CR Readers’ panel

In our first readers’ panel, we ask three CR readers what they think about four new projects – the new Paul Smith Jeans website; the identity for the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage; Diesel’s Be Stupid campaign; and Stuff We Really Like, a self-published book from design studio, Music
Paul Smith Jeans ss 2010 collection

First up, it’s a new website for Paul Smith Jeans designed by Inventive&Co. The aim is to make the Jeans brand more distinct from other PS collections, show the Spring Summer 2010 collection, and appeal to a younger demographic. The site employs feeds from Twitter and Flickr, and various moving image pieces, all of which aim to reflect what the Paul Smith design team is inspired by, or what they’re referencing in the new collection. Inventive&Co. say the site has a deliberate “incongruity” to it and also “unexpected juxta­positions” that help to express the brand and enliven the online experience. What were your first impressions?

John: When I go to a fashion brand site, I hope to either get a sense of brand experience, to find out about a collection, maybe watch a film. Or, I’ll want to find out more about the actual clothes, where the shops are. But both are important.

Kate: You want ‘information’ straight away: who the brand is, what’s available, where you can buy it. Here, they’re really trying to give a new identity to the Jeans brand.

Ollie: I like that there’s a link to the in-house design team. There’s a sense that the things they’re looking at is coming through, via a visual link-up with Flickr. That’s interesting.

Kate: But it’s not particularly clear that there is a connection to the design process. It reminds me of when you have images of other people’s work with your own project in art college.

CR: But what do you think of the attempt to evoke ideas of what the brand stands for, by incorporating different media and information feeds from other sites?

John: I like the idea to have the design and brand extended in this way – but it needs to be clearer, to say that these things are related to the design work. I think it looks good, it has great colours, it looks handmade.

Ollie: In the Paul Smith shops, the collections are surrounded by ‘things’, he’s a real hoarder. And the site has that magpie quality, where you can look around at interesting things. That could be his direction.

But those things in his shops are well curated – this doesn’t work in the same way. This is like a high-end look book.

Ollie: And in that sense it works.

CR: What about the target audience, do you think the inclusion of social media will appeal to them?

Kate: I wonder who the ‘young demographic’ this is targeted at is, as it’s expensive stuff. Would someone much younger visit it? I think the biggest shame is maybe what’s happened to the brand here. There’s a lot of heritage to the brand; the shops themselves are really interestingly designed. The Paul Smith identity is already really strong.

Ollie: Paul Smith is quite a chameleon – he tries not to have a homogenised space in his shops. Each feels very different and he’s trying to do something similar here. It feels very modern but with the colours, the pastels, it still feels like Paul Smith. The photography and the catalogue work well. But I think the video content doesn’t work as well. If you want to go through to a shop section, it’s quite confusing.

John: I think they’ve perhaps thought that they should use social media here – like they had that as a concept.

CR: But what about the feed of images, doesn’t that successfully show a connec­tion to the design process itself?

But why not just host them on your own site? If it’s their own inspi­ration. Maybe that would be clearer.

The first feeling I got was that it’s been made by a designer who is used to print. It’s interesting incorporating Flickr though. But the video is small and the Play buttons, they’re not really buttons.

Ollie: I like the thoughts that are there, having the Flickr feed coming through so it’s constantly updated. If it was more simplistic though, it would be better; the design is maybe a bit too compli­cated for you to take in all the information.

Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
Identity system
johnson banks

Next, a new identity system created for the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in Philadelphia by johnson banks. This is quite a complex brief for an identity system, bringing several existing initiatives together – a fellowship programme, a theatre and dance initiative, for example – to create a unified whole. The new identity resembles a series of ‘cards’ that can be arranged, with the relevant section placed on top. The logo can therefore exist in many different states, working across signage, several animated versions and a website. What did you think?

John: I really like this. Before, the Pew Center had a lot of different elements to it and to merge them like this is great. The colours are simple, but the design can be translated to so many different iterations. It’s a living, moving thing. And if the Center opens a new section, then they can add it on to the logo.

Ollie: It’s such a complex brief and it’s a good solution. Some of the sections maybe get a bit lost in the overlapping colours, or are a little hard to read but it works well. And the sign made in metal looks really good.

John: Yes and when the identity is animated all the elements can move and merge and overlap. Each element of the Center can then expand to become more prominent.

Ollie: The individual ones look great.

CR: Do you think the identity works well in print as well as on screen? They’ve cleary had to think about it working across platforms.

Kate: I think it looks best on screen as a moving device. The ‘physicality’ of it is really appropriate: as an arts centre, I imagine it’s constantly moving. So the identity reflects that. 

Ollie: Also, you have to think about what works within the Center itself, like the colours representing different areas like dance or music.

Kate: Yes, if it’s not used for signage, then it should be. I don’t know if I’d want a tattoo of the logo on my arm, like they had at the launch party, but the people of Philadelphia must be really proud of the work.

Diesel: Be Stupid campaign
Posters and website

The new Diesel campaign, Be Stupid, proved to be very divisive on the CR Blog. It’s by Anomaly and features posters of people, essentially, being stupid: going for a ‘heart’ rather than ‘head’ attitude to living, where ‘smart’ is seen as stuffy and risk-averse. Some bloggers suggested it was a continuation of the classic Diesel campaigns of old, others that it just perpetu­ates the idea of dumbing down. What did you think of this celebration of stupidity?

Ollie: Diesel’s heritage is with the KesselsKramer agency and that’s what this campaign feels like. They used to create these silly ideas and then photograph them – like having groups protesting about the most stupid things. I don’t mind that the message is fun at all; when it’s grey and freezing it makes you smile as you walk past it. Also, it’s not too serious, which is good for a fashion brand.

Kate: As a consumer I don’t know if it works. What’s the relevance? I wasn’t sure what Be Stupid was implying: be stupid and buy Diesel jeans?

Ollie: It’s the idea of never thinking that you’re wrong; you have to let these ideas out, then you can do great stuff.

John: It’s spontaneity. The first one I saw was really funny: a girl sitting backwards on a guy’s shoulders, with eyes on her bum. But some are more contrived, they’re not ‘pure’ acts of being stupid. I like the feeling of the pictures, they have an old-school 80s feel to them.

Kate: Actually, I think the photography is pretty awful.

Ollie: There’s not enough of a handmade, spontaneous aesthetic to it. Maybe if they were shot more off-angle or something? They’re not ‘realistic’ enough, in that sense.

John: They look like the kind of things that they would ‘hope’ that people email to friends.

Kate: Yes, it’s very orchestrated.

Ollie: They’re looking to encourage people to make ‘heart’ decisions, not ‘head’ ones, sensible ones.

Kate: I think the problem is the word ‘stupid’. It’s too simplistic. I associate it with people just being idiots. I wouldn’t think, ‘I’ll be braver today, I’ll take some risks’. That wasn’t clear. The Diesel brand is really strong, it looks and feels like Diesel, but I’m not sure of the message.

CR: Is celebrating stupidity just a joke here, or is the implication in the message something that we should take more seriously?

Kate: They’ve got so much power with a campaign like this, they’re a massive company and so there’s a responsibility to consider.

Ollie: They’re trying to get people to ‘break free’. Perhaps ‘stupid’ doesn’t necessarily convey that, for people to do something outside of their comfort zone. But from the client side, it’s quite a brave thing for Diesel to do. I mean, who else could you sell that idea to? It’s true to the heritage.

Kate: Diesel’s ecologically-styled campaign was like that – ‘embracing the coming problems’. But remember the Wrangler We Are Animals ads with Ryan McGinley’s amazing photo­graphy? It’s a shame that this Diesel campaign wasn’t slightly better honed.

Ollie: The problem is that it’s stuck in the middle. It needs to shift to either have ‘you-and-your-mates-taking-a- picture’ type shots, which would have a rough and ready feel, or it all needs to be much more polished.

Stuff We Really Like
Self-promotional book

The final project is from design studio Music in Manchester. It’s their own 785 page book, Stuff We Really Like, based on a list that they began on their website. It’s a self-promotional project but, unusually, doesn’t contain any of their own design work, instead implying more about the studio’s attitudes and interests. What’s your initial reaction to such a sizeable tome which, to look at, must have been quite an investment?

John: It’s a great object and it’s well made. When a lot of the things that we like to look at are on our laptops, you really appreciate getting a book.

Ollie: ‘The Chupa Chups logo was designed by Salvador Dali’, it says here! That for me is worth all the work. It’s such a random collection.
kate: I would buy it. But I wonder how much work the studio will get off the back of it.

John: It’s a bit like a blog, but the fact that it’s a printed thing means it’s ‘complete’ – so it can’t change and be updated like an online list.

Ollie: I think this can exist because it’s historical. Blogs at the moment are very much about looking at the ‘now’, or what’s happening in the future. But this looks at much more than that.

Kate: And with blogs, how far do you ever go back through them?
With a book like this you can go back through someone’s life and see all the things they’ve been interested in.

Ollie: A physical reference like this allows you to keep a record of things. Websites are bookmarked, you have favourites, but that’s so fragile.

CR: Music’s business cards are actually cut from vinyl records so it’s clear that self-promotion is important to the studio. It can be very time consuming, not to say costly, but does this kind of work pay off in the end?

John: Yes, it’s really important – you have to keep it up. It’s a per­sonal open brief and you should definitely do it.

Ollie: Me and my creative partners’ site, Here’s What You Could Have Won, is something we set up for the ideas that we didn’t get to do with clients. But there’s so much media to contend with now; you have to be on Twitter, you have to update a blog. Yet it can turn companies around. Mark Denton of COY! Communications recently made some rubber bricks to attach self promotional materials to before sending them out. You need the money to be able to do these things, but it’s a really good investment.

Kate: Yes, even a business card can make a great statement about you


The panel
This month our readers’ panel consists of (from left to right) Kate Newbold-Higginson, director of Print Club London (printclub; Ollie Wolf, a creative/copy­writer at agency DHM (; and John-Patrick Racle, design director at Glue London (,


Future CR readers’ panels will be announced via the blog



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