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The fine art of collaboration

Chloe Templeman, a Design Director based in our London Studio, recently wrote a column for Computer Arts Magazine all about collaborating with illustrators. Just in case you missed it, the lovely folk at Computer Arts have allowed us to publish it below, and we’ve added a couple of extra photos, too…

Why I love collaborating

Working with different illustrators is part of my role at Design Bridge, and I find that these collaborations often help push our brand and packaging design projects in new directions, and bring a uniqueness to our work. Along the way, I’m learning that there’s a fine art to a successful collaboration.

For starters, it’s important to know when to approach an illustrator. I never begin a project with a particular illustrator in mind. Instead, at Design Bridge, we come up with the creative idea as a team and, as our idea takes shape, certain illustrators often come to mind. This means we can avoid the awkwardness of approaching someone too soon, only to find that our idea or approach has changed and we no longer need them.

When working on the Fortnum & Mason Christmas range, our idea was to conjure the magic and excitement of everyone coming together around the Christmas table for a sumptuous Fortnum’s feast. I’d seen Kristjana S Williams’ work previously on something I’d received through the post and thought, ‘Yes! She’d be great for this.’ Her eclectic style puts a modern twist on traditional woodblock techniques – perfect for expressing both a traditional and contemporary Fortnum’s Christmas.

Fortnum&Mason_Christmas_owl

Fortnum&Mason_Christmas_MincePie

Bringing these kinds of individual styles to our work while ensuring the design is absolutely right for the brand is both fun and challenging. It’s a balancing act, calling for constant communication, treating the illustrator as part of the team and truly working together.

We recently collaborated with Rob Bailey on a limited edition Smirnoff project to celebrate British pride 2017. I’ve loved his work for years and was inspired by his piece Hey Man, which depicts two figures in a warm, loving embrace. Rob’s style expressed the ‘Choose Love’ message of the project so well. It was a tight turnaround, so we had to work very closely to make sure that we remained true to both his style and the Smirnoff brand, producing work that would look great on the bottles, too.

Smirnoff Choose Love 1

Understanding the complementary skills that a designer and an illustrator bring to a project is also crucial to get the best out of a collaboration. We worked with Coralie Bickford-Smith for our Fortnum & Mason honey range. Her intricate book cover designs were perfect for our creative idea of labels inspired by postage stamps from far-flung corners of the world. I did some initial sketches based on her existing work and the practicalities of designing a label, which she then developed. It was a real labour of love, but working with Coralie was a dream for me as I collect her book covers.

Fortnum and Mason International honey scattered

I feel lucky to work on such amazing projects where we can bring an idea to life with the help of talented illustrators that I’ve often admired for years. Each project involves a lot of work, but an open, honest and truly collaborative approach ensures the best results everywhere.

Chloe’s column originally appeared in Computer Arts Magazine, Issue #270, September 2017.

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