Meet the small team be­hind award­win­ning con­sul­tancy Rose

Computer Arts - - CONTENTS -

When you’re al­ways hear­ing about a stu­dio win­ning awards, or land­ing ma­jor clients, it’s easy to as­sume they’re a global be­he­moth, with thou­sands of full-time staff. And you’d cer­tainly be for­given for mak­ing the same mis­take about Rose.

De­spite reg­u­larly rank­ing among the world’s top cre­ative brand­ing agen­cies, win­ning more than 100 in­ter­na­tional cre­ative awards, and con­tin­u­ally pop­ping up in the de­sign press, Rose con­sists of just six full-time em­ploy­ees. And they have ev­ery in­ten­tion of stay­ing that way.

We sat down with Rose’s designers to chat about the se­cret to their longevity, their 20th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions, their un­usual work­place, and more.

What’s the story be­hind Rose?

Si­mon El­liott: Rose was founded in 1999 by my good friend Rebecca Oliver, the ‘Ro’ in Rose, and my­self, the ‘se’. We’d both worked in sev­eral fa­mous agen­cies, and learned from the best peo­ple, be­fore de­cid­ing to cre­ate our own in­de­pen­dent busi­ness.

Garry Black­burn: When I started work­ing with Si­mon in 2003, the stu­dio had be­come renowned for pub­lish­ing, print, stamps and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. My back­ground had been in brand­ing and we both felt our skills would com­ple­ment each other. Since then our fo­cus has been on brand­ing, which is now what we’re best known for.

Twenty years in busi­ness is cer­tainly a great achievemen­t: can you tell us the se­cret to your longevity?

SE: We’ve never been a fash­ion­able agency. On the con­trary, the word that makes us hap­pi­est, when peo­ple de­scribe our work, is ‘time­less’. In an in­dus­try as tran­sient, fast-mov­ing and fickle as ours, we’re proud to have re­mained con­sis­tent and rel­e­vant in what we do.

GB: Our in­ten­tion has al­ways been to stay small. We chose to work in the cre­ative in­dus­try be­cause we love cre­ativ­ity. Stay­ing small gives us that lux­ury, so we never have to say yes to any­thing and ev­ery­thing just to feed a lot of mouths. Be­ing the size we are, we can be more se­lec­tive, which also helps us man­age our work­load. We get to plan projects and ded­i­cate time to clients, big and small.

SE: Peo­ple who don’t know us of­ten see our client list and as­sume we must be much larger than we are. But we’re proud to be only six peo­ple full-time. Garry and I don’t need lots of peo­ple, just re­ally good ones! We like the free­dom of not hav­ing to say yes to ev­ery­thing, or cre­at­ing a mon­ster that needs con­stant feed­ing.

And now you’re pub­lish­ing a spe­cial book to cel­e­brate?

SE: We are! It’s a lit­tle ironic, but designers don’t usu­ally spend enough time on their own brands, and mar­ket­ing them­selves. So part of the rea­son for our book is an un­apolo­getic cel­e­bra­tion of our 20 years. It’s also been cathar­tic to re­mind our­selves of projects we were once so proud of, but had al­most for­got­ten about. Most copies will be go­ing to clients, col­lab­o­ra­tors and friends, but we’ll be sell­ing a lim­ited num­ber our­selves.

How’s your work with English Na­tional Opera been go­ing?

Ab­bie Edis: The re­lease of English Na­tional Opera’s 2019-2020 sea­son of mar­ket­ing im­ages was my main high­light from the last year. The whole process from mood-board­ing to shoot day is such a col­lab­o­ra­tive process be­tween ENO, our­selves, copy­writer Andy Rig­den and the var­i­ous com­mis­sioned artists and pho­tog­ra­phers. It took a lot of be­hind-the-scenes work, but the fi­nal set of im­ages were def­i­nitely worth the blood, sweat and tears.

Joanna Wa­clawski: Some con­cepts do re­quire a bit of prob­lem solv­ing. One ex­am­ple was the re­cent im­age for Or­pheus & Eury­dice, where the client loved the sim­plic­ity of a woman fall­ing through the air. Sim­ple premise, but with a small bud­get it had the po­ten­tial to be the most com­plex to do it jus­tice and more im­por­tantly, safely - be­cause she would be fall­ing back­wards from a height. I looked into spe­cial­ist lo­ca­tions like tram­po­line parks and found a great gym­nas­tics club where she could jump off their ap­pa­ra­tus and fall into a pro­fes­sional foam pit.

Next was find­ing some­one who’d be grace­ful but ath­letic enough to deal with mul­ti­ple takes. An­other of our clients put us in touch with her friend, a pi­lates teacher and dancer. Throw in a top pho­tog­ra­pher and it couldn’t have gone bet­ter. Af­ter ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent jumps, we got the per­fect shot of her fall­ing through the air, and the team even wrapped early on the day.


A very dif­fer­ent client is on­line bet­ting ser­vice 10bet. What have you be­ing do­ing for them? Rémi Mor­timer: The brief was sim­ple; to help it de­fine what makes it spe­cial. Af­ter sev­eral stages of pre­sent­ing and de­vel­op­ing dif­fer­ent de­sign routes, we de­vised a clear mes­sage for 10bet to rally be­hind, that would im­pact ev­ery­thing it does: “For the bet­tor”.

This was the catalyst for im­ple­ment­ing the brand as­sets, se­lect­ing a dis­tinct type­face, and cre­at­ing a sim­ple UI ex­pe­ri­ence. This in­cluded col­lab­o­rat­ing with il­lus­tra­tor Dave Flana­gan, to com­pose a li­brary of il­lus­tra­tions that al­lowed for quicker UI down­load speeds, and work­ing with Nick As­bury on a tone of voice that speaks to bet­tors, rather than shout­ing for at­ten­tion.

Bet­ting reg­u­la­tions and the im­por­tance of pro­vid­ing a re­spon­si­ble gam­ing en­vi­ron­ment were among the chal­lenges we had to ad­dress. And we did so by en­sur­ing ev­ery­thing was as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble, and aim­ing to put the bet­tor first.

What’s it like work­ing at Rose?

Yafet Bis­rat: There are two things you no­tice straight away. One is the elec­tric pace we’re ex­pected to work at: time is money, and time waits for no one. The other is the im­por­tance of a great idea. Our un­writ­ten rule is to make sure ev­ery­thing we de­sign, from a quar­ter-page ad­vert to a global rebrand, is un­der­pinned with logic.

One of the rea­sons we’ve forged long-term re­la­tion­ships with our clients is our knack of pro­duc­ing chal­leng­ing, award-win­ning work that an­swers the brief while still be­ing able to de­liver on time and within bud­get. That’s a win-win-win si­t­u­a­tion for the client, their au­di­ences and our­selves.

JW: It’s worth not­ing that where we work is very un­usual. The Old School in Rother­hithe is over 300 years old, so there are some creaky stairs, ran­dom bees es­cap­ing from the chim­ney, and an­tique in­te­rior de­tails. But it all adds to the char­ac­ter of the place! We oc­cupy the en­tire build­ing, which gives us plenty of space to work, spread ideas out on walls and host clients, but it also stays very peace­ful.

“Ev­ery­thing we de­sign, from a quar­ter-page ad­vert to a global rebrand, is un­der­pinned with logic”

What are you work­ing on at the mo­ment? GB: A re­ally ex­cit­ing and di­verse range of projects, from gin pack­ag­ing to Royal Mail stamps, to an iden­tity for one of the old­est law schools in Lon­don. We’re also re­brand­ing a na­tional mu­sic char­ity and a ma­jor Lon­don cul­tural venue; cre­at­ing a big fundrais­ing cam­paign for King’s Col­lege Lon­don; and re­brand­ing a group of re­gional theatres.

How do you think your work is likely to change in the com­ing years?

RM: The de­vel­op­ment of sto­ry­telling is go­ing beyond still im­agery and be­com­ing in­creas­ingly re­liant on mov­ing im­age or mo­tion graph­ics. With at­ten­tion spans di­min­ish­ing, we have to con­sider mo­tion to de­liver a brand mes­sage di­rectly and clearly to rel­e­vant au­di­ences.

AE: The way tech­nol­ogy is rapidly ad­vanc­ing, at some point it’ll be the norm for us to use VR to sell a con­cept to the client. They’ll be able to see and ex­pe­ri­ence the brand as if it’s al­ready there. So that just leaves the chal­lenge of learn­ing to use it…

YB: Tech and new mar­ket­ing in­no­va­tions are help­ing push brand­ing into new ar­eas and re­quire designers to think one step ahead, which is great if it’s done with pur­pose. The only prob­lem is when those out­puts - which are ef­fec­tively tools act as the start­ing point and drive the idea.

Left: The en­tire team, in front of Rose’s stu­dio at The Old School in Rother­hithe, Lon­don. Front, left to right: Si­mon El­liott and Garry Black­burn. Sec­ond row: Ab­bie Edis, Rémi Mor­timer, Joanna Wa­clawski and Yafet Bis­rat.

Left and be­low: Posters for English Na­tional Opera pro­duc­tions Madame But­ter­fly, Salome, Aida, and Or­pheus and Eury­dice. Right: Rose has been work­ing closely with sports bet­ting plat­form 10bet to help de­fine its strat­egy and iden­tify its brand per­son­al­ity and val­ues.

Be­low: Six years on from de­sign­ing Bletch­ley Park’s brand iden­tity, Rose was asked to cre­ate a cam­paign iden­tity for its new cin­e­matic ex­hi­bi­tion, cel­e­brat­ing the role of the code-break­ers in D-Day, 75 years on from the in­va­sion.

Be­low left: The Hast­ings Con­tem­po­rary art gallery ben­e­fited from a new look and brand iden­tity, cour­tesy of Rose.

Left: Rose crafted a brand new look for the Fresh Awards for 2019.

Be­low right: The Bletch­ley Park Gin bot­tle de­sign takes in­spi­ra­tion from code­break­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

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