DESIGN AND BRANDING: DESIGN INSPIRATION - The solutions are different but the communication problems are identical. And, Adrian Holmes says, design classics can only stimulate advertising excellence

Take it from me, choosing fifty of your favourite design items is a relative doddle. Narrowing your shortlist down to a mere four is frankly agonising.

Take it from me, choosing fifty of your favourite design items is a

relative doddle. Narrowing your shortlist down to a mere four is frankly


But in the process, one becomes all the more aware of the huge common

territory shared by advertising and design. Our end solutions may be

very different, but our communication problems are virtually


Eavesdrop on any design studio or creative department and you’ll hear

the same questions being asked. Can we make this simpler? Does the

consumer know what to do with this? Have we made it look appealing? Can

we make it cheaper? Does it contain an idea?

In the end, designers can and do immeasurably enrich advertising, just

as advertising agencies could and should bring a consumer perspective to


This is a theme that next year’s D&AD president, Richard Seymour,

intends to promote vigorously. As a gifted designer who’s also spent

several years in advertising, he is uniquely qualified for the task. I

hope he succeeds.

The air of mutual sniffiness that occasionally surfaces between our two

constituencies does nothing for the industry cause as a whole.

Adrian Holmes is chairman of the Lowe Group


Maybe you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but here’s an

architect who managed to make a florist out of a public toilet. I think

the Westbourne Grove loo is my favourite modern building in London,

precisely because it fulfils its modest ambitions with such unexpected

wit and flair. I particularly admire the way that Piers Gough of CZWG

took all the project constraints (the cramped, odd-shaped site, a

reputedly tiny budget, tricky local council regulations) and turned them

to such splendid advantage. Compare please with a ten-second commercial,

nil production money and the BACC breathing down your neck.


Although a copywriter by trade, I’ll own up to a secret designing

impulse when the mood takes me. One idle fantasy of mine is to write a

radio play, then design a radio set, then sit there smugly listening to

one being broadcast on the other. My hero set of all time has to be the

legendary Ekco AD 65 of 1932. Designed by the architect, Wells Coates,

it broke free of the staid, square-wooden-box conventions of the era by

exploiting the mouldable properties of the then new Bakelite material.

Frankly, I could gaze upon its concentric loveliness forever - but that

would be to overlook the AD 65’s brilliant functional simplicity. It

takes a genius to make something any idiot can use.


So often in advertising, we’re faced with the task of taking a lot of

complicated information and reducing it down to the clearest, most

palatable form possible. As an example of this from the world of graphic

design, I’d unhesitatingly nominate the London Tube Map. Harry Beck’s

original 1931 concept was based on a single liberating insight: this map

wasn’t about location or distance, but simply a guide to how places

connect with each other. As a result, the map takes outrageous

geographical liberties, but who cares when all you want to know is where

to change for Arnos Grove?

It’s an exquisite alliance of design and typography, and probably the

only example of London Underground not telling its passengers to get



Ah, what could be more quintessentially English than the Aga? Well,

quite a few things as it turns out. Its inventor, Dr Gustaf Dalen, was

actually Swedish. Ten years before designing the Aga, he was blinded in

a laboratory explosion.

Thinking about it, the Aga - with all its knobs, ridges and protrusions

- is a form of braille cooker, and perhaps that’s what makes it so

instinctive and tactile to use. Dalen based his 1922 original on one

innovative piece of thinking: efficient insulation meant you never had

to turn the cooker off, or wait for it to warm up. Once you’ve used an

Aga, they say you never go back. But I’ll have mine in the original

cream, please.