Water Matters - Nobel Prize

Dear Scandinavia, why are your designers so much better than everyone else's?

Wang and Söderström (W&S) is a creative duo based out of Denmark that focuses on digital and spatial design. Comprised of Furniture Designer Anny Wong and Architect Tim Söderström, by their own admission the pair "Strive to create mind tickling and unexpected experiences through materiality and technology." While 3D work utilised by architects and furniture designers typically is a means to an end, the duo utilises 3D in a much more artistic format. Ditching architectural renders and technical floorplans for abstraction and naturalistic aesthetics. Despite the rising tide of 3D modelling in creative industries, W&S proliferate a distinct style, with a focus on nature and organic forms.

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Wang and Söderström's style can be described as as biologically inspired, with softer textures, earthy tones and often plant, coral and rock-like shapes. Hair, fabric and other materials are also experimented with and a quick peek at their website shows a breadth of work with versatility. Their works rarely remain just on-screen as well, with 3D printed models and impressive exhibitions showcasing their sustainably-minded work and commitment to form.

Their work for Nobel Prize in collaboration with Stockholm Design Lab has an oceanic theme, a brief relating to the organisation's topic for the year "Water Matters". The Nobel Week dialogue is a science conference that ventures to spark a conversation between the scientific community and the rest of society. Important in this process is constructing creative that can help bridge this gap, between academics and the general public. By drawing in an audience visually, they can then connect with the more deeply academic and high-brow thinking associated with the Nobel Prize. In this project design and creativity, (often not lumped together with academics) has been used as a vehicle to highlight the intellectual topics discussed in the conference. Design in this instance has been used to help draw people in.

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S&W's subsequence renders have a calming feel to them with impressive true to life floating and drifting mechanics added to the animations with an array of life-like oceanic forms floating throughout. The hues of blue have been made just distinct enough from each other to differentiate objects whilst the lighting remains flattened but effective. When looking at only one of the forms their shapes seem incredibly basic, but once together in the composition, complexity and dynamism is apparent creating visual interest. W&S's attention to detail in this work is being flexed, on full display once considered closely. In the animations, some of the floating objects morph and distort with the water, tiny specks of white and rays of light mimic that of a real ocean snapshot. Additionally, sections of the water warp and aberrate the scene and small colourful blobs move at fluctuating speeds as if a fish darting through water. The chosen typeface is tall and widely set, with stouter bowls on the "P's" and "R's" accentuating their stems. The font is understated, but need it be anything more? It allows the ocean scenes behind it to shine in the spotlight - Simply providing context whilst the work communicates the rest.

The Nobel Prize conference connects the scientific community with the public, by initiating a dialogue and exploring themes we can all relate to. The topic of "Water Matters" for this year, has been creativity executed by Wang and Söderström in a way that sparks a sense of natural wonder and appreciation for the ocean. When looking at the animations you can be instantly reminded of the sea and then hopefully nudged to consider how important it is for human survival, creating a full-circle harmony of what the whole conference is all about. Similarly, the work is playfully aquatic and there seems to be a new object or animation to be spotted every time you look at it. A great visual concept that captures the essence of the ocean, this visual identity is far from shallow the Scandi's have done it again.

Ladies, Wine &Walsh

&Walsh joins 0.1% of female-owned creative agencies

Sagmeister & Walsh, a New York creative agency and duo famed for their advertising and design work is disbanding. The pair, who are also known for sending nude mailers of themselves to their clients and pushing creative boundaries have parted ways after 7 years. Partner Jessica Walsh has rebranded the agency as "&Walsh" whilst Sagmeister has stepped away from commercial creative work indefinitely.

In taking this step towards independence &Walsh joins the 1% of female-owned creative agencies, a shocking admission considering 70% of design students are women. In an article on &Walsh's website, Jessica proclaims "How does this make any sense when women drive about 80% of consumer purchasing? Diversity in leadership at agencies drives profit." Jessica's passion for this topic extends to the non-profit she started called "Ladies, Wine & Design" which focuses on the lack of representation and pay gap for women and non-binary people in the industry.

&Walsh has an all-female leadership team, the same team from Sagmeister and Walsh that has developed their new branding. The new identity is underpinned by the ethos of the ampersand. The name and ampersand is an imprint of a legacy from the past but also acts as an invitation for the future. The studio uses this structure of (blank) ______ & Walsh as a template for their clients and collaborators. It is used to "highlight the collaborative nature of [their] approach". The ampersand has also been cleverly inserted and adapted to other aspects of the studio. For example, the website shop is "Shop &Walsh", there is a "Prints & Walsh", "Articles &Walsh" and so on. An array of ampersand designs have been deployed in the rebrand, with a new one being created for each of their new clients. One central variant is used as the anchor and is present in the logotype with "Walsh".

A sample selection of 50 ampersand designs

The ampersands are curvy, cursive and creative with exaggerated forms and rounded tear-drop ends, tropes that are seen in the current waves of contemporary type design. The style is reminiscent of type designer Jacob Wise's organic letterforms, whilst not quite crossing over into his territory of challenging legibility. A notable creative decision was to display the ampersands in 3D, several versions of the symbol are exhibited with slight bump textures and chrome silver shaders. Another stylistic execution that seems to be permeating the current zeitgeist, as one can get whiffs of Tunica Studio's avant-garde type expressions - often also rendered in chrome. Accompanying the ampersands is the font for the logotype "Walsh" which is used throughout as their branded type choice. The font named "Maison" is by independent type foundry Milieu Grotesque, the weight is meaty with squared-off ends and scooped letter terminals. It provides a sensible contrast with the eccentric ampersand shapes.

3D animations also litter the rebrand. In classic Cinema 4d style revisions of the ampersand are seen melting, fading to smoke, wisping and rotating. One particular rendering held by two hands (Figure.1) is exceptionally executed where it's exceedingly difficult to distinguish as a 3D digital output or a real, physical ampersand model. These animations add more character to what seems to have been a very fun and open brief, with countless iterations and collateral to keep up with. However, it all fits into a family with the familiar and surprising being well balanced between all the deliverables.

Figure 1 seen on the left.

Founder Jessica Walsh

Although the silver and chrome renderings may depreciate aesthetically over time, this becomes irrelevant now as the rebrand feels fresh, young and in the loop. Graphic approaches come in and out like trends but the surrounding doctrine of (blank) ______ &Walsh as a collaborative ethos is a strong concept that will be timeless and aesthetics can always adapt around it. This rebrand can be seen as a snapshot of the current design landscape, 3D influences are becoming more prominent and sought after. And exceptional projects stand out by their combination of photography, animations, typography and conceptual ideas that tie these together. Becoming part of a 0.1% in any field is an impressive feat, but this statistic is disappointingly behind the times. With much luck, Jessica Walsh's agency and her non-profit Ladies Wine & Design will encourage more diversity in leadership roles in creative fields and her studio &Walsh is certainly going to be one to watch in the future.

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You can view &Walsh’s new website here

Freddie's Facelift: Collins Mailchimp Rebrand

Mailchimp has long been an email platform that, by their own founder's description "does things a little differently" and has begun to rebrand themselves as much more than an online email service and instead as a complete marketing platform.

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They've outgrown just email and have enlisted design agency Collins to conduct their rebrand. The soul of the Mailchimp brand starts with their playful chimpanzee mascot Freddie, who has now been simplified in all black. The original script logotype has also been replaced with a beefy type design that works in unison with Freddie's new look.

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More broadly the new brand system hardly resembles the clean, often stale visual communication of large successful tech companies, a category of which Mailchimp can confidently now include themselves in; with a $525 million dollar annual revenue figure. With numbers like these, similar-sized brands often water-down the look of their brand as they become more corporate. This is no the case with Mailchimp's new direction. The rebrand is fun, fresh and expressive with "Cavendish" yellow used to vault the contrasted black illustrations offscreen. The new typeface Cooper Light has organic, rounded serifs giving it a distinct, yet approachable appearance.

The new style doubles down on being different while attempting to bring authenticity, originality and expressiveness to their new aesthetic. The illustrations have been created by a range of artists both from the in-house team and externally. They've used their own eclectic spirit to bring to life some out-of-the-box interpretations of the content on Mailchimp's new website. A 'learn from your customer's' tab features an illustration of an ear with arms and legs and a character using another's leg as a staircase harks back to a line related to marketing growth. The illustration style is quirky with a coarse hand-drawn feel akin to an illustration in a children's book. This direction is surprising given Mailchimp endeavours to capture suited-up big business to use their platforms. Serious companies, that may be put off by the playful style of the brand. Yet Collins stands by this direction as a solution that "seeks to amplify Mailchimp as a beacon for its customers, a message to growing brands to nurture their idiosyncrasies and preserve what makes them different."

This rebrand is ambitious, it embraces a creative direction that takes a gamble to differentiate itself from the competition. Mailchimp's brief for their rebrand appears to be about growth, how the companies mission has now surpassed just email and looks to tackle the entire marketing spectrum. The creative execution of this can be best summarized in the jungle-like presentations of Collins creative work. The final design executions have been photographed in the midst of overgrown jungle foliage, a clever metaphor tied to growth and their monkey mascot Freddie. It's refreshing to see risky creative directions embraced in a way that truly creates a distinction from other tech companies.