Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

Bentley: The New Sound of A Brand Down the Drain

Shell advertisement from the Festival of Britain featuring a Bentley

In 1951, a Shell advert proclaimed that one went “very fast very gently in a Bentley”.

In that same year, Bentley’s own advertising proclaimed that theirs was “The Silent Sports Car”.

David Ogilvy, in his imperious advert for the ’59 Rolls Royce, went so far as to say that the Bentley alternative was for the diffident.

And even when growing up in the decade that taste largely forgot – the 1980s – Bentley remained the choice of the discreet.

Indeed, all the way up until 2003 a Bentley was a luxuriously appointed ride under the radar.

Then Volkswagen came along and buggered it all up.

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CreativeMornings/London Interviews: Beeker Northam


This month, we’re over the moon to be presenting Beeker Northam, co-founder and head of strategy at Dentsu London.

Currently turning out some amazing work for Greentomatocars, Uniqlo and Nintendo, she’s also had a hand in the geek-love launch of Google Chrome, the mind-blowingly cool Penki iPad light painting app and the Canon Pixma sound sculptures.

In all of her work there’s something delightfully mad scientist going on. Which is fitting, really.

Read on for the usual interview and make sure you get in quick for tickets on Monday November 28th, it’s gonna be a great one.

Beeker Northam will be appearing at CreativeMornings/London on Friday December 2nd at the amazing Kettner’s at 29 Romily St, Soho, W1D 5HP. The even is co-sponsored by Sense Worldwide. For more information and to reserve tickets, please go to the CreativeMornings/London Eventbrite page.


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Strategist ≠ WTF

I come from a design background.

I work across the worlds of communications, branding and business strategy.

It’s pretty easy for people to get confused about what kind of beast I am.

Hell, sometimes -when coffee is conspicuous by its absence- even I get confused.

Thankfully Peter Thomson over at The Economics of Innovation did a vox pops with his strategist mates, helping set everyone straight about just what it is that we do.


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CreativeMornings/London Interviews: Chris Hatherill of super/collider



When I was a kid, the sciences straight-up fascinated me. Early high-school experiments looking at boiling points, the insides of rodents and the creation of artificial flavours and scents meant that science classes were a thrice weekly doorway to enchantment. 

Then it all got a bit complicated. Science was broken down into chemistry, biology and physics and exploration came with too many rules. As my brain coallesced into something more creative-right than linear-left, I found myself left behind.


Then earlier this year I was introduced to the work of super/collider. Here was a collective of scientists, journalists and artists working to rekindle the wonder I felt so many years ago. Taking the best of word, image and object to make the sciences accessible again, they hope to pry us away from the horrors of mass media and get us re-engaged with the whys, hows and whats of the world around us.


Given the above, I’m beyond excited to have Chris Hatherill of super/collider as our guest at CreativeMornings/London on November 4th, hosted by Buro HappoldHappold Consulting and Sense Worldwide.


Take a minute to get to know Chris with our regular interview below and check out super/collider’s luscious site here.


Chris Hatherill will be appearing at CreativeMornings/London on Friday November 4th at Buro Happold at 71 Newman St, W1T 3AH. For more information and to reserve tickets, please go to the CreativeMornings London Eventbrite page.

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.

CreativeMornings London Interviews: Chris Bangle of Chris Bangle Associates


This month sees CreativeMornings London presented by one of the greats of automotive design.

Chris Bangle didn’t just radically alter the way we automotive designers think about package, proportion and surface (the aesthetic and structural skin of the car) and how consumers respond to it. He also masterfully wielded the transformative power of creative thinking in the business context.

In so doing, he helped irrevocably alter the course, aesthetically and strategically, of what was probably the car industry’s most conservative manufacturer, BMW Group.

Upon leaving BMW in 2009 he became the go-to consultant for companies, both automotive and otherwise, wanting to “do a BMW” and set up Chris Bangle Associates to service them. Operating out of an enchanting hill-top estate in the Piemonte region of Italy, he’s currently a creative brains trust for Korean technology giant Samsung. He also continues to push the thinking around future mobility and automotive design with MIT, Scuola Politecnica di Design and the Singaporean Design Council.

Having previously enjoyed Chris holding forth, both over the breakfast table and in front of a theatre of 500, attendees of CreativeMornings London in September are in for a real treat. In the mean time, we’ve presented him with our usual questions to get him (and you) warmed up. You can also read a review of his keynote at Umea University here and see his TED talk here.


Chris Bangle will be appearing at CreativeMornings London on Tuesday September 6th at Buro Happold. For more information and to reserve tickets, please go to the CreativeMornings London Eventbrite page.

Where do you go when you need to concentrate?

In the kitchen, when my wife is not around!  

Is it about what you know or who you know?

Start with WHY you know something, progress thru HOW and WHAT you know. “Who”s pop up now and then at all levels like many enablers.   Read the rest of this entry »

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.


CreativeMornings London Interviews: Sandy Suffield, Creative Director and author of Things&People


I first came across Sandy – not pictured above – during some expert interviews Sense Worldwide conducted for a financial services client. Somebody had tipped us off to the fact that she was writing a blog about the value of the ephemera that we surround ourselves with. After seeing the delightful Things&People with it’s impeccable presentation of people’s stories about their stuff, we just had to get in touch.

Sandy had a lasting impact on our project and I was intrigued to know more about this creative who lists Pentagram, Time Out, Apple and Nokia on her C.V. Over coffee in the Sense Worldwide loft, we spent a couple of hours discussing the ups and downs of a career in Cupertino, the richness of the mundane, stitching paper bags and her upcoming projects. I knew that if CreativeMornings came to London, I’d have to have Sandy on board.

And here we are.

Sandy will be taking over the amazing space at Forward in Camden on August 5th for our second CreativeMornings London. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have her speaking. You can sign up for the event from August 1st at 11:00 here.

But enough from me, it’s time to hand over to Sandy for our CreativeMornings London interview.

Where do you go when you need to concentrate?
My work room but generally hatching ideas and refining them happens anywhere.

Is it about what you know or who you know?
Both. If you only know people there’s no disguising a lack of ability.

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CreativeMornings London Visits: Gelupo

Attention to detail. An insane focus on quality. A passion for authenticity. Gelupo has it all and it’s why we’re so happy to have them as one of our breakfast sponsors for CreativeMornings London. That and the promise of gelato brioche burgers.

Ben and I had the tough job of testing out their wares the other morning and I grabbed some shots of their perfectly formed little store on Archer St in Soho. Swing by next time you’re in the West End. The mint chocolate (made with real mint leaves… insane!) and raspberry come highly recommended.

CreativeMornings London Interviews: Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks




For most graphic designers Michael Johnson needs little introduction. And judging by the response we’ve had to the news that he’ll be the first speaker at CreativeMornings London, demand to hear his story will far outstrip the supply of tickets. But for those who are new to Michael, the work of his award winning agency Johnson Banks or can’t make it along to the Sense Loft on July 8, we’ve asked him a few warm up questions on your behalf.


Where do you go when you need to concentrate?
I seem to concentrate best in either cafés with a very strict time limit, or trains. I have been known to go backwards to go forwards or get a slower train, just to make more time to finish a presentation


Is it about what you know or who you know?
Ha. For years, I hoped the former. Now, I fear the latter…


What’s been the most pivotal point in your life thus far?
Probably leaving the country for several years, it seemed to re-set and re-boot everything. It forced me many times out of my comfort zone, and my eyes were opened to design worldwide, not just the 5 mile radius of London


Do you think there’s enough discourse between disciplines?
No. We’ve had some of our best results from working with others. Collaborate with someone equally expert but from a different field and the project just gets better. Conversely, if you have to work with someone dodgy…


Can you teach innovation?
Perhaps not. But I do think that practising, a lot, doing more not less and being prepared to fail puts you in a much better position for success


Dollar or Yuan?
At the moment, it’s Yuan


Do you believe in an afterlife?
Nope. Get on with your life now, not fret about what’s coming next.


Negative or positive freedom?
I’m not sure I understand the question. Is that the reverse of creative discontent?


Ideal holiday?
Bali, about thirty years ago, before they used the reefs to make the big hotels


Can you draw?
A bit. Not that well, but well enough to explain what I mean, if you see what I mean


Can you draw us a wave?
Only when slightly drunk


Individual or state (or both)?
I’m kind of centre left. Does that answer the question?


Favourite LP?
If we’re doing it by ‘most played’ it would probably be a toss-up between Belly of the Sun by Cassandra Wilson, or Offramp by Pat Metheny. Otherwise, you’d probably have to go for Kind of Blue


Last book read?
33 Revolutions Per Minute by Dorian Lynskey, one of the Guardian’s music writers. Probably the best music book I’ve read since The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross


The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Never apologise about a piece of work in your portfolio. Either take it out, or redo it the way it should be


What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are?
Be prepared to spend your formative years working really, really hard, whilst read everything you can on design, art, architecture and business. Then by your thirties, some break-though projects will be needed to put you or your company on the map. After that, each year you’ll need to keep doing  afew breakthrough projects, whilst staying in business, and attracting or finding new clients. Repeat til fade.
Alternatively, ignore all of the above and do it your way.


CreativeMornings is a monthly speaker series and morning gathering of creative types. Each event includes a 15-20 minute lecture, followed by a 20 minute group discussion. The gathering begins at 8:30am with the topic presentation starting at 9:00am and everyone taking off for work at 10am. CreativeMornings are free of charge and made possible by the marvellous Sense Worldwide, The Sense Loft and Gelupo, our amazing breakfast sponsors.

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!

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© 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.