Growing up in a Formula 1 fanatical household tends to teach you a few things about life, love, and bull-headed commitment to progress. This was a time before automatic transmission cars, when cigarette companies could plaster their brand all over the cars and the great Ayrton Senna made history driving in the pouring rain. It was a simple time where race car drivers drove their hearts out and put their bodies on the line, often collapsing when they tried to get up from their cars in parc fermé. Back then the only way to win the race was by pushing the mental and physical limits of your body lap after lap.
Every Sunday without fail, our entire family would gather around the television set to tune in to the Grand Prix over a hot bowl of caldo verde (Portuguese soup) and passionately debated the speed, handling and engineering of the cars. The aesthetics where equally important. I vividly remember the year the Williams racing team redesigned the graphics on the car to introduce a sleek, simplified dual-chromatic colour scheme that had never been seen before. It was the first time the team created an identity for the car that wasn’t disjointed and placed the sponsor’s logo second to the primary brand identity of Williams. The same year the team tragically lost Ayrton Senna to a fatal accident at Imola.
Love, always directing.
Today I work as a creative, solving problems for brands. I like to think of myself as the guy that drives the big ideas behind solutions that keep the race car drivers racing and winning, except, I do it for businesses. You see, it was Formula 1 that inspired me to become a graphic designer. The bright colours moulding over aerodynamic shapes glistening in the sun as they hurtled around the track at breakneck speeds, yet always able to inspire the viewer and allow you to identify with your team, even if it meant driving 410km/h.
What fascinated me most was the idea that this sport was always at the forefront of innovation, pushing the boundaries of what was thought to be impossible, by making it possible.
As soon as the other team knew your trick, it was old, and that meant each team was constantly driving their technology forward in the name of the brand that would at all costs, become the victor. Imagine being a graphic designer for one of those teams! Not only are you dealing with a constant change in identity every time the team adds a new sponsor, but the damn shape of the thing keeps changing! This was awe-inspiring and it brought me to one of the most important conclusions on the role of design in business. For Formula 1 teams to succeed the process of car design, engineering, and aerodynamics can’t be linear. It has to be a constant collaboration between all members of the team working toward one common goal: win the race. It is a constant process of change and measurement that results in the overall win.
Too often I hear creative people complaining about how clients won’t give them enough time to create that award-winning ad. As a creative that solves problems for brands, the first thing you have to understand is that the brand needs to be agile, and quick when it comes to progress. This means instead of creativity sitting at the end of the business design process, and often slowing it down, it needs to sit around the table where the decisions get made in the first place.
This means that from the get-go everyone is on the same page, both from a creative and a business perspective.
Had Senna been driving the future version of the Williams at the time of his accident, Formula 1 would have looked very different today. When I say ‘the future version’, I mean the car that was re-engineered a month later. You see, it was because of Senna’s fatal accident that the FIA passed a law that would introduce an innovative solve to protect the driver’s head from side impact. I always find myself debating with friends and family that, had Senna survived, would he have gone on to set the record for the most championships ever won? Watching Formula 1 today, it’s almost crazy to think that this piece of technology wasn’t even a thought of during Senna’s time on the track in May 1994. This is the design dilemma, it is always at the point of pressure, but it is pressure that makes life and its ever-changing context so important to the process of design.
Design never happens in a vacuum. Ultimately, it’s there to make sure we survive as a human race, it’s about the total outcome, not the individual piece.
My bull-headed commitment to progress
But how do we as creatives earn a spot at the business design table where we have a say in the whole and not just a piece? That was a question that we grappled with for years. We knew that instinctively we have a unique gift of being able to look at a problem from all angles and come up with a solution that has a positive tangible effect. But for too long the creative process did itself an injustice as it was never a science and as we know, when it comes to business there needs to be method behind the madness.
The REIMAGINE toolkit became the method behind our madness.
For the first time in years it feels like we are about to change the world. A toolkit that at its core is about giving business the structure to constantly evolve and progress. It provides a framework of meaning that captures the brand’s salient points. Think of it like the plan to win the race, only this time no matter what the competitors do and no matter how the race changes, if you stick to the plan you will win.