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Studio Insights: Interbrand Australia

Interbrand Australia is one of 36 offices around the world. Creative Director Chris Maclean talks to us about his team's structure and the social impact of good design.

YCN: What inspired Interbrand to set up offices in Australia?

Chris Maclean: When I moved from Manchester to Australia, I was surprised by how underdeveloped the creative industry was. Australians are great designers, but the scene just wasn't what it should have been. Branding didn't get much more sophisticated than design studios producing graphic identity systems, so this was a great opportunity for us to enter the market and bring some science to the equation.

Five years ago, Interbrand Global put Damian Borchock in charge. I was the seventh person to be hired in Australia, and the only creative in the business at the time. Now we have around 35 people in Sydney and 15 in Melbourne. It was our intention to be the first consultancy in Australia that is strong creatively and strategically, which is still our mission today. It's not good enough for our work to look beautiful, it must also use creativity to really solve business problems.

Where is Australia's creative hub?

Design work is happening all over the country, but the two hotspots are Sydney and Melbourne. Melbourne feels older and is the capital of design and culture, while a lot of corporate businesses are in Sydney making it the best place for our head office. 

What relationship do you have with the other Interbrand offices around the world?

We have a strong culture of cross-office collaboration and can get a response to a question from the whole network within 24 hours. Quite often we will collaborate with other teams if the project warrants it, especially when working with multinational clients. It's great because it means we get to travel and experience new cultures and working methods.

Who works in the studio?

The team includes graphic, motion, and environmental designers. We have a couple of writers, and many of our designers can write too - a highly desireable skill. We take practitioners from all disciplines and put them in a room together to solve briefs.The output is amazing.

Where do you look for new talent?

Recruitment is our biggest challenge. It is really difficult in a country with such a small talent pool. The blend of conceptual thinking with beautiful design skills is so rare in Australia that we often can't find what we need. We regularly rely on finding talent abroad, and our current team features staff from the UK, Hong Kong, Sweden, France, Brazil and New Zealand. Unfortunately there's more interest in becoming an accountant than a designer in Australia.

What are the benefits of having such an international team?

You've got a melting pot of multiple backgrounds, cultures, and design sensibilities, which means different frames of reference. Not everyone has followed the same path to get here either – one of our designers used to be a spray can artist in Rio De Janeiro. 

Do you have any current vacancies within the studio?

Yes we do. We're always on the lookout for exceptional new talent and right now we're looking to hire across the board. We're after amazing Senior Designers, Motion Designers, Writers and most importantly, a Design Director.

Which of your projects have you been especially proud of?

It has to be Alzheimer's Australia. Co-Creative Director Mike Rigby and I have always talked about the opportunity to use branding to do something truly world changing, and this was it. Alzheimer's is one of those things people don't talk about, so it was our job to change this.

This was done by putting a fighting spirit at the heart of the brand and removing the gentle approach that previously existed. The brand completely changed how the organisation behaves and has given it a new sense of purpose. Last year, we learned that the Australian Government had heard our cause and made the disease a national health priority. That day we went home feeling like we were good designers and had done something truly meaningful, which is what it's all about. It makes us feel better about not becoming doctors.

What's the most impressive piece of work you've seen from another studio recently?

Anything from Wolff Olins' New York or London arms. They are the most inspiring agency on the planet, doing branding that is suitable for the 21st century.

I really love their recent work for Everything Everywhere, which was a genius solution for a tired industry. The creative possibilities that the identity opens for the brand are vast, and it all hangs together in a smart and beautiful identity that anyone can understand.

Interbrand Australia is one of over 50 creative companies in Australia curated by Dumbo Feather magazine's Brendan McKnight for YCN. You can see Brendan's full selection in The Directory here.

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