Winning a Lion - what it means to us

By Lisa Smith, Mads J. Poulsen, James Kape

We took home a Silver Lion from Cannes this year for our USA TODAY work, and we’ve never been more thrilled. Over the past few weeks since Cannes’ announcement, we’ve reflected on what this means to us:


Lisa Smith, Design Director

It’s truly amazing to have the recognition from our global peers in the industry. It’s a project that Wolff Olins and USA TODAY poured everything into and this award is the icing on the cake.


Mads J. Poulsen, Senior Designer

Winning a Cannes Lions is really special. The competition is fierce so winning work really has to stand out in a massive sea of global excellence. It’s highly conceptual and demands greatness in theory as well as execution. We focus a lot on the thinking and strategy behind our work as well as design, so it’s good to be part of an award show that appreciates conceptual work and clear ideas, both in advertising and design.


James Kape, Designer

It’s amazing to see a newspaper design win an award in such a digitally focused world. Long live print! 

Here’s to many more…

GIF Galore.


At Wolff Olins we always love a good GIF animation. 

Here are graffiti-esque GIFs from the artist INSA. By painting different street murals and photographing them, INSA puts a real-world touch to the digital art of GIF animations.


See more on Collossal

Or INSA’s blog

See also:

WO Blog: HTML Guts

Mads J. Poulsen is a senior designer at Wolff Olins New York. 

Logo Battle

By Mads J. Poulsen

We have a little logo battle on our hands, as USA TODAY’s graphics team battles Stephen Colbert.

Tuesday night Colbert took some friendly/funny stabs at the USA TODAY redesign. His favorite newspaper. 

First, watch the clip from two nights ago.

VIDEO: "Colbert Report-Logo Makeover for USA TODAY"

Now, look at USA TODAY’s cheeky response in today’s LIFE section:

Already, it’s exciting to see the identity system we created for USA TODAY act and react to news in real time. Sparking a conversation across the media, exactly as intended, and beyond. Both for serious and lighter news, like this.

Read more about the “Colbert challenge” on USA TODAY: “USA TODAY’s circle is kind of square to Colbert

Sincerely Anonymous


As an exercise in visual language, our senior designer Mads Jakob Poulsen, recently decided to explore what it might look like if Anonymous ”went corporate.”

His website describes the project:

With the group being more and more in the media they could need to button up and streamline their appearance to appear more professional whilst unifying the brand experience.

The logotype/mark is anti-authoritative and obviously completely illegible, to stick with the roots of the anarchistic group.”

See more of the project here:

Advertisers: How To Win The Super Bowl


By Sam Leibeskind 

Between all the strategic pre-game leaks, Twitter’s Ad Scrimmage, and the NBC/YouTube partnership that created the Ad Blitz channel, the actual 30-second Super Bowl on-air spot is now the center of a more prolonged, immersive advertising experience. Often these experiences are so focused on the spectacle or story of a campaign that the real merit of the brand gets lost in them.

Marketers have done a great job of capitalizing on the one opportunity each year where people are actually anxious for commercials. And in turn, an estimated 54% of those watching last year’s game were actually more excited for the ad breaks than the game itself, according to a 2011 study by Harris Interactive. 

But where advertisers think they’re speaking to people asking to be “advertised to,” most viewers are really just anticipating a series of performances.  The commercials that people generally “love” (the ones that will appear on most bloggers’ “Top 10” list and the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter) aren’t the most effective, they’re just the most entertaining. While raw amusement is awesome for viewers (who doesn’t want to watch a series of 30-second comedies?), most of today’s Super Bowl commercials probably aren’t getting the job done for brands.

For a spot to be at its most effective and worth its $3.5 million price tag, it has to do more than entertain. It has to tell a worthwhile story about the brand in a way that gets attention for an appropriate reason. It also has to teach us something about the honest values and unique feel of the company it promotes.  And it has to do all this strongly enough to inspire us to engage with that brand in the future, not just re-visit its commercial on YouTube. That’s an important distinction that often gets overlooked on this night.  Pure entertainment gets the most hype (and yes, leads to temporary brand awareness) but it takes more than that to win true fans.

After the game (or now, since you’ve probably seen most of the commercials already), we’d love to hear your thoughts on which brands had the most effective commercials (not just the ones that made you laugh the hardest).  In turn, we’ll share our own thoughts in an upcoming post. Comment below, on Facebook or tweet @wolffolins.

To watch the commercials with a more critical eye this year, here are a few fundamental characteristics to consider:

Is it entertaining? Is this commercial captivating enough to get a million views on YouTube?  Does it put you in a good mood?  It could be funny, surprising, dramatic or just plain cute, but a Super Bowl commercial today needs to meet a baseline level of entertainment just to meet viewers’ lofty expectations.

At its best: Audi’s “Escape from Old Luxury” (2011)- This commercial was funny, a tiny bit suspenseful, and in the end, staked out a real position for the brand.  It proved that a commercial can use comedy without being completely empty.

Is it emotionally on brand?  Did watching the commercial give you the same feeling you get when you’re in that brand’s store, using/consuming its products, and reading about its actions in the news?  The commercial should create expectations that are in line with the rest of the brand experience and make a case for the importance of the brand’s own values in people’s lives.

At its best: Google’s “Parisian Love” (2010)- In addition to showing how easy and helpful its search features are, this spot simply oozed of the optimism and delight that characterizes Google at its best.                

Is it Inspiring?  Did the commercial realistically change your behavior?  Did you quickly look up the new Mercedes models after (or even during?) the game?  Did you buy a Pepsi Max the next day because you remembered it has zero calories?  Did you rethink the value of an electric car?  A spot doesn’t need to lead directly to a sale but it should inspire a viewer to do more than just watch it again and again.

At its best: Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” (2011) - Though I didn’t buy a car last year, this commercial definitely changed my perception of the brand, as well as the American auto industry as a whole.  The day after the game, I remember spending a few hours reading all about the revitalization of Detroit, almost entirely due to the fact that I saw this commercial.


Graphic by Mads J. Poulsen


Designing As/For Kids

I’ve always said that if you design with kids in mind you just might end up designing something that everyone can understand and relate to.

This doesn’t mean dumbing down a design, but rather coming up with a strong concept, and then using all your design elements to emphasize that one idea.

Anything that doesn’t help the idea goes away!

In the end, you should have arrived at a design that either is self explanatory or explainable in one sentence that makes sense to both CEOs and kids. 

Cincinnati, Ohio-based designer Adam Ladd put this theory to a test. These are his 5-year-old daughter’s first impressions of some popular logos.

(Mads J. Poulsen)

via Brand New