The 2009 Creativity 50: David Turner and Bruce Duckworth

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Duckworth (left) and Turner
Duckworth (left) and Turner
Turner Duckworth's Coca-Cola identity captivated design and brand circles and beyond, for imparting both freshness and authenticity to a more than 100-year-old cultural icon. Stripping away the design detritus that had been tacked onto the brand over a century, the 40-person shop, spanning studios in San Francisco and London, distilled Coke's graphics down to the essential elements—red, white, the logo script and the Coke bottle silhouette—creating a design language that's clean, classic and, well, refreshing. For the feat Turner Duckworth won the first-ever Design Grand Prix at the Cannes ad festival in 2008. Among other design awards and laurels, the firm also won a 2009 Grammy for the album design of Death Magnetic, Metallica's latest release.

While the Coke success has won Turner Duckworth added strategic credibility with big marketers, especially in the Unites States, principals David Turner, who heads the San Francisco studio, and Bruce Duckworth in London have been at it for 16 years, during which they've produced solid work for the likes of British supermarket Waitrose, Amazon and smaller, entrepreneurial brands.

Both Turner and Duckworth were based in London when they founded the practice. Shortly after, Turner, pursuing his future wife, relocated to the Bay area. While the distance was not ideal for a fledgling design partnership, the challenge of communicating via fax machine and screeching modems, the communication technology du jour, resulted in what's become the backbone of the firm's design standard.

"We developed a discipline that if you have a good idea then you should be able to explain it over the phone," Turner says. "Or at the most, just scribble a sketch and send it as a fax. The work has to rely not on some execution trick, but being really well thought-out essentially. As the company grew, we tried to expand with that guiding principle."

As result, Turner Duckworth has a small design feel with global scope. The two studios often collaborate on projects and, at the very least, critique each other's work. So design out of one Turner Duckworth studio automatically gets an international once over, as well as an injection of a completely different city's stylistic influences.

Turner, on the benefit of having two studios: "I think what we're trying to do is have a real global perspective. The typical pattern for the design industry, to grossly generalize, is to have small creative studios that do cutting-edge work and large, more corporate firms that work for big clients and perhaps do less interesting work. Our ambition is to have that global viewpoint and be able to work for clients like Coca-Cola and Motorola, but still do the unique creative work for them. By having two studios, neither of which is particularly large, they still have that creative hotbed atmosphere, but we're able to have the global and strategic viewpoint that the big clients are looking for."

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