Visual Identity —-> Visual Ecosystem


By Campbell Butler  

We’re currently in the middle of an intense process of experimentation, creative strategy, illustration, photography, claymation, motion graphics, prototyping and crazy tech. It’s what is technically called the ‘visual identity phase’ of work but I’ve got a feeling that name isn’t quite right anymore…

I love visual identity. In my first year of uni I got a buzz designing a system of parts and I dreamt of getting my graphics on the tail of a plane like the design heroes of a different time. Back then, my starting point was always the logo. I spent serious time crafting a single compelling marque and an exciting super graphic and then applying it to stationery, signage, brochures and later websites and animations. This process works. But as the number and type of interactions we need to design for increases, the visual identity is reduced to a tiny logo on the edge of a website, with no visual relationship to the other elements.

I’ve flipped the process now. For me, it’s better to start with the touch points where the identity needs to live and look at how the entire identity can behave and respond in those environments. I try and think of all of the elements at once – grids, type, icons, backgrounds, imagery and how all of those parts can live together in a visual ecosystem.

Elements respond with interaction.

Elements relate to each other.

Elements adapt to their environment.

A living system that evolves over time. It lives and breathes and responds to people. It can be touched and dragged and sung to. I’m no longer crafting shapes but designing behaviours.

The benefit of designing in this way, is that when people interact with the brand there is an organic connection between the brand and the experience. The elements are recognisable, interactions feel alive and the experience is seamless. And when it comes to designing the logo, it basically forms itself as an obvious conclusion to an ecosystem of elements.

The name visual identity doesn’t feel quite right any more… do we need a new name?

Campbell Butler is a Design Director at Wolff Olins London.  

We’re always on the lookout for design interns in London

We’re looking for brilliant, passionate and creative people to join our design team in London for a three-month internship.

During the internship you’ll get to work with our teams and explore, experiment and collaborate on a wide range of design work.

Ideally, you’ll be a 3rd year student or a recent graduate. You must have great graphic design skills and experience in Adobe Creative Suite. It would be really useful if you have strong digital and interaction skills: coding, digital prototyping, interface design or UX, as well as an interest in motion graphics and animation. You must be energetic, eager to learn and curious about the world around you, as well great at collaborating and up for any challenge.  But most of all you must be a brilliant creative thinker who’s full of ideas.

Send your cv, portfolio and a short email telling us why you’re right for Wolff Olins to - don’t forget to put ‘Design Internship 2014’ in the title too. 

Looking forward to hearing from you. 


Each of our interns is considered an integral part of the team. We expect you to contribute to all work, engage in projects and treat this as a real job. While doing this, you will learn from some of the most brilliant minds in branding. You’ll end the internship with real-world experience working with current and prospective clients at one of today’s boldest brand and innovation firms.

Email: Please send your resume and cover email to
Subject Line: Intern_“INSERT TYPE FROM LIST BELOW”_Summer 2014

Please note: While we appreciate everyone’s interest in Wolff Olins, due to high number of applicants, we can only respond directly to those who best qualify and meet the specific criteria and standards of these roles. 

Deadline for intern applicants is March 20th.


We’re looking for an energetic, one-of-a-kind account management intern to work with our team in our New York City office. Working under our top account managers, you’ll support a range of client projects and gain real perspective on the many ways we help clients achieve their business and brand goals. You’ll get to:
• Creatively problem solve a diverse range of challenges, from keeping projects on-time and on-budget, to helping brainstorm and pin down that next ‘big idea’
• Collaborate closely with an eclectic group of experts in design, strategy and production
• Manage the many, many details that need to come together to create big impact


We’re looking for a kick-ass strategy/account management intern to work with our teams in San Francisco and New York. You’ll work on a range of internal and client projects, experiencing firsthand how brands are created and evolved. This internship is based in San Francisco.
You’ll get to: 

• Research into clients worlds and their competitors
• Look at macro trends
• Work with teams, helping to keep them organized and developing itineraries
• Provide background information and research to support new business pitches
• Help to identify potential partners here in the Bay Area

You should be:

• Super resourceful
• Tidy minded and organized
• Really likes people and working with people
• Happy to throw themselves in and roll their sleeves up 
• Curious about what is happening in the world 
• Ideally has some knowledge of the Bay Area

DESIGN NY and DESIGN SF (specify location)
We’re looking for two crazy, innovative, digital savvy design interns, one in NY and one in SF. There are no “junior” designers at Wolff Olins. Even our interns require a certain instinct and raw skill from the start. The work we aim to deliver is bold, ambitious and different. The primary role for an intern is to explore. This is the creative position freest from other responsibilities that come with longer tenure or seniority at Wolff Olins. Design interns should see this as an opportunity to learn and grow through collaboration and exposure to others on their teams. During the internship you’ll get to experiment and contribute to design solutions for a number of different clients.
We’re looking for someone who:
• Has strong graphic design and typography skills and experience in Adobe Creative Suite. 
• Really, really, creative!
• MUST have strong skills in MOTION (animation, 3D, film/editing) and/or digital prototyping a HUGE PLUS
• Curious about the world and passionate about brands
• Energetic and enthusiastic
• Collaborative and fun
• Experience in After Effects is a huge PLUS.

The business development intern will assist the US-based business development team with various projects, supporting the revenue generation plan for North America. The intern’s primary responsibility will be to identify and vet opportunities through research and analysis of companies in the news, as well as new business inquiries, and other in-coming opportunities. The intern will learn to craft an opportunity analysis to allow management to quickly and confidently assess promising opportunities, and then package research findings concerning qualified leads into a briefing kit for the pitch team. This individual will also help prepare sales collateral (for outreach and responses to requests for information) by creating and/or aggregating assets that leverage the most relevant content available in order to position Wolff Olins in the best possible light. Finally, based on the needs of the WO business development team, the intern will be assigned a project to complete in collaboration with interns from other disciplines. Requirements:
• Some knowledge of or exposure to business development in an agency environment or other professional services category
• Highly motivated with a passion for identifying new opportunities 
• Knowledgeable of the general business landscape 
• Analytic ability demonstrated by research skills 
• Interpersonal skills, sociable, confident
• Self starter, resourceful and able to work independently
• Proficient at using the entire Microsoft Office Suite especially PowerPoint and Excel
• Reliable, organized, detail-oriented
• Able to prioritize quickly and to readjust priorities throughout the day

We’re looking for an intern to work with our team in New York and liaise with counterparts in San Francisco and London. In this role, you’ll focus on creating content and contributing to social media platforms. You’ll gain hands-on experience creating, writing and promoting our thinking and work related to brand, business, technology and design. You’ll get to:
• Work with our global content manager on social media community management
• Partner with members of our marketing, new business and strategy teams to write and develop content for our owned channels (e.g. blog, newsletter, social media)
• Provide background information and research to support proactive media outreach

We’re looking for someone who is:

• Super resourceful
• Self-starter and proactive
• Strong writer
• Well versed in social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook
• Curious about what’s happening in the world of business, technology and design
• Passionate about branding, marketing, business or communication

We’re looking for a digitally-minded strategy intern to work with our team in New York City on a range of client projects. You’ll play at the intersection of brand and technology, experiencing firsthand how brands are created and brought to life. 
You’ll get to: 

• Contribute to the development of brand strategies
Explore emerging technologies and help build new brand experiences
• Research and analyze markets, trends, and behaviors
Develop new business pitches and proposals

We’re looking for someone who is:

• On the pulse of technology + culture
• Fluent in the language of entrepreneurship + experience design

• Curious about the world + passionate about brands
• A clear + analytical thinker
• A great storyteller + strong writer

• Collaborative + fun!

We’re also interested in what you find interesting (beyond the bottom of your resume!), so if you have a blog, Twitter feed, portfolio or something else of that nature, we’d love to see it!

Hello from the new guy!

By Daljit Singh 

When I started out in the clunky, early days of the interactive world, CD-Rom was a leading format, Shockwave was the plug-in you needed to make things move online, and ‘broadband’ could have been a name of Sheffield colliery brass band. That was 1994 and I was only going to do the Internet Thing for a while until a proper job in graphic design came along.

My digital agency, Digit was founded in 1995 with just a handful of peer agencies around. Alongside creating some of the very early websites for brands such as Habitat and MTV we dedicated time to our own investigations into what could be done with interactivity – something that led to a raft of new thinking and tons of experimentation that manifested in our work. The work established principles for what became Feed, a series of experimental projects exploring simple, human, interaction. Feed informed our approach as a philosophy that kept what we do intuitive and free from tech overload. The point of technology is not to confuse or obfuscate but to make things simpler and more pleasurable to use.


After departing Digit in 2010 I subsequently set up Terence Conran’s first digital proposition. I am now independent and fortunate enough to be working on a rich range of global projects that enable me to work with some seriously bright individuals and companies. 

I love the creative process across visual communication and business strategy, and how it unlocks bottlenecks within businesses. There is unprecedented growth and change in communication and connection. This innovation is not going to stop anytime soon and we feel the impact and power of technology, enabling everyone to ‘have a go’. Today’s designer is no longer ‘T’ shaped but more like an ‘8’, maneuvering around the problem/solution/idea and changing tack swiftly when required.

Multiple skills are now required to work in this space, with listening right at the dizzy top of the list. It’s a tough one to master but once conquered can take us to great places: a department of listening should be in place in all organisations.

In order to make good ideas happen we should seek influence beyond our core interests in new sectors and new regions. Businesses are an open door for us to explore and create true innovation.

I am the Curator of a forthcoming exhibition at London’s V&A, The Department of Luxury. The show will present dynamic and provocative thinking about the topic, and challenge audience’s perceptions of how Luxury can be understood, experienced and imagined in the 21st Century.

And in a perfectly complementary role, here I am as the current Visiting Creative Director at Wolff Olins (it’s the fourth day in) – invited in to challenge and bring a different perspective for the next 3 months. Opportunities like this are rare, and the Visiting Creative Director programme is an inspired, brave and positively disruptive initiative to be admired.


Daljit Singh is a part of our visiting creative director programme, an initiative intended to help us stretch and enhance our creative thinking. 

2013 Fall Internships at Wolff Olins, NYC and SF

About the internship:

We’re looking for two crazy, innovative, digital savvy Design interns. One will work with our team in New York City and the other with our team in San Francisco.

There are no “junior” designers at Wolff Olins. Even our interns require a certain instinct and raw skill from the start. The work we aim to deliver is bold, ambitious and different. The primary role for the designer is to explore. This is the creative position freest from other responsibilities that come with longer tenure or seniority at Wolff Olins. Designers should see this as an opportunity to learn and grow through collaboration and exposure to others on their teams. 

We’re looking for someone who has:

You must have strong graphic design, typography and motion design  skills and experience in Adobe Creative Suite.  Experience in CODING is a huge PLUS

You’ll get to:

Experiment and contribute to design solutions for a number of different clients. 

We’re looking for someone who is:

Really, really, creative!

Curious about the world and passionate about brands

Energetic and enthusiastic

Collaborative and fun

Strong skills in motion (animation, 3D, film/editing) and/or digital prototyping a PLUS

Does this sound like you?

Email: please send your portfolio link to 

Subject Line: 2013 Fall Intern Design (specify NY or SF)


Other Details:

Timing: Full-time for 2.5 months starting in September

Location: New York City and San Francisco

Compensation: This is a paid internship.

Who can apply? College students and recent grads

Deadline: August 28th 

Designed and Made in India?


By Zia Patel

Look at the back of any iPhone and you will see the words “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” Today I noticed that the bicycle I ride in London is also designed in California and assembled in China, which got me thinking…

What if, as the outsourced IT services that have led a wave of job creation in India begin to return to the West, India could become a destination for low cost, yet high quality, design?

In the US an engineer costs around $85 an hour, while in India that cost is just $25. Predictions are that engineering will be the next sector to create jobs in India.

Although India currently has little reputation for innovation, Professor Nirmalya Kumar thinks the reality is different. His studies show that a great deal of back end (i.e. less visible) innovation happens in India with IP being transferred to companies in the West.

Does this mean that India should have its eye on an even bigger prize - becoming a destination for low-cost but well-designed products?

There are a few things that Indian businesses need to do in order to capitalise on this opportunity. They are:

1.         Re-purpose and own Jugaad

2.         Take design seriously

3.         Design an ecosystem

Re-purpose and own Jugaad

India is known in the world for Jugaad – the “innovative fix”. Yet Indian businesses are reluctant to use Jugaad as a strategic weapon against international competitors, seeing it as a hygiene factor in product design - a necessity for doing business frugally.

But there is an opportunity to add beauty and craft to Jugaad. “Designed and Made in India” would become synonymous with Jugaad - highly effective AND low cost design.

This would be a fundamental shift for Indian design, indicating that it is about form and function rather than just function.

Take design seriously

For design to create change, Indian companies must take design seriously. And that means hiring designers at the senior management level: A person who is involved in shaping the business.

Audi employs Wolfgang Egger as head of design. Perhaps Tata Motors could be the first to employ a designer at board level? 
Volvo has used design as a tool to combine luxury and comfort across its buses. Could Ashok Leyland use design similarly for its commercial vehicles?

Mulberry has re-invented its brand with the help of Emma Hill. Could HiDesign learn from this and become relevant to youthful India?

Design an ecosystem

Designing individual products is great but there are benefits in developing a coherent language across the products. This means pushing the thought of product design even further by creating an ecosystem.

Think Microsoft’s new brand for example. It’s a user interface, but more than that, it’s also a design philosophy. And more than that, it’s a whole approach to interaction (a different, much more liberated, more enjoyable way for people to experience Microsoft).

To create this ecosystem, a brand must be crystal clear in its purpose. Internally, its purpose drives product design, innovation, and R&D. Externally, its purpose drives the need to be both creative and useful. Companies will need to see and seize. Digital design will have a big role to play in this scenario.

Consider Nike, which Fast Company has recently ranked as the most innovative firm. The Nike FuelBand combines engineering and interactive design to create a new category that takes Nike beyond sports apparel. With its iPhone app and the Nike+ website, Nike provides a platform for people to share and get moving.

Road ahead

The final link in the chain is for India to begin to fill the pipeline of designers for the future. Last year Indian universities produced fewer than 5000 designers versus more than 550,000 engineers and 250,000 IT professionals. I am optimistic for India. We have shown the world that we can leapfrog in many industries. Let’s do the same for design. 


Zia Patel
 is principal and head of strategy in Wolff Olins India.  

A version of this article was featured in Kyoorius magazine issue #16. Zia Patel is also a guest blogger on Kyoorius.

Image via 

What is design?

By Owen Hughes 

Last week Anne-Sophie Chabeau, a design student from ESAL in Belgium, emailed Wolff Olins and asked if we could help her with a project she’s working on by defining design in one sentence. In the spirit of curiosity we opened the question up to the designers here and – despite the fact that we’ve all got more pressing things to do, like designing stuff – it sparked a bit of a debate. So we decided to open it up to Twitter too, with equally varied results.

Most designers have probably thought about this at one time or another. Maybe it’s part of a bigger existential question, or maybe it’s just because your mum’s asked you one too many times what exactly it is that you do. Graphic design grand-daddy Saul Bass said ‘Design is thinking made visual’. I think it’s got to be much bigger than that. Richard van der Laken, director of the What Design Can Do conference says ‘Well, everything is design. Except nature of course, although creationists might challenge me on that. Everything that man has touched is, in essence, designed.’

Which is why there isn’t one answer –  because the field is so wide. For me, if design is about anything it’s about trying to make life better – whether that’s designing a wristband that helps you track your physical activity, a way–finding system that makes your journey easier, a film title sequence that makes your heart beat a bit faster or even jewellery that can save your life.

I believe that’s where the heart of it is – design is making things better. Designers make this happen in a myriad of ways, but there are some practices that underpin it all: really understanding who we’re designing for, challenging accepted wisdom, making creative leaps into the dark, making smart use of new materials and technology, reusing old materials and technology in new ways and staying true to a clear guiding thought at the core of it all.

Thank you to everyone who sent their design definitions to us. As few of the responses are below. 

Owen Hughes is a creative director at Wolff Olins London. Follow him at @OwenDHughes 

Designing Democracy


By Tom Petty

Last week it was announced that — the government’s new digital presence — was the winner of the Design Museum’s Design of the Year award, making it the first website to claim the prize. (designed by the government digital service) aims to combine all the UK government’s websites into a single entity, the idea being to save public money and make vital services simpler to use.

A lot has been made of’s design — its stark functionality, and the simplicity of the visual language. It all adds up to a product that is very, very fit for purpose. It could be said that great design feels inevitable, but this goes one step further. The experience of using leaves you with no opinion on the site whatsoever, only the information you were looking for. It’s moved beyond inevitable, and become invisible. 

This success shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, we have form when it comes to big, civic design initiatives: the London Underground map and our road signage systems being the two obvious examples. No lost tourist in a car full of screaming children has ever stopped to appreciate the reassuringly clear hierarchy of our motorway signs when looking for their hotel; they just get where they need to go. The design itself has become invisible. is merely the latest in a long line of Great British design projects (in fact, Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert's Transport typeface has been re-worked and used by the government digital service).

This history of ‘getting it right’ is the best part of the whole affair. It speaks volumes about our nation, our abilities and our sensibilities. Successes like these do wonders for our soft power, and help create ‘Brand Britain’. This particular win goes further than anything before it, as there now exists a visual language, tone of voice and set of guiding principles for the Government of the United Kingdom. is so much more than a functional website: it’s defined the visual identity of an entire country, and is defining how a government interacts with its citizens (it just doesn’t know it yet).

Where we go from here is really exciting. The Government Digital Service have created something with the potential to define and improve the experience of everything from voting in a local election to receiving treatment from the NHS, and they’ve done it in an open and collaborativeway. as a site is great, but what it’s doing beneath the surface is what’s truly game changing.

Tom Petty is a designer specialising in experience and interaction at Wolff Olins London. You can follow him on twitter @tp

A Work of Art That Works In Life

Here’s a film we just made about Little Sun - a work of art that works in life by bringing light to millions of people living without electricity.

Little Sun taps into the most abundant raw material in fast growth economies: the power of creative optimism. It is a raw material we think all brands need to learn to take advantage of.

We hope you can feel just a little of it in this clip. 

Little Sun Wolff Olins from Wolff Olins on Vimeo.

For more information please visit the Little Sun website.

Goodbye Reader


By James Kape

Yesterday morning, I was met with a rather depressing message during my reading routine. “On July 1st, 2013, we will retire Google Reader.” Behind the decision, apparently, is Google Reader’s steady decline in users and Google’s bigger aspiration to focus on perfecting fewer products as a company. 

The news caused momentary panic, but it soon changed to excitement — as I started looking for alternatives, I realized there are actually a number of new and perhaps more desirable ways for me to interact with digital content. (I’m not saying that I wont miss the stripped back minimalist design of Google Reader…I’m just pleasantly surprised by its soon-to-be replacements.)

Whilst I’m ready to embrace the alternatives, others aren’t responding so well, already there’s a movement against the decision to kill this product. Within one day, there’s a petition to keep Reader running signed by over 100,000 people. Why are we all so afraid of change? I find it even more interesting to see a separate motion was even put to the White House asking Barack Obama to ask the company to rethink its decision to shut down this popular product. 

I can imagine from Google’s perspective, there’s no need to give more attention to updates and design when there are so many alternatives, which specialize only in that field. The last update to Google Reader came in 2011, testament to their decreasing focus on RSS. Despite the variety of online debates that continue to form, Google’s grounds are good: so many popular competitors in RSS are doing it better. Pulse, for example, a reader endorsed by the late Steve Jobs, boasts a user database of more than 20 million (adding more than a million every month).

So what’s my soon-to-be replacement? I think my favorite so far, is feedly —within minutes of using it for the first time this morning, I can already see the benefits over Google Reader. A little cog on the top right allows me to view content in a variety of ways, the layout and typography brings the experience back to the user. You feel like you’re on an actual blog again and as such the content is much easier to digest.

James Kape is a designer at Wolff Olins New York.