BBH Casts its First Stone

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As part of his efforts to guide the agency into the next phase of its creative life, newly installed BBH/N.Y. executive creative director Kevin Roddy looked to the design world in recruiting the shop's newest talent. Designer Declan Stone joins the agency as head of design, representing what Roddy calls "the first domino tipping over" in his overall design-infused creative plan for the agency.

Roddy began looking at designers' books after joining the agency last fall and was unable to find a like-minded design counterpart until, via BBH CD Thomas Hayo, he finally discovered Stone, who, through his Amsterdam-based design shop, has a history of seeking out conceptual, wide-ranging design jobs and taking on the blandification of corporate design.

Stone hails from Ireland, where he studied visual communications before lighting out for Amsterdam to immerse himself in that country's storied design environment. "Anyone who studies design over here wants to go to Holland," says Stone, who notes that the Dutch design devotion seeps all the way down to the country's currency, recalling a 50-guilder note that looked "like a nightclub flyer" in comparison to the more obvious legal tender of other nations. "It's such a great design culture." Stone landed a job at a design company, doing mainly corporate ID work and steeping his work in the Dutch printing tradition, "which can be very technical when it comes to type and spacing, etc.," says Stone. This is in marked contrast with Ireland, which "may not be the most visual country," he adds. "It's more a land of storytellers-from Joyce to Wilde to U2. So when I was making images I always wanted to tell a story." After a few years, Stone launched his own design shop with his twin brother, called, appropriately, The Stone Twins. There, says Stone, the duo pursued projects that went beyond traditional corporate ID and into events, books and other more conceptual territory. One highlight was a project the brothers masterminded for Ikea, working with agency Strawberry Frog. The agency had originally approached the Stones to create an ID for a campaign recognizing Ikea's 25th anniversary in the Netherlands. In addition to creating the look and feel of the campaign, the design team created the word and the theme "Woonsdag,"-a play on the Dutch words for living (woon) and "Wednesday" (Woensdag)-which was absorbed into wider cultural usage and has remained part of Ikea's marketing efforts.

One of the company's best-known projects was Logo R.I.P., a book the brothers compiled, wrote and designed in 2003, which commemorates a number of departed logos-some classics, some not so much-and makes commentary on the state of corporate design. The idea for the book coincided with the spate of mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies and brand reinvention that was going on in the corporate world at the time, combined with the brothers' recollections of the brandscape of their youth. "In contrast to the ceremony and pomp that greeted their arrival, logos often suffered an ignoble death," says Stone. "We decided that they should be remembered." The book's pages are filled with logos pictured on tombstone plots, with details on their designers and their history. "As a graphic designer, I noticed that something was happening in the world of identity design," adds Stone. "These big companies that have offices all over the world were using formulas. It seemed the more they tried to appeal to more people in a global audience, the more they ended up saying less and less." Stone points to examples of brands that had layers of meaning and graphic detail removed from their logos as the company evolved in geographic and service orientation, the end result often being the rounding of the edges of big corporate logos.

Other beyond-ID Stone Twins jobs included work for Amsterdam's Massive Music, which also resulted in the Stones organizing the music company's huge Cannes ad fest bash in 2004. "It was very diverse," he says of his company's output. "The tag of 'graphic design studio' didn't really say what we were."

For Roddy, bringing a design element into the BBH creative circle was a prime mandate when he joined the agency. "I had a very specific idea in my mind when I took the job," says Roddy, who was part of the BBH/New York management refresher that also saw BBH/London CEO Gwyn Jones step into that role at the New York shop. Roddy points specifically to his days as CD at Fallon and the particular vision designers brought to those projects on which the agency and its then partner design company, Duffy, worked together. And while there are existing design-oriented ad models, like Ogilvy and BIG, and Wieden + Kennedy's design inclusive approach to hiring creative talent, Roddy is in the process of structuring BBH's own design strategy, one that he expects will inform the ad work from the agency as well as open up new design-oriented client avenues. "My belief is that BBH is a creativity company-we provide creative solutions to problems."

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