is taste the death of art?

Working in a ‘creative’ role, the line between objectivity and subjectivity can sometimes become a little blurred when trying to create innovative solutions for clients. We all have our own inbuilt perceptions (or prejudice) of what is or is not appropriate or ‘stylistically’ suitable as a particular response to a design brief. This could be termed as our own particular design ‘taste’, and is something that needs to be both fought against, and at the same time grown, in equal measure as we learn to develop our own individual creative sensibilities and understanding.

Pablo Picasso – Mandolin and Guitar

Pablo Picasso – Mandolin and Guitar

Pablo Picasso famously declared that ‘Taste is the enemy of creativity’Pablo Picasso

To be free of the constraint of taste, is a noble aim, as it opens wide the gates to new creative possibilities and opportunities. Of all the things I learnt whilst studying my BA (Hons) degree in Architecture, the issue of taste was probably the most vital and longest-serving lesson of all!

One of our projects during the second year of the course, was to study the work and a particular building by a specific Architect for a two-week period and then give a presentation about it at the end. We were divided up into small groups and allocated a different Architect to each group. Our group was given the Azuma House in Osaka, Japan, by self-taught Japanese Architect Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando – Azuma house

Tadao Ando – Azuma house

My heart sank! For me at the time this was exactly the type of Architecture that I really had very little interest in or time for. On the surface it appeared to be cold, sterile, and utterly un-appealing concrete box. However as we had no choice or alternatives, this was the Architect/building we had to study for what could have been the longest two weeks of the course for me!

However, through the studying and drawing of the building, looking into Tadao Andos ideas, the culture, the society, the materials used and all the different factors that went into the deign of the building, I had an epiphany moment!

Tadao Ando – Azuma house 3D section

Tadao Ando – Azuma house 3D section

Through the enforced period of study of the Architect and this specific building, my personal perspective and understanding of Tadao Andos design rational changed. Armed with a greater understanding of what he was trying to achieve, my point of reference/perception changed, allowing me to more see the reasons for why the building was how it was. This helped change both my intellectual understanding and emotional response to the building. Instead of rejecting it out of hand, based on my limited knowledge, I now had a way to access its ‘language’, which then brought me to a position of appreciation and dare I say, even a love for it! Oh how fickle our emotions can be!

So now when I approach a design brief or problem, I find it exciting to start with a clean sheet of paper with no preconceptions of what can or cannot be brought into the mix or used as a source of inspiration. I love to embrace the challenge of learning things from unexpected quarters, so that I can bring a fresh perspective into my work.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, as ever, it is always much appreciated! Please feel free to share it with your friends, and add any thoughts or comments you might have on it…


Is it time for brands to wake up and smell the coffee?

‘Branding’ can often be seen as a rather dry, restrictive and all embracing term to cover any aspects of a organisation or companies presentation. However, in reality, branding can bring a vitality, energy and vigour to a brand that can go so much further than this perception!

When people think about branding, it conjures up definitions surrounding correct logo usage, clear space allowances, colour pallets, typography styles and fonts to be used, tone of voice, photographic style guidelines, various examples of do’s and don’ts, etc. etc. – but even within the most biblically proportioned set of brand guidelines, you don’t often see a section dealing with ‘Brand Smell’!

Thomas Cook Signature ‘brand for breakfast’ – Brand Guidelines. Simplified

Thomas Cook Signature ‘brand for breakfast’ – Brand Guidelines. Simplified

Even in the Thomas Cook Signature ‘brand for breakfast’ brand synoptic guidelines I produced for the pioneers of travel holidays some years ago, there was nothing mentioned about brand aroma. Although I did suggest it at the time, that it was something that could be incorporated into their retail outlets – however I might have been just a bit ahead of my time with that suggestion unfortunately!

There are five main traditional human senses; Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell and Touch, so as it is clearly one of our primary human senses, maybe a bit more thought should be given to it within a branding context?

Smell or aroma is a very powerful, persuasive and evocative sense. To the point where today there are even dedicated aroma retailers! Here you can purchase such things as ‘sensory ambience kits’ for example, to help sell your house!

Nothing beats the aromatic smell of freshly baked bread!

Nothing beats the aromatic smell of freshly baked bread!

The Sell-A-House Kit features two atomisers of fresh bread aroma and fresh coffee smell, two of the most commonly thought of aromas that can help create an ideal sensory ambience.

The love hate aroma of freshly brewed coffee

The love hate aroma of freshly brewed coffee

However in terms of ‘brand aroma’, has the evocative power of aroma really been harnessed to its full potential, or even really been properly looked at yet?

The retail chain Lush has a distinctive, naturally occurring brand smell or aroma from its fresh, handmade cosmetic products that pervades the streets outside of their stores. So that often before you are even aware of the stores actual physical location, your sense of smell informs you they have a retail outlet in the nearby vicinity. The ‘brand aroma’ of Lush therefore generates a 4D experiential brand awareness of the companies products to a much wide audience of potential customers outside of the confines of their physical stores.

To a similar extent, these principles of aroma extend to many different types of business or organisations such as bakers, florists, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, offices, airports, supermarkets, shopping centres, etc. or even to the more nostalgic aromas that are often associated with bookshops, museums, sweet shops etc.

OK, Lush might be considered a fairly overt example, and you may think that a brand aroma does not really apply to all organisations? How can a brand aroma work in a more traditional office environment? Easy. All built environments have an inherent aroma, be it good or a bad. Just as positive aromas can generate positive reactions, negative aromas can do exactly the opposite!

So controlling or creating these brand aromas is often down to you. The choice of whether or not to have fresh flowers in reception areas, the choice of different natural or man made materials used in furnishings or fittings, having planting as part of the spatial layout of offices, positioning of any catering facilities, right down to the nitty gritty of simple things such as automatically timed air fresheners in WC facilities, choice of cleaning products, hand wash etc. all contribute to a buildings overall aroma.

So maybe it is time to get creative with your brand aromas!

Thanks for taking time out to read this, it is much appreciated! Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments you might have on it…


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Thought is action, action is thought…

It’s funny how something as seemingly innocuous and mundane as the action of going for a walk, can in fact be the perfect stimulus for developing new ideas.

I think it must be something to do with being outside the comparative constraints of a built environment, and being in the open expanse that exists away from the office studio desk. The difference in the spatial dynamics can really help liberate the mind and thought processes therein!

Thought is action – action is thought

Thought is action – action is thought

I’m lucky enough to be based near the sea, so it does not take too much encouragement to go and get some exercise (mental and physical) by going for a walk by the sea. The physical benefits of doing this are obvious, however the mental advantages are not always so apparent, but for me, it is probably the most important aspect.

I’m often working on a series of projects for different clients, and the single common denominator between them all, is that invariably they all require some form of inspired creative thought to bring them to life.

Despite common misconception, not all creative work starts with that fabled single ‘eureka’ moment of design inspiration. More often than not, generating ideas or different solutions can be a process consisting of many varied and seemingly unconnected ‘dots of experience’, insight or awareness that have been built up during your daily experiences, sometimes over a number of years. It is only when these dots are later brought to mind and joined together, that sometimes a pattern begins to develop – a sort of creative chain reaction if you will. From these humble beginnings, creative ideas begin to form and take shape and can become more of a tangible reality.

Recording ideas as thoughts/sketches/words is a vital part of the creative process – it’s a form of ‘physical thinkig’

Recording ideas as thoughts/sketches/words is a vital part of the creative process – it’s a form of ‘physical thinking’

The sketches above, although not prize-winning by any stretch of the imagination, captured some of the initial thoughts/development of a direct mail campaign for a client to gather customer feedback on a particular offer. This concept was based around the notion of ‘a penny for your thoughts’. The scribbles show the idea of using a folding circular direct mail item, that features a large picture of a 1p piece as the front hero image, and how other key information could also be displayed within the circular format.

The one bad things about ideas, is they rarely occur to order! More often than not, they can occur in the strangest or sometimes the most inappropriate moments (the shower, when you are trying to go to sleep etc.)! Hence why keeping a sketch or notebook handy at all times, is such a vital piece of a creatives tool kit.

However, there are many other, more technologically advanced, ways of recording and documenting your thoughts as well which I also find really helpful. My iPhone allows me to capture photographic images, text or voice recordings, so it makes it really easy for me to capture my thoughts wherever I am. One of my favourite apps is Evernote as it allows me to not only capture the idea, but to also to tag and categorise it, which can then be really useful later on if I want to search back through various connected concepts or ideas.

You often don’t know when inspiration can occur, but when it does, it is vital to note or record it in some form. This way it makes it far easier to keep track of the ‘dots’ that I come across in my daily experiences. These ‘dots’ may sometimes seen inconsequential at the time, but they can turn out to be the starting point for the next greatest idea I’m searching for…

Thanks for taking time out to read this, much appreciated – Chris@passion4