From the archives II: The Industry

In Stefan Sagmeister’s brilliant Made You Look, he makes a point of showcasing projects that would not usually be curated in a definitive body of work. It’s a refreshingly honest approach, and one which provides perhaps even more inspiration than revisiting his better-known pieces.

It is with this in mind that we delve into the archives to unearth another book design project that never came to fruition (which is actually very common, you just don’t read about it much). Back in 2011, we were commissioned to design a series of covers for a new ‘teen thriller’ series to rival the likes of The Hunger Games. The publisher was very keen to create a series design that would really stand out from other books in the genre, with covers that would be iconic and exciting, and convey a sense of the stories without descending into cliché.

We were supplied with three working titles, plus a draft of the first novel, called The Industry (published in 2012 with a cover designed in-house).

In a nutshell, the series is about a suburban girl who inadvertently cracks a digital code that she’s not supposed to, which leads to a tale of kidnapping and international espionage.

Below is a small selection of the directions we explored while trying to crack our own code—what would resonate with the publisher, the author and the market, whilst still honouring the initial brief. It’s safe to say that although we were specifically asked to ‘push the boat out’, we might have strayed a little too far from the commercial shore this time. Even so, it was a good exercise in pushing expectations about what works in this genre. And if we broadened even one person’s horizons in the process, it was worth it.

Our first (and probably best) idea. Sometimes the simplest approach tells the deepest story.
Digging deeper (or around) the idea of secret codes, these covers display the information in both
english and morse code.
One of our more ‘conceptual’ ideas—the morse code is now represented with a series of die-cuts (holes in the cover)
which reveal glimpses of the title and author name on the title page inside.
The code in the story was a type of ‘key’, so this has been hinted at in a more literal way.
The combination of simple iconic graphics and metallic ink covers made this our most sophisticated offering.
Just in case high sophistication didn’t resonate, here’s a slightly more commercial take.
Another key aspect to the story is movement—each book was to take place in a different location.
The descriptions of the places themselves were to be appropriately vague, so these covers try to convey a general
‘sense of place’, of somewhere you’d rather not be.
These covers take the ‘sense of place’ concept more literally—visualising what the main character might have
physically felt underfoot at the various locations she was held.

Disrupting evolution

When CSIRO needed to engage staff in an upcoming merger between two divisions, they called on Primed to help facilitate the process. As Primed’s strategic partner, we were called on to create a suite of materials to convey this message in a positive and empowering way. Oh, and whatever we produced also needed to work as a public-facing campaign as well. Potentially a difficult task!

As we all know, knowledge is power. So what better way to help staff (and the general public) feel in control than by equipping them with the full story—not just relating to the merger and what it would mean for them, but going back—way back—to where it all began.

The resulting narrative, based around the notion of ‘disruptive technologies’, mapped the history of CSIRO—from humble beginnings to a world-leading scientific institution that continues to shape the way we live. Built around solid facts and statistics (something close to CSIRO’s heart), the animation we developed took viewers on a ride through time, illustrating how CSIRO has continued to evolve technology through disrupting the norm—thereby creating new norms. This macro view of how ‘disruption’ has been at the core of CSIRO’s ethos from the outset provided a natural segue to a more internal focus, looking at how disrupting internally (in this case by merging two divisions into a single new division) was equally core to the ongoing evolution of this great institution. This took the form of a printed graphic frieze, taking the story into the future and placing it firmly in the hands of the people involved.

The results speak for themselves—the unveiling of the animation (played to a room full of hard-core scientific and computer engineers) was met with a standing ovation. You can’t ask for much more of a positive or empowering experience than that.

Whilst the animation (top) focussed on a macro story, the accompanying print piece took the view closer, to the
internal decision-making process behind the creation of a new division. In this way, both the staff and the general
public were able to be informed and engaged with the process in ways that were specifically tailored to them.

Introducing GSMate

We’ve already showcased An Honest Day’s Work here, a bespoke publication created for BJ Ball Papers specifically for Australian designers. As popular as AHDW was, late last year it was decided that due to tightening of various belts, we needed to say goodbye. But not completely...

Across the ditch, for a little while now BJ Ball has been publishing a magazine about paper and printing called GSM. To the uninitiated, GSM means ‘grams per square metre’ and is a term used in the print world to identify paper thickness (so it’s not just a clever name!). The magazine has been well-received in New Zealand, but the reception hasn’t been quite as warm here. This could partly be attributed to the larger and less connected nature of the design industry here, but also the editorial tone of voice, which tries—but doesn’t fully succeed—in sounding like a bonafide Aussie. Interestingly, this demonstrates that even though Australians and New Zealanders have a lot of things in common, our informal vernacular isn’t one of them.

So it was decided that in order to give GSM a better chance here, it needed its own distinctly Australian counterpart that not only reminded readers of what they could find inside the print publication, but also retained the broader editorial elements and tone of voice that made An Honest Day’s Work so popular to begin with. While it was a shame to say goodbye to a faithful companion, it’s a pleasure to now bring GSMate to designers all over this wide Pantone® 153C land.

GSMate is a successful hybrid of the parent magazine, and the best bits of its predecessor An Honest Day’s Work.

Primed for culture change

During the process of many of the publication redesign projects we’ve undertaken, it’s become obvious that the single-most influencing factor deciding whether the result was successful or not is the client’s willingness—and ability—to embrace change. And not just in a design sense, but in a whole business sense as well.

Primed is an organisation specialising in large-scale culture-change management, who use a process of ‘educational drama’ (a combination of acting, facilitating, filming, coaching, designing, visualising and most other ‘ings’) to enable people on both sides of change—instigating and receiving—to experience the best possible outcomes.

As Primed’s ‘strategic partner’, we regularly bring their varied programs to life, using a combination of storytelling, information design and multimedia. The briefs range from creating the look and feel of an entire event, to forming the underlying narrative which captures the essence of the message being conveyed, to developing quirky and surprising ‘takeaway’ items for event delegates, to designing materials for ongoing internal use. Clients have included Telstra, PepsiCo, NSW Maritime, Mission Australia, The University of newcastle and The University of Technology, Sydney.

We thoroughly enjoy our ongoing relationship with Primed. It’s a rare privilege to work on projects which are consistently challenging and surprising—not just for our clients, but for us as well.

This ‘organisational flowchart’ created for The University of Newcastle maps the (somewhat farcical)
process of changing a lightbulb—illustrating the pitfalls of bureaucratic management styles.
Many of our print pieces work in tandem with bespoke animations (see below).

We designed a chart displaying a series of ‘signal flags’ for NSW Maritime, demonstrating the desired
attitudes towards significant impending structural changes. The chart was laminated and attached to a
rope tie—so there’d be no risk of the message being lost at sea.
Our first collaboration with Primed was for a highly topical conference on water sustainability in Perth.
Creating this ‘Wet Australian’ tabloid in the style of the region’s biggest paper was the natural solution, not least
because we’d just helped redesign the real one. As well as designing this piece, we wrote all the articles as well—
a veritable feast of poo jokes and bad puns, and up to that point, a personal career highlight. 

Pactimo Artist Series

Here at Design & Opinion, we highly value any time spent in the great outdoors. So naturally, we were thrilled when Colorado-based cycling apparel makers Pactimo approached us to be part of their Artist Series team. The fact that bicycles are a fairly foreign mode of transport around our studio (the preferred mode being, of course, the surfboard) was actually one reason we were approached — Pactimo was after a different take on the traditional cycling kit style and wanted to see what an antipodean surfer mentality could bring to the medium.

The outcome has been a highly enjoyable ongoing collaboration resulting in some seriously nifty pieces of cycling gear (at least, in our opinion). The only downside is we’ll probably never find a good enough excuse to wear them.

Women’s Geometric kit in action — no, that’s not Katherine riding the bicycle.

Men’s Roundel and Wheels jerseys, also available as bibs (for cyclists, not babies). 
Women’s Geometric jersey, and the no-longer available Surf design.
You need to get in quick to score Artist Series gear — it’s all strictly limited edition.


Sometimes a project is presented to you with such passion that you can’t help but grow attached. When we were approached to design the launch edition of Harvest Magazine, our client’s zeal for this self-funded publication was infectious. The basic premise of Harvest is to showcase and encourage participation in overseas mission work — something close to both our hearts — so we were a great fit.

With an original look and feel created by Soo Coughlan, we were approached to craft a complete mocked-up iPad app, translating what began as a print design to something that would work on a touch screen. The process not only involved re-engineering the building blocks of the master brand (including designing and illustrating each individual page element), but creating a user experience that would appear so natural and intuitive it became almost invisible.

The result is a magazine app that is thoughtful and sincere, but highly engaging. To date the launch edition has been extremely well-received, and has set the wheels in motion for what will hopefully become a self-sufficient, regular publication in screen and print formats. We’re proud of the part we’ve played in bringing this publication to an audience of passionate people (but perhaps none as passionate as our client).

Individual text elements act as direct links to the stories inside.

The content of the launch edition is varied — from regularly-updated community pages, to personal stories
about overseas mission experiences, to in-depth commentary on specific theological issues.

Some of the screens are designed as continuous ‘rolls’, while others are designed to use a ‘controlled swipe’ —
creating the illusion of a traditional magazine, but with the smoothness and functionality of a truly digital one.

Harvest includes a ‘just for kids’ section with videos, simple lessons and interactive activities.

It's all about the experience

As well as running large-scale projects from start to finish, we often collaborate with other creative teams to help bring a process to life. A little while ago we worked on a number of such assignments with UX experts (should that be uxperts?) Meld Studios, to essentially put the final skin on their bodies of work. The projects we worked on involved visualising complex research, strategic planning, corporate structure and experiential framework, for national and multinational companies in transport, education, property and finance. In plain english that means Meld did an awful lot of research, strategy and planning, and we got to do all the fun stuff — creating mega-graphics, magazines and app interfaces.

As much as we’d like to feature each of these projects on its own, the confidential nature of most of them means we can only share a little peep through the keyhole. If you'd like to find out more about how we collaborate on projects like these, drop us a line via the contact form on the right-hand side of this page.

A small selection of the ‘skins’ we created for Meld’s impressive bodies of work.

House With No Steps

House With No Steps is a not-for-profit organisation that provides employment opportunities for the disabled. Over the last few years we’ve worked with Twolanes Creative on the HWNS annual review and developing a visual language for general use. For the 2012 review (their 50th anniversary), we created some bespoke typography which, after a renewed examination of their overall strategy, is now central to House With No Steps’ brand. Consequently we’ve been supplying typographic illustration for a range of applications including signage, print & web graphics and short films. The first of these (beautifully shot by Screencraft) is a moving and uplifting portrait of a typical relationship between HWNS and their clients. You can watch it here.

The 2012 Annual Review included short-cut pages featuring individual stories, interspersed throughout the review.
Bespoke typography has so far been created for signage, the HWNS website, printed materials and short films.


ChandlerWoods is an executive search firm who was in need of some new communication tools. We were approached primarily to write an email-able company profile that would be engaging, memorable and adopt the sort of tone that reflected the people behind the words, as opposed to generic corporate-speak. Essentially functioning as a ‘cold-call’ document, it was important that the profile convey the best first impression possible—so as well as developing the story framework (and then of course writing it), we gave it a new set of clothes too. We think the end result not only talks the talk, but looks great as well.

A memorable opening—who doesn’t love a lightbulb joke?
In writing the closing remarks for the back ‘cover’, we inadvertently created a new vision statement for the firm.

An (extra-special) Honest Day's Work

Graphic designers can be seen as a pretty pretentious bunch—abounding in double-shot soy lattes, swanky gallery openings, skinny designer jeans and ironic tee shirts sporting witty (yet highly aesthetic) typographic in-jokes. But in reality, most graphic designers are hard working, computer-tanned, RSI-inflicted souls who just want to make the world a better place—or at the very least, make it look better.

Some of the people who help designers achieve this dream are the paper merchants who work equally hard at ensuring printed products come to life in the best possible way. One such company is BJ Ball. For a while we’ve been helping them champion the idea of ‘an honest day’s work’ through a designer newsletter. So when they were given the opportunity to promote themselves in the upcoming edition of Justus magazine (well-known among Australian designers), they approached us to help introduce their sales reps more directly to the design community at large. We decided it was time to turn the spotlight around, and find out just what an honest day’s work for someone in paper sales actually involves. The results are entertaining and revealing in equal measure, and we think sum up exactly what life in the graphic design industry is like—regardless of which facet you inhabit.

The opening double-gatefold spread. For the uninitiated, this means it opens out from the centre to reveal an extra-wide spread inside.
To take advantage of the super-wide format, we developed a timeline tracking each sales rep’s movements
from the time they woke up, until they hit the sack (or at least, should have).

10 things I've learned about being a designer

As part of their 2013 Design Forums, the University of South Australia invited Katherine to speak to their graphic design students about ‘the real world’, and hopefully impart some valuable lessons about life as a practising designer. It’s difficult to sum up an entire career in two hours, but the ten lessons below are about as good an attempt as any.

An Honest Day's Work

Originally founded in New Zealand, BJ Ball is Australia’s oldest paper merchant. However, despite their long history they were still relatively unknown in the Australian graphic design community, which is a marketplace already over-saturated with eager paper providers. We were asked to help them break through the noise by approaching designers on their level while at the same time reflecting the values of BJ Ball as providing honest, work-horse papers. An Honest Day’s Work was born: a bi-monthly print and email newsletter written and designed by designers, for designers. Each edition features a poster from a different design studio responding to the question “what does an honest day’s work mean to you?” which will eventually form an exhibition bringing together the best of the the Australian graphic design community to celebrate an honest day’s work (yes, we do fall into that category!).

Print newsletter (left) and studio poster (right). This poster was contributed by us.
Visual elements (including the masthead) are lovingly hand-crafted for each edition

Love to Play

Ukubebe Music is, as the name suggests, a music-based education program designed specifically for children introducing them to the joys of music making — through song, dance and of course playing musical instruments (including ukulele). Ukubebe founder Joanne Steel is one of the most enthusiastic people you're ever likely to meet and it's her mixture of musical passion and pride that inspired this branding program including an identity, website, photographic art direction and printed collateral.

Website homepage
The kids in action (our studio assistant is at the top right)

ARV Shine

ARV is one of Australia’s largest providers of aged care, and with the population in general getting older there’s more demand for their services than ever. Their flagship publication ARV Shine presents a mix of ARV’s involvement in the community, a showcase of their properties and services, and a broader look at both issues and opportunities for senior Australians. The content is designed in an easy-to-read (but not boring) way, with deliberate choices in typefaces, colour combinations and imagery that give readers a bonafide magazine experience without being patronising. In particular, the absence of generic ‘dynamic senior lifestyle’ stock imagery helps create a magazine that is truly refreshing in this market, which along with thought-provoking content, really Shines.

Using ‘conceptual’ rather than literal imagery for the cover steers this away from cliché. Portraits are intimate
and warm, and are given prominence—the residents are celebrated
Sometimes an infographic tells a story the best
Feature stories focus on wider topics of interest, but with relevance to ARV

The value of Creative Thinking

As well as lecturing at various tertiary institutions around Australia, Katherine also delivers keynote addresses for a range of clients. One of these, BusinessWriters & Design, approached Katherine to speak at their 2012 staff and client conference, which was themed around the value of Creative Thinking. There are almost as many definitions of what Creative Thinking is as there are practitioners, so Katherine took a design approach to the topic, demonstrating how Creative Thinkers can take a written or designed solution to new levels, and how information design can not only be used to tell stories in an effective and memorable way, but can also give credibility (actual and perceived) to a business case.

It really does... ask us how
Arresting visuals—much more effective than a PowerPoint presentation

New (Zealand) Herald

After a successful redesign of The Weekend Herald—APN New Zealand’s flagship publication and the widest-read newspaper in the country—we were approached in early 2012 to work with them again, this time to help re-imagine their weekday paper. The broadsheet daily was moving to a tabloid format (that doesn’t mean more celebrity gossip, just a smaller size) and they wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible—not only for the new format, but for newspapers in general. We created two directions to ‘bookend’ a series of four options that were presented to market research. Our first direction took a more traditional approach, bringing the Weekday in line with the Weekend paper, and the second direction (which we named the Paradigm Shift) questioned every part of the newspaper—from a cover that functioned as a collectible poster, to working with advertisers on new approaches that would in turn offset the cost of innovations in writing, photography, design and print techniques. In the end the finished product took more of a middle-ground approach, but everyone involved was truly invigorated by the process.

Traditional direction—page one and sport front (back page)
Traditional direction—internal page samples
Paradigm Shift—news/world/business sections form one lift-out book, and sport/life/everything else form another
Paradigm Shift—internal pages, utilising QR codes and a single typeface (Publico) for all elements
Paradigm Shift—‘news wrap’ collectible posters that wrap around the bound news and sport books

A trip down Storybook Lane

Adam & Naomi Fiegl are a husband-and-wife photographic duo who capture intimate family moments and turn them into lifelong family treasures, by featuring them alongside beautifully-crafted children's stories. We were approached to help bring their vision for this series of bespoke storybooks to life. As well as lettering each story by hand, we also consulted on the stories themselves, and the best way to manage the production of each book. The result is a tender yet whimsical collection of poetry and prose that would do any family proud.

All typography is hand-crafted and put together manually
Simple, colourful graphic elements complement thoughtful photography

From the archives I: Concepts from A–Z

Often our best work never sees the light of day—a lot of what we do is initial concept work, which sometimes never makes it past that stage. Oxford University Press approached us to create concepts for their Australian Dictionary and Thesaurus series, which was to undergo a major redesign. A dozen or so agencies were commissioned to produce concepts which were then narrowed down to a small handful, ours being one of them. Unfortunately none of the shortlisted concepts ever went further—the publishers instead opting to incrementally evolve the existing series in-house until they're ready for that big leap into the unknown. We had a ball designing these covers, so if they never make it to the book shelf, at least they made it here.

A range of visual directions based on a single title, a number of rounds into the process
We ended up refining two directions—this one is called Glyphs and uses super-sized letterforms for the
different dictionary titles (e.g. Pocket, Regular, Mini), special characters for Thesaurus/Integrated Thesaurus
and playful typefaces for Secondary and Primary School editions
The other direction we refined was The Big O (also in homage to the late, great Roy Orbison)
which takes the O from the Oxford logo and places it front-and-centre as the hero of every cover.
Changing the colourway outside the O indicates a different title in the Dictionary series,
whilst changing the colour inside the O indicates a different series (eg Thesaurus)

Bringing Asia together

Global Asia is a quarterly journal published by the Seoul-based East Asia Foundation, who believe that economic prosperity and trust between nations can be used to promote peace—not only on the Korean Peninsula, but around the region and the world. Article authors include former presidents, high-ranking government ministers and global thought leaders. With stories that aren't afraid to ‘say it like it is’, the journal’s design aesthetic needed to be equally straightforward and engaging. The lack of any real design budget also necessitated thinking creatively about how to illustrate stories with minimum fuss, but maximum effect—which is an apt summary of the overall design ethos.

As is the case with many publication design projects, what starts out as a one-off engagement often becomes an ongoing relationship. In the case of Global Asia, we continued to work closely with managing editor David Plott (who was also instrumental in the creation of The Jakarta Globe newspaper—another project we were involved with), art directing, designing and illustrating the first dozen issues before an appropriate local designer was found.

A unique aspect of the process was the cross-cultural team—with an editor based in Thailand, publisher in Korea, printer in Hong Kong and art director in Australia (not to mention writers from around the globe), there was a lot of cultural paradigm shifting. And we like to think that’s what Global Asia is continuing to do.

Each cover’s illustration was lovingly hand-crafted, bringing each edition’s theme to life in the most engaging way.

No illustration was used lightly—if it didn’t tell a relevant story, we didn’t include it. In many cases the illustrations
also doubled as infographics—not only illustrating the written content, but enriching it as well.

Occasionally there would be opportunity to include photography or a more in-depth illustration or infographic,
which we always jumped at.