Creative Collaborators: Tesco and Wolff Olins

As part of a new series examining what makes for a successful creative partnership, we speak to Tesco’s Simon Threadkell and Wolff Olins’ Chris Moody about bringing the brand back to life

Wolff Olins began working with Tesco back in 2014, when then CEO Dave Lewis tasked the agency with putting the supermarket brand back at the heart of British life. It was an enormous job that saw the agency strip back Tesco’s ‘brand architecture’, and create a fresh identity system, as well as signage, store design, typeface, marketing communications and price labels. Most recently, Wolff Olins has created new branding for Tesco Mobile, bringing it more in line with the rest of Tesco’s visual identity.

Simon Threadkell, group marketing director, brand design and customer experience at Tesco, says the Tesco brand was “a bit complicated” back in 2014. He’d already brought together several internal teams – including store design, format development and packaging design – that had previously sat in different groups, to try and create a more coherent overall brand team for the business. Threadkell’s approach was that design and branding wasn’t something to be overlaid onto specific parts of the business; it had to be interwoven throughout everything Tesco was doing. One of the reasons Wolff Olins won the work, says Threadkell, was their innate understanding of this.

“The way in which we tried to answer the brief was a much more ‘joined up’ way of thinking about stuff,” explains Chris Moody, global chief design officer at Wolff Olins. “The brief was interesting because it wasn’t an identity brief, a store design brief or a ‘look at the logo’ brief. It was about how you could use design to tell a better story.”

Threadkell had a headstart on the client-agency relationship, having spent much of his career working at design and brand agencies. He says that his experience being on “both sides of the fence” gave him a clear understanding of how Tesco could get the best out of Wolff Olins, starting with, unsurprisingly, openness and honesty.