Creativity cannot be contained — whether that’s by lines of latitude and longitude or language. In celebration of that, we looked at some of the top design firms from around the world and have curated a collection that spans an array of countries and continents to bring you some of the most inspirational of international designs. Read on to see what these firms have been up to lately, as well as the inside scoop about what it’s like to be a designer in their country and what they foresee for the future there. Then, let your imagination fly — without even having to leave home.
Firm: Bessermachen DesignStudio, a part of Brandhouse Group,
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Specialties: Packaging design, corporate identity
“Bessermachen” is German for “upgrade.” Kristin Brandt, the firm’s creative director, and Stiig Binggeli, the CEO, say that this is a fitting moniker because their mission is to constantly upgrade and improve the products and designs of their clients, which are primarily in the food and fashion industries, including Coca-Cola, Chantelle and the Danish retailer Netto. With a specialty in packaging design, they assert that smart packaging design is one of the most effective marketing tools, so even the slightest of upgrades can make all the difference for a product in consumer’s minds. “To us, brilliant design combines the perspective of the user with the unique qualities and values of the client and the product,” the team explains. “Your packaging is your billboard, and you want it to tell the right story to your audience.”
Tell us about one of your favorite projects: For the past three years, Bessermachen created a yearly unique design piece named Chocolates with Attitude — a big and beautiful box of delicious chocolates. The box contains 12 smaller boxes that each represent a brand archetype. The design differentiates the 12 archetypes with a creative, diverse and colorful use of typography and illustrations. The aim is to demonstrate the archetypes to future clients and at the same time try our hand with the development of a product — from concept to taste, design, packaging and marketing.
What is your “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design?: Your packaging is your billboard.
How does your location influence your design work?: We have strong design traditions in Scandinavia, and we have a very competitive market in terms of graphic designers. To be in the top five design agencies in Scandinavia, it demands not only the best ideas and the brightest heads, but the passion and drive to continuously improve. There are no geographic boundaries to where we find our inspiration. It can be overseas, in cyberspace or when taking a stroll in the city. Copenhagen is a great city and the heart of Copenhagen always beats with new trends and international inspiration. You just have to open your eyes and your mind.
What do you foresee for the future of design in your town or country?: The modern consumer continues to demand lightweight, easy-to-use and intelligent packaging.
Location: Leeds, UK
Specialty: Leisure and entertainment-based clients including music, the arts, restaurants, clubs, shops, beverages, etc.
The UK-based firm Analogue knows what it takes to capture people’s attentions. As a firm that’s base is designing for entertainment-minded clients (which include Universal Records and Nickelodeon), they have to be on the cutting edge of creating promos and products that stand out from the crowd. When it came to searching out a name for the firm, the team knew they wanted a single word that would represent them well. And since many of their clients are music-based, “Analogue” seemed fitting. Plus, as owner and creative director, Barry Darnell explains, “We also liked the thought of ‘analogue people in an ever enveloping digital world.’”
Tell us about one of your favorite projects: The biggest and most enjoyable job we have worked on to date is one we’re doing right now for Nickelodeon. They’ve been on our client wish-list for as long as I can remember. Receiving the e-mail asking us to be involved was amazing and it felt like a real signifier of just how far we’ve come.
What is your “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design?: Always look forward and strive for perfection!
How does your location influence your design work?: Leeds is a great city that’s ever-changing and is very design orientated. Consumers are so design savvy these days. We’re constantly being pushed to create new and interesting design solutions that are well informed and engage with the end user. There are an increasing number of cool venues emerging in Leeds, each with their own unique identity, some that we’re fortunate enough to have created.
What do you foresee for the future of design in your town or country?: Everybody is so virtually connected these days. So much of life is lived online. With high street brands disappearing, the town as we know it could quickly become a pretty bleak place. I hope real life can hang on in there and that we can continue to use design to create engaging and fulfilling brand experiences. I think the UK has always proven to be a leader in the field of design — long may it continue. Firm: Yellow Octopus
“The octopus is a very intelligent creature,” says Kevin Thio, managing director at Yellow Octopus, one of the top design firms in Singapore (not to mention, it was selected as the Best of Show winner in the 2012 International Design Awards). He goes on to explain the significance of the firm’s name: The octopus is able to squeeze through tight spaces one-tenth its size and can withstand high pressures — both attributes the firm embraces and reflects in its own brand of creative flexibility.
That kind of work ethic and willingness to take on any number of challenges has attracted an enviable client list that includes Adobe, Mastercard, Nokia and The Salvation Army. “As modeled after the octopus, we are flexible when it comes to designing [different] mediums and styles, and it definitely shows in our wide range of work for a variety of industries,” Thio says.
As for the color, “Yellow represents creativity and intellect. One famous yellow-colored octopus is the blue-ringed octopus, one of the most venomous marine animals — so don’t mess with us (just kidding!),” Thio writes.
Tell us about one of your favorite projects: This is like asking a parent to choose his favorite child; Every single one is a different kind of favorite! We’ve enjoyed all our projects and remember each of them fondly, but the newest addition to the “favorites” list would be our latest Christmas project “The YOuyii Project.” This was a collaboration between Yellow Octopus (YO) and a local bag company, Uyii, hence the name “YOuyii.” Uyii believes in restoring the appreciation of age-old crafts like sewing and specifically hires retired seamstresses (who often can’t find relevant jobs in modern Singapore) to create beautiful, handmade bags and to teach sewing classes. We fell in love with their social enterprise and decided to work together, with Uyii sewing plushies of extinct creatures to represent what we call “endangered universal values.” The end product was a beautiful vintage luggage (made of cardboard) with a hand-sewn plushie and booklet on meaningful values inside. The project on a whole makes a call to embrace these universal values in order to preserve the humanity we lack in such a fast-paced society.
What is your “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design?: We live by an ethos of designing for positive change, to the point that we no longer call ourselves an agency but an advocacy powered by visual communication.
How does your location influence your design work?: Singapore is relatively on par in standard with the rest of the global communications industry. We aren’t too conservative and even clients with more traditional “Asian” mindsets are open to experimentation. Skillfully pushing the envelope to cut through clutter and appear relevant while still remaining true to your brand roots is an art we’re still perfecting, and we hope to influence the design in our location, not the other way around.
What do you foresee for the future of design in your town or country?: Industry-wise, we hope design will be seen as less of a mechanical, formulaic marketing process for companies. It needs to be fully embraced as part of the branding process, part of a company’s identity and communication with the world. Given the proper respect, even as an academic route, design can change lives. Companies can discover their souls and cultivate values. With the help of intelligent design, important social messages can be packaged and shared with the greater community.Firm: SNASK
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Specialties: Branding, film
In Swedish, the word “snask” can mean “candy,” “filth,” or “gossip.” As founder and creative director of the five-years-old firm SNASK, Freddie Öst explains the significance of the firm’s name: “Through a lifetime you will experience a craving for each of those things: You’ll do anything for candy until you’re 12 years old. After that, you’ll do anything for filth until you can’t do filth any more. And when you’re old enough to be a grandparent, you’ll do anything for gossip about your children and grandchildren. SNASK is life!” Consequently, Öst and his team work to bring creative solutions to brands from around the world — including H&M, Tetrapak and L’Oreal — that will, in paying homage to the firm’s name, give the brands new life.
Tell us about one of your favorite projects: We loved to do the branding of the Swedish Home Crafting Association. They turned 100 years old, and we used their knowledge to create an identity and branding entirely made by hand.
What is your “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design?: “Make Enemies & Gain Fans.” It means that if you make stuff no one hates, no one will love it either. You won’t get enemies but you also won’t get fans or ambassadors.
Does your location influence your design work?: Nope. Swedish style traditionally is very minimalistic. We are the opposite. We try to be as rock ‘n’ roll as possible.
What do you foresee for the future of design in your town or country?: We hope there will be a design scene here soon. Right now, we belong to “advertisement,” which is awful. Shitty designs win competitions and petty slogans win communication awards. It’s a nightmare. We hope that one day there will be a branch in Sweden called “Design” where the best agencies and people rule, not the people in black suits with sticks up their bottoms.
Firm: Salih Kucukaga Design Studio
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Specialties: Brand identity, packaging, iconography, illustration
Salih Kucukaga Design Studio is a one-man design shop operated by Salih Kucukaga in his hometown of Istanbul. Kucukaga’s design work, though, stretches around the globe, showing up in a So-Cal coffee shop, Dripp, or in a local up-scale restaurant in Istanbul. Like his range of clients, his design work also integrates many international influences, which keep them looking fresh, no matter where you are.
Tell us about one of your favorite projects: The Dripp Coffee Bar hot cup packaging is my favorite piece of design work. The design was launched in the summer of 2012 with a new sleeveless cup featuring a ripple surface so customers wouldn’t require an extra sleeve when enjoying their coffees. It also provides greater exposure for the new Dripp logo. In a nutshell, we decided to create a brand pattern with fun iconography that complements the overarching brand theme wrapped around the cup. This approach has worked, and I’m ecstatic with all the positive feedback from customers and other designers since its launch.
What is your “mantra” or “motto” when it comes to design?: Let your work speak for itself.
How does your location influence your design work?: My approach to design is governed by the inspiration derived from my hometown of Istanbul in Turkey. The bustling city plays host to a blend of eastern and western cultures, providing international influences in my work. An example of such inspiration is evident in my recent Black Goat Coffee project. The design incorporates an amiable blend of eastern, Turkish culture with the western, American style.
What do you foresee for the future of design in your town or country?: In the years ahead, I am hoping to see more independent Turkish graphic designers collaborating and being inspired through online interaction, as well as incorporating elements of the amazing historical art culture that Turkey has to offer.
Looking for more inspiration from international design firms? Dive into this feature from the March 2013 issue of HOW that showcases 6 German design firms with stunning work.
Or, see the winners from the International Design Awards, featured in the March 2013 issue of HOW Magazine.