Influence

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At Construct we have always believed in the power of words to paint pictures. Our tools extend beyond the visual and encompass everything we can employ to communicate and to influence understanding, stimulate interest and elicit an emotional connection. Over the last few weeks and months we have used the opportunity of less time travelling and spent in meetings to challenge our teams to explore key themes relevant for our work and for this moment. Designers, researchers, administrators and project managers have all taken a step back from their day to day roles to consider and communicate those issues, experiences and ideas they want to share. In a neat role reversal their words have been brought to life by one of our favourite illustrators, Thomas Jennings.






IN DESIGN WE TRUST

Alice Taylor



"Design that is a result of meticulous research and an immersion in the values and culture of the audience, consequently positions itself as something relatable, understandable and therefore trusted."


What makes us trust a luxury brand? A decision to invest in a particular product, a piece of art, an experience, or an item of clothing?

The allure of spending our money on things for ourselves triggers our perceived notion that it will bring us increased status, health and joy. Minimalism is becoming an opposing force against materialism with Netflix shows like Mary Kondo and Minimalism – a documentary about the important things – holding a mirror up to ourselves in our consumerist world. But what is it about the things we desire that really 'sparks joy'?

Many of us are now aiming to ‘buy less, buy better’ with our purchases having a higher value to our wallets and ourselves. Deborah Marquardt, chief marketing officer of Diamond Producers Association states: "Millennials are defining luxury beyond the price when they evaluate the purchase of a luxury item they seek genuineness, uniqueness and a non mass production that has meaning and value”. In other words, we need to trust a brand from the inside-out.

Designing for luxury brands, be it products, hospitality or fashion can challenge designers to see brands for what they really bring to society; consumerism and branding are intrinsically linked. But what we seek to find in the brands we work with, is their cultural value to the world; and as designers, we make decisions and judgements that are fundamentally aimed at creating trust in their target demographic.

In Objects of Desire: Design and Society Since 1750, Adrian Forty says “In the way it transforms ideas and beliefs, successful design is like alchemy: it fuses together disparate ideas from different origins, so that the form of the completed product seems to embody only a single idea, which comes across as so familiar that we find ourselves supposing it to be exactly what we ourselves had always thought”, which leads us to believe that the familiarity of design is linked to the idea of identity; a fusing together of pride in tradition and the progression of contemporary life.


“Designing for luxury brands, be it products, hospitality or fashion can challenge designers to see brands for what they really bring to society." 


Design that is a result of meticulous research and an immersion in the values and culture of the audience, consequently positions itself as something relatable, understandable and therefore trusted.

There is something to be recognised in both design for form and function, and design that is simply just for form. Functional design conjures trust by offering us the exact information we are seeking, with beauty as a result of its minimalism. Take, for example, packaging for skincare brands that draw on the understated, clear typography of medicinal packaging to signify scientific approaches to prove their product’s worth.

But 'fancy' design also has its place, tapping into the route of the word itself, 'fantasy', as Luke Syson learned from studying the work of Leonardo de Vinci he explained in his TED Talk: How I learned to stop worrying and love "useless" art, 'the job of the painter was to paint everything that was visible and invisible in the universe'. Those depictions that are visible come from our own experiences and manifest themselves in a resurgence of design trends that spark nostalgia in consumers.

Nostalgia is also something that helps us trust in design; seeing something in colour, pattern or texture that initiates a confidence in better times or a fond memory. I have seen my mother buy a piece of clothing or a product that reminded her of a material her mother wore, and she simply can't let go of buttons with tins of them sitting uselessly – or not, she would argue – in her sewing cabinet.

But imitating the past can easily fall into the trap of creating a pastiche – something that lacks authenticity. In typography, Baskerville – which was designed in the 1750s – is seen as one of the most trustworthy typefaces, and with thousands of typefaces sitting on our server, we still rely on a small percentage of these because they were crafted at the beginning of their trend, which was of course as a result of designing for a purpose.


"But what we seek to find in the brands we work with, is their cultural value to the world; and as designers, we make decisions and judgements that are fundamentally aimed at creating trust in their target demographic."


Luxury brands are desirable because they serve our need for function, form and fantasy and especially for heritage brands, are a footprint in our culture. Amerfine, the soon-to-launch company that champions the best in American made luxury, has observed the lack of recognition in brands from one of the most powerful countries in the world. America is a country that has been perceived to lack history by older civilisations. But the diversity of culture and produce in America forces us to notice that American made luxury is not the same as the commercialised America we are used to painting in our minds. They have established themselves as the best in their field due to their heritage and robust craftsmanship; be it a cowboy boot by Lucchese, founded in 1883 or a handbag by Mark Cross, founded in 1845 that he started “to create the finest leather goods for the horse and buggy rider”.

As brand creators, there is a luxury to being able to design for luxury. Creating what’s on the outside of a brand is a consequence of knowing the core components of it cultural position in the world; a trusting hand we hold throughout the design process.










THE DESIGNER AS STORYTELLER

Gemma Milne



“It is the “quality of the connections” – of past to present, form to function, research to response – which hold the key to a sophisticated solution.”


Eventually everything connects–people, ideas, objects… the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” is a philosophy that has always inspired me. Maybe Charles Eames’ epiphany had been triggered by a manufacturing problem finally being answered by the memory of a toy he loved years ago, or perhaps he’d just discovered that his new employee grew up in his neighbourhood, or maybe it was something more profound. Either way, I think this mantra captures the notion perfectly that everything comes back around (eventually).

In a similar train of thought, a university lecturer once gave our course a free pass to “do what you like with your free time, as it will all become relevant”. This wasn’t an opportunity to kick back and relax, but actually a revelation that everything you do, everything you experience and understand (or try to) can be banked for use later on down the line. A film might trigger a connection of a feeling with a visual style. Found typography on a quiet walk through town might spark inspiration somewhere else. That is not to say that everything will be useful; to revert to Eames’ point, it is the “quality of the connections” – of past to present, form to function, research to response – which hold the key to a sophisticated solution. What could he mean by quality? And how do you harness it? With stories.


“In branding in particular, stories connect the past to the present, and help us to create a compelling narrative with which to access the future."


To build on Saul Bass’ idea that “Design is thinking made visual”, where it is implied that designers have an innate skill to transcribe complicated ‘thinking’ into something tangible and understandable by a wider audience, we could swap out the definition of 'thinking' for something more specific; like storytelling. John Gottschall, author of “The Storytelling Animal” presents the idea that what sets our species apart from others in history is not just our big brains and wisdom, but our natural ability to tell stories, arguing that ‘homo-fictus’ could be a more descriptive name than ‘homo-sapiens’. “Story is ubiquitous, story is powerful. Nothing in human experience rivets attention, hooks you in attention, holds human attention, like a story.” In branding in particular, stories connect the past to the present, and help us to create a compelling narrative with which to access the future. With so much to experience, so many objects to buy and places to go, it can be exhausting to decide where to settle. Simply put: we need stories to help us navigate the consumer market. Great brands endure because they sell great stories; their existence speaks of an aspirational lifestyle, one which is better because of the existence of the product. Our job as graphic designers is to identify and collect the components, make connections to the brief and direct the brand’s positioning and identity; to tell the story.

Ellen Lupton in her essay “Designer as Producer” – which itself is a post rationalisation of Michael Rock’s earlier essay “Designer as Author”; an exploration into the many responsibilities of a designer spanning “imaging, editing, narration, chronicling, performing, translating, organizing and directing” – states that the idea of “authorship” suggests agency, intention and creation. Authorship and storytelling could be the difference between relevance and irrelevance; a brand you fall in love with, and a brand you overlook.


“Great brands endure because they sell great stories; their existence speaks of an aspirational lifestyle, one which is better because of the existence of the product."


One of the most exciting parts of any project is the getting-to-know-you period. Especially in a branding exercise, the time spent getting under the skin of the brief and digging into the past to find patterns and spot significance is vital to create an original yet relevant response. This research provides the context to the challenge at hand. Treading in the footsteps along the path of a business, assessing previous inspirations, plotting key insights along an imagined narrative gives us an idea of which of these stories are worth telling. I like to imagine that the ingredients to even the trickiest of challenges are already there in their rawest form, waiting to be recognised and re-told. It might be the era of typeface which matches the time and place in which the business was founded; the tonality of colours which reflects the location; an original illustration from years back which captures the mood of the business in an authentic way. Things that were there all along, but suddenly become relevant when we select them and compose them into a story.

For example, the story behind Epi, an exclusive location in the South of France, emanates a feeling of “laid-back luxury” which connects to every aspect of its brand. From the relaxed and visually warm photography to the carefully selected shade of blue to transport you to the French Riviera and think of Pablo Picasso.

Design is storytelling; because everything connects.










WHY DO WE LOOK BACK?

James Brown



“Looking back to a civilisations’ worth of historical knowledge gives new ideas foundation, allowing one to be connected to the ongoing trade of information, culture and design.”


Formed in the Earth over thousands of years, what is set in stone has stood from time immemorial. There is a permanence in stone, a confidence and honesty, a singular truth. Stone outlives us all.

It is this almost mystical quality of stone that drew me to try my hand at stone carved lettering. As a designer and typographer, I started my career as I meant to go on; handwriting bubble lettering on birthday cards at age 7. It was this same appreciation of drawing letters, that made stone carving so intriguing to me. On a week long course, by morning we drew letters, focusing on the form and shape, how each stoke related to the previous. Come the afternoon we picked up the dummy and chisel to hew our designs into moleanos stone, in slowly increasing degrees of success. The act of stone carving gave me a deeper understanding of the composition and craft of letterforms.


"The act of stone carving gave me a deeper understanding of the composition and craft of letterforms."


By its nature, stone carving is a slow process, but it leads to refined and considered results. Simply because you have the time to consider them. On the course we studied the lettering at the base Trajan’s Column, from one end of Trajan’s Forum in Rome. These slender letters with beautiful proportions, carved by hand in 107–113 AD, are one of the purest guides for any who want to study the proportions of Roman Capitals. They are regarded by many as the high point of Roman inscriptional art. Edward Johnston, designer of the London Underground typeface from 1916, wrote, “the Roman capitals have held the supreme place among letters for readableness and beauty. They are the best forms for the grandest and most important inscriptions.”

The lettering of Trajan’s column and its importance as a record of Roman capitals has inspired generations of typographers. It has influenced the creation of multiple typefaces, such as ‘Weiss’, ‘Goudy’ and its closest literal translation from stone to screen was made as recently as 1989, tilted simply ‘Trajan’. In this way, these letters have stood the test of time; they are preserved in their physicality, but still hold their intrinsic value today.

Luxury is a term with many interpretations; to me ‘luxury’ is about finding that intrinsic value. This comes from investing time, craftsmanship, the understanding of context and a promise of longevity. Looking back to a civilisations’ worth of historical knowledge gives new ideas foundation, allowing one to be connected to the ongoing trade of information, culture and design.


“Luxury is a term with many interpretations; to me ‘luxury’ is about finding that intrinsic value. This comes from investing time, craftsmanship, the understanding of context and a promise of longevity.”


When Construct was asked to approach the global rebrand of Aman, our challenge was to express the magical quality that binds these locations together from across the globe. The concept of ‘Grown, not built’ became rooted in our minds, the idea that these properties had always been there. They had grown with the land itself, integrated with the culture, they offer something genuine and unique. To convey this almost ineffable quality, we looked back to the earliest form of runic language: Elder Futhark. A script of primal, straight lines that was carved into rock came from a time where human lived closely with the Earth and history and mysticism feel closely entwined. It was these properties that allowed us to craft a logo that reflects the peaks and valleys of the landscape, and capture that timeless, magical quality.

Construct + Amerifine

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Construct + Amerifine

Amerifine is the definitive home of American Luxury. Founded to celebrate the premium brands, products and experiences that embody America’s proud history of excellence, craftsmanship and the sheer joy of great design. Founded to be the only global advocate for American style, heritage and quality in the retail and experience space. The brand encompasses e-commerce, catalogue and brand advisory.

Amerifine is the colour of sky’s bigger than anywhere and dreams to match.
Amerifine is individual vision upheld and amplified by a nation.
Amerifine has a domestic audience more powerful than any other in the world.
Amerifine is a bloodhound for the best.
Amerifine is rewriting the rules of luxury for tomorrow.




Every now and again Construct’s relationships with its clients extends beyond consultancy and into true partnership and equity participation. In 2008-2012 Construct partnered Mulberry to fast track the brand's success. In 2015 Construct co-Founded Hill and Friends and in 2020 Amerifine launches, a partnership project Construct first embarked on with the brand's founder, Faye Mythen in 2017. Working with previous clients and collaborators Matt Nixon and Louisa Thomson to launch this timely and ambitious brand platform and service.




The first stage of Construct's work has encompassed brand strategy, brand identity and palette creation, web design and art direction. The Amerifine logotype is an elegant, timeless and truly American treatment, inspired by Fortune magazine and reflective of the golden heritage of American commercial vision. It is supported by the Amerifine makers marque endorsement roundel and ‘A’ corner treatment as well as a rich palette of colour, typography and illustration.

The Amerifine brand palette speaks of craft and refinement with a distinctive logotype and marques inspired by American typography and quality approving makers' marks. The colour palette with primary white, black and sky blue, supported by stronger tones of red, navy, nude and maroon are used in varying volumes when the brand is needed to sit alongside partner content, or promote Amerifine through packaging and communications. The brand colours are also communicated in frames and striped ribbons reminiscent of patriotic medals. An American rooted typographic palette offers both clarity and editorial contrast with a conversational approach that conveys warmth and humanity in application.















Live on social media and through a book partnership with Assouline, the Amerifine platform and advisory service will launch later this year as Construct continue to support the development of the brand through consultancy and design. We look forward to sharing the next stage of the creative journey with you.

Thanks to Faye Mythen, Matthew Nixon and Louisa Thomson,

Fontsmith
Monotype
Propeller
Assouline

Black Lives Matter

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Black minds matter and black voices need to be heard, louder

We work in an industry responsible for telling the world's stories; it is designers who create the visual and verbal language that surrounds us in culture, commerce, and society. Sadly there is a lack of diversity in design, until this is resolved black voices will not be heard loud enough and equality will not be achieved.

“There’s no denying that when it comes to diversity the creative industry is still a work in progress. Only 11.4% of industry jobs are filled by black, asian and minority ethnic people, and just 11.5% of creative directors in the US are women. And that's before we've even mentioned the challenges faced by young creatives that can't afford to take on unpaid internships.”

D&AD diversity and inclusion.

Perhaps as a result of this, the industry celebrates the same small group of designers again and again; they are usually white and usually men. This ignores the incredible talent and mind-blowing design legacy of some extraordinarily talented designers.

We want to do something about this by celebrating the work of some incredible African American designers and remember that they did so in the face of racial adversity, fighting to have their artistic voice heard. And that to do so they created their own companies and excelled as black entrepreneurs at a time when this was unheard of.

Let's make sure they are celebrated in design education and serve as inspiration to this and future generations to ensure the problem of diversity in creativity is one that is solved in our generation.

AARON DOUGLAS
1899-1979

A major figure in the Harlem Renaissance Douglas pioneered the African-American modernist movement by combining aesthetic with ancient African traditional art. He set the stage for future African-American artists to utilize elements of African and African-American history alongside racial themes present in society.

In the 20’s and 30’s his powerful aesthetic had a huge influence on design and communication. Douglas set the stage for young, African-American artists to enter the public arts realm through his involvement with the Harlem Artists Guild. In 1944, he concluded his art career by founding the Art Department at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

GEORG OLDEN
1920-1975

Arguably one of the most influential designers of his time. Olden started his career at the OSS (now the CIA) moving on to CBS as Head of Network Division of On-Air Promotions. It was here that he worked on programs such as Gunsmoke and I Love Lucy and eventually went on to help create the vote-tallying scoreboard for the first televised Presidential Election in 1952.

AIGA Medal, Clio, Cannes Film Festival and Art Directors Club of New York medal-winning, Olden was Celebrated for his talent, charm, and business intelligence, Olden was a revolutionary African American graphic designer who made advancements in the industry, as well as for all African Americans.

EMMET MCBAIN
1935-2012

A bold visual thinker and co-founder of Burrell McBain Incorporated. An advertising agency, which later went on to become the largest African-American owned agency in the States, Burrell McBain aimed to serve their accounts while gaining the trust and loyalty of the black community.

McBain was an AIG Medalist and recognised for his revolutionary design leadership and profound social impact.


A warm thank you to

D&AD