Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

Audi advertising: changing the conversation.

Over at Pistonheads, there’s a lovely little dissection of the current state of performance car advertising.

Gone are the days when out-and-out hooliganism could be used to highlight the dynamic virtues of a vehicle, the advertising censors have made it so.

So what does Audi do to sell the sex without the speed?

Put your headphones on, turn up the volume and clap your peepers on this:

Sexy, non?

It’s all there: 4-wheel traction, grumbling V10 engine, full-bore acceleration, rapid-fire gear shifts, screaming V10 engine (oh, the induction noise!), glowing manifolds and flames-freaking-flames on the downshifts.

It’s a brutal, all-out assault, all conducted while standing still.

Full credit to the ad agency: they couldn’t change the rules, so they changed the conversation in a marvellously subversive way.

But I wonder if it’s a little too subversive for its own good. It seems to undermine the very premise of the car itself, the sad reality being that the majority of owners will never experience the performance portrayed with any great regularity.

No matter, I guess. The ad is like the car is like the dream: both sublime and ridiculous.

And all the better for it.



CreativeMornings/London Interviews: Adam Savage of FutureBrand London

We simply couldn’t let August slip by without paying some kind of homage to the London 2012 Olympics.

Fittingly, we managed to secure two fellows who’ve been at the heart of creating the look and feel of this marvellous event.

Matt Buckhurst and Adam Savage, respectively Creative Director and Design Director at FutureBrand London, have led the team responsible for delivering design and branding projects across the Olympic project.

Specific outputs have included the torch relay, the London 2012 festival, the Olympic Park environment and many other projects besides.

We tried to get their answers to our traditional interview but they’re already pitching for their next piece of work. No rest and all that.

Please read our interview with Adam below and join us on August 31st for this very special event with our new partners General Assembly.

Where do you go when you need to concentrate?
A leafy park

Read the rest of this entry »

High flying and flying high


As mentioned in last week’s Cerebral Snacks, we had our 3 month internal review last Friday. This event saw the launch of our values (more news on that front in a future post) as well as the first showing of our new one-page website.

After some of the more serious activities we set to work on transforming specially bought-in plain kites with decorative card and paper, Copydex (oh, yes, nostalgic memories of eating this glue when we were kids caused many animated conversations), neon oil pastels, stick-on eyes, a dash of paint and – of course – the obligatory creative studio essential the Sharpie pen!

After adorning our lovely kites we took them into the shimmering autumn sun in Hyde Park and attempted* to fly them. Here are some images from the event.

*Notice the word ‘attempted’. Due to the cardboard-sculpted ‘body kits’ added to some of the kites (designers, eh!) and a rather sporadic and untrustworthy westerly wind, not everyone managed to free their kites into the Hyde Park air currents.

Petroleum-powered Peccadilloes for Plutocrats


If austerity is all the rage, someone forgot to tell the manufacturers of city runabouts. Aston Martin’s much-maligned £35k Cygnet -based on the humble £10k Toyota iQ- is just starting to hit the streets. It’s also available in an even more exclusive Colette edition.


The amusingly named Fiat Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari has been terrorising residents of Belgravia since late last year at an unamusingly steep £30k.


And the £11k Fiat 500 on which the Tributo is based is now available in a Gucci edition for a £5k premium.


Even Citroen is in on the act with the Orla Kiely-fettled edition of their quasi-premium DS3.

It doesn’t stop there, however.


Having the last laugh -as is so often the case in the Automotive world- are the Germans.

BMW Group brands Rolls Royce and Mini recently had a pash behind the bike shed and produced the Mini Inspired by Goodwood.

What do you get for your £25k premium over a standard £16k Mini? Leather, leather (everywhere), walnut veneers made at the Rolls Royce plant in Goodwood, “deep-shag” carpets and the smug satisfaction that, if you hadn’t worked it out already, you’re one of 1000 willing to pay £41,000 for a Mini.

Downsized luxury is everywhere these days; nary a day goes by when a report crosses my desk telling me that, despite the economic uncertainty, people are still enjoying luxuries, just in smaller portions. Now consumers can do it with their cars. Just don’t expect it to come cheap.


Everything Is a Remix

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Produced by Kirby Ferguson, Everything is a Remix is a great two-part (soon to be three-part) look at how remixing underpins pretty much every facet of our modern culture.

I can still remember the day when, as an undergrad industrial design student, I realised -with the help of a world-weary lecturer- that there was nothing new in the world, just better, smarter ways to mash stuff together.

I felt both dejected at relived; dejected because my ego wanted the salve of original thought. Relieved because design was just like the music I was listening to. Easy, right?

Youthful arrogance knocked out of me, I soon realised that remixing well is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Yet somehow at Sense we do it day in day out.

Like all things, I guess practice makes perfect.

Hat tip to SwissMiss for bringing this to light.

London Mornings Get Creative

Since 2007, creative types in New York have been attending Creative Mornings, an event organised by the effervescent Tina Roth Eisenberg a.k.a. SwissMiss. These free sessions combine an inspiring 20 minute presentation (previous speakers include Milton Glaser and Khoi Vinh) with 20 minutes of conversation over coffee and bagels to kick-start the day.

Drew watched with envy as the concept rolled out to L.A., San Francisco and Zurich and wondered why there wasn’t something like it in London. To put his envy to bed, he made a really dodgy video with Raj and pleaded with Tina to let him be the host of the London chapter.

And so it was.

With the first session kicking off in July (date TBC), we’re really looking forward to welcoming the London creative community to the Sense Worldwide loft for a chat, a coffee and a Bruno’s Bacon Butty.

If you’d like to come along or get involved as a speaker or a helper, please email Drew (drewpasmith at senseworldwide dot com) with CMLDN in the subject line. We’re keen to have the talks move around in London, so if you’d like to offer up your venue, get in touch too!


Exhibition: Reverting to Type

In between the madness of the Christmas/New Year period and jetting off to Detroit for the NAIAS today (that’s North American International Auto Show for the uninitiated) I managed to find time to see a rather lovely little exhibition down Hoxton way.

Being held at the Standpoint Gallery, Reverting to Type is a celebration of the resurgence of letterpress as a printing technique with global collaborations ‘twixt poets, printers and designers on display. Some of the prints will be familiar to those of you who frequent stores like Nelly Hess on Columbia Road of a Sunday but there’s enough new and thoroughly delightful material to keep the letterpress habitué interested. As a bonus, many of the works (in their unframed state) are priced in the “don’t think twice” category.

Reverting to Type
Standpoint Gallery,
45 Coronet St,
London N1 6HD

Grant McCracken on the importance of lunch

You know the feeling well: your stomach starts grumbling, calling you to a fantabulous feast as the sun sails through its zenith. You want to relent and break free for the outside world, happy for the brief respite from your toil that lunch would provide.

But you need three great ideas for selling ice to eskimos for a mid-afternoon meeting. Food would just get in the way.

You push on, wringing the stone that is your brain, looking for the merest hint of saleable blood. None deigns to dribble out. With the deadline looming, you start to get distracted -panicked even- and look for a way out. The rumblings from your stomach, in the mean time, have become so magnificent they could topple Pompey. In a moment of weakness, you decide to seek solace in the arms of a carb and calorie-laden monstrosity.
Bolting out the office door, dodging the gallingly chirpy folk in the the street, you fight your way to your dealer of choice. You frantically scan the menu, searching for that which will comfort you. That which will help you forget that the client’s due in half an hour.
And then it hits you. The first idea. While you’re trying to decide what to eat.

What does lunch do?  It gives the world a chance to supply it’s “metaphoric materials.” Cause that’s what’s happening, isn’t it?  We are working on a problem to do with logistical systems and someone starts talking about the organization of ganglia in the brain and we go, “But of course.  That will do, nicely.  Thank you.”

I blame the Dewey Decimal system.  (And frankly it’s done so much harm in the world, I am pretty sure no one is going to mind me adding one more accusation.)   The DDS clusters like minded things together.  And that’s what we always do when trying to solve a problem.  We cluster the data, theories, methods, colleagues we think we’ll need when in fact we should be invited serendipity into our lives to give us the chance for those metaphoric materials.

So what is this? It’s a call to lunch. More importantly, it’s a call to enjoy lunch to its full extent and to feel free to share it with the rest of us. You never know what might happen.
(Source: Grant McCracken, Harnessing the Innovation Paradox) (Image: Hans S on Flickr)

Paola Antonelli on the future of design

I’ve just flicked through the latest issue of The Economist and found cause for pause when I saw the headline quote “Design takes over…” buried on page 109.

It’s attributed to Paola Antonelli, senior curator of Architecture and Design at MOMA. She goes on to say:
Theoretical designers will be exquisite generalists – a bit like French philosophers, but ready to roll up their sleeves. Applied designers will visualise complex infrastructures and systems so that scientists, policymakers and the general public can influence them…
“This grand new era has already begun. Design is moving centre-stage in the eternal human quest to make beauty out of necessity.”

Heady stuff indeed and, of course, she has a somewhat vested interest in pushing the cause. Still, made me feel all warm and gooey inside about where Sense is sitting on the theoretical/applied continuum.

(image: Drew Smith)

Quick Thoughts: Nissan Juke – suicide (doors) can be good edition

Oh how I love the run-up to motor shows! With Geneva but a matter of weeks away, Nissan has revealed the Juke, a productionised version of the cute Qazana @JoeSimpson and I raved about at Geneva last year. Sadly, the car above is not the Juke. It’s my fantasy Juke, with the suicide doors of the Qazana rightfully reinstated.

Although I moved the shut-line back all of 100mm, the difference (for me at least) is night-and-day, making the wonderful Juke just that little bit more insane by keeping a whole lot more coupé in the mix. It’s a subtle change in appearance – if not in engineering – that I sorely wish we could have seen in the real thing.

At the end of the day, it matters little. I love this little box just fine and, after the slightly awkward second-album-syndrome Cube, the Juke puts Nissan back on top of the small car game.

About DownSideUp Design

I'm Drew Smith and I'm an ethnographer and strategist. By day I shape culture and strategy at Westpac. By night I sleep (mostly). And once a month, I help teams host an event called Rising Minds in London, New York, Toronto and Sydney.

DownsideUpDesign is a place for me to collect stuff that I like, often love and sometimes hate for safe keeping. All views represented here are mine and mine alone and do not represent those of anyone else.

Get in touch at drewpasmith (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet me (@drewpasmith) to rant, contribute or collaborate!

The latest from Twitter

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Want DownsideUpdates sent to your email address? Click here:



© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.