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Review of the Year: motion design studio ManvsMachine


Emily Gosling

We catch up with ManvsMachine after a year that has seen it deliver some of the most attention grabbing rebranding projects of 2015 and take some massive steps towards its goal of “infiltrating the mainstream.”

It’s been a busy year for ManvsMachine. In May, the agency launched a new website that gave its stunning previous work for the likes of Channel 4’s Film 4 and Nike’s Mercurial Superfly the place to shine they deserved. Then in August, it delivered the dachshund-packed “badly behaved” new branding for ITV2. The project was a delight: not only did it look great, but it was exceptionally complex, featuring a whopping 300,000 iterations of its ident.


Man vs Machine: ITV2

Throughout its history, the agency has made its name working in the space where motion design meets graphic design and branding. Last month, it was announced that this formerly independent agency had been acquired by branding behemoth Landor, part of the WPP family of agencies. Possibly the highlight of the year for the agency though was speaking at our very own Here conference (watch ManvsMachine co-founder Mike Alderson here), but we’re not 100% sure on that. During that talk, we learnt that Mike grew up passionate about skateboarding and football, and ended up studying design having been working as an apprentice welder at the time. He got on the course using someone else’s portfolio, and it seems as though this cheeky, determined approach to problem solving hasn’t been lost in years of working with big clients. ManvsMachine’s approach, according to Mike, is to “infiltrate the mainstream.” He added: “We’ve dedicated ourselves to being creatively fulfilled with commercial briefs.”

Below, Mike reflects on the massive year the company has had and hints at the big things in store for 2016.


Man vs Machine: ITV2


Man vs Machine: ITV2


What was your creative highlight of 2015?

Bagging a D&AD Black Pencil for our Film4 idents. We’re aware that having our name on a shiny black piece of pencil-shaped wood doesn’t actually mean anything, but such achievements definitely generate extra confidence within the studio. This confidence, in turn, is apparent in the work. 

What was your lowlight of 2015?

After four months on air, the Honda ‘Keep Up’ commercial we directed for W+K London was banned by the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) for encouraging “dangerous driving." After being annoyed for five minutes, we read the two (yes, two) farcical complaints and the laughter started. Then it became a positive of sorts, generating a second wave of publicity for the campaign across trade press in both the advertising and automotive industries.

What do you think are the markers of a good year creatively?

When you can’t wait to do it all again next year! And on a more tangible level, when innovative brands like Nike keep coming back with new projects, that’s an ongoing validation of our approach. 

Which piece of work from the last year has been your favourite to work on?

Probably the ITV2 rebrand, for which we created a whole system to enable “badly behaved branding.” ITV creative were great to work with, they enjoyed the intentional dysfunctions of the brand as much as we did.


Man vs Machine: Film 4


Man vs Machine: Film 4

Which piece of work from the last year do you feel has been most significant to your portfolio/career?

That our Film4 work continues to receive so much love and accolades is mind-blowing. It was also really nice to get a couple of good car ads (for Honda and Audi) under our belt in 2015 to show we can mix it with the grown-ups in the automotive sector.

How has your work evolved over the last 12 months?

The team has grown, so there are different individuals contributing to the creative output. We’ve also developed a much keener interest in projects with broader appeal. We find ourselves wondering, “What could we do to make ‘everyday’ brands like Sainsbury’s better?"

What’s been the most important thing you’ve learnt in the last year?

Having come up against a few frustrations in previous years, this year we moved to surmount the limitations of being a boutique design studio. Previously, we were too busy to say yes to all the projects we’d have liked to. Now we have partnered with Landor, the global branding consultancy to give us a strong foundation for the long-term future and a ready-made infrastructure that will allow us to say yes to more great briefs right now.


Man vs Machine: Film 4

Who has been the most influential creative for you in the last year?

A few immediate responses from the studio: James Benning, Carl Kleiner, Assemble, Megaforce, Jon Rafman, Canada and Zlatan Ibrahimovic …presumably for his literary works.

Describe 2015 in five words.

The year we grew up.

What are your hopes for 2016?

We’re in the planning phase for our US office, which will be opening in the new year. So we’ll be making sure we get everything in place to hit the ground running out there, implementing the same ‘no fluff’ approach that we are known for in Europe. 


Man vs Machine: Film 4


Man vs Machine: Film 4

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