Intern Blog: Pies, Prokofiev and post-it notes.

At the start of his final week, BrandPie Intern, Fergus Church spent the day on the other side of the office with the design team. He wanted to learn more about the role that designers play in the brand transformation process and see the difference in approach when compared to the consultants. To help further figure out the harmony between the two he spoke to Sabrina Pennewiss, a designer and Adam Poole, a consultant and client director.

The design room has a different atmosphere. While the consultants tend to think in smaller teams, the designers converse energetically as one large thought bubble. This allows for revelations such as learning that almost everyone in the room loved Peter and the Wolf as a child (cue Prokofiev being played immediately over the office sound system). This communicative atmosphere also has benefits past the discussion of Soviet children’s symphonies; it allows the designers to swap ideas about their current projects while also trading the occasional useful keyboard shortcut without difficulty.

If you’ve ever wondered where the world’s population of post-it notes live, it’s the BrandPie design studio; covering most surfaces in the design end of the office. This being BrandPie, however, Sabrina tells me these notes have a purpose: “They represent the designers’ thought process. Creatives can be quite erratic – we think pretty fast – the post-its are useful to quickly describe those ideas in one or two words.”

Adam further emphasises this point, stressing the importance of the ‘tools to hand’ in a creative process – “the tools and context that you’re working with affects how free you feel to think or how you can enable yourself to think creatively.”

Sabrina then explains how the use of such creative tools convey understanding of a concept – “my interpretation of an image may not necessarily be the same as yours, and so I can help that by just having a verbal reference of what it is.” This is especially crucial, she tells me, when designers tend to think in tangents.“While most people see the world as it is, designers try to see the world for what it can be, what it can also be.”

While the designers think in these tangents and have to be ‘messy’ in their thinking, Adam tells me that consultants strive for clarity and organisation, while still thinking creatively: “I guess the difference between consultants and designers is that a consultant needs to be able to think creatively, but in a structured way because it’s in the context of a client’s challenges. The same is true for a designer, but they need to be able to take a thought and ground it further to create logical connections, giving them something to design from and visualise.”

I was quickly set to work searching for images on a project I’d started with the consultants a few weeks earlier. My initial thought that this would be fairly easy quickly vanished as I combed through pages of Getty trying to find the perfect photos to illustrate the concepts created by the consultants. The images needed to match very specific criteria and I soon discovered that this is easier said than done. Sabrina explained that when the brief isn’t concise enough, the possibilities can be endless and the thought process becomes even more tangential before you finally reach your answer.

Consultants must also condense a wealth of information, but of a different kind. According to Adam, “consultants need to be able to look at a complex market and a complex business to gather and analyse significant amounts of information. You need to be able to understand what is relevant and analyse the data that can lead you to the kernel of an idea.”

This kind of understanding is crucial to being a successful consultant – having to keep on top of a huge number of industries to be able to cater to a variety of clients – and there will always be an industry you know nothing about, making a ‘natural curiosity’ essential to the job. “You need to be curious and engaged in the world and in what’s going on around you – this is essential because you’re looking for information in business and commerce and art and culture and a society that all of these businesses (and all of us) exist within, so you need to be able to draw on references that are relevant and current.” In short, Adam says you need a ‘broad enthusiasm for life’.

Sabrina and Adam both stressed the importance of thinking differently when analysing the world around you to find ideas. During my time at BrandPie, I think I’ve started to do this – it’s necessary when you’re doing this kind of work. Interning here for seven weeks has left me with a permanent existential crisis –I’ve been looking for the purpose in everything since week one – I think everyone here probably shares this predicament and they’ve just learnt how to live with it. I think that’s what you need to work here; both a sense of the world and of what it could be. And a lot of post-it notes.