Our approach to design is defined by three elements: clarity, simplicity and emotion. First, our work must generate a genuine emotional response from consumers. We want to engage peoples’ hearts as well as their minds. Second, although simplicity is probably an overused buzzword these days, we truly believe that our work should contain nothing that doesn’t serve a specific purpose. If you strip away all the visual clutter and extraneous elements, you can communicate what truly makes a brand special much more effectively. Third, clarity means thoughtfully, rigorously and beautifully crafting every detail.
I think that our philosophy and approach is highly differentiated as well. We’ve stayed true to our passion and what we do best: creating and designing consumer brand identities and packaging. We know who we are. But of equal importance, we know who we’re not. We don’t claim to be, or want to be for that matter, an “integrated” or “multidisciplinary” shop that offers / promises clients everything in the marketing mix. We want to do great brand design, period. Our clients find our approach refreshing, and I think it’s big reason so many companies want to work with us.
Is there a "Turner Duckworth" style?
No, we don’t have a house style. If you look at our portfolio of work over the last 15 years, you’ll see that our designs reflect the spirit and personality of the brands, not ours.
What is the Turner Duckworth design process?
Our process is rigorous but flexible. We value our intuitions and perceptions as highly, if not more so, than research data or focus group feedback. We believe that every brand has a unique story or distinct personality. We don’t stop until we uncover a point of clarity that captures and expresses a brand’s raison d’etre.
One incredibly important factor in identifying and articulating a brand’s point of clarity is that our London and San Francisco studios collaborate on every project. Work flows freely between each, so our clients get a rich and nuanced perspective from both sides of the Atlantic. It’s a nice blend of “American pragmatism meets English irony”.
We also conduct weekly ‘distant crits’, where each studio reviews the other’s work with no punches pulled. We don’t talk about non-design issues like client budgets or deadlines or internal politics. The focus is design, and design only. Each office serves as the other’s conscience and it inspires better work because we still want to impress each other.
In 2001 TD was about a 15 member team. Today is there a large team working in both the offices? And how big is the creative department?
As February 2008, we have 29 people total on staff: 17 in our San Francisco studio and 12 in our London Studio. In San Francisco, our creative team comprises 11 designers, two production designers, and one design intern. In London, our creative team comprises six designers and two production designers.
After winning over 200 international design awards what is the TD reaction towards awards? Is it still as exciting or has it become a norm to win?
We’re excited when our work wins awards. We never get tired of it. It’s always extremely gratifying and fulfilling to be recognized by our peers in the industry, and it’s a wonderful testament to the talent of our London and San Francisco creative teams.
How does it feel to stand in the supermarket and watch someone put down another product and pick a TD designed product?
It still feels great. Every firm and every designer likes to know that their work is appreciated, and we’re no different. At the end of the day, what we do is all about enticing consumers to buy the products that we’ve designed. When you see it happen in the store, it’s fun, rewarding and motivating.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you start? Your schooling? Your experiences?
After earning a B.A. in journalism at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia, I began my career as a newspaper reporter in New Jersey and Connecticut. I quickly learned that I wasn’t suited to be an ink-stained wretch, and I switched to what my former reporter colleagues would call the “dark side”, working in public relations. I joined the American Advertising Federation (AAF) in Washington, DC as Director of Communications.
After five years in DC, I moved to San Francisco and joined Landor Associates, where I served as Head of Worldwide Marketing Communications for five years. I left Landor in 1998 to start my own branding / marketing consulting business, which I ran for six years until 2004.
In March 2004, I moved to New York with my wife Heather – a graphic designer who I met when we were both working at Landor – and I joined Siegel+Gale as Senior Vice President of Business Development.
In May 2006, we moved back to San Francisco. I joined Turner Duckworth for a few reasons. Having worked at the big, holding-company owned branding agencies like Landor (WPP) and Siegel+Gale (Omnicom), I was looking for a smaller, independent and creatively driven firm where I could make a significant impact on the agency’s success. My wife Heather has long admired Turner Duckworth’s work and she suggested that I contact them. Serendipity ensued, and here I am.
How did you decide that Brand Strategy was what you wanted to do?
I never really “decided” that I wanted to be a brand strategist. It became one of the skills that I’ve been fortunate enough to learn and improve upon over the last 15 years. But I enjoy all aspects of the design and branding business, not just strategy, and I consider myself more of a hybrid marketing / branding / communications / business development person than a brand strategist.
What kind of relationships do you share with the creative teams?
Many people are surprised to learn that we have “only” 29 people in two studios, given that we work with many big brands like Coke, Motorola, Waitrose and Amazon.com. But we’re a small, close-knit company that thrives on collaboration. The creative teams work intimately with our client services people.