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QA Wazzup with Spicerack creative Chris Helingoe

22nd January 2020

Chris – what opportunities are you excited about in 2020?

I guess the increasing use of audio user interfaces, like smart speakers – Alexa and Google Home. That’s really going to feed into other technologies, like how does your website need to work, in order for the content to be usable on this kind of device. Also the opportunity for rich video, animation techniques and 3D on the web. It’s all becoming a much more immersive experience.

How do you think that’s going to enhance the digital creative landscape?

Advertisers are always looking for something new to punch their message through the noise. As a designer, you’re increasingly having to work with others. There’s no way you could be a designer and a master of 3D and voice tech. Collaboration is needed more than ever to get the best results.

What project are you most proud of to-date, and why?

There’s two really. The first was Katy Perry’s ‘Own the Throne’ campaign. It wasn’t perhaps the best campaign we’ve worked on, but it was a big campaign and it was my first at Spicerack. It encompassed loads of really rich formats. That’s 7 years ago now.

I guess Katy Perry felt pretty high profile to you at the time?

Yeah, it was the first fragrance she did. The TV campaign was everywhere. But the one I’m most proud of from both a technical and prestige point of view was the launch of Dyson’s Supersonic in 2016, because we helped strategise. It was a big deal – a completely new product in a whole new line for them. We ended up working on all sorts of formats – about 12 different routes across about 25 languages. And it was a volume task, a technical task, and this massive brand awareness task.

Tell us about some brands and designers you admire. What makes them stand out?

I think Huel are doing really well. They’re really going for it – innovative and engaging.

Who are they mate? Kuel?

Huel. Like Fuel with an H. Dave has a shaker on his desk. It’s supposed to be complete food. A complete meal in 3 scoops. But their Instagram page especially, for someone who makes something quite nerdy, and quite niche, they’re really going for it on social. So if you look at them online you’ll see they’re getting loads of interest as a result of this great presence. When you get your first pack you get a free t-shirt and they’re really well made. And a shaker. Dave liked the t-shirt so much he bought another off eBay, just because it’s a decent t-shirt.

Designers is a difficult one. It’s more agencies. The big ones are worth keeping an eye on. Pentagram are an inspiring global outfit. I really like the agency Snask, based in Sweden. For an agency, they have a really unique brand persona and tone of voice. I’m really inspired by them actually.

What tools, books or ideas help you with your day-to-day?

We owe a lot to the Adobe Suite. You know, the usual suspects – Illustrator, Photoshop. Sketch more and more too. Increasingly using that for UI design, and UX design to an extent.

Books?

There’s a new book on my desk called ‘Do the Fucking Work’ by Good Fucking Design Advice. That has some gems in it – it only came out this month so it’s nice and fresh. There’s one I’m really into at the moment about design systems. There are other books surrounding design; things like ‘Don’t Read this Book: Time Management for Creative People’ by Donald Roos. A lot of my design inspiration is online, through social, because it’s fresh and up-to-date. Dribbble is great for that. For solid, tested advice – ‘How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul’ by Adrian Shaughnessy – that’s a great book.

Is there anyone you particularly follow – any influencers?

I’ve been using Instagram, following hashtags. For example there’s one that’s #UX_UI. You get updates from all kinds of different people.

How are you influenced by trends … if at all?

I think everybody’s influenced by trends whether they want to be or not, especially in the kind of industries we work in.
In advertising, brands want to be on the pulse – in the thick of it. What you have to do is not get trapped by trends; not get sucked in. Not just copy. There are so many great publications like Creative Review, Creative Bloq. Dribbble, as mentioned, is really good.

You’ve worked with established global brands like Dyson, Disney and CK. What brands would you really like to work with?

We’ve had experience working with Fiat. I’d like more experience with a car brand. Tesla would be awesome. Big car brands that are doing some good – electric vehicles, self-drive tech, that sort of thing.

Thatchers are kind of global but also local for us – they would be a good one to work with. Down the road from us.

Are you a Thatcher’s drinker?

Oh yeah.

What’s your poison?

Poison’s got to be Gold. Got to be Thatcher’s Gold. None of this Haze.

What’s been your biggest creative challenge to-date?

That’s a difficult one. A lot of the brands we work with, like Coty brands, are big. Like Calvin Klein. A creative challenge there is to think outside of their already creatively-defined box. They’ve got brand guidelines, look and feel rules … getting brands to take a leap of faith can be difficult. It doesn’t always pay off. Sometimes you get so far, but then a brand guy gets involved and squashes it.

Are there any occasions where you’ve been able to convince or persuade?

I wouldn’t say there’s one overarching example, but it’s developing relationships with those brands. You look at where you’ve come from on day one, and where you are now, and how much more trust they have – how much more scope you have to push back on their ideas or suggest new ones. It’s more a test of time because none of these brands, quite rightly as well, will just let their brands be manipulated by anybody. Because of our success working with Dyson on the Supersonic launch, when it comes to subsequent campaigns – like they launched a blue and gold version – they knew they had great assets through the TVC. Because we’d worked on the launch, we came up with creative ideas for that. The challenge is to get brands to trust you, but you see it’s paid off when you get more creative rein.

What do you do in your own time, Chris?

I go out on the piss! No, it’s hanging out with mates, going to all the various events across Bristol, like Motion – that sort of thing. I try to get out for some fresh air every now and then. Brecon Beacons for example, just over the bridge. I like going to exhibitions, bombing down to London, bagging a couple of galleries. Bristol’s great – you’ve got Spike Island, the Arnolfini – even the museum and gallery at the top of Park Street, and the RWA at the top … a fine art gallery. Also, I try to pick up a bit of 3D modelling. I do quite a bit of photography, heading over to Wales and stuff.

Awesome – thanks Chris

Chris was interviewed by Spicerack’s Strategic Development Director Paul Stancheris in January 2020.

spicerack.co.uk

instagram.com/spicerackteam

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About Spicerack

Based in Bristol, Spicerack work with leading and purpose-driven brands nationally and internationally. We are a team of experts with a passion for learning, creativity and delivering excellent experiences for our clients and their customers.

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