentary colour palette of spring tones, and playful illustrations depicting flowers, flames, mountains, hearts, and stars juxtaposed with rough textures.

"We wanted to avoid using rainbow tropes and instead selected fresh 'spring' colours associated with growth, energy and well-being," said Walsh.

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

The spring-inspired aesthetic follows through in a suite of custom illustrations of flames, flowers, stars, mountains, and hearts, all creating a feeling of growing and blooming. The illustrations were designed to be easily combined to make new, playful compositions.

Words have always played a crucial role in how Lex functions for its users – from the early days of Lex founder Kell Rakowski's personal Instagram account, the empowering nature of being able to choose the right words to describe oneself, and the ability to find community-based on descriptors has been a crucial element of the Lex ethos.

To honour Lex's relationship to words as a means to self-describe and, therefore, self-empower, &Walsh created a messaging framework written by and for queer people. "We developed copy lines for custom stickers that are authentic to queer vernacular, which are available to users both on and offline to communicate pronouns, special interests, and more," Walsh said.

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

Credit: &Walsh / Lex

In addition to the brand assets, &Walsh developed a UX/UI toolkit as well as designed and developed Lex's desktop and mobile website. Lex users (warmly referred to as 'Lexers') helped inform design and development decisions by providing feedback on accessibility and usage to the Lex team. The desktop and mobile site now serve as a fresh introduction to the app and its main features and a gateway to the Apple App Store and Google Play for downloads.

In providing Lex with a more fluid, accessible brand, &Walsh has set the app up for the community growth it champions. Jessica Walsh summed it up, telling Creative Boom: "Lex's mission to create a welcoming and inclusive digital space for the LGBTQ+ community is one we admire and support. Their hands-on approach to this rebrand created a fulfilling collaboration where we shared the same passion and vision. This rebrand is pivotal for Lex as they shift its positioning to a queer friend-making and community-building app. Our trust in each other for this project was incredibly fulfilling – both as collaborators and as fans of the app."

26 Jan. 2023

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Freaked out by the idea of returning to the workplace? But can't stand another second, trapped at home, never seeing anyone in real life? Follow this helpful advice from creatives who've taken the leap and found a desk or some office space this year. Their tips will see you right.

It's coming up to three long years since Covid hit. But while the pandemic is largely behind us, its dramatic effect on how we work hasn't gone away. In our 2023 Creative Boom readers survey, only 29.2% of you say you've gone back to the studio full-time, with 26.2% doing so part-time and 30% continuing to work entirely remotely.

And that's not surprising. Many of us have been scarred by the pandemic, and being in another room with others can feel quite daunting. Plus, there's a whole fresh generation of creatives who've never done so, having graduated in the lockdown era.

Working from home comes with a whole range of advantages, of course, not least saving the cost and hassle of the commute. But there are some important benefits to visiting the office, too.

The ability to bounce ideas and brainstorm ideas with other creatives, in real-time and in real physical space, cannot be underestimated; most of the best ideas you'll have in your career will probably happen this way. Enjoying social time again with people who share your values, experiences and outlook is equally good for the soul.

There's huge value, too, in attending events after work with colleagues. And more fundamentally, being able to separate work from home life and properly switch off is vital to our mental and physical well-being.

But maybe you get all that but are still trepidacious about stepping back into the workplace or, if you're freelance, returning to a coworking space. To help you, we canvassed the Creative Boom community and asked for their advice on returning to the studio. We share some of their top tips below, and you can see the full discussion here.

1. Take things slowly

Our first piece of advice is not to rush into anything. It may be disconcerting if you haven't worked in a shared space for a while. So if things seem tricky at first, don't panic or beat yourself up, but allow yourself the freedom to go at your own pace.

As Greg Findley, founder of Mantra advises: "Take things day by day, and be kind to yourself and colleagues. Everyone's had a different experience working remotely through the pandemic and likely has mixed emotions about returning. Remind yourself of the positives of physical separation of work and home life."

Designer Ross Middleham offers a similar take. "Acknowledge that it may feel unsettling and be kind to yourself," he says. "Remember, there are benefits to both ways of working. Accept that your days won't feel the same at home; you may not feel as productive. But that's okay. It's a different kind of productive."

Graphic designer Kathryn adds some practical advice. "It's amazing how distracted I was by conversations around me, so noise-cancelling headphones were a must when I didn't feel like being social," she recalls. "Plus, sorting a bag the night before helps. Think about the bits you rely on daily: mouse, pens, pencils, sketchbook, to-do list, laptop, charger."

2. Bring some home comforts

Another way to ease the transition from home to a workplace is to take some comforting elements from the latter to the former. "If you're at a permanent desk rather than a hot desk, make it like a mini home-from-home," advise the team at Freelance Heroes. "Bring some plants, some books to enjoy on your break, and perhaps a vision board in the background. Make your desk a pleasure to work at."

Amanda from Workshop Media did just that on her return to the workplace. "I invested in a lovely comfy blanket to sit on in my office chair, which is also useful for days like today when it's freezing," she says. "I have the same one at home at my desk, and it just helps me stay a little bit comfier."

For Bryn Jones, senior project manager at Awarded, "Coming back into an office that feels a bit unloved and cold was difficult after the cosiness of being at home. Our team found that getting a load of plants hanging from the ceiling and on people's desks helped bring some life to the space. Especially on days when not many other people are in the office."

3. Time it right

Something else that can help smooth your return to the studio is getting the timing right. "It can be tempting to go in on the busiest days to catch up with everyone, but I'd recommend a Monday or a Friday to ease yourself back in," says Maisie Benson, design director at JKR. "Getting into the routine without being too overwhelming initially can be good."

"We recently thought about this too," says the team at creative agency Monopo. "So we set up a poll on Slack where everybody can select which day they will work remotely the following week. No need to ask, no message to send. It makes it more practical, easy and simple, and hopefully less scary."

The transition can be tough. But for me, making an effort to travel to the office and show your face makes for a nice change of scenery and resets the cabin fever.

4. Relish the benefits

Returning to the workplace isn't really about physical surroundings; it's primarily about reconnecting with people. So make an effort to do so, recommends copywriter Sarah Taylor-Forbes. "Line up a couple of face-to-face meetings so it feels valuable," she urges. "Also, treat yourself to a nice coffee or lunch; get out for a walk at lunchtime."

Author and artist Anna B Sexton offers similar advice. "Keep moving," she says. "Get up, talk to colleagues. Go for walks to refresh your head space. And drink lots of water (or things with water in) to keep hydrated; lots of offices are much drier than our homes."

Above all, focus on the good things about being in the workplace. "I recently went back to the office for a few days a week and found it helpful to lean into the positive aspects," says interaction designer Keith Tormey. "For me, it's the walking and cycling, listening to a good podcast, face-to-face interactions with people, and getting out for lunch occasionally. Personally, I love it!"

5. Vary your route

One of the more depressing things about working in an office is the boring routine of the same commute, day in, day out. But as the artist, performer and producer Laura Frances Martin points out, it needn't be that way. She suggests that if you can, you "choose a new route to work at least twice a week, to get a new home-work transition narrative going on. It can simply be a slight variation in your usual route for a change of habit."

6. Advice for freelancers

The advice we've heard so far applies even if you're freelance. In which case, designer and brand strategist Sophie O'Connor says: "Find some good coworking spaces where you can work hybrid, on your own terms. I've worked for myself for six years now and find either being home full-time or always in an office doesn't work for many reasons. The odd after-work jolly is good for the soul, too."

Illustrator Vicky Hughes suggests you: "Try a few networking/coworking spaces until you find a group you feel at home with. And then just go there when you actually want to, rather than pressuring yourself. Mine is Duke Studios in Leeds. If there are non-work social events you can join in with, too, that's a big bonus."

7. Don't panic!

We're not suggesting that returning to the workplace won't be stressful after a long time away. But as the team at Hudson Fuggle note, these feelings probably won't last long.

"Don't overthink it!" they say. "We've been back at the studio for a while, so we promise you'll soon forget what you were worried about. Easing into the day with a team breakfast where no work chat is allowed – we love TV recommendations – can help. It's what you miss working from home, after all."

"The transition can be tough," adds designer Kultar Singh Ruprai. "But for me, making an effort to travel to the office and show your face makes for a nice change of scenery and resets the cabin fever."

26 Jan. 2023

Comic strip artist Steve Nelson, better known as Snelse, has brought delight to millions with his wonderfully witty Confused.com cartoons. Here he reveals how his background in comedy kick-started his career as an illustrator.

If you read The Evening Standard or spend your free time scrolling through Instagram (who doesn't?), you've probably stumbled across the hilarious work of Brighton-based illustrator Steve Nelson. Instantly recognisable thanks to his use of bold colours and distinctive characters, Steve's cartoons bring smiles to faces by turning logic on its head and finding the funny in everyday situations.

Yet despite creating cartoons regularly for big clients like Confused, Steve is a relative newcomer to the illustration game. His first professional commission came in 2021, and since then, he's gone on to quickly amass a whopping great audience over on Instagram. Before then, he was a comedy writer with his own series to his name who drew in his spare time until some helpful encouragement from his wife guided him down the artistic road.

We caught up with Steve to learn more about his fascinating life so far, how following the "wrong" career path for ten years can eventually have a positive result, and how he turns the world around him into a source of humour.

You used to work in comedy. What made you want to shift to illustration?

Oh God, this could be a very long answer! Frustration, mostly. I spent about ten years writing comedy scripts with little to show. I had an agent, a few bits on TV and radio, a failed BBC Radio comedy pilot and finally got my own comedy series on Audible called The Temp. It's very joke-heavy, and we only had three months to write and record the entire show. Man, I almost had a breakdown writing that thing! Plus, I had to do it all around my full-time office job. Madness.

We got it done, and it came out great with good reviews on Audible, but that was it. The industry didn't really care – not a single meeting off the back of it. Also, the money wasn't great, so I had to keep my full-time job going. It felt like I worked so hard to get absolutely nowhere. That was kind of the nail in the coffin, really.

Anyway, I was already drawing a bit during all this, and my wife, Bernie, was always going on at me to focus on that instead of writing. I guess I finally took her advice! Less than two years later, I was doing it full-time.

What comedy writing did you used to do, and how has that skill carried over into your illustration?

Initially, I started as a stand-up comedian in my late teens and had an ongoing love/hate relationship with it. Loved writing jokes and getting laughs – didn't like all the travelling and panic attacks before going on stage! That's really why I switched to script writing. I continued writing jokes, nevertheless, but was trying to think up better ways to present them that wasn't just a tweet.

Only when I discovered illustration (I didn't know that was a thing until my mid-20s) and webcomics I realised this is the perfect way to present jokes. It allowed me to perform the jokes, in a sense, without doing stand-up. I could post a funny image and get instant feedback.

The one positive about going down the wrong career path is spending over ten years writing jokes. That thoroughly prepared me for working as a cartoonist and illustrator as I can quickly come up with lots of new ideas and have a large pile of material I can also turn to.

The hardest part was figuring out my style. I could draw, but I don't necessarily think that really matters. There are some fantastic artists who can barely draw, or at least it appears that way! You must set yourself apart stylistically from other illustrators and cartoonists, which can be tricky. I had to do a lot of drawing and refining to get there.

How did you get your first proper commission in 2021?

Sure, I'll brag. I bagged the only illustration job I ever applied for. What a legend! Next question, please.

Fine, I'll elaborate. So, I spent most of 2020 drawing and trying to develop my style. The pandemic really helped with that. I had it in my head that I wanted to get my style down before trying to become a professional illustrator. So, I kept putting off applying for things and emailing art directors – just a constant feeling I wasn't ready.

Anyway, the Warren Festival in Brighton run an annual call out to artists to submit a poster design for their festival. I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go for their 2021 call-out. They liked my design and gave me the job. It was so much fun!

Which other comic artists and illustrators influence your work?

So many! I came into it late without any formal training, so I learned everything from absorbing many different artists.

I always loved Peter McKee. Before I even started drawing properly, I was always jealous of how great he was and wished I could do what he did. I love his style and have several of his prints in my house and all his books! Same with Jean Jullien and David Shrigley – they're also at the top of my list. They both opened my eyes to how you can combine art/illustration and humour. Pieter de Poortere is an amazing cartoonist. He created the Dickie comics. I was blown away when I stumbled across his work at the Cartoon Museum in Brussels.

Others I love: Safely Endangered, Simpsons, Demetri Martin, Liana Finck, Joan Cornella, Seth Fleishman, Gemma Correll, Will McPhail, Alex Norris, Rubyetc, Miguel Bustos.

How did you get to work with Confused.com?

I don't know! I should probably ask. It was after my social media went a bit crazy, so I imagine that exposed me to the right people. I just got an email one day in March 2022 from a big ad agency asking if I'd like to do a weekly cartoon for Confused.com on the front of a national newspaper. I could do anything, but it had to be around the concept of 'confusion'. I politely declined. No, obviously, I said yes!

It started on a month-by-month trial basis and performed really well, so it went on for the rest of the year. It's starting back up again in February so keep your eyes peeled.

Tell us more about what these weekly comics entail!

I essentially spend most of my days writing jokes and drawing, so when it comes to Confused, I go through all the stuff I've written recently or sketched and see if there's anything that is either confusion-based or something that could become confusion-based.

Sometimes I might not have enough bangers, or the client might want something related to the news or an upcoming event, so I'll sit around and actively think about new Confused ideas. For that, you have to put your naive goggles on and look at things through the eyes of a child. How might a child misunderstand a phrase, or how might they confuse two objects?

It affects my day-to-day life as well. One of the Confused comics that was used came from standing in duty-free with my wife, and I asked her, "How did they get all these liquids past security?"

You've built up quite the social media following! What's the secret to gaining an audience?

That's a tough one as I don't know how it happened! I was sharing my work relentlessly for two years before it kicked off randomly one day. My pyramid comic somehow ended up on Instagram's main explore page, and it just snowballed from there. So that was a bit of luck, but I guess people stuck around because they liked the other stuff I posted. I'm not very social media savvy, so not the best person to ask!

I will say I spent a long time being ignored and overlooked, so I know how that feels. But you must do what you enjoy and not focus too much on numbers because that's all out of your control.

At the end of the day, if nothing comes from it, at least you had fun. My wife manages an indie band (Nature TV – check them out, they're amazing, and I do all the artwork for their merch and posters). You can imagine how impossible it is to get exposure or money in the music industry these days, but they all just have a laugh making music and gigging.

What piece of work are you most proud of and why?

The Confused comics as a whole. I got to quit my job and draw cartoons for a living! It's crazy. My favourite one was the duck one. I was quite chuffed with myself when I came up with it. Plus, I love ducks and find them so funny for some reason, so I was glad to be able to do one for Confused. I remember sitting at my desk, drawing it and thinking: my life is so weird now.

What are you hoping to achieve in 2023?

There are two main things. I hope to make more stuff to put up on my shop. I love Shrigley's funny merch and want to do something in that vein. The other thing is to try and get my cartoons in the New Yorker. I've never tried submitting to it – I keep bottling it! I'm a big fan of the New Yorker cartoons, and it's a big ambition of mine to get one of my cartoons in there!

26 Jan. 2023

Mucho's latest annual report for the University of California uses kinetic typography and eye-popping animations to reflect the financial chaos of the last twelve months.

Since 2014, design studio Mucho has created the Annual Report for the University of California Investments office. But for its latest edition, it has shaken things up by chucking augmented reality into the mix to bring the contents and data to life on the page.

The report, titled 'Where others see chaos, we see opportunity', charts a period that has proven extremely turbulent where the market is concerned. However, thanks to the smart investment and strong leadership of Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Bachher, the university has successfully made its way through these choppy waters.

To reflect its contents, Mucho decided to bring some interactivity to the printed piece by working with illustrator John Burgess. His kinetic typography, illustrations and animations are based on the core messages found in the report, namely that 2022 was financially chaotic but also exciting and uplifting at the same time.

The result is a technically challenging annual report unlike any other. Designed around messages that mirror the university's thinking, such as "staying agile has its rewards" and "patience. Persistence. Progress", the completed package is mailed in a sleek, typographic black foil stamped envelope.

Once eased out, the report captures the eye immediately thanks to its cover of jumbled black letters on a yellow background. There's a signal to be found in this noise if you look hard enough, though, with the letters spelling out key themes of the year if you have a keen eye. At the centre of these letters is the letter O – created out of negative space – which introduces the augmented reality that awaits readers within its pages.

Speaking of the contents, Mucho has managed to convert what could have been intimidating financial data into a series of playful designs. This is mainly achieved through clever use of colour, typography and page layouts. Reflections are cleverly mirrored across a double-page spread, while numbers and statistics are positioned like equations or even become colourful pieces of design in themselves like a swirling vortex.

Regarding how it felt to work on this year's annual report, Mucho Creative Director Rob Duncan said: "It's a rare joy to still design printed annual reports. The University of California continue to challenge us to push the boundaries when we can, and they are a delight to work with each year.

"Combining print and technology this year was a challenge. We definitely learned a lot about what works and doesn't work in the world of Augmented Reality and print!"

But the challenge appears to have been worth it, as the University of California's Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Bachher sounds pleased with the results. "I know a good investment when I see one, so that was just the beginning. Mucho has designed every annual report since I joined in 2014 as Chief Investment Officer. The work just keeps getting better, more imaginative and fun to read.

"UC Investments and Mucho have grown up together. They know who we are, and we trust them to know what we want. We're active collaborators. I wouldn't go anywhere else."

26 Jan. 2023

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

The Australian studio Standard Projects has developed a strategic positioning, brand identity and digital experience for DevRev, an early-stage SaaS business in San Francisco.

DevRev is committed to empowering customer-centric companies. Their product, the world's first Developer CRM, combines multiple tools and workflows in one seamless experience, allowing developers and customers to connect through a digital product.

Dan Flynn, designer and partner at Standard Projects, explained the actual scope of DevRev's offering: "For decades, developers (or in DevRev's eyes, 'makers') have been disconnected from both the result of their labour – the customers using their product – but also siloed within organisations, removed from the tangible results generated by their work. DevRev changes all that. By painting a clear picture of customers' needs, it allows developers to shape products to those needs and achieve true product-led growth."

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

To help DevRev ensure that its groundbreaking offer stood out in a sea of other SaaS products, Standard Projects was tasked to take a somewhat complex B2B offering and find a way to visually and verbally communicate the value, benefits and uses of this multi-faceted platform with clarity and simplicity.

For Flynn and his team, standing out in the saturated SaaS market and showing off the elevated nature of DevRev's product and service meant that the brand needed to part ways with the scrappy, playful aesthetic that many SaaS platforms lean into. DevRev needed to communicate maturity and premiumisation while still speaking to creative minds – makers – about the powerful benefits of the tools.

"We didn't want to be pigeonholed as 'yet another SaaS product' and certainly wanted to avoid the category's obsession with juvenile trends, illustration and language," Flynn told Creative Boom. "DevRev has a highly engineered, technical product that is seamless and intuitive. That simplicity doesn't have to be communicated as childish or playful. Instead, we focussed on the net benefit of adopting DevRev – with DevRev, you 'Make Work Matter' by giving insight, purpose and power to developers and customers alike."

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

"Make Work Matter" became the underpinning idea of Standard Projects' approach to DevRev's brand. Flynn shared that his team asked themselves questions like: "How can we "make" a system that is engaging and clear, a key focus for all DevRev "makers"? How can we create a system that "works" as engineered and elegant a fashion as the product itself? And how can we ensure design components "matter", and are as intuitive and intentional as the resulting user experience?"

The answers to these questions influenced everything from choice of typeface to colour, graphic language and even copywriting. Working with DevRev's existing logo (triangles and circles), Standard Projects brought harmony to its geometric form with the new wordmark's high x-height and horizontal terminals but maintained some engineered precision with a somewhat aggressive cap "R". Further lowercase letterforms across the DevRev sub-brands also convey touches of a more engineered construction (lowercase "t", cap "C").

Flynn explained: "The geometric graphic language connects to the existing logo. Sub-divided – the simple symbol applied to a more complex grid – cue notions of technical simplicity through a set of infinitely changeable symbols. It is further fleshed out through dot-matrix treatments of objects and images, referencing both logo and the vast swathes of complex data DevRev uses to 'paint a better picture of a customer'."

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Standard Projects and DevRev opted for a colour palette that Flynn describes as "rich, vibrant and arresting." He told Creative Boom: "With a colourway for each of the four main product use cases, the system breaks from the convention of 'owning' a colour, opting for a captivating palette of saturated RGBs, a lateral nod to code editors."

When it came to type, functionality was a top priority. Unica 77 – a neutral, malleable, digital revival of an '80s modernist classic, proved to be the right choice in a system where complex, technical information must be clearly delivered.

Flynn told Creative Boom: "Despite the current trends towards more expressive typefaces, a product with this potential required something more flexible, the ability for language and the design system to carry meaning, rather than the typeface alone. In use, we again make subtle nods to the tabbed structure of code editors in creating headlines and the underlying grid structure itself."

Ultimately, DevRev's new brand succeeds in carving out its unique expression that opposes much of the current aesthetic within SaaS branding. To Flynn, what he and his team have created is "proof that design for B2B SaaS doesn't have to be boring, doesn't have to be childish and that it is possible to create a brand that works as well online as it does offline."

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

Credit: Standard Projects / DevRev

25 Jan. 2023

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery has launched its new brand today and revealed its 2023-24 programme of major exhibitions ahead of its official reopening this summer. Created with Manchester-based Edit Brand Studio and Boardroom Consulting, the refreshed identity aims to better reflect its role as a gallery that is "of people" and "for people"; one that tells the story of Britain's past, present and future through portraits.

This morning's big announcement coincides with The National Portrait Gallery's official reopening this June – the historic space has undergone an extensive refurbishment as part of the Inspiring People project. The new identity features a new monogram, logotype, typeface and colour palette, all inspired by historical reference points within the building and the Gallery's extensive collection of portraits.

Why the overhaul? Before its closure in March 2020, audience research showed that while there was loyalty and great warmth for the National Portrait Gallery with high levels of visitor satisfaction, it could do more to bring its collection to life for more people. Thus, the new designs were developed following a comprehensive review of the existing brand to build a stronger and more focused identity.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

As part of the process, the Gallery engaged its stakeholders, members, staff and visitors, and those who hadn't yet stepped through its doors to establish what would be required of a new and improved National Portrait Gallery. "A clear solution lay in finding a balance of timeless and current, a flexible brand that could sit seamlessly alongside the magnificent grade I listed building and historical works, as well as the contemporary collection and dynamic events and exhibition programme," it explains.

With this in mind, one of the central focus points to the brand refresh was inspired by the initials 'NPG', which can be seen throughout the Gallery's building, within the metalwork of railings, embossed onto furniture and as part of original mosaics. Such motifs also appear in archival materials, including an original sketch by the Gallery's first director, Sir George Scharf, who entwined and encircled 'NPG' in a workbook dated 1893. This particular sketch has since been transformed into a new symbol for the Gallery by the illustrator and typographer Peter Horridge, best known for his logos and crests created for some of Britain's most iconic institutions, including the Royal Household and King Charles, Admiralty Arch, Liverpool Football Club and crests for Liberty's department store.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

The brand also features a bespoke logotype hand-drawn by Horridge and a contemporary new typeface, NPG Serif, created by type foundry Monotype rooted in historic font references found in and around the space. These elements are coupled with a fresh, modern palette, again inspired by paint and materials in the building and archive and its collection of portraits.

Speaking of their involvment, Adrian Newell of Edit said: "When we started working with the National Portrait Gallery, we quickly understood the requirement to create a brand for so much more than a Gallery. We were creating a brand for a shop, a new café, a fine dining restaurant, a learning centre, family activities and even a night out. Putting the vast, magnificent and diverse collection front and centre, we’ve created a brand that can flex and means many different things to many people, while still feeling part of a strong, distinctive, unified whole."

The new identity has been rolled out to the Gallery's website and digital channels with more planned for 2023. "The new brand expresses our ambition to be a place for everyone, full of life and filled with life stories," adds the Gallery, "We are excited to share more over the coming months."

25 Jan. 2023

DesignStudio's colourful new identity for Eurostar Group brings together rail providers Thalys and Eurostar to create a single, exciting brand that will take the business into the future.

Featuring a new logo, symbol, colour palette, photography, illustration and even sonic branding, the distinctive Eurostar Group identity aims to respect the heritage of both powerhouse brands and lay a foundation that allows the network to modernise for the future. And with the network aiming to carry 30 million passengers annually by 2030, it needed an appropriately bold aesthetic.

DesignStudio wisely retained the best bits of existing iconography, including the Eurostar name, due to its 'powerful equity and global recognition'. Meanwhile, the previous branding's letter 'e' imagery has been given a stylish overhaul, making it a distinctive star-based logo. Bespoke wordmark typography supports this icon, which nods to the 1994 iteration with the lowercase italic forms.

"This is a significant milestone in our history, and the union of these two iconic businesses as a single brand is the result of a powerful collaboration between Eurostar, Thalys and DesignStudio," says Mario Rauter, Eurostar Group's head of brand development.

"The new brand respects the heritage and embeds both Thalys and Eurostar's essential DNA, but forges us together and pushes us forward for a bold reimagining. The new brand and design system arms us for growth in both new and existing markets, driving re-engagement with existing customers and discovery by new travellers. DesignStudio has truly helped us achieve our vision to spark new opportunities through train travel."

At the heart of the new rebrand is the spark symbol, which is a clever reference not only to the experiences the network wants to generate but the connections that it will help to forge. The arms of the spark burst from OOH displays and screens, appearing to reach out and pull together different destinations that travellers can venture off to.

The flexible and dynamic asset will also appear across train liveries and stations and is intended to act like a navigational compass which will help to guide users to their city destination. DesignStudio Creative Director Julien Queyrane explains that working closely with Eurostar and Thalys helped them to capture the essence of the brand's near-30-year heritage and evolve them into the future.

"This led to our brand idea and creative platform, Spark New, which symbolises how the new Eurostar Group brand is supercharged to spark new experiences, new ideas and new opportunities through high-speed train travel," he reveals.

As for the existing Eurostar and Thalys colours, these have also been modernised by turning them into a "punchy" blue and a sleek deep navy. A secondary palette of six colours inspired by the diversity and vibrancy of the continent itself further helps to cement the Eurostar Group identity as a forward-looking brand.

David Moloney, DesignStudio design director, describes how the team arrived at this creative solution: "We wanted to bring back the sense of pride in the brand for employees and customers who expect a premium travel experience. At the heart of the rebrand is a reimagined symbol that parts ways with the old metallic e ribbon for a new north star and bold icon for the brand."

The pride people on the continent have for train travel is further reflected in the identity of a suite of artworks created by seven illustrators across five countries. These capture each destination's unique feeling and energy and are complemented by photography created in collaboration with John Adrian, who captures the joy and spontaneity of discovery through travel.

Eurostar Group, DesignStudio and Zelig Sound have also developed the new sonic branding, designed to create branded moments and recognition in stations, on TVCs and beyond. And with the new identity set to roll out by the end of 2023, passengers won't have long to wait to see what the future of Eurostar Group looks, feels and sounds like.

25 Jan. 2023

The front of Harrods' iconic exterior has been transformed into a gigantic canvas displaying the works of Yayoi Kusama to celebrate a new collaboration between the renowned Japanese artist and designer fashion label Louis Vuitton.

Currently lighting up the facade of the famous London department store, the distinctive polka dot designs of Yayoi Kusama represent the first time a brand has ever illuminated the outside of Harrods in such a way. However, instead of paint, this time, the artwork is being applied via a series of swirling, hypnotic lighting projections.

Running until 13 February, the mesmerising, multi-coloured and immersive campaign was brought to life with the help of Publicis Media Luxe in an effort to bring art to the streets in an unprecedented way. It will also help to raise awareness of the new Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collection, which is being displayed in pride of place in 27 windows running along Brompton Road and Hans Crescent, spilling onto the pavement.

To further promote the collection, a monumental, 15 metre-tall life-like statue of Yayoi Kusama was recently unveiled outside the Hans Crescent facade, depicting the artist painting her trademark polka dots onto the Harrod's exterior. If that doesn't tip off passers-by that a collection related to the artist lies inside, nothing will.

Speaking of the decision to light up Harrods, Publicis Media Luxe managing partner Anne-Marie Hammond said that a brand as recognisable as Louis Vuitton has already set the bar high regarding innovative campaigns – so only something that was guaranteed to turn heads would suffice for this collection launch.

"We needed to create the wow factor in a totally new way for the London luxury scene, harnessing Harrod's shop front as the key media space and building a fantastic campaign around it, filled with media firsts that fit the Maison," she reveals. "We're so pleased that with the Louis Vuitton team's vision, and the talent of the ENERGY and Pixel Artworks teams, the Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama launch has been truly unmissable."

Harrods isn't the only place being taken over by the Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collection. The historic Piccadilly Circus Lights are currently showing a 3D version of the suitcase line from the collection, as well as having hosted a 30-minute domination of the site earlier in the month. Adding to the exposure is a series of OOH ads at the Brompton Banner and Knightsbridge Gateway, both of which are equally unmissable.

And just in case people have managed to avoid news of the collection, special Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama ads are currently running in print across the Times, Telegraph and a never-been-done-before full wrap of the Financial Times. Topped off with a vertical skylight running on the Telegraph, and it looks like the campaign is breaking new ground in about half a dozen ways.

No modern campaign would be complete without a digital component, and Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama is no exception. Activity across Vogue and Elle ensures that it reaches the target audience, and a WeTransfer, Pinterest, and TikTok takeover ensure that every base has been covered. And if you want to engage with Kasuma's art interactively, Snapchat has even got you covered with a new themed lens.

Don't worry if you're not London-based, either. The campaign has been launched globally, with four other cities participating, including Tokyo and New York.

25 Jan. 2023

Glasgow-based creative and design agency Tangent has collaborated with Scottish Opera to make musical packaging for its commemorative range of gin bottles.

Birthdays are often a good excuse to have a drink and dance to a tune, and Scottish Opera is no exception. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Scotland's largest performing arts organisation has marked the occasion with a commemorative gin whose packaging can be fed through a music box to play the signature theme from Madama Butterfly.

Named Suonare – which appropriately translates as 'to play' – the celebratory gin will act as a gift to patrons of the Scottish Opera. Created in partnership with local distiller Biggar Gin, the spirit is a London Dry gin which contains botanicals that have a strong connection both to Scotland and the operatic world.

To help this unique collaboration sing, Scottish Opera enlisted Tangent to create a brand whose identity would combine the two art forms of mixology and musicology. The result is a playable label whose high and low musical notes reflect the sharp Lemon and earth Cassia Bark botanicals of the gin's very own fourteen flavour notes.

As for the musical scale itself, this was die-cut into the bottle label to create a design system distinct from the usual floral imagery often associated with gin branding. And in the spirit of local pride and attention to detail that runs through the whole identity, the lettering was letter-pressed by Glasgow Press printmakers.

"When we conceived the idea of matching the botanicals to a musical scale, a whole world of possibilities opened up," explains Katrina High, designer at Tangent. "Being able to actually visualise the taste profile of the gin felt like we were taking the brand somewhere new and original, and we were excited by the prospect that this visualisation could push that bit further and go on and function as an actual sheet of music."

"The project's success depended on genuine collaboration between all the partners to make it happen," she adds. "Biggar Gin helped us to place the botanicals accurately from high to low notes. Scottish Opera's music director specifically arranged the notation so the label could play through the music box.

"It was so satisfying to see everything fall into place and to deliver a brand that conveyed the nature of the product: the worlds of musicology and mixology coming together."

The decision to make the playable tune 'Un bel di' – instantly recognisable as the signature theme from Madama Butterfly – is just as well chosen as the other elements of the identity. This is because the Puccini opera was first performed by Scottish Opera during its maiden season 60 years ago. The tune itself was inspired by a Chinese music box that the composer first heard in Italy.

"Tess Wood, Design Manager, Scottish Opera: "The decision to appoint Tangent to develop an artisan gin brand for us was incredibly easy – they have curious minds, a strong desire to push the creative boundaries, and a collaborative approach to working that was integral," concludes Tess Wood, design manager at Scottish Opera.

"The creative solution for Suonare is charmingly playful and unique, and we're thrilled with the results."

25 Jan. 2023

Multi-talented creator Sanika Phawde has turned an unusually-worded church sign into a striking comic about connection, community and belonging. And it all started by getting to know the sign's original creator.

At one time or another, we've all seen something unusual out of the corner of our eye, only to be whisked away by life before we can find out more. But for reportage artist, illustrator and cartoonist Sanika Phawde, the urge to learn more about an unusual church sign proved too powerful to resist. And it set her on a journey to meet its creator.

The sign in question was emblazoned with the statement God is Non-Binary, which is also the title Sanika gave to her comic strip about her experience of looking into it. For a First Baptist Church in Massachusetts, this is a somewhat provocative message, so it's not surprising that it compelled the inquisitive illustrator to find out more.

"I love the sign outside this church," she explains. "I walk by it every day, and every day it makes me laugh or reflect or both. The first time I saw it was the day we moved here, and it said 'God is Non-Binary', and it made me feel like maybe I was gonna be okay after all in Providence."

The curious wording prompted a flurry of questions in the mind of the Rhode Island School of Design teacher. Over several months, she pondered who exactly made it, where they came up with their ideas and how they organised their sign messages. Then, almost miraculously, it sounds like she found out. The mysterious sign creator was none other than Pastor Jamie Washam, who was kind enough to be interviewed by Sanika.

The resulting comic sees the interviews realised as a thought-provoking, strikingly illustrated tale about community. Over the course of 21 panels, Pastor Jamie reveals the thought processes behind her church sign messages and shares that sometimes humour can be the best way to encourage conversation about tricky subjects.

Take the original sign, for example. While God is Non-Binary could be seen as something of a touchpaper for enraged discourse, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Pastor Jamie reveals that she received plenty of heart-warming endorsements and only one single criticism. And in her typical saintly manner, she replied to this complaint with kindness in order to further dialogue.

And as Sanika found out during her interview, the reach of the church signs travelled further than the traditional congregation. She learnt from Pastor Jamie that one observer got in touch to say how reassuring it was to see 'Ramadan Mubarak' on a church sign of all places and that it made her feel at home.

It's a sentiment echoed by the comic's creator herself. "I love how drawing on location and reporting through comics teaches me to notice and love more about my surroundings and my community," she reveals. "I like being a reportage artist because it helps me feel like I belong in my new city."

To read the full comic, which includes revelations about how the signs are made, the lengths Pastor Jamie goes to in order to maintain them, and where she finds her inspiration, head on over to Sanika's website.

25 Jan. 2023

How&How London

How&How London

Steve Forbes believed "your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business". But as intangible assets go, a 'brand' is hard to pin down – let alone financially quantify. It's much more than a logo or instructions on the tone of voice. A brand should transcend not just reasons to buy but become a reason to believe. So what, then, is the value of 'brand'?

At my design agency How&How, we know a successful brand can not only make a company look better for investors and/or customers but also galvanise a company's employees, boost business relevance and ultimately, turnover.

But in our experience, it's also a lot more nuanced than that.

Perhaps the best way to think about brands is to imagine a cluster of gut feelings, experiences and ideas. Thinking of Nike might bring to mind the famous swoosh, 'Just Do It', and the colour black. But perhaps also sneakers, child labour, that Colin Kaepernick commercial, the Olympics, China, and the hoodie you thrifted on Depop last winter.

This makes brands a complicated thing to pin down and define, let alone build. Yet as brand builders, it's up to us to guide these associations.

How&How Lisbon

How&How Lisbon

In the early stages of a company's growth, the long-term benefits of branding often play second fiddle to short-term sales targets and lead-generation campaigns. When this strategy hits an inevitable performance plateau, defining and building a distinctive identity is the only way forward.

We can attribute this to two reasons: successful branding decreases price sensitivity. In other words, the ability to raise prices without losing business. Successful branding also increases memorable impact or the likelihood of your brand coming to mind in a buying moment by a consumer.

Of course, branding has other important advantages, such as attracting and retaining top talent, making internal decision-making more efficient, and sales activations more effective, to name a few. These benefits have long been possible through branding, but our understanding of how brands can fully realise them has evolved.

In decades past, the primary ambition of branding was to reduce the perceived risk of buying a product. Companies developed a few visual assets within a narrow scope of creative freedom and then deployed them as consistently as possible. In branding terminology, this was known as creating a "corporate identity". More recently, the expectations of brands have risen.

In an age of political distrust and unbridled capitalism, brands have emerged as an alternative means of realising better futures. Brands are no longer merely indicators of quality and value but rather vessels of meaning and value.

In other words, the purpose of brand-building has shifted: from appearance-making to meaning-making. And in the process, it went from a necessity to a responsibility.

Brands have always helped people keep companies accountable, but this has never been more true than today. Brands that misrepresent their products and clash with the values of their audience are quickly swept away.

So what is a brand to do?

This expectation of meaning-making demands more from brands than just design. Successful brands today make strategic decisions about the meaning they wish their brand to carry, build toolkits of dynamic visual assets, and develop on-brand digital experiences.

If yesterday's brands were all about repetition, today's are about reinterpretation – embracing new and creative ways to bring their brand to life while remaining recognisable and a business that consumers trust and believe in.

It is how to turn a business into a brand.

25 Jan. 2023

Credit: Koto / Bolt

Credit: Koto / Bolt

Koto has partnered with the one-click checkout platform Bolt on a full rebrand that radically lifts the brand from a sea of blue sameness and strikes the heart of the brand's commitment to lightning-speed service.

From logo and type to motion principles and photography style, and further to the website and product UI/UX, Bolt and Koto's joint vision was to bring a modern and fresh look to reflect a new chapter for the brand.

At the heart of the new identity for Bolt is a fresh positioning statement declaring Bolt's services "Shockingly Simple". It's a clever device that ties back to the lighting bolt imagery that has always played a crucial role in Bolt's identity.

Koto has retained the lightning bolt but has given it a serious glow-up. Arthur Foliard, creative director at Koto and lead on the Bolt project, said: "The new logo nods to the brand's original lightning bolt badge – an indicator of the trust, speed and convenience customers and partners have come to associate with Bolt."

Credit: Koto / Bolt

Credit: Koto / Bolt

The familiar lighting bolt is now elevated in the new identity through new chunky typography that gives Bolt a much-needed infusion of personality and a night-and-day colour transformation tying back into the lightning bolt motif. Bolt, which had previously leant on a blue palette, is now striking in a new lighting-inspired hero colour: lightning yellow.

Foliard told Creative Boom: "Looking at Bolt's competitors, it was pretty obvious why they needed to move away from the blue. Everyone is using it!" While blue is often the colour most associated with security and trust, Foliard says brands absolutely don't need to be blue to give a 'secured' feel. For him, creating a sense of brand security is much more rooted in a brand's behaviour than its colour. So for him and his team, there was no question that a bolder colour choice needed to be on the cards for Bolt.

"We know the power of colour for a brand," Foliard told Creative Boom. "Colour makes it feel instantly different."

The next step was to identify the most powerful colour route. Foliard explained Koto's process: "In a sea of sameness, there clearly were two opportunities to explore – Orange/Red and Yellow/Lime. We tried both and looked at how they worked with the rest of our brand. The whole brand was built on lightning speed. So in the end, the 'lightning yellow' was the one we all loved, for obvious reasons."

Where previously Bolt's brand presence could be inconsistent, the new system communicates as directly as Bolt's services operate. Foliard told Creative Boom: "The thing I love about the new brand is how expressive, yet simple, it is. From the smallest bits of the brand, iconography, and product behaviour to the beautiful art direction and website, everything makes sense with our core idea: lightning-speed checkout. That's what I'm the proudest of and what will get Bolt to a great place in the future."

The new look has already started to roll out on the brand's website and social media and will continue to extend to various marketing tactics.

24 Jan. 2023

Credit: Olivia Odiwe

Credit: Olivia Odiwe

Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum – the best designers and artists are constantly in conversation with the work of their peers, drawing inspiration and pushing boundaries. To celebrate the connected nature of creativity and uncover some new talent worth following, we asked seven designers to share the creative minds that have been inspiring their own approach to creativity lately.

The responses were wide-ranging and showcased just how important it is to look outside your own specific discipline for creative inspiration.

From 3D clay models to colourful decorations to funky type forms, the creatives recommended below are making art that pushes boundaries, mixes mediums, and illustrates the power of point of view. Read on to learn more about some inspiring creatives you should follow this year.

Olivia Odiwe's delicate details create a therapeutic experience

"I discovered Olivia Odiwe in 2019 when my twin brother Simon sent me a link to her Instagram," Adam Ryan, head of Pentawards told Creative Boom. "Her work is heavily influenced by modern culture, film and music. I spent hours on her page admiring her innovative portraiture style where she would blend faces of iconic hip-hop or grime stars using bright colours."

Ryan has been particularly struck by Odiwe's clay work: "Around 2020, Olivia started using clay most wonderfully. She recreated iconic album covers in 3D but on a miniature scale. The delicate detail of the small sculptures is placed on the album cover to bring it to life. These would all be filmed, and a time-lapse would be posted. It's so therapeutic to watch: the precision, craft and detail show a serious talent."

Credit: Olivia Odiwe. Follow Olivia Odiwe on [Instagram](https://www.instagram.com/illestration/)

Credit: Olivia Odiwe. Follow Olivia Odiwe on Instagram

Bethan Wood's designs inspire exploration and abundance

"London-based artist and designer Bethan Laura Wood served as an incredible source of inspiration for me," Lara Strauss, a design strategist for Design Partners and PA Consulting, proclaims.

Strauss shared just how formative Wood's work has been for her own creative practice recently: "It is very refreshing that Bethan Laura Wood doesn't shy away from embracing decorative elements. In recent years, I tended to reduce my design languages to the absolute essential, finding beauty in radical minimalism and shy tech. Yet lately, I found this approach increasingly boring and therefore more challenging to plant meaning in my designs.

"I started to develop an appetite for more fun, organic, delightful, and narrative expression. Ultimately, her work has motivated me to become more explorative myself again and embrace the concept of abundance – which means much needed to escape the sea of sameness."

Credit: Bethan Laura Wood. Follow Bethan Laura Wood on [Instagram](https://www.instagram.com/bethanlaurawood/?hl=en)

Credit: Bethan Laura Wood. Follow Bethan Laura Wood on Instagram

Credit: Bethan Laura Wood. Follow Bethan Laura Wood on [Instagram](https://www.instagram.com/bethanlaurawood/?hl=en)

Credit: Bethan Laura Wood. Follow Bethan Laura Wood on Instagram

Stefan Diez's designs toe the line between refined and experimental

"I've always had a child-like intrigue, and so tend to be drawn to designs and designers that re-interpret functional everyday products in new and playful ways," Greg Furniaux, senior designer at blond, told Creative Boom.

Furniaux shared that one artist who often inspires him is the German industrial designer Stefan Diez. "Diez's work often inspires me, as he combines refinement, innovation and simplicity without losing any of the experimental, fun character," adds Furniaux.

Recently Furniaux has been particularly inspired by Diez's conceptual BOA table for HAY, a development of the Soba collection for Japan Creative (2015). "I loved the interactivity of the hidden twisted rope fastening - it has now been reimagined in aluminium tubes. Instead of rope, the pieces now come together with a satisfying engineered click. It's a masterful balance of playfulness and precision; the exaggerated chunky drain pipe forms and tool-free construction makes it feel like a giant version of building toys like Lego Technic or K'Nex, which the big kid in me loves."

Credit: Stefan Diez. Follow Stefan Diaz on [Instagram](https://www.instagram.com/stefandiez/)

Credit: Stefan Diez. Follow Stefan Diaz on Instagram

Joseph Töreki's digital chemistry is at the forefront of mixed-media design

"The act of translating materials from one reality to another has become a new form of craft," says Lars Dittrich, a designer CMF strategist at Seymourpowell. One designer Dittrich admires in this space is the multidisciplinary artist, Joseph Töreki.

According to Dittrich, Töreki's work "beautifully captures this fine line between the virtual and the physical, exploring a traditional craft (ceramics) and his fascination with digital art, to make both practices inseparable and imperishable."

Dittrich shared that he particularly loves "the experimental process which goes into creating [Töreki's] digital glaze collection. After firing unglazed, hand-thrown clay vases, Töreki photo-scans the objects before applying a digital glaze. Building on a deep understanding of heirloom glaze recopies, techniques and materials, Töreki, acting as a digital chemist, gives integrity to his digital ceramics."

Credit: Joseph Töreki. Follow Joseph Töreki on [Instragram](https://www.instagram.com/josephtoereki)

Credit: Joseph Töreki. Follow Joseph Töreki on Instragram

Credit: Joseph Töreki. Follow Joseph Töreki on [Instragram](https://www.instagram.com/josephtoereki)

Credit: Joseph Töreki. Follow Joseph Töreki on Instragram

Renee Melia's striking colours and patterns balance light and dark

"Renee Melia, an incredible Australian illustrator, was one of my biggest sources of inspiration for 2022," Charlie Tallis, a designer at Taxi Studio, told Creative Boom. Tallis shared that she came across Melia's work on Instagram and immediately fell in love with her striking colour palettes, use of patterns, and the way she uses dark tones and bright pops.

"Renee uses colour in a way I would not naturally think to," she continues. "The way she takes a simple subject matter, yet manages to create a distinctive and unique piece each time, is truly inspiring. It reminds me that there are always new and exciting solutions to every brief."

Credit: Renee Melia. Follow Renee Melia on [Instagram](https://www.instagram.com/whistleburg/)

Credit: Renee Melia. Follow Renee Melia on Instagram

Daniel Irizarry follows through, from a strong point of view to a flawless execution

Ben McNutt, the chief creative officer at Butchershop, is a big fan of designs by Daniel Irizarry, creative director at Athletics."Design without an idea is just style. And yet an idea is only as good as its execution. There are those in our industry who are great at the concept or the execution. It's the rare designer who can see the throughline from one to the other. Daniel can."

McNutt praised Irizarry's range, reflected through his brand work and personal designs - but the through line is always a strong point of view, an ability to fully engage with his subjects without including anything extraneous.

"In sketch or improv comedy, they talk about 'committing to the bit'. You might be able to throw in all kinds of things that, on their own, could be funny but would ultimately detract from the joke or take it off course. So, it's best to commit to the bit. Daniel's a designer who commits to the concept. He only lets in what's essential to its strongest execution and guts the rest. That's how you get brands with a clear, distinct POV view. Brands that actually say something. Clarity is everything. There's a lot of noise in these wild (albeit fun) digital times. Daniel's work avoids it while still pumping out some ill, fresh stuff."

Credit: Daniel Irizarry. Follow Daniel Irizarry on [Instagram](https://www.instagram.com/danielirizarry/)

Credit: Daniel Irizarry. Follow Daniel Irizarry on Instagram

Anna Mills' hand-drawn designs overflow with personality

Mollie Kendell, a designer at Lantern, has been following Bristol-based graphic designer Anna Mills since her university days.

Kendall told Creative Boom that she "always loved [Mills'] manual approach to design with her hand-drawn illustrations and embroidered letterforms. Her style has a human, hand-drawn quality where each character feels like they have their own personality. Dancing on the line between analogue and digital processes, each piece feels like it hops and dances into place across the screen. She creates fluid letterforms and illustrations, bringing them to life by manually drawing frame by frame to create wiggly, twitchy animations."

Kendell shared how Mills' work has a direct impact on her own, saying Mills inspires her "work more manually, escape the screen and rethink how typography can be imagined to have its own personality and movement."

Recently, Kendall particularly loved Mills' 36 Days of Type designs. "The animation consists of hand-drawn frames brought together to show each letterform morphing and taking a new shape, with a changing personality of each character. Her style is inspired by printed ephemera and letterforms; she takes this photo-copy style into her work. This is brought into the small details of her work with changing dials as the characters move into place."

Credit: Anna Mills. Follow Anna Mills on [Instagram](https://www.instagram.com/annam.lls/?hl=en)

Credit: Anna Mills. Follow Anna Mills on Instagram

24 Jan. 2023

Credit: Darren Foldes

Credit: Darren Foldes

Darren Foldes spent the summer of 2005 DJing for private parties for Prince whilst working full-time in advertising. The executive producer, managing director and partner for brand studio and production company Sibling Rivalry recently sat down to tell Creative Boom all about how he fell into the gig and what his time as a DJ to the stars taught him about working in the creative industries.

The night started like any other: Foldes, who at the time was working in advertising by day and DJing some of LA's top clubs at night, was doing a set at the now-defunct Foundation Room at the House of Blues in LA. When he finished around 2am, he was approached to DJ a private afterparty in the early hours of the morning. Foldes agreed – though he wasn't told who was hosting the party. It wasn't until an hour later when he was set up in a private room, that he was joined by none other than the legendary recording artist Prince.

"My jaw dropped," Foldes told Creative Boom. He'd DJ'd for high-profile hosts in the past, but this was another level.

Foldes tried to play it cool, following Prince's advice: "He said to me, 'just keep it sexy, keep it cool'," Foldes remembered. "And then he went and put the Wizard of Oz on the DVD player and left… There I was, left in the room with the Wizard of Oz playing by myself, not knowing what to make of anything right then."

Half an hour later, people started filtering into the room, and Foldes remembers that Prince returned somewhere around 4:30am, when the room was full. "It was an absolute full-on dance party," Foldes recalled, describing the night as "intimate but electrifying."

It was the first private party of many that Foldes would DJ for Prince that summer. While that first night was the most memorable, Foldes says the most rewarding aspect of the whole experience was knowing that he'd gotten it right – and kept it sexy and cool enough for Prince to invite him again and again, that summer.

Credit: Darren Foldes

Credit: Darren Foldes

Foldes stepped back from DJing the following summer as his advertising career took off (plus, how do you really top a summer spent DJing late-night LA parties for Prince?). But the way Foldes learned to entertain and delight his audience as a DJ and how he learned to meet the desires of top talent has never faded from his approach to creative work.

His musical taste and background are hugely evident in his advertising credits: Foldes was a member of the team behind Apple's rhythmic "Bounce" spot and won an Emmy for his role as Executive Producer on Nike's You Can't Stop Us spot – which is built around the mixing of footage and sound in a way that definitely plays to the strength of Foldes' background as a DJ and filmmaker.

One skill in particular that Foldes says his experience as a DJ helped him build out is the ability to push his clients' boundaries while simultaneously giving them what they want. "When you're DJing, you want to consider what's to come, but you must also be very grounded in the present and the past." Foldes liked his sets to balance fresh new sounds with classic tracks – for Prince, he once played a white-label remix of one of Prince's own songs that the artists' team had never heard before, sending one member of Prince's team chasing him down to get the record.

As a DJ, Foldes said it was important to be "future-facing and thinking about where things are going while satisfying people in that moment." Today, he applies to same rule to his work as an advertiser. "You want to try to push things forward at the same time as satisfying the goals of the brief," he told Creative Boom. "Sometimes that means getting someone to take a step somewhat outside their comfort zone only to find that it was the right step. And that's something that I frequently used to do when DJing. I played something that may have been unexpected but worked within the overall vibe of the evening."

Credit: Darren Foldes

Credit: Darren Foldes

As well as finding a balance between past, present, and future, Foldes has always been committed to finding the balance between his creative taste and preferences, his teams' tastes, and client tastes and needs – another skill he started honing in his DJ days.

"There is something to be said about having confidence in your voice, trusting what you believe is good from a craft or storytelling standpoint, and then seeing where that meshes with the other people in the process," Foldes told Creative Boom. "When DJing, you read the room by paying attention to what's happening on the dance floor. And when it's advertising, you read the room differently." For Foldes, reading the room doesn't mean going along with what the majority wants for the sake of it but rather making an effort to bring differing points of view together through creative expression. "For any creative field, I believe that trusting your core, but seeing how it works with others, and being collaborative is the way to true success."

At the end of the day, Foldes believes that the most important thing he can offer – as a DJ, producer, or creative leader – is to listen. Whether he's designing the perfect set list for Prince or pitching a new campaign to a client, or getting his team prepared to shoot a new spot, Foldes' attention is always on clueing into what's going on with the people around him, what they need, and how he can best respond and add value through his own voice.

"It's all about listening and observing, putting something out there and waiting for the reply," Foldes told Creative Boom. "You put something out there that elicits a response that allows you to understand your client, your audience, or the agency you're working with even better."

If you're interested in learning more about Darren Foldes' taste in music, check out this playlist he curated for the Sibling Rivalry website.

24 Jan. 2023

Thick-skinned, 2019 © Rebecca Moss

Thick-skinned, 2019 © Rebecca Moss

Artists Emma Hart and Dean Kenning have assembled a collective of sculptors to exhibit and address social divisions within the industry to encourage conversations around artistic poverty and consider its effect on creative progression and practice.

Art is often critiqued for its elitism; it's been a sticking point for years but has proved difficult to dismantle, largely because of the infrastructure surrounding art collection and production. The truth is it costs a lot of money to make art. Thankfully, artists Emma Hart and Dean Kenning have addressed this issue with their soon-to-launch exhibition, which aims to inspire conversations around the role of social class in art.

Poor Things showcases the work of 21 contemporary UK-based sculptors and highlights the ongoing social divide that exists in the arts. Featuring a range of styles, the collection aims to highlight how class affords privilege, providing room to experiment and produce work.

The City Rises, 2020/21 © Anne Ryan

The City Rises, 2020/21 © Anne Ryan

The City Rises, 2020/21 (detail) © Anne Ryan

The City Rises, 2020/21 (detail) © Anne Ryan

Both Hart and Kenning understand the role of class in furthering and supporting the arts, with artists from lower-class backgrounds struggling with resources, whether financial or related to time, space, confidence, availability and contacts.

The pair chose to set the parameters of the exhibition to focus on sculpture – "as it occupies the same ground as the viewer and often makes use of ordinary stuff," says Hart and Kenning. "Its relation - both to manual construction and common forms of making and craft - offers a particularly powerful means by which to question how class impacts on and is expressed through artistic practice."

This investigation led the pair to consider how a lack of access to industry permeates into individual works and whether class factors intersect with questions of race, gender and sexuality, which may eventually manifest in the artists' works.

Heavy View, 2020 © Laura Yuile

Heavy View, 2020 © Laura Yuile

Pour Doll, 2021 © Penny Goring

Pour Doll, 2021 © Penny Goring

Spoiler (blue/green), 2021 © Emma Hart

Spoiler (blue/green), 2021 © Emma Hart

Renaissance Man, 2018 © Dean Kenning

Renaissance Man, 2018 © Dean Kenning

The premise for the exhibition was also fuelled by conversations with friends, which revealed how different classes experience different realities to understand the impact that personal history and sociological circumstances play in shaping artworks. There will be audio recordings of these conversations available for viewers to access, which will guide and act as a structure throughout the exhibition.

"At Fruitmarket, we invite artists to take risks, to experiment, to frame questions rather than provide answers; and we support audiences to think and look alongside artists," says Fiona Bradley, director at the Edinburgh-based free public art space. "We value art as an agent of disruption and change and look to art and artists to bring new perspectives to bear on current issues and debates. I hope the sculptures in Poor Things will make room for new thinking."

Oblivion, 2021 © Rosie McGinn

Oblivion, 2021 © Rosie McGinn

Poor Things reflects experiences and artworks from artists of working and lower-middle-class backgrounds.

The exhibition will run between March and May, taking place in Fruitmarket and features contributions from the following artists: Linda Aloysius, Eric Bainbridge, Jonathan Baldock, Simeon Barclay, Joseph Buckley, Beagles and Ramsay, Chila Burman, Andrew Cooper, Jamie Cooper, Penny Goring, Brian Griffiths, Emma Hart, Lee Holden, Dean Kenning, Josie KO, Rosie McGinn, Rebecca Moss, Janette Parris, Anne Ryan, Aled Simons, and Laura Yuile.

24 Jan. 2023

Rapid Gaze Polynomials Embedded in Infinite Variables, 2021 © Ryota Matsumoto

Rapid Gaze Polynomials Embedded in Infinite Variables, 2021 © Ryota Matsumoto

Based between New York and Tokyo, Ryota Matsumoto's work could be described as other-worldly as his artistic experiments fuse traditional techniques with digital media.

There's no doubting the speed at which society is currently evolving, with social, economic and cultural changes constantly at play. Tokyo-born artist Ryota Matsumoto cites his multifaceted approach and international outlook as the reason behind his exploration into how urban and ecological societies are transforming, something also attributed to his childhood spent in Hong Kong and Japan and during overseas studies in the UK.

He describes his artworks as "visual commentaries on speculative changes in notions of societies, cultures, and ecosystems in the transient nature of constantly shifting topography and geology" – which given the instability of today's climate, reflect this chaos.

Electric Flesh and Anatomical Interventions, 2021 © Ryota Matsumoto

Electric Flesh and Anatomical Interventions, 2021 © Ryota Matsumoto

Chebyshev Spectral Overcast, 2022 © Ryota Matsumoto

Chebyshev Spectral Overcast, 2022 © Ryota Matsumoto

Imaginary Echo Chamber, 2018 © Ryota Matsumoto

Imaginary Echo Chamber, 2018 © Ryota Matsumoto

With a series of artworks to his name, Matsumoto's approach is interesting: he combines techniques to create a hybrid form allowing him to tap into traditional methods such as ink, acrylic, and graphite, which are overlaid on top of digital media, like algorithmic processing, data transcoding, and image compositing through customised software.

Each image seems to contain biomorphic forms, teasing human and animal shapes within the pictures to present dystopian post-human spaces that question urban and digital intersection. Matsumoto purposefully applies these techniques to transcend the boundary between analogue and digital media and create new multi-dimensional worlds.

Ultimately, his work questions current realities and norms, offering room for addressing conventional beliefs around architectural and artistic formalities; it's a space for freedom and interpretation.

The Indistinct Notion of an Object Trajectory, 2018 © Ryota Matsumoto

The Indistinct Notion of an Object Trajectory, 2018 © Ryota Matsumoto

Those Who Affirm the Spontaneity of Every Event, 2019 © Ryota Matsumoto

Those Who Affirm the Spontaneity of Every Event, 2019 © Ryota Matsumoto

Quantized Crackles of Emotional Scales, 2019 © Ryota Matsumoto

Quantized Crackles of Emotional Scales, 2019 © Ryota Matsumoto

23 Jan. 2023

Sam Ellis

Sam Ellis

Words matter. Conscious or otherwise, they permeate everything we do. On our screens, in our brainwaves, words storyboard our lives. So why, when it comes to branding, are words often overlooked?

I may be a millennial who works in a branding agency, but I still prefer to read something I can feel in my hands. I like the weight of a newspaper and the sturdy spine of a book. Call me analogue, or dare I say – romantic – but the art of writing, and the act of reading, aren't lost on me yet. Turns out, it isn't lost on the world either.

When businesses were going down during the pandemic, book sales were going up. So was readership. When Best Buy shuttered its aisles, Barnes & Noble was experiencing an unexpected resurgence of sales. Was this simply a temporary swell of literary lust or a reminder of the ability of stories to soothe and suture? And what does the annual revenue of big box stories in America have to do with the future of branding? Nothing, and everything.

Illustration by Xin Ning Mah

Illustration by Xin Ning Mah

An image makes an impact. Words spark an exchange. After all, what is an Apple without the invitation to "Think Different"? Would De Beers sparkle a little less in its category if it hadn't coined the iconic phrase "A diamond is forever"? Look at a billboard, an Instagram ad, the bottle in your hand, and scrub the words with the magic eraser in your mind. An ad is dissolved into a pretty picture without a point. A brand becomes a bundle of contextless colours. Erode the narrative, and you'll find that a skeleton of a house alone can't conjure a sense of home.

This past October, I went to Ad Week in New York City. It was a high-octane experience, fuelled by enthusiasm, laminated name tags, and branded M&Ms. Amidst the overwhelm, a few key themes bobbed to the surface of an industry battling a chapter of seasickness. There was a collective realisation that we must learn how to play nicely with the robots and, simultaneously, learn how to be human again.

Guest speaker Deepak Chopra maybe said it best: "The one who leads is the one who has the best story." Unsurprisingly, that guru is onto something. We've been operating like we're in the branding business, but people aren't logic processors. People are processors of stories. We continue to consume myths as hungrily as I consumed those free M&M's. We're not in the branding business; we're in the memory business.

There was a collective realisation that we must learn how to play nicely with the robots and, simultaneously, learn how to be human again.

When Patagonia launched its sustainability campaign, it wasn't the design that won the world over. It was the simple sentence: "The Earth is Our Only Shareholder." It worked because it was smart. It landed because it was human. That small selection of words tells an entire story, not just about a company and its values, but about our world and its fragile future. The best words make big ideas seem easy. They make you think, "I wish I had thought of that."

When we sought to redefine a new range of whisky for Balvenie, we knew we had to go deeper than tasting notes and cask quality. We didn't want to rely on old tricks to create new demand. We wanted to create a new world. This is how the Balvenie Stories Range was crafted. Each liquid received its own cast of characters, colours, and context, making it rarer than its chemistry. When Allpress Espresso needed a brand book, we could have just given them one. They make good coffee. Why not just say that? Instead, we brought their vision to life in a comic. From coffee barista to industry thought leader, Mike Allpress offers the humble hero's journey you didn't know you needed with your takeaway. Layered storytelling, when done effectively, doesn't add weight; it adds levity.

Everyone needs to understand the brand's language before believing in it. And the language you choose to speak is essential to your success. Design is a vessel that will take you from A to B, but words are an empathy tool that gives your brand the depth to truly connect. In a world of fragmentation, it's our job to make brands whole again and to do that; we'll need to choose our words wisely.

There was a lot of talk of "meeting people where they are" at Ad Week, and there are echoes of that sentiment reverberating in creative brainstorms across London today. Where people are on their iPhones in the office. Distracting themselves on the train home. Searching for something to read on standby at the airport. People are looking down and, sometimes, looking up. Give them something worth remembering when they do.

Write with Here.

23 Jan. 2023

Jordan Buschur

Jordan Buschur

Artist, educator and curator Jordan Buschur explores the non-monetary significance of items in her paintings of everyday objects. And by hinting at the anxiety and sentimentality that things contain, these still-life artworks also act as a detailed portrait of modern life.

Ohio-based painter Jordan Buschur sums up her paintings as oscillating between fixed meaning and open interpretation. And nowhere is this duality more apparent than in her depictions of everyday, accumulated objects. Items such as books, packed boxes and the miscellaneous contents of desk drawers transcend into "systems of value shaped by mystery" when captured by Jordan on the canvas.

Since we last featured Jordan on Creative Boom, she's become a mum of three, and the matriarchal connection between objects has manifested itself in her work. To learn more about her story, we sat down with Jordan to talk about how she crafts her paintings and her experiences of parenthood as an artist.

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

Your artworks imply a human presence through objects. What inspired this creative approach?

When I started as a painter, much of my work was figurative. Eventually, I wanted to shift away from the specificity of the human form, and I realised that paintings of objects could function as portraits without the figure.

How true to life are your paintings? Do you paint objects as you see them or arrange a composition?

I have a folder of source images I have taken over the years. They are a mix but typically fall into two categories- interiors of drawers, boxes, jars, or domestic vignettes. I work from rather junky printouts of the images, and though they are the origin of the paintings, the finished work veers away from the source. Colours shift, and objects are changed or sometimes completely removed. Outlines of hands, faces, or symbols are added in.

Finding the balance between representation and invention is the challenging and mysterious part, ultimately the most satisfying part of the process.

What recurring themes have you noticed during your paintings?

Through the variations in imagery, all my paintings centre on ideas of non-monetary systems of value. What do we put on display, and what do we hide away? What do we keep and why? I'm interested in how meaning shapeshifts as an object is inherited and enters heirloom status, even if that object is a box of dried-up markers. Sentimentality is a force, and it's not always light.

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

Who are your biggest artistic inspirations, and why?

Here are two out of a long list. Firstly, Portia Munson. In my youth, I picked up a used copy of the catalogue for the Bad GIrls exhibition at the New Museum from 1994. Portia Munson's Pink Project compiled hundreds of second-hand pink plastic objects, and I was simultaneously in love and repulsed. A good combo.

Secondly, Kerry James Marshall. His paintings are so poetic and tender in places and extremely powerful and pointed in others. I admire his technical ability as it intertwines with his message. The painting SOB SOB at the Smithsonian Museum is one of my favourites. Plus, it features a shelf of books, which is always a draw for me.

Thanks for sharing your most recent work with us. How do you think you have developed as an artist in these paintings?

One of the reasons I love working in a creative field is being able to follow my own lead, and in recent years that has been even more apparent to me. If I want to paint something, even if I can't explain why at the moment I begin, I can trust my intuition. It usually takes me somewhere interesting or at least opens the door to a new idea. Looking back, I can follow my thought trajectory, which is very satisfying.

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

You've had three children since you last appeared on Creative Boom. Congratulations! How have they changed your outlook as an artist?

Everything changes with the addition of children! But at the same time, I'm still me, and I still have my personal priorities and interests. I had to learn to make room for family priorities too. I'm still learning.

How do you balance parenthood with a creative life?

I'm the primary caregiver for my kids, who are all still quite young. I moved my studio to a spare room in my house after my third child was born, giving me greater access even if it also allows for more interruptions. I grab studio time wherever I can, which means during naps after they are in bed or on weekends. I do have childcare three mornings a week so that I can teach, and occasionally I can extend that help so that I can be in the studio after class. It is a challenge at this stage to find enough time and energy for the studio, but I'm very driven and notice my mood darkens if I'm not getting enough. It's better for everyone if I can get to the studio.

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

© Jordan Buschur

What advice would you give to artists who are expecting?

Go to residencies before having kids, if possible. Travel of any kind becomes harder when they are young, and most residencies don't support families (though some really great ones do- last summer, I took my whole family to the Wassaic Project, which was a fantastic experience).

Beyond that very specific advice, the most helpful thing to remember is that the balance always shifts. There might be times when family life takes over everything, but it's not a permanent state. Finding flexibility and adjusting to the flow are still my goals as I balance parenting and art-making.

What are you most looking forward to in 2023?

It's currently winter where I am, so at this point, like every year, I look forward to spring. Warmth, sun, new green growth, and the beginning of mushroom hunting season with the appearance of morels, which I dream about for weeks in advance.

In the studio, I'm about to begin a series of large drawings, taller than me, for a solo show in June at Divisible Projects in Dayton, Ohio, USA. I have no idea what they will look like yet, which is exciting and scary.

Jordan Buschur

Jordan Buschur

23 Jan. 2023

The New York-based illustrator reveals how limitations such as simple colour palettes helped to form her popular and one-of-a-kind art style.

Vidhya Nagarajan's illustrations are a joy to behold. Instantly recognisable by their flowing line shapes and dynamic patches of colour, it's no wonder that she's been snapped up by the likes of Google, Apple and The New York Times, to name but a few of the illustrious brands on her client list.

For Vidhya, her life as an illustrator fulfils a life-long dream. Even as a kid, she was always drawing and cited art as her favourite high school class back in the day. "I knew I wanted to do something with art, but I did not know what was possible until I found out what illustration was in college," she tells Creative Boom.

Part of the unique appeal of illustration for Vidhya is that there is a degree of problem-solving. Commercial artists are often tasked with visually communicating someone else's idea, which frequently includes working to both a brief and a deadline. With these constraints in place, illustrators have the guidance to make creative decisions more quickly.

You wouldn't think of it to look at them, but the colours in Vidhya's illustrations result from these limitations. "I use a limited colour palette because I like the way it looks, and I like setting up limitations for myself," she reveals.

"Making an illustration means you have to make hundreds of choices. When I started illustrating, I struggled with selecting colours, so I pared down my choices. I started using black, one colour and then the white of the paper. This set up a really simple value structure and cut down on the number of choices I had to make. Keeping colours simple also helps in my screen printing process."

Another distinctive quality in Vidhya's work is the bouncy, flowing line shapes she uses to draw everything from people to buildings and animals. But whereas her colours are born out of necessity, her characteristic lines appear more deep-seated and organic. "I think in lines," she explains. "Every drawing or sketch starts with a line drawing."

When she's not thinking in lines, Vidhya likes to travel, and her various sojourns become the focus of her art. "Travel has changed my work because it makes me notice every little thing," she says. "When I go to a new city, I am inspired by everything different from where I live.

"In Japan, the sewer lids are works of art; everything is smaller and quieter but pristine. In London, public art is abundant in so many mediums and from so many different eras. In Lisbon, it's the tiles and pattern. In Copenhagen, it's the furniture and minimal aesthetic. In Mexico City, it's the ladies with their colourful candy carts and hand-painted signs. All this and more makes its way into my brain and onto paper somehow."

As well as illustrating what she discovers during her travels, Vidhya also pens beautifully realised annotations which describe what she has experienced or encountered. These take the form of written notes but are often centred around elaborate, signage-Esque lettering of the place name itself. Could this be the start of a new medium for Vidhya?

"I started lettering because I'm interested in typography, but I wanted to have more control over it," she says. "So I started drawing it. I taught myself by collecting samples of type and lettering I liked and taking pictures of signage whenever I travelled. I'm teaching a class on lettering this spring!"

Of all the places Vidhya has visited and illustrated, Lisbon is a favourite. "I had never been to Portugal before, and I loved the city, the food, the people, the climate, that you have to hike up hills and steps multiple times a day and the art."

As for the future, Vidhya wants to travel even more in 2023 and start screen printing again. Currently, she's working on personal projects, having recently finished a small piece for the New York Times.

"I'm working on a print for a non-profit organisation, I Paint My Mind, and I'm currently planning the semester," she concludes. "I also teach at Washington University in St. Louis in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

23 Jan. 2023

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

The New York-based illustrator brings her heritage to life with detailed images evoking magical worlds, superstitious omens and menstrual shame through the detailed use of colour and lines.

Chinese folklore is visionary, vivacious and mostly highly visual – with its moralistic codes and sense of surrealism, it draws on the fantastical and opens up new worlds for listeners to fall into. It's no wonder then that New York-based illustrator Sewing Feng decided to harness the power of Chinese stories as inspiration for her artworks.

Having grown up in China, she was surrounded by terrific tales and radiant re-imaginings, which captured her imagination. And now, since graduating from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, Sewing is weaving in her understanding of architectural design – something she gained in her undergraduate program – to bring her images to life.

"My work is often said to look very Asian," she says. "I like to paint traditional ghost stories and weird tales, and I like to use a lot of line and low-saturation colours."

This technique is apparent through all of her work which evokes the meticulous nature of bringing a piece to life, and her intentional use of colour only adds to the heightened sense of reality and mystery present.

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

From the series, Feng Shui © Sewing Feng

Each painting contains a story of its own, and the Feng Shui series, in particular, reveals how linked Chinese omens are to the elements. Some backdrops include palaces, villages and graveyards, reflecting China's cultural superstitious nature, which Sewing taps into and give each image a rooted sense of place.

Her presentation of these stories reflects the charm and magic present in traditional oral history and reveals her decision to present a snapshot of these little-known fables. Some of these stories – like that of the immortal being LiaoBing - explain traditions that continue to exist in Chinese villages today. LiaoBing's influence resulted in villagers in Southern China continuing to build crescent moon-shaped pools for luck.

Besides these spooky tales that provide a clue into the thinking behind Chinese customs, Sewing has also explored personal experiences in her artwork to explore the female identity. In the Secret series, she uses menstrual shame as inspiration to create a triptych of images that share what shame feels like.

"Many women in the world did not mention the coming menstruation or suffered unfair treatment because of menstruation," says Sewing. "I created this series to give women a voice."

From the series, Secret © Sewing Feng

From the series, Secret © Sewing Feng

From the series, Secret © Sewing Feng

From the series, Secret © Sewing Feng

From the series, Secret © Sewing Feng

From the series, Secret © Sewing Feng

From the series, Secret © Sewing Feng

From the series, Secret © Sewing Feng

20 Jan. 2023

Thatcher's Children, 1992 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 1992 © Craig Easton

Photographer Craig Easton revisits an earlier project from 1992 highlighting intergenerational poverty and documenting three generations of the Williams family.

It's easy to believe that time will pave the way and create beneficial opportunities for those of the future, but documentary photographer Craig Easton has found this not necessarily true, as proven in his series, Thatcher's Children – one that has been turned into a book as well as a new exhibition in Liverpool.

Inspired by the desire "to hold people to account for what I find," Easton has returned to the Williams family, whom he has documented since 1992. Back then, they were made up of just two parents and six children and living in a hostel for homeless families in Blackpool, England. And now, the family spans three generations.

Easton's initial meeting of the Williams was on assignment for the French newspaper Libération to document the 'underclass of scroungers' – so-called by Peter Lilley, the then Secretary of State for Social Security. It was a time of grave social separation in the UK – Easton's pictures of the family's overcrowded two-bedroom council flat in Blackpool sparked a public and emotional response, mainly because of how humanly those featured were depicted.

Thatcher's Children, 1992 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 1992 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Since this initial meeting, Easton returned to the Williams family to share his original images and fill in their intervening years. Still, upon returning, he saw the impact of the social policy failures made by various governments and noticed how deprivation has continued to plague them.

With similar hardships at stake – including housing insecurity and unduly dependence on the welfare system – Easton noted that while adversity in the 1990s was largely down to unemployment, in the 2020s, most of the family are working and still confronted with the same financial difficulties.

Easton responded by spending time with the family and regaining their trust. Activities included supermarket trips, spending time at home, attending weddings and witnessing moments of crisis and resolution.

The series – which launched at Liverpool's Open Eye Gallery before touring the rest of the UK – provides commentary on how little has changed in 30 years by comparing then with now to highlight how deprivation continues to exist in modern Britain.

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

"What has emerged from that project is an intensely personal lens through which to view a widespread social emergency," says journalist Jack Shenker, who provided writing assistance on the project. "The persistence of poverty in one of the wealthiest countries on earth and the insidious ways in which it gets reproduced down the generations."

Given Easton's long-standing documentary work, the accompanying book for the series combines the family's portraits with quotes taken from politicians. This juxtaposition highlights how those in power often ignore families like the Williams – yet restores their power by featuring them as protagonists.

His resilient presentation of their domestic worlds symbolises defiance against the policies that have continued to govern since Thatcher's reign. The photographs very much challenge Thatcher's well-remembered slogan, 'There is no alternative'.

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

Thatcher's Children, 2016 – 2020 © Craig Easton

The exhibition 'Is Anybody Listening?' is now on show at Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool until 26 February 2023. The book, Thatcher's Children by Craig Easton, is published by GOST and is available to purchase with 20% of proceeds from sales or pre-orders of the book donated to The Trussell Trust.

20 Jan. 2023

DesignStudio has given one of America's favourite travel resources, Scott's Cheap Flights, a complete brand overhaul, starting with a new name: Going. The new name is supported by an accessible but elevated visual identity, perfectly capturing the brand's mission.

Founded in 2015 as a newsletter to family and friends, Scott's Cheap Flights now has a membership of over 2 million people. Having grown to encompass a website, search engine, newsletter, and soon-to-launch app, they help members find more value when they travel by approaching booking differently.

Today, with a team of over 60, the brand has grown beyond just Scott and the initial proposition of 'cheap flights'. To take the brand on the next leg of its journey, Scott and co-founder Brian Kidwell brought on DesignStudio, an agency with a history of levelling up beloved travel and lifestyle brands, including Airbnb and Deliveroo.

The resulting brand work completely overhauls Scott's Cheap Flights' identity and positions it to grow beyond its humble beginnings without destroying the authentic equity the brand has built up since 2015.

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

To structure this sprawling project, DesignStudio began by developing a new strategic idea that bridges the gap between where Scott's Cheap Flights started and where it's (pardon the pun) Going.

Eric Ng, DesignStudio Executive Creative Director, Americas, explained: "One of the many things that makes Scott's Cheap Flights so special is how they open up the world for their members. By encouraging a new approach to booking that focuses less on the destination, they broaden one's perspective on travelling through enticing and unexpected opportunities. This inspired our new strategic idea - "Invite the unexpected" - which encourages users to adopt a different mindset to invite something new into their lives through the brand."

From there, DesignStudio set out to develop a new name that encapsulated everything Scott's Cheap Flights has always been known for helping people do. The startlingly simple solution: Going - a perfectly effortless-seeming transformation that, in reality, took incredible rigour from the DesignStudio and Going teams: over 3,000 names were considered.

DesignStudio's Ng said: "When so much of the travel industry is positioned around the price, and the company had grown far beyond its original proposition, the new brand needed to create differentiation through an emotive platform to better connect with consumers. The name, Going, instils a sense of curiosity and naturally gives the feeling of movement."

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

The design system that DesignStudio created to really bring the new Going together is based on "the intrepid notion of being open-minded enough to spin a globe and spontaneously pick a destination," said Ng. This translates digitally into interactive and motion principles that allow a Going member to peruse destinations and deals, discovering something new with every swipe.

A new motion-led Going symbol visualises the unique process of starting with a deal, a nod towards travel's spontaneous twists and turns, whilst pointing forward with gusto. The wordmark, meanwhile, uses oblique letterforms to communicate a sense of movement.

In a blog announcing the new brand, Going shared that "the anti-clockwise arrow nods to our reverse booking approach – choosing your destination or dates based on the deals available so you can travel more for less money." The blog also pointed out that "the loopy form of the capital G represents the unexpected journeys, meandering twists, and delightful turns that make travel so wonderful.

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

DesignStudio also developed a full toolkit for the Going team in which all assets aim to bring a personal touch, a nod to the brand's beginnings and a symbol of Scott's ongoing involvement.

Clever, personable illustrations interact with destinations through the globe and help the audience imagine themselves in a place in a way that DesignStudio and Going felt model photography wouldn't be able to achieve. Where photography is used, DesignStudio's team steered clear of bucket list landmarks and influencer-like models. Instead, opting for vignettes of smaller moments that tell unexpected and intimate stories. Where possible, the toolkit makes room for Going to use hero user-generated content that represents travellers' perspectives from all walks of life.

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

Credit: DesignStudio/Going

Members of Going will be glad to know that Scott Keyes will stay on, as always, with the company as Chief Flight Expert. But the fresh transformation from Scott's Cheap Flights to the elevated Going is a welcome one for him, his co-founder and Going CEO Brian Kidwell, and the wider Going team. This service has grown beyond one savvy traveller's advice, and the new brand truly speaks to that.

Going's Kidwell said: "While this is a big visual change, one thing that hasn't changed is the soul of this company. We'll continue putting travellers first and sending out incredible cheap flights, and we're excited to build even more ways to help people travel beyond what we can deliver in an email."

The new Going identity is now live. Learn more about the brand and the partnership between Going and DesignStudio, here.

20 Jan. 2023

Outdoor clothing brand The North Face returns with a new creative offering encouraging adventurers to dream big and get out there, knowing their clothes will withstand all sorts of expeditions.

"There's no such thing as solo," narrates free climber Alex Honnold in the latest campaign from B-Reel for outdoor clothing brand The North Face "because the brand clothes will always act as a companion on adventures".

Spanning different naturescapes and surroundings, zooming in on far-off mountain ranges, peeking through treetops, right up to the rock face, the campaign helmed by director Anton Tammi of PINE productions reassures that there are no conditions the brand cannot cope with.

With the tagline "We Always Have Your Back", the spot reminds climbers that the brand's durability and quality can cater to whatever they might want to do.

B-Reel was responsible for the campaign idea, inspired by the fact that the logo features on the right back shoulder of every garment – quite literally symbolising how much it has the wearer's back during every impossible step of the way.

The biggest challenge with the campaign was to ensure it resonated with different core groups – with the brand now appealing to fashion-conscious city wearers and technically-advanced mountain explorers.

Climber, star of the Oscar-winning film Free Solo and The North Face athlete, Alex Honnold, lends his voice to the spot until the camera lands on extreme climber Caroline Ciavaldinian as she makes her way up the face of a mountain. The camera eventually pans to The North Face logo on the back of her jacket, reinforcing the campaign's message.

Besides the main campaign video, another 30- and 15-second videos were released to show athletes exploring different territories in various impressive terrains.

"We love how this campaign takes the story of an unusual yet iconic logo placement and gives it a fresh meaning," says Afshin Moeini and Christian Poppius, creative directors at B-Reel. "The North Face has always had our backs. Literally. And whether you're an extreme explorer or just in it for the fashion, the brand will always be there."

19 Jan. 2023

Birmingham-based freelance illustrator Zahra Jetha channels her love of the natural world into her images of plant life. In the process, she wants to evoke a sense of optimism and tranquillity.

It makes sense that Zahra focuses on the natural world in her art when you hear how close to it she was when she was growing up. From a young age, her mother always encouraged Zahra and her siblings to take part in creative activities such as pottery and painting, which just so happened to coincide with her father's spontaneous adventures to local waterfalls and hiking spots.

"These pastimes and ventures really paved the way for me as an artist, as I found myself picking creative subjects in school and then in college/University as well," Zahra tells Creative Boom. "I found myself combining my experiences with nature with the art I created."

She adds that, in her opinion, nature is so comforting to the human soul because there is a deep connection between the two. "Most people don't even realise this until they spend a generous amount of time absorbed in nature. And when they do, they notice the body interacting with nature and vice versa.

"I also believe that humans are created through soil (earth) and brought to life by God's breath. Hence, the idea of nature and the soul's intimate connection makes so much sense to me."

Yet despite her obvious affinity with nature, Zahra took a somewhat more urban approach to her higher education by choosing to study architecture alongside graphic design. Aren't buildings and the natural world something of a conflict of interest? According to Zahra, apparently not. "I think architecture is heavily influenced by nature," she argues. "Whether it's in creating forms or using sustainable structural solutions to create spaces, nature has a great deal to offer to the architecture industry.

"I recall using patterns found within nature to create structures for an exhibition during one of my studies for a project, along with discovering biophilic ways to incorporate nature within my work, not just to create aesthetically pleasing spaces, but to create sustainable and practical spaces."

It was during her university studies that Zahra's interest in illustration started to blossom. When tasked with creating illustrations for technical drawings, she realised it was an artistic approach she wanted to follow further, so she enrolled in a Master's course for illustration and animation after graduating.

Today Zahra creates illustrations based on nature in order to promote the ideas of gratitude and hopefulness because she reasons that "nature is so much more vast and expansive than us." And as you'd expect, the world around her is a huge inspiration for these images. "I'm always intrigued by textures, such as linen, concrete and sand. I have to resort to creating a Pinterest board so I can always visit my favourite textures when creating art!"

While textures and neutral tones form the basis of her illustrations, Zahra also realises that her style is still evolving. That said, the colour green is a recurring element in most of her art. "Whenever deciding on a colour palette, green tends to be one of my default choices," she explains.

"I feel that simply using this colour aligns perfectly well with promoting the right emotions. That's because, psychologically, simply looking at the colour green evokes feelings of security and comfort. And once you're in a comfortable state, it becomes easier to feel hopeful and grateful for your surroundings."

At the minute, Zahra is working on a commission with an author looking to create a series of illustrated children's books based on the chapters of the Holy Quran. And even though it's still early days, she has already discovered much about illustration from the project.

"We are about to complete the first book," she concludes, "which is so exciting to me as this is my first experience illustrating a children's story. I have learnt many things from this commission, from artistic techniques to creative ways of laying out a book spread!"

19 Jan. 2023

Kevin Chin

Kevin Chin

We talk to Melbourne-based artist Kevin Chin about his gigantic, "gently disorienting" paintings which express his confusion and concerns about the current state of the world.

Kevin Chin is well-placed when it comes to exploring themes of place and belonging. Born in Australia, Kevin is a graduate of the Victorian College of Arts whose career as an artist has seen him exhibit all over the country and further afield, with galleries in Japan, Singapore and the USA awarding him solo exhibitions. Not to mention the year he spent working at London's White Cube after university.

His work, which takes the shape of humongous, meticulously-planned paintings, primarily concerns how a sense of place can cross borders. Travelling the world helps Kevin generate ideas for his art, but he also takes inspiration from current events and things happening in his journeys. This includes the recent lockdown restrictions and remote working models, which have become the new normal.

Fresh from his latest solo exhibition, This Is No Fantasy, which saw Kevin depict the world turned upside down in a series of large-scale oil paintings, we caught up with him to learn more about his creative approach, why it can take him up to eight years to create a piece of art, and how he builds up his stunning glazes of shimmering colours.

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

You're based in Melbourne. How has this area inspired your work?

The 2021 Census found that nearly half of Australians have a parent born overseas (including myself). Living in a colonised country, where the Indigenous population never ceded sovereignty, also makes you aware of how land rights and belonging are constantly contested. Furthermore, Australians are big travellers. So many of us have connections with all different parts of the world for many reasons. Growing up here has informed my interest in exploring more fluid ways of creating a sense of belonging.

Melbourne is also a wonderfully supportive place to be an artist, with a terrific community. For my last solo exhibition here, I was awarded grants from Creative Victoria and the Australia Council, our state and federal arts funding bodies.

How has your art evolved, and what has prompted these changes?

While I've always incorporated paintings at art school (almost 20 years ago!) I actually worked across forms to create installations examining the meaning between art objects. I was interested in phenomenology and semiotic theory.

I've carried this same approach across to my paintings; it's just that now I'm testing the meaning between painted figurative elements and unpacking their cultural loading. Instead of juxtaposing things within an installation space, I'm assembling images within the canvas space. That's probably also how I ended up making such huge paintings! They're generally about two metres wide or larger multi-panels.

One thing that's been constant has been this interest in how you make sense of home for yourself – though it's something I've explored from different angles along the way. At the moment, I'm thinking about how we can break down conventional ideas around nationalism and how home extends beyond geography.

When I went back to art school in 2012 to do my Honours year, I wrote my thesis about gay marriage, and the importance of that being institutionalised (which finally happened in Australia in 2017), towards finding a sense of security in your home life. So while things constantly evolve, thinking about how my work connects with sociopolitical concerns in the domestic sphere is also a constant.

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

Talk us through your meticulous painting technique. It sounds very interesting!

Before I paint anything, I make collages out of photos I've taken from my travels. I let the pictorial elements guide me through their own internal logic – for example, the way clothes hang on a line from one image might reference the waves of a mountain-scape from another image, so I'll bring them together into the same composition to create a conversation between inside/ outside and domestic/ wild.

The collage then forms a loose starting point for the painting. While I'm interested in constantly pushing the limitations of figurative painting, the actual painting process is very old-school. I work up the image through a series of translucent glazes. Since I'm bringing together so many disparate elements into a single composition, it's a way for me to feel my way through the image, constantly balancing and reassessing. This building up of layers also creates the richness we associate with oil painting.

I only use single-pigment paint and mix all the colours myself. That's because I'm so pedantic about controlling the colour. One section of the painting might have a very specific palette – with another section totally different – to clarify the separation between these lands. Likewise, I might introduce the same pigment into different sections of the painting to create direct visual relationships between contrasting subjects. In some paintings, I'm so meticulous that I write down what pigments I've used in each layer to keep track of what's where.

What themes do you explore in your art, and how do you achieve this?

By assembling fragments from distant lands, I'm exploring new ways of piecing together our place in the world. My paintings explore this contemporary condition of perpetually feeling in-between places. They're a testament to the mixed cultural traces we each inhabit, through our memories, our experiences, our ancestry, or even just our interests: both individually and through our collective consciousness.

The paintings are large-scale, so they are immediately atmospheric and draw you into what initially seems like an almost believable scene. Only when you look closer do you notice things askew, some parts even upside down, and then the paintings take on a more dreamy aspect. I plant meticulous details that you'll only notice if you keep looking closely, that keep your eye wandering around. These then become like little vignettes of other worlds. Each painting is like a journey that reflects how we meander to find our way.

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

Your most recent exhibition featured inverted landscapes. What motivated this creative decision?

I think we all feel that the world has been a little upside down these past few years! It's another way of me expressing a sentiment that I think is widely felt in the present day – feeling a little lost and the need to constantly piece things together for them to make any sense.

I'm also largely influenced by contemporary magic realist literature and authors like Haruki Murakami. This poetic way of creating worlds that resemble our own but are slightly awry – and using this to step outside ourselves and re-examine the way things are. This genre also emphasises the voices of minority groups, so inverting landscapes also provides a different perspective to question dominant narratives and the societal structures we take as given.

Your website describes your work as 'gently disorienting'. Tell us more about your style and how you've settled on it.

One of the first questions I commonly get asked about any painting is, 'Where is this?' One part of the painting might suggest a certain part of the world, whereas another might have strong cultural references from elsewhere. I intentionally bring these conflicting elements together to allude to the complex way we piece together our understanding of where we are in consciousness. Then I'll also throw in elements that are quite changed from the original source image, often regarding colour – as well as sections that are just pure paintwork that make direct reference to the constructed nature of the image. So ultimately, these are places that only truly exist in the imagination.

In addition to the mixed-up compositions, one of the things that make my paintings easily recognisable is the use of colour. It's based on years of experimentation, combining pigments you wouldn't expect. The technique is almost pointillist; when you look up close, you'll see surprising colour juxtapositions that form a cohesive image from afar. It's this particular approach to laying down colour that gives the paintings their shimmering effect when you see them in person.

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

How long do your paintings take to create, and what's the benefit of working slowly and taking your time?

Each painting takes me 2 to 3 months for just the painting process. But composing them takes even longer – I'm constantly reworking collages in the background as the source images for new paintings. Many collages will go through over 50 iterations before I've decided it's worthy of painting – then, of course, they'll change quite a lot during the actual painting process. In my last exhibition, there were paintings based on collages that I'd reworked over eight years!

There are a few reasons why the painting process itself takes me so long. For a start, they're massive! (about two metres wide, or even larger multi-panels) Then to create these kinds of atmospheric, rich, iridescent paintings, they must be built up in layers of glazes. This slow way of working up the painting then allows me to find the image as I'm going since there are so many different elements coming together in one canvas plane. It becomes a conversation with the painting, as it tells me what it needs – as much about looking and listening as applying paint. Also, I'm very conscious of the energy I bring to the work. This slow-working method lends the finished paintings a calming, meditative quality.

What are you working on now, and what are you looking forward to achieving in 2023?

My next solo exhibition will be with Martin Browne Contemporary in Sydney, but since my process is so slow, that won't be till 2024! I'll be in various prize and group exhibitions throughout 2023.

I'm also looking forward to a research trip to Italy later this year to explore how architecture can meld with the natural landscape (like the cliff sides of Cinque Terre) and how historical and present-day artefacts can coincide, to speak of fluid notions of time, as well as space.

In the meantime, I always love connecting with people from all over the world, through my website and on Instagram.

© Kevin Chin

© Kevin Chin

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