Building a total brand experience for Nuvem 9

Nuvem 9 are a new type of financial and accounting consultancy service that specialises in working with companies and entrepreneurs with ambitions to take the profitability in their business to the next level.

‘We are not advisors with an MBA who have never actually worked in a business,’ says partner Niall McGinnity.

We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.

The first thing we did was to sit down with the partners and fully understand their business and even more importantly help them understand what makes their business different from other brands and their competitors.

Only then did we start redesigning the logo to make the ‘nuvem’ or cloud part of their brand more legible and approachable, in keeping with their brand positioning. We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.


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CultureTech’s creative marketplace – a designer’s view

In my early days as a Creative Director in London it wasn’t unusual to invite key members of a client’s marketing team for a strategy dinner in Paris, or to fly them business class to Monte Carlo for an industry specific conference.

Which is why it was extremely refreshing to be invited to take part in CutureTech’s creative marketplace in Derry, an event where clients and agencies could meet and agree deals and where the businesses attending had been given access to funding to buy design services on the day. As an experienced designer this was one of the most enlightened and trail-blazing events I have attended anywhere in the world.

Outsiders wouldn’t perhaps think of Derry as a shining example of new creative thinking – a place where the new wave of design agencies could gather and help define the future of business, but that is how the city is presenting itself through CultureTech. Read more

Irish design has the opportunity to be reignited for the Big Data era

In my previous post on the theme of An Irish Design I asked the question: is it time to put Ireland back at the centre of European design? The post received a very good response from clients and other designers. A simple answer to the question is – design has an important part to play in not only the future development of Irish technology companies, it has a part to play in the business growth of Irish companies of all kinds.

Irish design is not a monolith – there are as many approaches to delivering creative and successful design solutions as there are designers.

Irish design is not a monolith – there are as many approaches to delivering creative and successful design solutions as there are designers, and just because a designer comes from, or is based in, any part of Ireland doesn’t mean she or he has to employ a culturally conditioned pre-set series of solutions.

If Ireland as a country is open to external influences and part of the wider cultural landscape of Europe and beyond, then there’s room for lots of creative and cultural cross-fertilization that can only be an asset to designers and the clients they work with. My own influences are French, Swiss International, Japanese and Chinese culture and design as well as the Irish culture of my birth, enhanced with several years of being based in the open city of London where many different design and cultural identities thrive and develop.

The intention is to be aware of the history of Celtic design and to use the influences to develop a specifically Irish approach in a technologically driven and playful way.

The intention of An Irish Design is to be aware of the history of Celtic design in Ireland and to use some of the influences to play with and develop a specifically Irish approach in a technologically driven and playful way. The hope is to add something to the tradition, no matter how insignificant, while not being to overwhelmed by the long shadows cast by past achievements. Irish design has the opportunity to be reignited for the Big Data era.

I’ve produced a new video and brochure on the An Irish Design theme. You can download the An Irish Design brochure here. Each of these takes some Celtic/Irish design elements and seeks to develop and extend them in a small way. These include some re-workings of some classic book covers and some ‘hand-drawn-in-Photoshop’ designs based on motifs found in The Book Of Kells and elsewhere in Irish design history.

As always I would be interested to hear your views and comments and, of course, I’m always happy to talk to you about your specific business needs and future projects. Let’s talk.

Eugene Burns

An Irish Design

Is it time to put Ireland back at the centre of European design?

‘La Tène Culture lifts the Celts from being just another of the myriad European peoples. (It) establishes the Celts as a real ‘civilization’ and …bequeathed some of antiquity’s most gorgeous pieces of decorative art. Wildlife themes pushed into the realms of the abstract and fantastic. A tendril of a plant teased into itself, then spun upwards until it became pattern, a whorl, a whole inner world, leaping, coiling, dancing.’

Frank Delaney, The Celts

What we call Celtic design, the earliest form of Irish design, originates from Central Europe as did much later design movements such as the Bauhaus, the Swiss International Style and fonts such as Helvetica and Akzidenz.

The influence of Celtic La Tène culture dating from 450 BCE onwards is clear in The Book Of Kells, perhaps one of the great Irish works of graphic design, and one of the great European design projects of all time. At the time of the development of the monasteries, Ireland was a major philosophical and design influence on Western Europe and was rightly celebrated throughout the known world.

In the middle ages Ireland lost most of its former influence as it became subsumed in the English-speaking world where design was held in much less regard and there was less reverence for tradition, history and creative invention.

Glimpses of Irish creative brilliance resurfaced intermittently, in the Táin Bó Cúailnge and the writings of James Joyce that have inspired many artists and designers. Think of the transcendent brush drawings for the Thomas Kinsella translation of The Tain by Louis le Brocquy.

In the twenty-first century Ireland is becoming celebrated again and internationally respected for its technology and contributions in the areas of Big Data and web innovation. But is Celtic/Irish design ready to play a part in communicating and expressing new technological innovations? Will the book of Big Data be the new Book Of Kells?

Irish typography doesn’t need to be uncials to be authentic. Irish design is open to all types of typographic influences and is as inventive as a Neville Brody font, or as playful and thought-provoking as a Sagmeister witticism. Ampersands are a favourite of Celtic script – they take up a whole section in Aidan Meehan’s Celtic Design – Illuminated Letters, and still have a part to play in any approach to design that’s typographically inventive.

The swirls and knotwork of Celtic design are the interconnected data of twenty-first century communication.

In the area of colour there’s more to Ireland than green. Gold is prominent in the Book Of Kells and the reds and oranges of the multiplicity of Irish traditions bring a vibrant majesty to all types of design solutions. If Ireland is open to internal and external influences of all kinds then Irish design should have an openness to colours too.

The great advantage Irish design has in the twenty-first century is the ability to embrace all types and styles of imagery thanks to technical innovations. Users are open to the thrill and excitement of secular imagery. With the X-rated Game Of Thrones series being made in Northern Ireland there’s little need for outmoded monastic influences or rigorous self-censorship by local designers.

So we can say Irish design has always been at the centre of Europe as that’s where it originally come from. The knotted intricacy of Celtic design has echoes in contemporary Irish design and thinking. There’s a Celtic self-reflection about James Joyce’s Ulysses and the cubism of Joyce’s approach has the same origins as that of Braque and Picasso.

Ireland aspires to be at the bleeding edge of technology. Ireland is big in Big Data and disruptive web solutions. Dropbox, Twitter and many other innovative companies call Ireland their European home.

Irish design is perfectly placed to be part of a technological resurgence and design itself is changing and evolving with the technology. If you haven’t been there lately Dublin, for example, is in some ways more open to other cultures and influences than London.

The swirls and knotwork of Celtic design are the interconnected data of twenty-first century communication. Irish design has the opportunity to be reignited for the internet era. A knotwork of connectedness and a network of Celtic form and expression.

Do you want to be at the centre of things? Let’s talk.

Eugene Burns


The democracy of design

Fictitious Mad Men account director Pete Campbell was unceremoniously removed from the Chevy account when the clients found out he couldn’t drive a car with a stick. As a non-driver I however thrived for several years on the Peugeot account in Ireland, as I was still able to design great creative ideas and express the key elements of the brand without needing to be a petrolhead.

Cars are designed for everyone and there is a unique democracy about car design that appeals to the enlightened designer. In the first part of the twenty-first century a well-designed car is available to almost everyone that can afford one. That’s why I’ve been watching with interest the re-engineering of the Volkswagen Beetle for the new era. The third iteration of the classic Beetle – the most recent being the 1998 curvaceous ‘flower vase’ model – the new version is both more masculine and a better engineered homage to the classic of over seventy years before.

The German design of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle says Porsche curves rather than city run-about, and yet it’s a similar price range as the same company’s Golf, or a Mini Cooper. The VW Beetle seems better designed, better thought-through, better contoured and therefore potentially a better more enduring brand of car than others in its class. It’s unique shape turns heads on the road.

There are clearly creative ideas at play that influence and shape the form of the finished VW Beetle 2012, and these are echoed inside with optional extras such as a Fender-branded sound system that oozes credibility. Mass production doesn’t have to mean inferior products as long as the ideas that drive the car’s production are practical and design led and each buyer has the bespoke options that make the brand more personal.

Cars are designed for everyone and there is a unique democracy about car design that appeals to the enlightened designer.

Leaving the luxury market aside, you really don’t have to pay that much more for a well designed car. If design is important to you, if it’s part of the brand that speaks to you and engages your mind as well as your heart, then you’ll invest in a car, or any product or service, that’s well designed and durable. If a car is something more than a vehicle that gets you to work in the morning, it’s worth applying that thinking to other design choices in your life.


Why waste money and resource on poor choices and indifferent thinking? Why chose something that’s mass produced just because everyone else is has it, when you can enjoy something that’s bespoke, is the result of better creative thinking and is designed to be right for you?

Democracy is good for design. Let’s not forget Steve Jobs’ Bauhaus inspired aesthetic ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ If simple, classic design is available to all in the shape of a well designed car, it’s all the more important for your business that you realise great design is not necessarily more expensive or harder to achieve than indifferent design. It’s worth looking for the right design supplier when it comes to your business and your brand. Great design is your democratic right after all. Let’s talk.

Eugene Burns



The era of Game Of Thrones style agencies is over

If you work in marketing or buy creative services of any kind you’ve probably met some wag who has told you about the bad old days, when all agencies were like Mad Men where the drink and more flowed day and night and egos ruled the castle.

Having worked for McCann-Erickson in my youth – one of the best known of the Madison Avenue agencies that covered the globe – my stories of past misdeeds and behaviour from colleagues and competitors are more like Game Of Thrones than Mad Men. Creative agencies were once fiefdoms of influence and closely guarded secrets where account warriors fought tooth and nail for patronage and territory; often to the creative detriment of the clients they served.

But those dragon-infested days are on the wane I’m glad to say, and apart from a few isolated and dying outposts, those types of agency encampments are either dead or dying.

[blockquote]Now collaboration between client and creative agency is the watchword.[/blockquote]

Infighting and the incestuous drive for power that so often was the driving force behind agency monoliths are now outmoded ways of working. Put simply, the atmosphere that sometimes became poisoned in advertising agencies in particular was rarely a good breeding ground for creative thinking and fresh design ideas. Technology has disrupted the creative industries and that has largely been for the general good of clients and creative designers too.

There were agencies that banned creatives from ever meeting clients and other agencies that earned their revenues from hefty production and media mark-ups and practically gave the design away for free. Some dinosaurs still operate in this business model but thankfully this Game Of Thrones era has largely disappeared.

Daenerys and dragonTechnology means that design and creativity and the inventive ideas they engender are now more valued and lauded than ever before. Creativity is king and the big agency account execs that used to infest any creative project are now largely extinct.

As a client you want to deal directly with creative people who know you, your business and your brand. More valuable than someone with a gold Amex card who buys you lunch, is a creative professional who has insights and a solid grasp of your business and can play a big role in helping you grow your brand and your products – who has empathy and understanding of your story, your history and your future.

Design and technology are more powerful weapons than scripted processes and tired ideas. Creative teams and projects can be as small or as big as they need to be to get the work done and the objectives achieved without the intervention of too many egos. Now collaboration between client and creative agency is the watchword.

Clients should spend their money and resource on design and creativity rather than on layers of client service. That’s why I made Brandlogik a flexible, virtual team that puts the client and the client’s customers at the centre of our business.

We believe in the power of branding, design and technology to transform your life and your business and anything that gets in the way of delivering the best results is best eliminated, like those Game Of Thrones style feudal barons. Let’s talk.

Eugene Burns



Mad Men new season – dramatizing the creative process

Having just returned from New York I would like to share some thoughts on the opening episode of the Mad Men new season. Warning: contains some spoilers for readers in the UK and Ireland.

In the first episode of Man Men series 6 there’s an interesting examination of the creative process intertwined in the lives of the advertising agency characters.

Early in the episode Don returns rejuvenated from a luxury winter break in Hawaii with Megan, paid for by his client Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Yet later in the episode when it comes to creating the next advertising campaign for the hotel, he allows his own emotions, his own inner inferno, to get in the way of finding a great creative solution.

Don’s past and present confusion gets in the way of the client’s brand so he fails to execute one of his killer presentations, much to the annoyance of Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling. His creative approach and his stapline ‘Hawaii – the jumping off point’ are so clouded by his own emotions that the voice of the brand and the brief itself is lost, and the great Madison Avenue Creative Director is all too visibly cast adrift in front of his disappointed client.

Don’s confusion is later contrasted with Peggy – now a senior copywriter at a rival agency of course – who is forced to come up with a new creative solution for a Koss headphones Superbowl spot, when the client gets nervous and wants to pull the advert at the last minute.

In contrast to Don, Peggy – who of course has learned so much from the master – is forced to work hard to find a stronger feature about the product that better dramatizes the brand.  And how does she find the solution? Not by looking within but by allowing the outside world to inspire her creative juices. The implication is that Peggy has grown to be a better creative by getting out of her own way and taking her creative thinking to a higher level.

There may be a lesson here for all designers and advertising creatives. Great work is not about you. It comes from finding out great things about your client’s business, or product, and getting out of the way to allow the truth to shine through to the users and the audience.

That’s not to say that there’s no room for personality in design and advertising. In fact personality is essential. It’s in the treatment – how you choose to use your skills to express the tone-of-voice of the brand. It’s the words you choose and the typeface that you use. It’s the colour, the definition and the character that you bring to the end result and what gives depth to the final work.

In many ways the creative process must be much the same as the scriptwriting process. With Dante’s Inferno echoing in your head, you may have trouble allowing long-established characters to find their true voice.

It’s this level of approach that makes the Mad Men new season something more than just another TV series. It sometimes knows when to creatively get out of the way and let the ideas and the characters speak for themselves.

Eugene Burns

The Shape Of Things To Come

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with one of the major professional services companies. Client confidentiality means I won’t be able to tell you which one of course, but they’re world leaders in their field and are having serious difficulty executing a flexible international advertising campaign to promote the global reach and local depth of their brand. They were simply having problems deciding on an approach that’s right for them and that would get buy-in from the many stakeholders, regions and business sectors within the firm.

Having seen problems like this from an internal design and brand management viewpoint as well as from an external creative director’s point of view, it’s clear they’re very common in many organizations and need a considerable amount of thought and brand insight to solve effectively and creatively. Put simply they couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

There is no substitute for clear yet creative thinking when it comes to brand issues. The problem with many international brands is that they have too many conflicting interests, too much internal pushes and pulls to be able to implement quick, creative design and brand solutions. Major companies often do design and branding well, yet can’t act quickly or effectively enough to embrace inventive ideas to knock their clients socks off. They move more slowly than they should.

Large international firms need to think like smaller companies when it comes to branding and design. They need to be able to act at an individual level to make more impact in their marketing and reaffirm their credibility. Even when dealing with a large corporation or partnership we are all individuals and need to see the shape of personal elements in every brand. I know that this quick-acting, individual approach is easier to say than to implement but companies need to think and respond fast in a social media age.

I’m happy to tell you that the global partnership in question certainly listened to my ideas for the development of an advertising solution for their brand, and I look forward to seeing some of the results very soon, but there’s always a challenge in staying number one in your sector, and that challenge is the continuing need for fresh ideas and fresh thinking.

‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change,’ Italian author Giuseppe di Lampedusa said in his novel The Leopard, and that’s something that brand managers and marketing professionals really should always to bear in mind. It takes a lot of work to stay in the same place and in design and brand development this should never be overlooked.

What lessons are there then for you and your business from how major brands deal with brand and marketing issues? Firstly, if you’re not number one in your sector, you should see the relative lack of size and flexibility of your business as an advantage. You should be open to listening to good ideas and implement them quickly once you are certain of their value to your brand. Just be confident in their worth and find good designers and brand specialists to help you deliver them.

The other crucial lesson for all of us is that you should never rest or be content with your design, your brand positioning and how you develop your conversation with your customers and your users. There’s always something new to consider and to learn when managing your brand. Branding, design and social media are still relatively new tools and there are always fresh approaches and fresh ideas and thinking that can drive you in the direction of business growth, or make that growth much easier to reach.

Having helped several major companies successfully re-engineer their brand in the first dot com boom, it’s my view this new media revolution is much more than a bubble. This digital revolution is how business is now and the shape of things to come has finally arrived.

Everything is possible thanks to great technology and software provided by Apple and other firms and great transparent technology tools like Twitter and WordPress that allow you to communicate, publish and effectively reach your target audiences with more accuracy than ever before. We’re still right at the very beginning of a social media age, but unless you want your business to stay exactly as it is, things had better change.

Eugene Burns

More ideas give you more power

So how do you really do something to get your business moving? What makes the difference between doing very well thank you, and doing so well that you want to run outside and embrace everyone in the street?

The great thing is that there are a lot of very useful tools and approaches that can really help build a successful strategy for you and your business and, thankfully for us too, we have some really good skills and insights that can help you develop some new ideas and approaches.

If you know anything about marketing, and even if you don’t, you know the importance of branding. It’s not so much about having a great name and a great logo, it’s more about having an idea, an attitude, or a product that means more to your customers than someone else’s does. It’s about positing, getting the right tone-of-voice that gets your closer to your customers.

You probably know too that good design is essential. Not merely product or service design, but the kind of design that uses the right words and imagery that not only makes an impact, but really helps with sales and business growth too. A smart functional yet practical approach to design and marketing will really give your sales more power. It’ll help you touch those you want to touch and reach those that you thought may be just out of reach.

The next element that will really bring some oomph to your business is to add the power of social media to the design and branding that you have in place. With these three elements working together you should find that you’re really starting to get somewhere.

Big companies are getting behind social media big time.

‘66% of digital marketers surveyed working for companies with an annual turnover of more than £100m agreed that social media is integral to business strategy, while 67% said that social media activity was ‘integral to their marketing mix’ (research from  Econsultancy and Adobe).

Not meaningless strategy talking but figures that show there are real business benefits from social media, and that using social media as an important part of your business sales channel rather than for brand awareness is set to grow too. You can read more on this here.

At the end of the day it’s all about having great ideas that grow you business. It’s about using the power of branding, design and some effective social media tools to generate business and help you grow. It’s all about engagement.

Have the encourage and good sense to find good ideas for your own business and don’t be afraid to find good ideas and even more good sense from the partners and agencies that work with you. You’ll find it’s a very powerful way to grow.

A new approach to new products

There’s nothing a creative designer loves more than to be asked to launch a new product. There’s never really a blank sheet of paper in design, of course, as the product itself normally predates any brief the designer gets. Yet it has been one of the pleasures in my design career to have worked with Dale Sklar, owner of Wine and Spirit International, who has often spoken to me about new products in his portfolio of niche brands even before he’s started to produce them.

The design and marketing campaigns for a new product must also flow from the brand positioning and tone-of-voice that will resonate with the end user, or consumer. The colours, the visual language you create for the new product, grow out of the benefits and unique character of the product itself, its form and function and, in the case of lifestyle drinks products, its taste and flavour.

But then of course you don’t design simply to please yourself, or even to please your client or the brand manager. Your real master is the end user and the customer who will try, test and then hopefully buy the product. Design after all has a function. If a design is beautiful but doesn’t sell then, ultimately, it’s an unsuccessful design.

Colour, typography, photography, style all play a part in the launch of a new product, and then there are the various media channels that you choose to deliver the visual styling, the design that you’ve created. And thankfully I’ve usually been closely involved in choosing and developing the means of delivery for several new brands.

For many Wine and Spirit International products we used trade advertising and promotions, film tie-in and co-branded campaigns, direct mail, viral email campaigns, sponsorship of media events such as the Popbitch summer party, concert and event sponsorship and many more approaches even further outside the more traditional routes to market. These were chosen for their extended reach, and for their value to the individual products and decided by their fit with the positioning of the brand.

However, today it’s an even more exciting time for launching and evolving products into new markets of all kinds. Social and digital media and the web give the creative designer and the brand professional another palette to work with. The opportunity is there to add more depth, meaning and dimension to a brand – to more accurately target users and consumers, on and off-line.

This means new challenges too, but like many designers I see that as another chance to show my creative and design skills and approach new projects with social media delivery at the forefront of my thoughts. And to think the Web 2.0 and social media age is only just beginning. These are exciting times.




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