Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

CreativeMornings/London Interviews: Rory Sutherland

To attempt an introduction to Rory Sutherland is to risk seriously underwhelming his legion of followers, not to mention the man himself.

So in the interests of avoiding disappointment, we’ll keep it brief.

Testament to the fact that being written off as a crap graduate is no barrier to stellar success, Rory’s contribution to the world of advertising and its move into the digital space is the stuff of global renown.

Currently vice-chariman of Ogilvy UK, he’s as fervent an advocate of getting the small stuff right as he is luke-warm on the preponderance of crap strategy. We can’t wait to be held in thrall by whatever he choses to hold forth on or, indeed, whatever he choses to wear.

Making sure you set your alarms for 11am on Monday the 19th of November and head to our Eventbrite page for tickets. You wont want to miss this.

CreativeMornings/London on Friday November 23rd is generously sponsored by Carat and will be held in The Johannes Gutenburg Room, 10 Triton Street NW1 3BF London. The nearest tube stations are Regents Park, Great Portland Street, Euston Square, and Warren Street.

Where do you go when you need to concentrate?

A cafe or train – you are undisturbed, but benefit from the stochastic resonance of background noise.

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Authenticity in branding and where the car industry has got it all wrong


During the interminable wait to get on a rescheduled flight to Tasmania I started idly flicking through my blog feeds.

More often than not I hit “mark all as read” rather than actually doing any reading.

But my eye was caught by a post by Steve Jones on the Fast Company blog titled Authenticity Vs. Perfection: How To Brand Like A Rock Star.

A lengthy excerpt from a book, my sleep-deprived, caffeine-addled brain skimmed most of it.

But the central thesis is one that has resonated with me since I started my journey into brand strategy in 2005.

Here’s my riff on it: humans are imperfect but imperfection lends individuals their character. It’s character, our unique mix of our perfect and imperfect qualities, that acts as our emotional magnet, attracting or repelling fellow humans. It could be said that the more honest we are about our mix of perfect and imperfect, the more authentic we’re being. And, in my experience at least, authentic people have deeper, more engaged and longer-lasting relationships.

And so it could be (should be?) with brands.

Because we want brands to be our best friends after all.

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Quote of the day: J Mays on life experience informing design

“A designer is only as good as what he or she knows. If all you know is what you’ve garnered from fifteen years of living in Detroit, it’s going to limit what you can lay down. If you’ve had experiences around the world, you’ll be able to design a much richer story for people to enjoy.”

J Mays, Global Vice President of Design, Ford Motor Company

Just read this in an Esquire interview with J Mays and what he has to say adds to some of the points I was making in my recent interview with Raph Goldsworthy over at Design Droplets.

There’s a whole lot more in the interview that chimes with me too, especially J’s thoughts on simplicity, building stories and the cars of the 50s.

Short but wonderfully sweet, it’s well worth a couple of minutes of your time.

P. S. What better image to represent J’s globetrotting ways than his (and Martin Smith’s) seminal Avus, somewhat out of context with some serious looking travellers in marle catsuits. Hawt.

[Source: Esquire Image: Audi Press]

Where fashion goes, cars may follow


Just read this really interesting extract from an interview with Simon Collins, the Dean of Fashion at Parsons where he talks about the impact of the recession on fashion.

Am I alone in thinking that what he says could be easily be translated into rationalising some of the largesse of the car industry?

“The biggest challenge was the biggest opportunity with designers eschewing big runway shows into a static exhibition. This in tandem with an internet presence is a more modern way of working and I think we’ll see much more of it.

A lot of the rubbish will be swept away. We are going to focus on brands with real integrity. There was a much more intelligence to the merchandising of the lines. There was the same level of creativity but less window dressing and more focus on salable items.”

His comments regarding shows is particularly pertinent given the impending Salon de Geneve. Yes, I will be there (hopefully) enjoying my three course lunch with champagne at Audi, I’ll admit. But what if car makers moved away from the massive cost of running their motor show stands and introduced new product like Apple will, who has decided to not continue with their traditional MacWorld keynotes?

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Is it about China?


I’ve spent most of the day thinking about my earlier post on the BMW 5 GT concept that broke cover overnight.

It’s occurred to me that, somewhat foolishly, I’ve been looking at the market positioning from an extremely Euro-centric position.

What if BMW is taking a similar tack that they took, perhaps inadvertently, with the previous generation 7 series?

A car that initially tanked in Europe on the basis of it’s looks , the old 7 went gangbusters in the Chinese market. It also signalled a shift in BMW’s understanding of it’s future market. This shift was confirmed by the launch of the Concept CS as the Shanghai motor show (as opposed to a show in their traditional European heartland) and the somewhat lesser known introduction of a LWB (long wheel base) 5 Series sedan exclusively for the Chinese market.

In 2006 I completed my Masters thesis in automotive design and although the main thrust of my research was something else, I spent a good deal of my time coming to understand Chinese taste in the premium car market. One of the characteristics of the emerging haute-bourgoisie is the desire to be driven (having seen traffic in Hong Kong, I can understand why). And with the desire to be driven, less focus is placed on BMWs old maxim of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” and instead we start looking at the Ultimate Driven Machine.

And in this respect, as the new press images from BMW show, the GT will indeed be ultimate in the traffic choked streets of Asia’s cities. Masses of rear leg-room and stupendous head room within a package that won’t be unwieldy in traffic (unlike a LWB 7 series). Indeed, looking at the pictures, I imagine you probably would have to go to that size vehicle to get similar rear-cabin room.

 The vehicle I designed back in ’06 aimed to recreate a limousine experience within 5 meters, reclining seats and all. The 5 GT is 4998mm long and provides the same rear cabin experience as a LWB 7 which is a full 212mm longer. Maybe I was on to something…

My doubts about the car’s success in the European market still stands, but if China is indeed the target, who cares about fighting the same old scrappy battle the German premiums always fight. BMW just jumped out of the ring and found a new playground.

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.