Li Lihong Vigour China mcdonalds

This week in Shanghai our Founder and CEO Andrew Eyles had the honour of meeting artist Li Lihong at his solo exhibition ‘Vigour-China’ at the Art Labor Gallery.

Li Lihong Vigour China apple

Lihong’s work connects the global, contemporary experience with practised, cultural tradition and re-examines the bridge between the East and West. By fusing the symbols of Nike, McDonald’s, Apple and Disney with traditional Chinese patterns, he creates a new and reflective visual experience. This mash-up goes beyond being clever and transcends into an elegant beauty all into itself, encapsulating Lihong’s philosophy that “Modernism and Post-Modernism is not the enemy of tradition, but rather is a renewed expression of tradition.”

Li Lihong Vigour China mickey

The detailed craftsmanship and exquisite use of ceramic and porcelain in combination with these modern, global brands succeeds in revealing a perspective that is both critical and accepting of the dual and complex world that we live in. Lihong acknowledges the presence of these iconic brands and their influence in his life while still expressing what he calls “the vigorous nature of contemporary China.”

Li Lihong Vigour China

The Vigour-China exhibit will be displayed at the Art Labor Gallery in Shanghai until 31st May 2015.

Li Lihong Vigour China absolut

Li Lihong Vigour China Nike

Li Lihong Vigour China mtv

Li Lihong Vigour China coca cola

Spotify has revolutionised and innovated how people access, consume and listen to music since its creation 7 years ago. It allows its users (of which there are upwards of 6 million) to go on musical journeys. Aside from the ability to create personal playlists, users can discover new music – music that they might not usually have access too or know where to look.


With a previous brand identity that left little to be desired – a simple black, white and green palette with a bubble icon of a sound wave – Spotify had the appearance of a tech company, which is far removed from the entertainment world where it actually wants to belong. As the branding is limited, one would assume that it followed the legendary conviction of the industry “it’s about the music”.

The music streaming business is a crowded place to be. Many would-be competitors of the past have struggled, failed and become obsolete. Spotify had to step it up to attract new customers and keep the old ones coming back for more.


The brand has unveiled a colourful new look. This new image connects the brand to its core purpose and celebrates music of the past, present and future. Spotify has taken the decisive step to create a brand that connects with its core advocates, the millenials. Millenials are addicted to image. They are drawn to brands that look good and as a result make them look good. This new generation of music listeners need their music to look as good as they sound. The colourful redesign now allows the brand to communicate with their core audience in a variety of different ways and has reignited an energy that signifies the brand is here to stay.


Branding is a way of solidifying influence in our future and with this branding, Spotify stays relevant and secures a place in our culture. Spotify is one of those tools that you don’t think you need but once you create an account, it becomes one thing you realise you can’t live without. Long live Spotify!

Before the times of digitalised fonts, literature was produced using the Johannes Gutenberg method of movable type. The business of printing and binding was considered highly creative, requiring strength in craftsmanship and skill. T.J. Cobden-Sanderson was a man who understood the necessity of purity and authenticity in creating beautiful work. He designed Doves Type accordingly—a clear, simple text with the occasional careful flourish, inspired by Nicolas Jenson’s Roman type. He was deliberate when choosing the texts that would be printed in Doves Type as he felt his type would give the words physical beauty and that the words, all strung together, had to carry their own musicality off the page. A perfect creation of symmetrical brilliance.


Emory Walker shared his partner’s sentiments on design and creativity. From 1901 to 1908, the pair produced some of the greatest treasures of printed text, including the five-volume English Bible. Their partnership turned sour when the effects of the Industrial Revolution were beginning to be realised. When their business dissolved, there was disagreement as to what would happen with the text. Walker wanted Doves Type to be released for commercial use, but Cobden-Sanderson objected intensely and took deep offense.


Although frustrated with Walker, Cobden-Sanderson’s true resentment resided in the technological changes that were transforming the printing industry. He felt the Industrial Revolution had put an expiration date on his creative achievements and thus reacted by executing a calculated destruction of his own work. Cobden-Sanderson began throwing the tiny copper bits off Hammersmith Bridge. He acted discreetly, under the cloak of night aware of the fact that his actions were illegal. Before long, the entire collection of Dove Type was at the bottom of the River Thames.

Nearly a century later, some of the copper pieces have been recovered thanks to the effort and financial backing of Robert Green, a designer and Dove Type enthusiast. After studying the type for years, he wondered if any of it could be resurrected from the river. His dedication to the cause paid off in November of 2014 when some of the copper pieces were recovered.


The return of the beautiful type invites questions concerning the preservation of creative design. Does mass production always result in the devaluation of creative work? Has the advancement of technology destroyed an aspect of creative development? Cobden-Sanderson seemed to think so. While his passion may have boarded insanity, his devotion to the craft is one to be admired.

ontological design

Ontological design is constant, simultaneous and inescapable. It is the idea that everything we design and surround ourselves with, influence our future thinking and creations. In other words, it is where design meets consciousness.

This idea shatters the way design is generally thought of—something that adds visual appeal or even less flattering, simple functionality. Ontological design recognizes the correlative relationship present between our constructed environment and our minds. Through this feedback loop, we are able learn and build upon previous design in both a constructive and destructive manner.

There is no way to pause or interrupt this feedback loop because it is fundamental to our makeup. Anne Marie Willis, co-founder of the Eco-Design Foundation in Sydney explains, “we design, that is to say, we deliberate, plan and scheme in ways which prefigure our actions and makings — in turn we are designed by our designing and by that which we have designed.”

This may sound like a page out of a Dr. Seuss storybook, but its pervasiveness is undeniable when analyzing both our daily and ongoing evolution. We learn through active engagement of the pre-existing and design anew based on these observations. Ontological design extends beyond the idea of environmental conditioning because it acknowledges, more pointedly, the role of the designer.

The champions of this philosophy are Brand Heroes, those who deliver beyond. Whether the design answers a call for innovation in the realm of functionality, sustainability, or emotional connectedness, Brand Heroes are cognizant of the implications of their designs. This braver attitude strengthens our forward-moving momentum.

This exciting way of thinking should serve to reignite a passion in the design community. It is a nod to the capability and influence designers hold in shaping our current and future environment. It is also a reminder to be daring, yet graceful in delivering design to a world in need of boundless improvement.

Here is a video explaining what Ontological Design is in more detail.

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It is quite fitting for Maker’s Mark, an iconic American brand, to commemorate the Superbowl, America’s most important sporting event. The wonderfully executed special edition bottle features Maker’s Mark’s signature wax in the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots teams colours.

Superbowl makers mark

Celebrating American sports with a limited edition bottle isn’t a new trick for Marker’s Mark. In fact, if you visit the website you will find a gallery of collectable bottles linked to sports, particularly Kentucky teams, which works to reinforce the brand’s strong ties to its home state. Furthermore, many of these limited editions have an added charitable element, in that they donate a portion of the proceeds to a good cause. For a brand like Maker’s Mark, this strategy on special editions makes perfect sense. It’s a down-to-earth brand, rich with heritage, that succinctly balances quality with value.

Design-wise, however, the limited edition portfolio runs into some snags. There are some stunning, pitch perfect executions, such as the 2003 Ambassador Bottle. True to its Kentucky roots, this special edition features the famed red wax in the shape of a racing horse.

Good Makers mark examples


However, there are others within the portfolio that miss the mark. Look at the 2014 University of Louisville Charity Bottle. While the sentiment behind this limited edition is noble, the design compromises so many equities that the brand becomes unrecognisable. The signature wax seal is there, but it has been changed to black. This would be fine if it was the only equity that was altered, but it’s just the beginning. The craft label that communicates heritage and quality has been replaced with a modern photograph. The ACC logo takes center stage with the Maker’s Mark logo now just a sign-off at the bottom. Of course, the most striking change is that it is now an opaque bottle which hides the warm golden colour of the bourbon.

Makers mark


With no rules governing how equities are treated when creating a limited edition, brands run the risk of a creating a portfolio that not only lack cohesion, but dilutes the brand. Limited editions are an effective way of driving engagement, giving your loyal consumers something special and celebrating brand-relevant events. The designs for special edition must reflect this, but should not be overpowered by it.







Carlsberg is a brand that is known for being green. Green bottles, green cans, green logo, but what people might not necessarily know is that they have a fundamentally green mentality too.  Over the past few years, Carlsberg have focused their attention on finding sustainability innovations. With that in mind, they’ve got a proposal to introduce a completely biodegradable wood fibre bottle.

In partnership with EcoXpac, Carlsberg is developing a Green Fibre Bottle, which will be made from sustainably sourced wood fibre – think cardboard egg boxes. It will be non-transparent, non-breakable and will fully decompose naturally.


How does being green affect the consumer base?

First and foremost, a brand must meet their consumers needs. It is all very well having the sustainable ethos as a company, but if the target market rejects the product, then its not a viable solution.

Sustainability innovations must be tempered with consumer satisfaction. It either needs to add to the experience or deliver the same experience with the additional feel good factor of being environmentally conscious. Langen, Carlsberg’s Senior Packaging Innovation Manager, has insisted that they “never compromise on beer quality” and that the beer is expected to stay colder for longer compared with aluminium cans. However, there is so much more to the experience of enjoying a refreshing cold beer. Aesthetics play a major part and a significant aspect of marketing drinks, and especially alcoholic beverages, is to play to the senses. The product has to look and feel refreshing, and transparency is key to this. Consumers take the coldness of the glass or aluminium, the sound of bottles clinking together and the hiss it makes when it opens all into account when they consume the product. If it was gone, they would be disappointed.

Lastly, how will this eco bottle fit in with their product portfolio? Carlsberg has a large number of beer brands worldwide – will this be a one-off or will it be implemented across their different territories?

It may also pose a problem for the brand teams as they will miss out on their transparent PSL labels and great photo imagery. To put this in context, Carlsberg recently created their ‘Born to be Chilled’ campaign. If these bottles were all replaced with cardboard eco bottles, it would not have the same effect.

born to be chilled

It is incredibly encouraging to see a global brand challenge the norm with such a product. From a technical, sustainability and design point of view, it’s success would be a feat as well as a great addition to the packaging universe. Although, it is likely to be the design world who are most excited about this rather than beer consumers. If Carlsberg can ensure that the consumer experience will stay the same (or even be improved), then they are sure to create an impact in the category that will hopefully inspire other brands.

On the surface it doesn’t appear that Axe (Lynx in the UK) and Dove have anything in common aside from their functionality. They each have completely different target audiences and have blatantly differing messaging schemes that reflect this. However, these brands share a fundamental similarity—the common goal of making people feel good about themselves. The incredible success of both these personal care brands on a global scale illustrates exactly how brand owner Unilever expertly listens to their consumers and responds in kind.


Axe has been garnering attention for years with its racy ad campaigns and suggestive product naming. The brand has built its identity upon the characteristics intrinsic to the emotions, thoughts, and feelings of its target demographic. Not to oversimplify the mind of a male teenager, but it’s safe to assume that teenage boys spend a fair amount of time thinking about sex. On a deeper level, these thoughts and feelings can be associated with basic psychological needs, such as belonging, association, and approval. Axe pairs sexual overtones with humour in the form of hyperbole to achieve perfect irreverent harmony.


Axe’s success as a brand stems from its ability to identify primal needs and understand the topography of the environment in which they exist. Axe’s brazen approach in creating their brand identity mirrors the developing mind of their target demographic and demonstrates the brand’s understanding of consumer wants and needs.

Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004, in efforts to spark a global conversation about the need to expand the definition of beauty. This campaign was as huge success for Dove as it increased conversation surrounding the brand, generated goodwill, and improved overall sales.

Dove saw an opportunity to engage a frustrated audience in a new and clever way. The campaign took on a friendly tone in that it didn’t explicitly criticize the unnaturally thin bodies of the models we were so used to seeing in advertisements. On the contrary, it encouraged the acceptance of all body types. Dove is unmistakably a Brave Brand, claiming numerous prizes and recognitions since the initial launch of the Campaign for Real Beauty.


The vast differences between the Axe and Dove advertising campaigns have been widely noted. Generally, identifying inconsistencies in a company’s messaging reveals a weak mission or poor follow through, but upon closer analysis of Unilever, there is evidence of just the opposite.

Unilever allows each brand to maintain authenticity by allowing leeway and individuality in messaging scheme. Their brands are successful because they all tell their own story. Unilever’s philosophy is relatively simple, “We help people feel good, look good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and good for others.” It seems that both of these brands have found their place under Unilever’s mission.


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