When it comes to inspiration I find it hard to really pinpoint individual people.
The only person I can think of is my Grandad.
He bought me and my brother a computer when we were 5 or 6 years old so that we could go on paint and make posters for birthdays. Other than that, individual inspiration is scarce.
I do love design.
Whether that be web design, digital design, or print design, if it has a purpose and looks good, then I’m a fan.
I also think with sites like Dribbble, behance, Pinterest and many more, it’s very hard to pick out individual designers. Anyone can showcase their skills and push them out to the world; it doesn’t matter who they are, where they live, and what they do.
With a more collaborative world comes the era of agencies, rather than individual designers.
Agencies have built their own personality that comes across in their work through many different designers.
Then there’s the big agencies such as Pentagram and Landor who can produce pretty much anything they like in any style.
Certain agencies have found their niche within certain sectors and have doubled down on it rather than diversifying.
They rule over all every other agency in that sector and have built their brand personality around these industries they work with.
So, rather than picking out certain individuals, I have decided to pick out sectors to showcase my inspiration in design. However, there is one exception, as one name will make an appearance further in the post.
I have specifically picked out two sectors to explore:
Drinks packaging and American sports.
I specifically love the NBA and the NHL, but the design over the MLB and the NFL always catches my attention.
I was first introduced to design and branding in the NBA in the early 2000s.
At this time, most NBA teams were hanging onto logos from the 90s or moving full throttle into the new millennium with complex and aggressive animal illustrations.
Looking back, these brands were clunky and busy, but the bright colours and statement branding fascinated me and really kickstarted my love of basketball jerseys also (which I now have a collection of over 200).
As I moved through my young career as a designer, I began to learn about function alongside form. If you are designing something, make sure there is a reason and a purpose.
And what I found was that, just as I was coming to this realisation, my beloved American sports logos were realising this too.
As a result, brands became more minimal so that they were fit for purpose in a digital world. One agency that seems to have taken a stranglehold on the American sports branding, is Rare design.
Team after team kept popping up on their website, and the work was brilliant!
Their full explanation and rationalisation of every element has helped me focus my attention to detail and grasp a better understanding of what needs to be in a design.
So, this is where I told a little fib and I am going to mention one individual alongside Rare design who falls into this sector.
Todd Radom is responsible for a truckload of logos and branding used by American sports teams. And while I was coming to understand that stripping back a brand doesn’t mean it is losing anything, Todd was already producing logos that did this.
Although I have never had the pleasure of rebranding a major American sports team, I learnt so many lessons about the ever-changing branding landscape that I applied to the other sectors of work.
Now onto drinks packaging.
Credit to Stranger and Stranger
This is a similar sector that I hold as a dream project.
I have created packaging design (and plenty of it), but nothing quite like wine and spirits that encompasses the strategy.
As I have moved through my career, strategy, and understanding audiences, have become key to the decisions I make in my role as Creative Director.
And when it comes to the drinks sector, its highly competitive. For this reason, having only a ‘nice’ design just doesn’t cut it.
An agency like Stranger and Stranger encompasses this two pronged approach of strategy and design beautifully.
I have followed Stranger and Stranger for a long while now, always in awe of their designs.
But as I have dug deeper, I realise they are less concerned about making things look good (even though they do a damn good job on this front), and more focussed on the strategy and understanding the client.
They even go as far to say they aren’t going to showcase their designers standing next to fancy plants, because it’s not about the designers, it’s about their clients.
This sort of messaging, which is centred around the needs of the client, or more importantly the end user, is something that has stuck with me. It is a question that I ask myself whenever I am reviewing my designs.
It is even something I now pass onto others in my team to try and get across the importance of how someone is going to interact with the design when they see it.
To Wrap It Up…
Clearly understanding your audience, sector, and end user, alongside the idea of form and function, is absolutely key to me. And over years of following two very different industries, two very specific agencies, and one pioneer of American sports branding, these points have embedded themselves into my process.
Whilst I haven’t really picked out specific individuals other than Todd Radom, the elements I have spoken about have been instrumental in my role.
Together, they have helped me develop into a Creative Director, and they influence the thoughts that I share with the team on a daily basis.