Q: What is your role at Colenso and what does a ‘standard’ day look like for you?
Dave: My rather long and convoluted title is Group Creative Director and Head of Brand Design. It basically means that as a CD, I have my own clients to look after but can jump in on other projects where needed across the business. The Head of Brand Design role allows me to have a view of the overall visual output and craft and design across the agency. Really, the only standard part of any day here is the coffee at the beginning. We have so many varied and cross-platform jobs going through at any one time, from book illustrations to campaign art direction to UI systems to brand identity and even building interiors, which makes every day totally unique. It’s an exciting place to hang out.
Q: What do you, personally, hope to contribute as a PDINZ?
Dave: As much as I can learn from others, there’s probably some insight that I can pass on that people may find useful but let’s see.
Q: The Institute has recently elected a senior agency creative as its co-president (Mark Dalton), is this a concerted attempt at a take-over we haven’t heard about?!
Dave: Yes, absolutely. And it’s going very well. Actually no, you don’t need to worry about marauding ad guys. I’m just really passionate about design and in particular the growth of design within creative agencies and strengthening the connection between our Colenso designers to the wider design community. The Institute was originally formed by industrial and interior designers coming together. A multidisciplinary organisation that can inform, educate and inspire anyone working in the creative industry as a whole sounds pretty good to me.
Q: During your interview you mentioned the need to align (or perhaps re-align?) your firm with the work of non-agency designers. Can you expand on what you think the perception is of agency designers as opposed to non-agency?
Dave: Not so much ‘re-align’ the firm but more with a focus on building a stronger connection between Colenso’s design department and the wider industry. This is really just my perception but over the years I sometimes get the sense that designers within creative agencies get a bad rap from predominantly the wider graphic design community. But, from what I have seen, especially within Colenso is that the talent and passion for craft, especially in type, graphic and digital design is humbling. It just needs a little more exposure and celebration.
Q: How do you think that disconnect affects the industry?
Dave: I’ll take inclusion over exclusion any day of the week. And the lines between creative disciplines are increasingly blurring. I love interacting with anyone curious who gets excited by craft and learning new things. People with the tenacity to elevate their work beyond the ordinary can only lead to more interesting things in the world.
Q: How can the agency ecosystem benefit from a closer relationship with the Institute and its designers?
Dave: In two ways I think. Firstly, the value of design and craft in any field is so important in building higher value products and brands but unfortunately it’s increasingly overlooked in favour of economy and efficiency. So, connecting with the Institute is important in that respect. The second is around inspiration. As creatives we take inspiration from our life experiences and the world around us. A CD in London once told me he walked down the street with his eyes up, not straight ahead. He preferred the architecture of the buildings and curious stories behind the windows above street level to the shop fronts competing to command his attention. If the value of craft and design within the agency can be celebrated more and the designers feel more respected as designers, it can only have a more positive effect on the business. And if we can expand the spheres of inspiration for everyone in the agency beyond advertising, that can only be a good thing too.
Q: Nice one. How about the other way around? What do you think traditional, studio-based designers can gain from a closer relationship to ‘the agency’?
Dave: We work on the principle that everything communicates. From brand film to in-app interaction to how someone answers the phone. The strategies and methodologies of how we connect brands with culture through storytelling, behaviour, design and visual communication are highly tuned. There’ll be lots of crossover in some areas but different perspectives - even on the same outlook are really helpful.
Q: Is there an inherent benefit for the client as well?
Dave: I think any client that engages with any agency or studio will benefit from working with people who can draw on the widest possible knowledge base to inform an understanding of how to solve their problems empathetically using creativity, and how to execute them appropriately.
Q: Traditional media has and continues to change at a great pace, how do you see the role of the agency changing and how does design fit within that?
Dave: I was originally attracted to Colenso because they didn’t just make ads, they made interesting things; Treehouses, weird coloured chocolate, giant pinball machines and radio shows for dogs. When I joined it was apparent that the most interesting work was made when the media channel was open. Colenso, like our industry, is ever-evolving and being able to offer design as a solution is crucial. Helping organisations connect with culture will have differing creative solutions depending on which organisation wants to talk to which people. How they appear, where they meet and how they talk is where we come in.
Q: You and your agency have won an impressive number of accolades, how do you see the Best Awards fit within this mix of award programmes, what would the Best’s inherent value and point of difference be for an agency?
Dave: When I took on the Head of Brand Design role here, I had a retrospective look at some of the work we’d completed through a design lens rather than evaluating from our usual creative comms perspective. I was more blown away by the thinking and craft in execution than I thought I would be. For our work to be recognised by New Zealand’s national design awards would affirm my belief that we can produce some of the best design work in the country and I would love to be able to celebrate the people behind that work.