It’s the end of the road for the Land Rover Defender, the UK’s original off-road vehicle. Introduced in 1948, the intrepid Defender became the vehicle of choice for safari guides, cattle ranchers and explorers of the rugged outback. But in 2015 increasingly tough emission standards finally put the brakes on production. Before we say goodbye to the iconic 4×4, let’s revisit one of the Land Rover Defender’s best ads, created by London ad agency, RKCR/Y&R, in 2011. The print ad shows an open passport bearing multiple passport stamps that overlap into the shape of a Land Rover making a steep uphill climb. The image embodies the go-anywhere, handle-any-terrain reputation of the brand simply, succinctly, and brilliantly.
Digital billboards are making it possible to connect with people in ways we couldn’t imagine a few years ago. To mark International Women’s Day last weekend, UK-based Women’s Aid worked with WCRS London to launch a billboard campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence. The billboard features an obviously battered woman with two black eye, swelling and cuts on her face. From time to time, she blinks sadly.
Using facial recognition technology, the billboard lets passersby heal the woman’s wounds by looking at her. The more people stop and look directly at the image, the faster her face heals and returns to normal. The facial recognition technology can register exactly how many people are looking at the poster and pick out their faces from the crowd and display them through a live-feed of the street.
What’s black-and-white and impossible to ignore? The graphic identity of 52 North, a hip restaurant and bar in London. UK-based design studio I Love Dust and interior architects 44th Hill used scale and contrast to make us aware of the geometric beauty of typography. The huge letterforms become another shape in a collage of stripes, dots, stars and diamond angles. In 52 North’s restaurant and bar, warm wood furnishings soften the starkness of the letterpress-style mural, but the mural itself becomes like a “menu” of decorative shapes that can be mixed and matched on packaging and printed materials, making each piece look slightly different yet part of the overall brand. It’s a complete identity program with room to grow.
It’s no surprise that a bus shelter constructed entirely from Lego bricks recently emerged in front of a toy store in the UK to celebrate London’s Year of the Bus. Anyone who has ever visited Legoland knows that these colorful interlocking plastic bricks can be built into anything, of any size by people (or maybe primates in general) of any age. Like an atom, the Lego is the basic unit of playful construction. This bus shelter was made from 100,000 Lego bricks by Duncan Titmarsh, the UK’s only certified Lego professional.
If cats were 13th century cartographers, this is probably how they would map out their known world. Or so it is suggested in this series of print ads for Whiskas pet food, created by AMV BBDO in the UK and illustrator Dave Hopkins. The vintage-style maps were drawn from a cat’s perspective, with feline significant names given to landmarks in the Living Room Plain, the Garden Outback and The Kitchen Valley. Ottoman Overlook, Settee Ridge and Magazine Mound are key features called out in the living room. Toaster Volcano, Sore Paw Crossing stove zone, and Shelf Highlands are marked in the kitchen, and in the garden, the area beyond the Great Wall is labeled “Here There Be Monsters” with two unfriendly dogs stationed nearby. The compost heap is named Pew Gardens. The sepia-toned maps are a delight to study, and they are presented with confidence that viewers are sophisticated enough to know the Whiskas brand and a fair amount about typical cat behavior. The only real branding in the ads is the Whiskas name in its familiar logotype set in a shield that vaguely looks like a silhouette of a cat’s head. The signature purple color of Whiskas packaging is completely absent.
Wine packaging is steeped in tradition and sometimes unfounded biases, and connoisseurs are quick to form opinions about the quality of wine inside by the bottle’s shape, color and design. The cork versus screw cap debate, for instance, has been going on for well over a decade. So, it will be interesting to note the wine-drinking market’s response to Paperboy, packaged in a bottle made entirely from compressed recycled paper. UK packaging producer GreenBottle teamed with California wine producer Truett-Hurst to unveil the world’s first paper wine bottle. It is being sold in Safeway supermarkets on the West Coast now, with plans to offer it across the U.S. soon. London/NY-based agency Stranger & Stranger designed the Paperboy label graphics, which were printed with natural inks.
GreenBottle reports that the paper bottle, with a liquid-tight insulated plastic bladder inside, has a carbon footprint that is one third of an equivalent glass bottle. The bottle is feather-light, weighing about an ounce when empty, thus reducing shipping, handling and energy consumption costs. Despite its lightweight, Paperboy bottles are said to be rigid and strong, and ice bucket safe for three hours. Sounds good. Now let’s see if wine snobs can get past the fact that they’re drinking a brand sold in a paper bottle.
The new advertising campaign for Whiskas from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in the UK is built around the premise that big cats (i.e., leopards, lions, jaguars, etc.) and little cats share the same natural instincts. Understanding this behaviorial link, Whiskas says it gives domestic kitties all they naturally need in one pet food product. I love the ads, but question the connection. My cat sleeps all day and won’t take on anything more dangerous than a fake mouse and a ball on a string. But I can imagine that when my cat daydreams, she sees herself stalking a herd of zebra, cozying up to lions, taunting an elephant, and running as fast as an antelope. In her dreams, she’s untamed and courageous and keeping company with wild beasts. She’d love these ads.
UK ad agency Viral Factory filmed this commercial for Samsung’s EcoBubble Washing Machine on location in Manning Park, British Columbia, where nature is wild and unpredictable. Directed by James Rouse, produced by Jon Stopp, and post-production by Jellyfish Pictures.
Starbucks in the UK found a novel way to promote its discount latte special, available only on Mondays until February 18. London-based ad agency AMV BBDO created a stop-motion video to tout other great events that happened on a Monday, citing Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon, the first chiming of Big Ben, the first performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as examples. The entire commercial was produced in-house at Brand New School, using items from Starbucks for props. Coffee cups, napkins, wooden stir sticks, straws and corrugated java jackets serve as stand-ins for super heroes, landmarks and Macbeth’s three witches hunkered around a cauldron stirring up “toil and trouble.” The charm of the animation is its playful homemade quality. The only question is did someone at AMV dream up the idea on a Monday?
It is hard to say what will happen to the penguin logo when Penguin Books and Random House complete their merger, announced in October, but I can’t imagine that the pudgy little bird won’t survive. Founded in the UK in 1935 to bring well-designed quality paperbacks to the market, Penguin Books made the flightless bird its trademark from the start. The first penguin was drawn by designer Edward Young, with Gill Sans specified for the typeface, and covers showing three bands of color used to organize titles by genre – orange for fiction, dark blue for biographies, etc. Typographer Jan Tschichold modified the logo in 1946 and redesigned some 500 Penguin books and also wrote a four-page design manifesto, “Penguin Composition Rules.” In 2003, Pentagram’s Angus Hyland tweaked the penguin logo some more.
Herself Magazine is a bi-annual, all-illustrated fashion publication produced in the UK. Virtually every image shows celebrity “models” (living, dead and animated) wearing high fashion apparel and jewelry by the likes of Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Boucheron and Faberge. The models’ poses and background settings all look like they were copied from high-end fashion photographs – and maybe they were. Every illustration is drawn by a person named Lula, who identifies herself as editor in chief and creative director, with art direction by Annual. No other staff credits are given.
A very text-light publication, Herself includes fictitious Q-A interviews between Herself and stars including Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, and Susan Sontag. Another article in Issue 2 features Disney fairy tale princesses, including Pocahontas, Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White, modeling contemporary fashions. As concepts go, Herself is intriguing, unique, and surreal.
In the UK, CBS Outdoor has been trying to convince advertisers to think outdoors in the city by running an in-house branding campaign on buses, trains and the London Underground. Called “Outdoor by Name, Urban by Nature,” the strategic ad series features animals and birds made up of silhouettes of familiar regional landmarks in the UK. The ad running in London, for example, depicts Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, Wembley Stadium and other urban icons. Citing data from ONS and TGI surveys, CBS Outdoor says that “87% of urban respondents have seen Outdoor advertising in the last week.” This is nearly double the number of city dwellers who are exposed to ads via newspapers and radio.
Morrisons, one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK, recently unveiled its rebranded entry-level “value” line, now bearing the name “M Savers.” The work was done by brand design agency Coley Porter Bell as part of a strategic assessment aimed at transforming Morrisons’ own label into a more coherent brand. With some 17,000 products and their variants in Morrisons’ own brand, positioning different tiers and categories of products was a daunting task.
Morrisons’ entry-level value line presented its own unique challenges. Stephen Bell, creative director at Coley Porter Bell, said that the term “value” had a negative meaning to some consumers. “Value ranges tend to be somewhat utilitarian, using template designs and basic corporate colors. Research shows that consumers are often ashamed to be seen with them. But with the economy stalled for the foreseeable future, value ranges will be competing on more than just price. We wondered why shouldn’t entry-level products have some charm and engagement?”
More4, a digital television channel in the UK run by British broadcaster Channel 4, has a new brand identity and on-air look. Channel 4’s communications company, 4Creative, teamed with design and motion studio, ManvsMachine, to create a flexible logo that morphs from one triangle of color into another through a series of flips, folds and reveals.
Inspired by the intriguing ever-changing logo, 4Creative saw its possibilities as installation art and collaborated with Jason Bruges Studio and students from Middlesex University to design and build over 400 individual flipper units that would work together as a single mechanical system. The three-dimensional piece was set up in different environmental settings –- an interior staircase, an abandoned fishing boat on Dungeness Beach, a tree trunk in Victoria Park –- and filmed on location. It made for a memorable on-air debut of More4’s new identity. It also is further evidence that logos are not static graphic forms anymore. In the digital age, more and more logos are designed to be interactive, dimensional and animated.
One of the UK’s largest works of public art, the Comedy Carpet, opened in October on the seaside promenade in front of the renowned Tower in Blackpool. Designed by artist Gordon Young in collaboration with Why Not Associates, the typographic landscape is made up of jokes, songs and catch phrases from more than 1,000 British comedians and writers. Commissioned by the Blackpool County Council to create a piece of installation art, Young determined that “Blackpool occupies a unique and important place in the social history of Britain. Comedy in all its guises is a big part of who and what we are…. Blackpool has been a magnetic chuckle point for the nation.” Young added that he also wanted to maintain the high craft standards of Blackpool’s historic architecture, including the famous Winter Gardens, library and Tower. “
The 2,200 square meter Comedy Carpet was five years in the making. Each piece (over 160,000 letters) was cut from solid granite or cobalt blue concrete, arranged into over 300 slabs and cast into a high-quality concrete so it wouldn’t fade. The Comedy Carpet has become an instant tourist attraction, with visitors walking across the promenade and reading the memorable words of legendary comedians.
Manchester-based Music has rebranded Chester Zoo in Chester County, England, by creating a Crayon-colored typeface and logotype that look like they were drawn and embellished by a child — or a clever chimpanzee.
Playful, uninhibited and gleeful, the letterforms, created in collaboration with illustrator Adam Hayes, look like they were done in the wild with crude implements, away from digital devices that would edit out quirks and enforce uniformity. Free-wheeling details spring out of letterforms suggesting that these characters exist outside of captivity. As individually distinct as the letters are, collectively they make up a cohesive font available in four weights and upper and lower case. If animals had opposable thumbs and were able to hold a crayon to create their own font, this is probably how they would describe the Chester Zoo environment — relaxed, happy and free to be who they are.