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Word Up!

Our irrepressible Design Director, Clinton Duncan, has written an article for the highly regarded design magazine Process Journal. Read more.

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Word Up!

Our irrepressible Design Director, Clinton Duncan, has written an article for the highly regarded design magazine Process Journal.

Clinton’s quite the budding scribe, he also writes for internationally renowned identity and branding blog, Brand New, as well as a regular column in Australian Infront, a design community website showcasing the best down under has to offer. It’s great to see such passion and energy for his craft, and in such an articulate and prolific manner. Nice one chap!

Posted by Paul Taboure in Design.
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Our upcoming THERE Broadsheet

So fresh you can smell the ink! Exciting times - we have just been down to our printers to press check our new broadsheet style studio brochure. Read more.

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Our upcoming THERE Broadsheet

So fresh you can small the ink! Exciting times - we have just been down to our printers to press check our new broadsheet style studio brochure.

We've chosen a broadsheet format so we could print the images nice and large, showcasing all of the latest and greatest THERE work in the best way possible. Inside you;ll find a selection of identity, branding, environmental and signage projects. We're very excited – it's looking pretty awesome and we can’t wait to get it out there. Keep an eye out, as we will be distributing to friends and clients, and they'll become a familiar sight folded under our arms on our way to any and all meetings in the coming months. If you'd like a copy, get in touch!

 

Posted by Cloud White in Print, Identity and Environmental.
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New York Baby!

I have just returned from a very cold but amazing trip to New York after winning a competition organised by BJ Ball and Mohawk paper. Read more.

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New York Baby!

I have just returned from an amazing trip to New York. Along with my husband Ben, I entered and won (!!) a competition organised held by paper companies BJ Ball and Mohawk paper. The prize included a trip to NYC, a visit to the celebrated design studio Pentagram, as well as a tour of the Mohawk Paper mill. 

We won the prize after making a video about the importance of paper in our day to day lives - and how we would miss it if it wasn't there. You can view the video here.

After a long flight, we touched down to a bitterly cold but beautifully sunny New York. Such an amazing place - so much energy, diversity and a city of so many people. We experienced a lot of the must-dos on any visitors list - stunning views from the top of the Empire State Building, the crowds and lights of Times Square, eating giant pretzels from a street vendor, listening to some talented buskers playing on the Subway, as well as visiting MOMA, taking gentle strolls around Central Park, and walking The High Line, a disused elevated stretch of railway line repurposed to create a ‘floating’ community park space. 

 

The two highlights of the trip though, were the things that most visitors wouldn’t get the chance to do - visiting Pentagram and the Mohawk paper mill. 

At Pentagram we were lucky enough to be meet with Michael Beruit - award winning designer and partner at Pentagram. We had a tour of the busy studio whilst hearing about some of the history of the building - it’s former uses including being a bank, a dress making shop as well as a night club. Michael spoke about the unique way in which the studio was run, which includes having a number of accountable partners over several international offices, each having their own design teams. 

It was great to hear that Michael still very much has a hands on design role, as is sometimes not the case as designers progress in their careers. We also heard about the beginnings of Pentagram - part of the reason the studio was initially formed was out of necessity - starting you own studio 40 years ago was a very different thing to setting up now, where you can get away with a laptop and a good internet connection. Not such the case back then when starting a studio needed much more of a financial outlay as well as huge suite of hardware and space.

We spoke about how the industry had changed and how the public were now much more aware and informed about design. It would have been unimaginable for the kind of outspoken public opinion we see today in reaction to high profile design projects, but social media means everyone can have a say. It means we as designers have to be on top of our work - making sure our rationales behind what we do are researched and solid, so we can be confident that when our work goes public we can stand up and believe in it, as well as giving our clients the confidence to do the same. It does seem though, that although the mediums we design for may have changed, the core of what a designer does; creative problem solving, listening and understanding clients needs followed by struggling with that brief for days on end have, essentially stayed the same. 

It was great to meet such a influential designer, who was genuinely a lovley chap. One thing Michael said stuck in my mind, and that was that it is a great time to be a designer now, and that reminds me to feel lucky to work in the great creative industry that we do.

The other highlight of our visit to New York was the trip to the Mohawk Paper Mill (named after the Mohawk River I found out). We took an early train out of the city to Albany - a a beautiful journey which follows the Hudson River, gleaming with ice in the low winter sun. We were greeted by Joe O’Connor, who spoke enthuastically about working for his family company - and as we arrived at the Mill he proudly pointed out grand portraits hung on the wall of his late father and grandfather. A very knowledgable Rich Barker gave us an in depth tour of the mill, and as he showed us around it was clear to see his and the rest of the team’s passion and attention to detail showing through in what they did. I have a new respect for something which is an old craft and clearly takes time a dedication to achieve the beautiful results which the Mohawk team do.

We had lunch with Joe, as well as Jane and Pam from the marketing team. They spoke about the challenges and changes facing their industry, and how they are always innovating and working with new suppliers and companies as the needs and expectations of the client changes. We also had a sneek peek at an exciting new project the team has been working on with Michael from Pentagram and Massimo Vignelli. 

Again, Ben and myself were thrilled to meet such a friendly, down to earth team at Mohawk, all with a real passion for what they do. We also got a brief introduction to the President of Mohawk before we left - Jack Haren, who was an absolute delight to meet. A huge thank you to the team at BJ Ball and Mohawk for organising such a wonderful experience - we had a fantastic time, and will remember the trip fondly for years to come.

Posted by Cloud White in Design, Insights, People, Play and Print.
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It's makeover time!

Who doesn't love a good makeover? Especially when it's a CBD retail centre and we're the style maven Read more.

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It's makeover time!

The studio is currently hard at work reimagining the brand campaign for a CBD retail centre. We are bringing the trademark 'THERE eye' and working closely with the centre's marketing team to create something new, stylish and exciting for their brand. 

As you can see from these sneak peek images, there are some very difficult creative decisions to be made. It's going to be a fun and challenging proposition to marry the brand strategy with a killer visual for this campaign! Stay tuned. 

Posted by Jon Zhu in Branding, Fashion, Advertising, Photography and Insights.
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Desktop Mag - Identity Insights

THERE's Clinton Duncan delves deep into the psyche and understanding of 'identity' Read more.

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Desktop Mag - Identity Insights

In the world of academia, it is known as 'Publish or Perish'! Thankfully in the design world it's not about survival, but explaining your design ethos, rationale and where you place your flag in the earth.

Our team at THERE have a myriad of talents and outside of work interests that keep the juices flowing. Thankfully we also happen to have a Creative Director - Clinton Duncan, who thrives on writing and commenting on identity, branding and design.

In the latest issue of Desktop Magazine, Clinton has delivered a deep and thought provoking piece on identity, both of self and in the context of our field of operation in graphic design. Drawing references on the writings of Plutarch and Heraclitis, Freud and that iconic identity of the 20th century Andy Warhol, we're taken on more of journey than a commentary. Clinton muses on our descent into the superficiality of 'everyone' having their own 'identity and brand' to promote for their 'God given' right of 15 minutes, and where this leaves us as an industry- purveyors of expertise on corporate identity and branding. Best get yourself a copy...

 

 

 

Posted by Gordon Eckel in Branding, Corporate, Insights and Views.
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Is this the most advanced directional sign in the world?

Showing the way to go. Where digital content sharing meets cutting-edge wayfinding systems Read more.

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Is this the most advanced directional sign in the world?

As part our ongoing passionate affair with all things signage… we discovered a new exciting leap forward in wayfinding technology.  

This slick looking design product (by Points) features an interactive menu along with rotating directional wayfinding blades that rotate, whilst responding to pre-recorded environmental needs - it has the ability to updates as everything around it does.

And it can respond to relevant, popular, or timely events approach, the push panel menu refreshes its options. It packs motors, gears, sensors, wiring, and a support structure into a such a compact slender design.

Features of this sign system include:

Rotating digital screens – Rotating digital screens on the blades have the ability to be programmed to communicate;  custom locations, talk times, stages, allowing Points to direct people to where they need to find.

Customised information that changes and updates during the day – Data is are pulled in via local data APIs, allowing Points to serve up the nearest and best places for that time of day. It additionaly pulls info such as open/close times and daily specials for nearby restaurants and cafés. 

RSS – Points can be hooked up to any RSS feed from which it can pull information like local and global news relevant to whatever crowd is present.

Twitter – Points pulls in hashtagged and geotagged tweets that are associated with brands, talks, concerts, etc., serving up-to-the-minute comments and interactions relevent to the surrounding audience.

Foursquare – Check-ins, Mayors, and Tips can all be pulled in via Foursquare, highlighting trends and hotspots around a given area or event.

Easily Extendable – Points is designed to be extended via custom data or APIs so that it can dispense data and information that’s relevant and needed for a particular event.

All in all, we think it's the start of some really exciting leaps in the integration of digital content, social sharing and wayfinding technology. Way to go!

 

 

 

Posted by Paul Taboure in Digital, Environmental, Insights and .
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An Italian eye on THERE

Massimo recently interned with us at THERE, impressing everyone with his energy, design eye and a distinctly Italian outlook on things. He wrote a blog post to share his experiences before jetting off back to his homeland in Italy. Read more.

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An Italian eye on THERE

As a graphic design student in Italy, I have always looked at an exchange in Australia as a great opportunity to have a first work experience and to breathe a more international design atmosphere, at least for my final semester of studies. As a result, at the end of last year, I decided to look for an internship in Sydney and I've been lucky enough to be offered a position at THERE, where I have been working part-time for about two months.

I must admit I was not fully prepared as I had expected: used to a pure academic environment (us Italian students have very few spots on the professional world during our course of studies), I found myself in an energetic, totally operative studio that I had to quickly get to know, a fast-moving mechanism where I had to find my function.

And I did, in the end. With the help of the designers team I started learning the dynamics of the studio and appreciated its design method, different from the Italian one due to its greater openness to different cultural influences and its high impact, conceptual approach. In addition, I took that step that has to be taken by every student in their career, sooner or later: I stepped from the university environment, that is by definition built around you, to another one in which you are called to build yourself, little by little, with passion and dedication.

Working at THERE has been eye-opening in this sense and I hope that the further month I am going to spend here will offer even more useful insights for my future professional life and a baggage of experiences to treasure once back in Italy.

Posted by Massimo Guizzetti in Design, Insights and People.
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Your own personal UAV Navigator

Technology is evolving at a fantastic rate and some of the brightest new minds at MIT's Senseable City Lab have developed a unique approach to assist wayfinding through complex environments. How you ask? Your own personal UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) or 'Drones' as they're often called. Read more.

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Your own personal UAV Navigator

The team at THERE are always looking at the latest technology and wayfinding ideas for potential inclusion in a project. Sometimes this is an easy and obvious fit, sometimes it requires a little stretch of the imagination to see how it might work. But that's what makes the future so much fun to think about.

MIT Senseable City Lab have developed an APP called - SkyCall. In short, if you don't know how to find where you're going, the APP calls in your own personal UAV as a guide. Using your GPS location, the UAV flys to you and then guides you to your destination.

Using a quadcopter's ability to sense it's environment and proximity to objects is just part of the brilliance of this development. We can foresee this sort of system being utilised in education campuses or perhaps hospitality applications on remote locations, guiding tourists safely to their destination. How it could play out we're yet to see, and it might be a little while before it's a commercially available system, but the premise alone is well worth a mention. 

In other drone news, entrepreneurs in the US have begun exploring the feasibility of drone transportation fleets - tacocopter anyone?

 

Posted by Gordon Eckel in , Digital and Environmental.
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On Identity for Desktop Magazine

So much of what we work with, consider and explore in our work at THERE is concerned with identity - whether creating a brand identity or branding an environment. For the April issue of leading industry publication Desktop, I was invited to contribute a long form essay piece exploring the subject. Read more.

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On Identity for Desktop Magazine

So much of what we work with, consider and explore in our work at THERE is concerned with identity - whether creating a brand identity or branding an environment. Our core consideration is always how we reflect, develop or reflect identity - be it a place, a person, a brand or an organisation.

For the April issue of leading industry publication Desktop, editor Heath Killen constructed an entire issue to explore Identity. I was invited to contribute a long form essay piece, which is reproduced in full below. I looked at identity from an historical perspective, presenting a counterpoint to the normal 'graphic designer' methods of considering identity, with reference to art history, psychology, politics and philosophy.

Sailing - Between the devil and the deep blue sea.

As graphic designers, we like to look, think and talk at, on or about identity quite a lot. Often we create them as well. We buy books filled with thousands of logos, or case studies on large, successful identities for education and inspiration. Thousands of blogs post news, reviews and announcements of the latest, biggest and best identities from every corner of the globe. When we say ‘identity’, ‘brand identity’, corporate identity’, ‘visual identity’, invariably we’re talking about the logo, design systems and visual language, name and other symbols of a product, organisation, service or entity. For all this focus, the way designers consider identity seems to me quite a bit different to how other fields think about it.

Undoubtedly, identity design is where the best and brightest designers of our industry ply their trade. It’s a place where bag loads of ingenuity, creativity, chutzpah and plain old hustle are required to push any piece of work through tricky approval processes and risk averse decision making. It’s easy to understand why many are drawn to identity; the rewards are big. It’s how we get into the boardroom, speak to people with Director or Chairman on their job title. Successfully completing large corporate or brand identity projects is when our work is certain to be seen by the greatest number of people possible – fame and fortune! What’s not to like?

Yet there’s an uncomfortable impotence at the core of how graphic designers create identities, mainly to do with the breadth and depth we’re allowed to explore by our education, skill sets and client briefs — it’s somewhat appealing to label it an ‘identity crisis’. I can’t help thinking this disconnect leaves the entire exercise feeling hollow, and has me wondering if we aren’t just deluding ourselves. Deluded into thinking our work has much greater impact than just a surface level exercise in shuffling deck chairs, puffed up for the benefit of egos and glorified in slick case studies for our commercial needs. At the end of the process and after all the expensive production outputs, that product, organization or service we’ve worked with is still the same thing as when we started, no matter how massive, or incremental, the ‘identity’ change. We may have replaced every piece of wood in this ship, but Theseus is still a total jerk.

Humans have been considering notions of ‘identity’ since we first started considering things – perhaps even earlier. In his series of biographies, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Plutarch noted the paradox of whether, after every piece of wood in it had been replaced, the ship of Theseus was still the same ship. The paradox has remained popular conundrum for philosophers and thinkers, even after all these centuries — variations of the paradox include ‘Grandfathers Axe’ and ‘Triggers Broom’. Ancient considerations of identity, as captured by Theseus’ ship or Heraclitus’ musing “No man ever steps in the same river twice”, were concerned more with defining how a thing bears a relationship to itself, if the identity of a thing changes over time, and how two identical things can remain logically separate; the distinctions between qualitative and numerical identity.

“we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations…. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts,but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle”

Some extend the Theseus Ship paradox to our own body, with the oft quoted (yet apocryphal) claim that every cell in the human body is replaced over a seven year period. An appealing piece of trivia that gives rise to the question; what component of an individual’s identity is permanent, as opposed to transient? Around the turn of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud’s development of a structural model of the psyche names the component of our psyche present from birth, and unchanged right up until death, as the id (not eye-dee, just ‘id’, rhymes with lid).

In Freud’s model, the id is the base instincts of a psyche, concerned with ‘needs’ and ‘forces’. It’s where our libido resides, and a bundle of unresolved, contradictory life and death instincts. The ‘life instincts, a creative drive for pleasurable survival, and ‘death instincts’, a destructive drive towards ourselves and other living organisms. Emerging from the id and reaching out into the real world is the ego – which seeks to please the id in ways beneficial over the long term; it can be seen as the reasonable, common sense partner to the unbridled, instinctive self interest of the id. These two are quadrants forming one half of the model, and on the other side is the ‘super ego‘, which acts like a conscience, regulating our behaviour through notions of morality, and is affected by our environment and those that have influence on us as we grow up – teachers, parents, friends. According to Freud, the ego and super ego can develop and change over time, whereas the id stays permanent, unchanged from birth until death, even in old age, a swirling mass of chaos and excitations.

Death, destruction and self inflicted chaos figure prominently in the world and works of Australian artist Ben Quilty. In his earliest and most well known paintings, rendered in a heavy impasto style and depicting cars, skulls and hamburgers, Quilty was exploring symbols of male identity in Australia. From the muscle cars of our ‘Ford vs Holden’ culture, and alluding to back to the destructive nature of colonialism and invasion. His 2007 exhibition, ‘Pride and Patriotism’, featured portraits of James Cook, John Howard, friends of the artist, his own 6 month old son Joe, as well as self portraits of the artist himself. Quilty and friends were all painted from photographs taken on nights ‘wetting their heads’ – drunken and debaucherous, risking life and liver for no good reason other than observing the ritual of ‘a boys night’.

For an artist who made his name painting Toranas and glistening milk bar burgers with big dollops of lickable paint, the turn towards more directly critical depictions of Australian male identity marked a change of course, and it was hard to ignore. Now, the skulls that had graced the fronts of cars in his earlier works took on new, more troubling meanings. No longer just cool-ass expressions of street tough bad-assery, the visages had became portentous warnings of the self destructive risks inherent within expressions of male identity and power. In the case of Australia, a nation founded on the deaths and near destruction of indigenous cultures (the oldest living cultures in the world), Quilty seemed worried that our sense of identity, our pride and patriotism was also the seed of our own destruction at the bottom of a bottle, and the end of a lonely road.

Quilty’s art follows on from the broad trend amongst recent explorations and considerations of identity, which have focused mainly on personal identity; nominal identity, religious identity, sexual identity, gender identity and ethnic identity. One could (boldly) say suffrage, the sexual revolution and the civil rights movements of the previous two centuries were simply hitherto overlooked sections of western society affirming their right to define their own identity (rather than leaving it to the privileged, older, white men who had all the guns). Once defined, the struggle became to compel society to let go of it’s prejudices, accept equality with, and tolerate the empowerment of, these new, different and thus threatening, identities.

“Mugatu is so hot right now he could take a crap, wrap it in tinfoil, put a couple fish hooks on it and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings” Maury Ballstein in Zoolander

Ballstein is a fictional character, but the insight he unearths while remarking on the ‘hotness’ of the similarly fictional fashion designer Mugatu, is uncomfortably true of how identity is considered in our contemporary society. Warhol’s endlessly repeated (and perhaps equally misunderstood) quote “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” was one part rallying cry for the casting aside of traditional notions of importance in artistic representation; a Prince, Duke or a King can have their portraits become acknowledged as masterpieces of art; but why not a can of soup or a Hollywood starlet? But I also see it as a lamentation from someone notoriously obsessed with fame – primarily his own – who was simultaneously crippled by self esteem issues. In Warhol’s day, he had to work hard to achieve what he imagined every person might be entitled to, in the future.

Warhol’s vision might be coming true; social media’s rapid rise in ubiquity, and it’s integration with every aspect of our lives has created an identity fuck–fest; an orgy of liking, following and friending with strangers, colleagues, friends and family alike. Now, everyone’s a celebrity, for little or no good reason, and people can be ‘famous for being famous’. Today we curate, grow our audience and cultivate a ‘personal brand‘ – everyone’s in the identity business. Real estate agents, life coaches, hairdressers, stock brokers, doctors and politicians — there they all are, online, toiling away building their ‘brand’ with the same sense of purpose and professionalism you’d see in a PR agency, marketing department or advertising agency. Perhaps more.

The superficiality of social media uncomfortably parallels with how the average graphic designer is allowed to consider identity, a limited scope neatly encapsulated by the commonplace identity guidelines document. These documents record colour selections, photography styles, typeface choices, graphic devices, design systems and of course the ubiquitous logo, it’s clear space, acceptable usage and other considerations. Perhaps an explanation of a brand strategy, a snappy two or three word brand essence, values, attributes, a tone of voice and maybe even some sort of narrative that describes the brand’s uniqueness and relevance.

But all of these are progressively outlying layers of the onion, with an emphasis on the visual. Which isn’t too hard to make sense of, we’re graphic designers creating visual identities after all, for the time being anyway. We’re allowed no access to influencing the inner core, the heart – perhaps we could call it the id – of our clients. Thus, without changing that inner core, without re-sequencing the DNA, we’re simply replacing the old pieces of wood on the ship with shinier, new ones. A perfectly acceptable way to derive a living, but is it really deserving of the label ‘identity‘, even the diluted label of ‘visual identity’?

It’s perhaps unsurprising that many in our industry are questioning our own identity; a 2012 AGDA event ‘How to tell your parents you’re a graphic designer” asked whether ‘graphic designer’ still works as a label for the work we do. It’s a time where one half of our industry seems to be holding on to a craft based tradition of ‘making’, clinging to printed books and letter-pressed business cards. On the other hand, are designers re- positioning their studios as brand agencies, primarily in the business of selling ‘design thinking’ and seeking to participate with their clients in high level discussions of marketing, product innovation and business strategy.

Unfortunately for us, whether we stay true to our tradition as craftspeople, or become fast talking powerpoint jockeys, we’re still sailing into the wind of thousands of years of thinkers, philosophers, artists and psychologists who’ve been saying all along that identity is anything but visual. We’re between the devil and the deep blue sea; dearly wishing for more scope, more billings, more significance and influence. Yet we’re confronted with the uncomfortable reality that our clients only wish us to deal in the outer layers of identity, manipulating and modifying external markers and symbols of recognition, and allowed little to no influence on the true components of identity. Now, I’m off to get some wood.

This article was first published in Desktop #293 — Who Are You?
Photography: Anna Pogossova
Paper Engineering: Benja Harney

 

Posted by Clinton Duncan in Art, Branding and Identity.
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