Finding a tone of voice with Collins and Loulou João
Two distinguished creative voices took to the stage at August’s Nicer Tuesdays to discuss their industry-leading work.
Earlier this week at August’s Nicer Tuesdays we welcomed illustrator and animator Loulou João as well as the award-winning design studio Collins to the online stage. We invited the coveted speakers to discuss how they respectively find a unique tone of voice in the creative industry. In this special extended version of the event which hosted an extra long Q&A with the New York-based creative agency Collins, we sat back and relaxed on the last Tuesday of the month to find out how Loulou and Collins craft that idiosyncratic tone of voice which sets their work apart from others in the biz.
Over the course of the evening, we touched on issues of cultural identity, toy design, Blender-created 3D worlds, brand identities, typography, and much more. Kicking off the evening with the Belgium-based Loulou, we then made our way over to New York where we caught up with Collins who chatted about some of its most impressive projects to date: Sweetgreen, Medium and Crane. Dig in below to find out why Loulou tends to abuse cuteness from time to time, and why Collins calls itself “category agnostic”.
Collins: Crane (Copyright © Collins, 2021)
Copyright © Loulou João, 2021
Welcome to the immersive 3D Focketverse created by Loulou João
As Loulou João kicked off her Nicer Tuesdays talk, we knew we were in for a treat. She introduced us to her central protagonist Miss Focket and the Focketverse, a highly imaginative universe where you can pretty much guess what the underlying attitude is. The inspiration behind this ongoing series started out when the animator was a young girl. As a child, it was near impossible for the young artist to unbox a doll and find anything other than a skinny blonde white girl inside. The image remains to be a crucial representation for Loulou, who uses the image of unboxing toys and their saccharine childlike visuals, to critique aspects of the homogenous world and how it is upheld.
Working in a 3D space wholly using Blender to achieve her wonderful visions, Loulou told the audience: “I feel I can immerse myself on a level that nothing else has before.” Taking us through her career to date (which didn’t always look like the bubblegum-coloured characters that we see today) Loulou highlighted the beauty of using 3D as you can create a transportive new world. At one point, she described this aesthetic as coming “back to my inner child and making a safe space that I perhaps didn’t have” growing up.
Referencing Bratz, Polly Pockets, Barbie, hyper feminine furnishings, as well as pink and fluffy decors and so on, Loulou took us through specific project highlights which help make up the spectacular Fockitverse. To top off her insightful talk, Loulou told us how she regularly collaborates with her husband on these digital delights, how she learnt everything she does from YouTube, how she has Julian Glander to thank for many of her contacts, and importantly, how she got her first commission.
Copyright © Loulou João, 2021
Copyright © Loulou João, 2021
“We try to look within to find the answer, instead of looking to external sources”: Collins on its design ethos
There’s a famous quote by Collins’ founder Brian Collins, it goes like this: “Design is not what we make, it’s what we make possible.” This is something that’s often stuck in the head of Nick Ace, creative director at the award-winning branding agency. Headlining the event, we sat down with Nick as well as creative director George Lavender and senior designer Sanuk Kim; diving into some Collins’ best-known projects to date. In their Q&A which traversed around the world from the UK to the US, the team shed light on how the branding agency tries to execute design in new and surprising ways: by thinking about real life consequences through design, bring new perspectives and push a visual language as a whole.
Discussing the relationship between client and designer and how Collins feels “successful when a client’s voice meets their vision,” the creatives detailed how Collins likes to align with the visual tone of voice, finding a middle ground with clients. Along the way, they discussed how collaboration is key – working with specialist designers to achieve a new outcome as opposed to asking designers to emulate a certain style or aesthetic. “Our work has gotten stronger and more diverse and original because we have someone from Thailand collaborating or someone from Warsaw or Sao Paolo or Alaska, bringing these unlikely collisions of minds together.”
Sanuk, George and Nick referenced particular projects throughout the talk. Having worked closely on all the projects, the speakers explained how Crane was a dream project for designers as “any designer out of school wants to work with printed matter”. Mentioning how the details made this particular identity come to life, the designers looked back on the history of the paper company (and its 250-year-old archive) to inform the identity. As a brand of paper that was used by the likes of Alexander Hamilton, Andy Warhol and Queen Elizabeth (for scone recipes) Nick told us how the brand aims to create visual provocations, using its history to shape the future.
The three speakers also discussed Sweetgreen and Medium; two highly distinct projects which cemented a special place in the agency’s history for different reasons including a nationwide roll out and a ubiquitous branding project respectively. “There can be multiple sides to any given story,” George said of Medium’s branding which was executed across a range of media, shapes and sizes. And to round up the talk, the three designers answered questions on how they individually work with type, what their favourite projects have been, and interestingly, how Collins hires creative talent (a slide into the DMs has gone a long way in the past). Rounding off this foray into Collins’ creative philosophy and what makes it so successful, the designers also shouted out to the team behind the scenes that we, as design lovers, don’t often get to see – the business managers, the finance department and the admin staff. A true testament of a good team.
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