Designer Spotlight: 5 International Firms to Meet

Creativity knows no bounds, and this collection of international firms from around the globe is a testament to that. Get to know these five firms — which represent countries spread out across three continents and speaking as many languages — through these interviews where they dish on what it’s like to work in places as far-flung as Monterrey, Mexico, to Melbourne, Australia, as well as what they see for the design community in the future. It’s international inspiration at its finest, and you don’t even have to board a plane. Bon voyage!

Firm: PROUDdesign, www.prouddesign.nl
Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Specialties: packaging design, brand identity

PROUDdesign, headquartered in Amsterdam, is known for its food packaging designs. Steven de Cleen, the firm’s owner and creative strategy director, explains, “We understand the beauty of seduction and the strength of confirmation in packaging.” That’s why they’ve worked with brands ranging from global giants like Quaker, Lays and Pepsico to the likes of Lovechock, a raw chocolate manufacturer in the Netherlands, and Frenchtop Natural Care, a national organic food and supplements producer. No matter what product they’re working on, they are always taking their name to heart. “The name PROUDdesign helps us to aim for the highest level of creativity within a commercial brief,” de Cleen says. “We’re in it for the quality, not the quantity!”

Arla Organic Packaging Design by ProuDesignTell us about some of your favorite projects.
Arla Organic: The brand wanted to enter the overcrowded Dutch fresh dairy market while no consumer seemed to be waiting for yet another milk brand. Most organic brands are sold in specialist outlets and look very serious. But this one you can buy in the supermarket without hassle and prejudice. We managed to convince supermarket consumers to buy Arla by presenting the dairy in a new way: It reflects the positive feeling consumers have towards nature and want to cherish. It was the second most successful introduction in Dutch supermarkets in 2010. Arla is the evidence that creativity in pack design makes a difference and leads to commercial success.

Tea Bar Packaging Design by ProuDesignTea Bar: This tea shop is run by two ambitious ladies who want to change the way people look at and drink tea. First we developed a new positioning to fit the ambition: tea bar, creators of personaliteas. And then we created a matching identity. In the new design, the character and taste of each blend are willfully named and depicted to stress the personality of each tea blend, with names like “Black Beauty” for a black tea blend with the picture of a horse shoe or “Green Energy” with Lou Ferrigno’s arm. Tea Bar is the evidence that creativity can make a big difference for a small company.

If you had one “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design, what would that be?
We are PROUDdesign and make brands more valuable through packaging design. This makes people happier. And makes us proud!

Do you feel like being in Amsterdam has an influence on your design?
As a former trading post, Amsterdam has a strong merchant culture. The business sense is strong, combined with a direct, no-nonsense approach. Amsterdam is upfront, and so is our design at times. The city is known as self confident and not always liked for that reason. But why make yourself smaller than you are? That’s why we call ourselves “a great little company.” And we love to work for small entrepreneurs, who have rewarded us with juice, chocolate and tea for life!

What do you foresee or hope for the future of design in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is the gateway to the Netherlands and the gateway to Europe. The Dutch understand Europe better than any other country; in fact, sometimes it feels like we invented it. That’s why the Dutch are well known for their graphic design, and more recently for furniture design and architecture, too. But hopefully soon for their packaging identity design, as well!

Firm: CIP Creative, www.cipcreative.com
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Follow: @cipcreative
Specialties: branding identity, online, packaging, print collateral

CIP Creative was founded in 2005 in Melbourne, Australia by Pete Johnson and AJ Storen, who named the studio as an acronym for “Can I Play.” That’s because for them, design is something that ought to be played with and that should be fun. They bring that playful spirit to all the work they do, for clients such as Grossi Restaurants, Map Coffee, Crown Casino and Capi Sparkling.

Merchant Restaurant Identity by Can I PlayTell us about some of your favorite projects.
Merchant Restaurant:
The client allowed us full scope to explore many artistic avenues and had full trust in us to carry it out, which led to a rewarding result.

Capi Sparkling: It was a very challenging project with many hurdles but the end result made it all worthwhile, and it’s something we’re very proud of.

If you had one “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design, what would that be?
We don’t like to take things too seriously!

What is one of your favorite things about living and working in Melbourne?
Cultural diversity and great energy. It’s inspiring to live in a city where there are so many great creatives doing interesting work from architects to artists to graphic designers to musicians.

What do you foresee or hope for the future of design in Melbourne?
I see Melbourne becoming more and more recognized as a leading design city of the world.

Firm: Cubic, www.cubicstudio.co.uk
Location: Nottingham, UK
Follow: @wearecubic
Specialties: branding, digital

Headquartered in the town that is famous for its connection to the Robin Hood legend, the designers at Cubic have been busy at work bringing their own fair share of stories to life for more than a decade. The firm works with clients such as AMEC, The Art Fund, Thorn Lighting and Youth Music and says of the work they do, “We believe that creative excellence is the cornerstone of successful branding; that practical can still be beautiful; that design thinking should always be rigorous, relevant and refreshing; that you learn an awful lot by listening; and that cutting corners usually leads to a dead end.”

Bordersfield Packaging Design by CubicTell us about one of your favorite projects.
Borderfields
:
We created a new identity and packaging for this emerging British rapeseed oil. The vision has reached the supermarket shelves without the design being compromised. The feedback on the creativity of this project has been superb. In 12 months, the sales have gone up more than 90 percent, too. All these things make it all very worthwhile.

If you had one “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design, what would that be?
We believe that creative excellence is the cornerstone of successful branding; that practical can still be beautiful; that design thinking should always be rigorous, relevant and refreshing; that you learn an awful lot by listening; and that cutting corners usually leads to a dead end.

What is one of your favorite things about living and working in Nottingham?
The city is harmonious and crime-free.

What do you foresee or hope for the future of design in the UK?
Britain will always be a hub for creativity: music, film, art, design. We are quite good at it.

Firm: Brosmind, www.brosmind.com
Location:
Barcelona, Spain
Follow:
Facebook www.facebook.com/brosmind and Twitter www.twitter.com/brosmind
Specialty: illustration

Brothers Juan and Alejandro Mingarro started the Barcelona, Spain-based design shop Brosmind together in 2006 and have been getting creative together ever since. Whether it’s constructing an RV out of picture frames, designing toys or creating quirky illustrations for top-notch clients such as Nike, Microsoft, Land Rover and Honda, the duo is always creating or experimenting with something new. Right now, they’re at work on their first comic book. It’s a natural fit for the brothers who describe their aesthetic as one that is “fresh and optimistic and always combines fantasy and humor.”

Brosmind is a studio based in Barcelona founded by Juan and Alejandro Mingarro.

Tell us about some of your favorite projects.
Phish tickets (shown in top image; lower right): We had a great time creating the tickets for Phish’s 2011 Summer Tour. We know that Phish fans are huge collectors of merch, tickets, and other tour-related materials and that they usually go to several concerts during the tour. So we decided to make six different tickets designs, each of them with 10 connecting points that them to fit together into a pattern and generate a huge canvas. Even if you only have several copies of the same ticket, they can fit together into a larger design. It doesn’t matter which ticket is on top of which, they are designed so they fit with each other in any configuration.

Brosmind Army (shown in top image; left): This is our hot project from 2010. It consists of a growing army of limited-edition ceramic sculptures. The army is divided in several platoons of around 50 soldiers, distinguished by a particular kind of hat. Each soldier is a unique piece, with its own face, tattoos and accessories. Also, turning the hat of the soldier is possible to switch between three different face designs.

Brosmind RV (shown in top image; upper right): This is an exclusive vehicle made of picture frames. We built the whole structure at our workshop and then drew the illustrations directly over the glass. This unique piece is powered by totally functional pedals and was presented in July 2010 at the collective exhibition “Loft is in the air” in Barcelona.

If you had one “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design, what would that be?
“THIS IS OUR MOMENTO!” We are really optimistic, and when we start working on a new project, we are always really motivated and trying to reach new levels!

What is one of your favorite things about living and working in Barcelona?
We are originally from a small village two hours from Barcelona, but we came here to study and have lived in this city for 15 years. We feel really comfortable here; the weather is always good, and you can walk everywhere. Also, in terms of creativity, it is great because there is a vibrant art scene, good cultural offerings and a lot of amazing artists who are based here. Somehow this city makes us feel in the good mood to create and develop our art properly.

What do you foresee or hope for the future of design in Barcelona?
A great future is coming. Barcelona already has a really strong and good design structure with great designers that will rock for sure.

Firm: MANIFIESTO FUTURA, www.mfutura.mx
Location:
Monterrey, México
Follow: Facebook (www.facebook.com/ManifiestoFutura) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/mfutura)
Specialties: identity, editorial design, production, web

This independent, multidisciplinary design studio was founded in 2008 in Monterrey, a city that might well be considered the metropolitan heart of Mexico. Rich with businesses and urbanity, it is also rich in its Mexican heritage. That is why the designers at MANIFIESTO FUTURA say, “Our goal is to make the best of Mexican design—to change the shapes, strategies, and the narrative through clear messages and smart incentives—yet to keep the Mexican character, wit, and the charisma intact.”

Tell us about a couple of your favorite projects.
Cerveza Bocanegra (shown in top image; upper left): We made the complete identity for this locally-made craft beer, from the naming to the package design. This is one of our favorites because we made everything as crafty as we could: We designed the typography, we had the opportunity of working with Golpeavisa for the illustration, and we experimented with materials and printing methods.

Hotel 1528: This is a boutique hotel in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas in Mexico. It is one of our favorites because we had the responsibility of creating the complete experience of a boutique hotel, from the naming to every single detail inside each room.

If you had one “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design, what would that be?
Never sacrifice the message for the form, respect the grid, and respect the language.

What is one of your favorite things about living and working in Monterrey?
People in Monterrey are well known for being hard workers, so they are always inventing new products and creating new business. Because of that, there is work for everyone. There is more work but less money, so everything is faster and people work harder.

What do you foresee or hope for the future of design in Monterrey?
Design is becoming a huge thing here. Common people are valuing design more and more; they are noticing the details, learning about typographies and things that, at least in Monterrey, nobody used to notice. The major design universities are investing a lot of money in infrastructure and teachers. This is gonna change for good!

 

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